By Nicholas Jason Lopez
Charlottetown, PEI-based artist Dennis Ellsworth recently delivered his latest single “Bound By Love,” off his new full-length album ‘The Grass Is Always Greener On The Other Side,’ the second installment of his namesake “Bound By Love” series.
Overall, the series dives deep into the history of Ellsworth’s life, which uses his photographic memory to recall from the 1970’s up to this very day. As a kid, he spent time driving in his mother’s car and it helped shape his musical life. Themes from the release include resiliency, nature’s healing power, devotion and more.
In the streaming age, Ellsworth dares to go where other artists rarely travel – as he has shared 32 new songs across three albums and three EPs. He has pledged to only release his full-length albums to Bandcamp in CD, LP and digital formats, as he feels the platform has come through for musicians in such a time of uncertainty.
The Music Bugle had the opportunity to discuss ‘The Grass Is Always Greener On The Other Side’ and more with Ellsworth.
Music Bugle – What was it like making your LP ‘The Grass Is Always Greener On The other Side’?
Dennis Ellsworth – It was different. It was lockdown, so I spent time making a bunch of demos at home. When I was finally able to go to a studio, I took the files I had worked on at home and set up the sessions and began the process of replacing the drum machines with real drums and my hack bass playing with a real bass player. I redid about half the acoustic tracks and all but one vocal was rerecorded. It was basically produced before I entered the studio, so that was new. Certainly, some things changed a little once we had some new tricks to play, but most of it was really premeditated, which is not normally how I make a record.
Music Bugle – Which of your newest songs were the hardest to write?
Dennis Ellsworth – “Bound By Love.” I started messing with the lyrics and I knew right away there was something cool going on and I told myself to spend time on it and get it right. It’s basically a musical autobiography and for the most part, it’s chronological. I knew that it needed lots of verses to tell the whole story and loop it back to my childhood, so I took my time and I rewrote verses several times. I refined lines, which is normal, but in this case, I made sure to not rush anything. Sometimes, a song just shows up almost completely in one sitting. This one took a few weeks to really nail down… but I think it really paid off.
Music Bugle – What was the moment that you knew you wanted to pursue music?
Dennis Ellsworth – I was really young when I first immersed myself in it. I guess that’s when the dream started, but it wasn’t until I was a head chef in a kitchen at a golf course in 2011 that I really made up my mind to pursue it as my sole source of income. I quit the kitchen work and made plans to make a solo record with David Barbe in Athens, Georgia and I haven’t looked back.
Music Bugle – How would you describe Charlottetown to someone who has never been there before?
Dennis Ellsworth – Small, cool, chill, nosey. Decent restaurants, but mostly a lot of excellence in mediocrity. Beautiful and quaint, with very friendly residents.
Music Bugle – Who are you listening to right now, music-wise?
Dennis Ellsworth – Lots of jazz Bill Evans, George Shearing, Billy Strayhorn, Jim Hall, some De La Soul, lots of live Grateful Dead, a stunning record called ‘Remover’ by Darren Jessee, ‘The Pet Parade’ by Fruit Bats, Jason Molina, Magnolia Electric Co., Songs:Ohia, Neil Young Archives 2, Jesse Woods – ‘Autoflower,’ Joni Mitchell and Bettye Swann.
Music Bugle – What has been your biggest memory involving music?
Dennis Ellsworth – Tough one. My whole life is a memory involving music.
Music Bugle – How have you been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic?
Dennis Ellsworth – I suppose, just like everyone else. I think we’re very lucky in PEI. We’ve had low case counts and our government has done an excellent job containing any possible outbreaks. I think the biggest impact of Covid has been the screeching halt the music industry has come under, but I don’t know if that’s really a bad thing. Hopefully, the way we do things post-Covid will allow for a better industry, I don’t know. I’m not bothered at all by the mask thing. Sometimes, when I am reflecting, I am struck by how bizarre this time actually is for us all. The human species is under attack. Maybe we attacked ourselves. I don’t know, but it’s bonkers, no matter which way you look at it. I think I’ve done pretty well to maintain a level mental health during this weird time. Having so much time at home with our daughter has been incredible. I am so grateful for the family time.
Music Bugle – What’s something that you wish happened more in today’s music industry?
Dennis Ellsworth – Proper remuneration for streaming and/or people buying physical copies of the work artists put so much time, energy and money into.
Music Bugle – What’s a quote that motivates you to keep doing what you do?
Dennis Ellsworth – “Enjoy every sandwich,” by Warren Zevon, “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better,” by Samuel Beckett and “There’s no damn business like show business – you have to smile to keep from throwing up,” by Billie Holiday.
Music Bugle – Where do you go when you need an escape?
Dennis Ellsworth – If it’s windy, I go to the woods. If it’s not windy, I go to the North Shore.