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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Ellie Ann, Brandeis senior, releases new single and music video

Published: September 2, 2011
Section: Features, Top Stories

Ellie Ann's album cover artwork. <i>Photo courtesy of Ellie Hutchinson</i>

When her mother started making her take piano lessons “too many years ago to count,” Ellie Hutchinson ’12 hated going and later practicing. It wasn’t until high school that playing piano joined singing and theater as something she enjoyed. Now, going by the name Ellie Ann (her full name is Elizabeth Ann Hutchinson), she uses her piano skills to write her own music, which is rapidly bringing her fame on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter.

Sitting down with Hutchinson means being with someone who has always been bursting with potential and is energized with excitement over her success so far, but recognizes that it is up to her to continue her lucky streak.

On Saturday a new song, “When He Lied,” and a music video will join the two singles that have led to more than 10,000 YouTube subscribers, 73,000 upload views, 18,500 Twitter followers and 2,000 likes on Facebook.

“I’ve always wanted to be a singer/songwriter. I was never one of those kids who wanted to be a doctor or a ballerina,” Hutchinson said.

Growing up in Concord, Mass., Hutchinson began writing her own music in second grade and wrote what she calls her first “real song” in ninth grade.

“My gay best friend and I would go to the choir room and we would sing and play piano, and I would always play him the new song I was working on that week,” she said.

Hutchinson’s writing process begins at the piano, where she sits down and starts playing, waiting for something to come out. “Music is my therapy,” she said, explaining that to create great music she needs to be in some sort of mood.

Once she has a few chords, she begins writing lyrics, and then lets the lyrics determine the final sound of the song. Most of her lyrics come from her relationships with guys or other people she cares about because she believes she needs to “feel passionate about something to be able to write about it.” Her newest song, for example, is about a cheating ex-boyfriend.

“I couldn’t write the song at first, but I went back later and did, and I recorded it a lot later. It was one of those stories I knew I had to tell, and I thought people would be able to connect to it and understand what it’s like,” Hutchinson said.

She describes her music as “sort of pop rock, kind of singer/songwriter, but a little bit mainstream,” and smiles when remembering being compared to artists like The Fray and Alanis Morissette, her “absolute favorite singer ever.” Before transfering to Brandeis as a junior to take the advantage of the music composition major, she attended Graceland University, a small school in Iowa and her mother’s alma mater, a period she says helped her to develop her own style.

“I didn’t know what I wanted in high school, so it was hard to know what kind of music I wanted to write,” Hutchinson said.

Hutchinson’s parents have been a constant source of support but never overbearing, she said. In high school, she convinced them that she wanted to take making music more seriously and they helped her find a producer. She began recording her first single in January 2010 as a Christmas present from them but has paid for her other recording sessions by working throughout her time at school.

Hutchinson currently works with producer Bryan Sargent when recording and promoting her music. When she has a song ready, he helps her write guitar and drum parts, which he plays, but the music is entirely her own.

In addition to writing her own music, Hutchinson is her own manager and public relations coordinator. “It’s a lot of behind the scenes work, but I really like business,” said Hutchinson, who is considering pursuing an MBA at some point. “I live and breathe music all the time, and it can get pretty hectic. Luckily I’m one of those middle-brained people who can box myself in my room and write a song and then go out the next day and find out how I can get it recorded and financed.”

To help promote herself, Hutchinson has made all of her music available on iTunes and YouTube and constantly updates her Twitter and Facebook under her stage name, Ellie Ann.

Her online fan base, ranging from German teens to middle-aged people in Kansas, is another strong support system and one of her favorite parts of her burgeoning musical career. “People in the music business talk a lot about target audiences, but my music is in a genre that has a large range of fans, so I don’t really have one,” she said. “Just by clicking and sharing with others, people all over the world are helping me pursue my dream.”