English singer-songwriter Eloise doesn’t fall into a stereotypical musical mold, which is maybe why she’s so popular, and globally too. Her music reminds you of a sunny day, driving up the California coastline, or on the same sunny day sitting outside a café in Paris. (Which technically you could do if you just did it the other way around). Her breathy yet undulating tones remind me a little of Lana Del Rey, with nuance in her voice like bells.
Eloise channels her torments into her songwriting. In her song “Therapist,” the result is a relatable story, held down by smooth breathy tones, slightly jazz, slightly blues, slightly Bossa nova. You can tell she’s had a wide musical influence, and she says that it’s thanks to her mom playing her old records in the background of her childhood life.
I caught Eloise in London having just returned from her mini-Australian tour after a final night, sold-out show in Melbourne. She’s wearing a large black hoody with her hair pulled in a messy pony, and she’s lovely.
Her debut album, Drunk On A Flight, came out on April 14, and a European tour starts in Paris — maybe she’ll get to that cafe — on June 2.
Eloise, you were born in England and grew up in France?
Yes, I was born in north London, then we shifted out to Normandy France, on a family holiday, which became nearly 10 years of us living there. My dad had inherited a house there in the countryside, and maybe it was an experiment or something if we could go and live off-grid, with no Wi-Fi. As a kid I took to it so well, having a lake to jump in and trees to climb. It was very rural where we were. It was idyllic. We had a TV with a video machine but no TV, so I grew up watching old films on video.
And then you got into acting?
At 11 I did a thing; I wasn’t thinking of it as getting into acting. It was a super indie film, and I was the lead in it, age 11 going on 12, and I helped make some of the music for it with Damian Albarn. I didn’t know who he was until I was older, but after that I decided I liked music more. I think music chose me in the end.
Tell us about Drunk on a Flight.
It’s about a few break-ups. It’s about all of them, about reflections. I’m thrilled it’s coming out. Also, I’m ready to dive into the next thing.
You’re really popular in the States…
Where I do the best is in the States. It was just luck. I essentially did a cover of this guy Bruno Major’s song, and literally a couple of days later he saw the video, commented on it, and messaged me, “I really love your cover of this. Would you come and sing it at my show on Friday?” I already had tickets for the show. I was ecstatic. It was this tiny little venue in east London. Then basically I came off stage and met his manager, who became my manager, and I dropped out of school. They were pretty much like, “Do you want to come on tour and support Bruno, and then be in his band and stuff as he needs a keyboard player?” I did that for three years and all his tours were in the States, so I was just consistently building up a platform for myself. I was 17 on the first run.
How do you stay grounded on the road?
On tour I’m quite boring and I’m not very rock and roll, so anytime I’m not sound checking or on stage, I’m trying to preserve my energy. I try and do the stuff I normally do, watch the TV shows I watch, find a nice coffee shop and hang out there. It’s wonderful and magical but all a bit silly. All I want to do at the end of the tour is come home and do the pub quiz at my local.
You’re about to go on your European tour?
The June tour is locked in, and we finish at KOKO, which is bananas, I can’t quite believe that. [For those not in the know, KOKO is an old London theater built in 1900 in Camden, which masqueraded as The Camden Palace from the early ‘80’s until 2004, which any dance aficionados will fondly remember.]
If you could listen to one song for the rest of your life, which one of your own songs would you listen to?
Either “Drunk on A Flight” or maybe “Vanilla Tobacco.”
“Drunk On a Flight” goes to more places, so I wouldn’t get so bored. There are still little bits I listen to that I’d forgotten we’d put in, like a harmony or a little bell or something. It seems a bit woo woo. It feels kind of weird to claim the ideas I’ve had sometimes. Like, in no other moment would I have written that. Like, if it was 10 minutes later I couldn’t have come up with that, and that goes beyond what I thought I could do. That’s what’s fabulous about it — you just have to be the vehicle for the idea that’s dropped into your head.
What’s the most unusual thing you’ve eaten while on tour?
Probably frog legs. I know it’s controversial, but they’re delicious. Yeah, they are. Frog legs. If anything comes on a plate in sizzling garlic butter, it can’t really be that bad.
Do you still play keyboards?
Yes, I’m kind of someone who has to make a bit of a racket all the time. I learned piano for so many years and never got particularly brilliant at it. I played piano from 4 to 16; I was in lessons.
The only reason I learned guitar was that it was portable, and I didn’t have to hope someone had a keyboard so I could play music. I have a piano at my flat, but I’ll always swap between the two, constantly running from either side of my flat to the next.
And you taught yourself how to play guitar?
Yeah, I had learned from piano lessons that I didn’t want to be taught music. I felt as if I was being blocked, so basically, I decided I’d cheat my way through it. My brother bought me a guitar, and I’d just watch people playing my favorite videos and pick it out by ear. I don’t have any theory behind me. If I couldn’t pick the chord out by ear then I’d freeze it and zoom in on people’s hand positions and stuff and figure it out. I have a lot of jazz chord knowledge, but sometimes my finger placement is weird.
What’s next for you, say, in the next 10 years?
Within the next 10 years, I’ll probably take some time off because I was so young when I started off, but I still have a couple of albums in me. I’m just raring to go on this second one. I know the aesthetic of it. I know the name, and I’ve got some songs written for it. I’m just going to keep making albums until I’ve got nothing to say really. That’s the plan. I don’t think I’ll run dry.
Who are some of your biggest influences, both musically and personally?
Personally, my mum massively was the source of my music. My mum would sit at the piano — she’s such a good singer and such a good pianist, and she’d play Billy Joel, Barry Manilow, Gilbert O’Sullivan, all these songs from old Broadway shows… I was getting musical education from her, her playing other people’s songs, so I really got to understand songwriting, and what I got from her was performance, because she’s also an actor, her delivery, her timing, and her phrasing is really felt through. That was a big example.
I think so many people can sing a song and it can sound nice, but not many people can sing a song. It sounds nice, and you’re left feeling so much stuff at the end of it. It’s a mishmash of those things.
What messages do you want your fans to take away from your songs?
I hope to serve some kind of catharsis or something for the people listening. I’d hope that my stuff isn’t so bleak that there’s a bit of relief in it. But I think the message, at least for this album, is it’s all fine, don’t take it so seriously, and you don’t have to be a grown-up early in your 20s. That’s when the good stuff starts, and that’s when you need to be silly.
You need to make a mess, and you need to make the tapestry that you’re going to look back on, and not be so sensible. I was so sensible when I was 17/18 because I was doing a job so early, and I thought I’ve lost my silliness, and my silliness is what I’m going to write songs about and what’s going to make me rich in spirit and stories, so that’s kind of the message.
ELOISE’S UPCOMING TOUR DATES
June 2 – Paris, FR @ La Maroquinerie
June 3 – Cologne, DE @ Helios37
June 4 – Berlin, DE @ Lido
June 6 – Hamburg, DE @ Nochtspeicher
June 7 – Antwerp, BE @ Trix
June 8 – Amsterdam, NL @ Paradiso
June 10 – Birmingham, UK @ O2 Institute 2
June 11 – Dublin, IRE @ Academy Green Room
June 13 – Glasgow, UK @ St Luke’s
June 14 – Manchester, UK @ Band On The Wall
June 16 – London, UK @ KOKO
July 8 – Rotterdam, NL @ North Sea Jazz Festival
(U.S. dates coming later in the year)