Clubland: Lisa Marie Ellingsen, ‘From Nola to Noho’

  • Lisa Marie Ellingsen Josh Allen

  • Lisa Marie Ellingsen Josh Allen—Josh Allen

  • Lisa Marie Ellingsen Josh Allen—Josh Allen

  • Lisa Marie Ellingsen Josh Allen—Josh Allen

  • Lisa Marie Ellingsen Josh Allen—Josh Allen

Published: 5/25/2017 12:17:51 PM

“Your wheels are turnin’ round / but you’re not getting anywhere,” Lisa Marie Ellingsen sings on her semi-autobiographical song “Ellie.”

Written 15 years ago when she lived in New Orleans, it’s a radio-ready pop song with a yearning melody and a weary heart, and a highlight from her brand-new album “From Nola to Noho,” a strong record that shows how far Ellingsen has come since those wheel-spinning days.

She’ll celebrate the release of the CD at the Parlor Room in Northampton on Friday, June 2, at 7 p.m., backed by some of the folks who played on the record — multi-instrumentalist/producer/engineer Anand Nayak and drummer Jason Smith — as well as bassist Scott Pomeroy.

Ellingsen, originally from San Diego, had a maternal grandfather from Louisiana, and her cajun roots beckoned her to New Orleans in 2002. Her sister had moved there, so she went for a visit. “I immediately fell in love with it. I felt like, ‘I belong here,’” she said last week during an interview.

So how did she end up, four years later, in Northampton? “A series of events,” Ellingsen said, the vague reply making her laugh big. “An ex, basically. But it all worked out for me.”

The tough and tender “Ellie” is the first song she ever wrote that she can still remember (she’d written one in California but forgot it long ago), and it was influenced by her new life in New Orleans.

“It was the first time I’d moved away from home, just trying to find who I was, my identity. I was very depressed at the time. I was very broke,” she said, punctuating the bluntly honest statement with another strong laugh. “So there’s some sort of desperation [in that song].”

“Ellie” is the album’s centerpiece, broken into two distinct parts, a jangling first chapter and a moodier sequel. “They’re both songs I wrote to myself, in two different parts of my life: ‘Hey, I know you’re going through a hard time.’ Just some sort of coping,” she said.

“Rodeo of Broken Dreams” is the record’s catchy single, a rocking pop song with the top down and Ellingsen and Nayak playing dual lead guitars, a bit of heartache mixing with the highway:

“‘Cause she plays on the strings of my heart back and forth / with a bow in her hand I am nothing more than a box of wood / carved out to sing for her / lost in this girl crazy rodeo of broken dreams / thrown to the ground again.”

Ellingsen works hard at her craft these days, mentioning the importance of “drawing the listener in.” It’s a long way from how she felt back when she first began. “I didn’t even think I could write songs,” she said. “For the longest time, I just wanted to be a lead guitar player in bands.”

She’d picked up the guitar at 15, inspired by The Cure, The Smiths, and especially U2. “The Edge was my hero at that point,” she said. “But it’s pretty hard to learn guitar by listening to those groups, so I started getting more into classic rock (Neil Young), then the blues (B.B. King). The more I got into guitar playing, the more I got into blues, country and all different kinds of music.”

Ellingsen’s pop sensibility makes “From Nola to Noho” an inviting listen, strengthened by memorable melodies and other little hooks, like the wordless backing vocals on “Living Proof” — sung by Wishbone Zoe, whose 2014 record “All of These Oddities” inspired Ellingsen to make her own. She chose to work with Anand Nayak, WZ’s co-producer.

Nayak was open to Ellingsen’s input (“On ‘Living Proof’ I did like freakin’ five guitar parts and kept overlaying them. It was so much fun!” she said with a grin) and he made ace arrangement suggestions of his own, like the slow-building psychedelic surge at the end of “Dulled My Senses,” which also uses WZ’s vocal talents.

“It was an awesome idea. I loved it. Loved it,” Ellingsen said. “At the end we were thinking Beatles, Pink Floyd with a singer. And Wishbone Zoe really brought it, really put it over the edge.”

Ellingsen first met WZ when they were members of the Woman Songwriter Collective, and the group of songsmiths helped give her the courage to make her own album.

“While we’ve been playing together, everybody’s come out with a new record except for me. They kept telling me, ‘Lisa, now you gotta make a record. Now it’s your turn.’ And they kept making good ones, so that inspired me to make a good one.”

“It sounds like something I would buy. That was the goal,” Ellingsen said. “I wanted to make a record that I would buy and be a fan of. And I think I did it.”

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