So, you’ve seen him live, heard the CDs and/or read the reviews. But what do the people who know Jeff Ellis best have to say about him? We asked a few notable friends and fellow musicians to spill the beans on him, from being in the studio, to hanging out…
What can you say about Jeff Ellis? Jeff is one of the best friends I’ve ever had. He can drink more than just about anyone I know. As far as his progression as a musician, dude’s been writing great songs since forever, he can sing like a motherfucker, and he knows exactly what he wants in the studio. He can really hear where something is headed, and knows how to get it there. I think his writing is always progressing, and this new disc is definitely a testament to that.
To say I’ve been in a lot of recording sessions over the years is putting it mildly. But I have to say I’ve only been in one where I was sure that we were hearing a dead ringer hit song come back off the speakers.
I know a few people who have written hit songs, now they’ll probably never actually get to be hits in the real world, but I know them when I hear them, and they do exist outside of the mainstream. When we heard the playback of “I’m Not Leaving This Time” I knew it was a fucking hit song. People may think I’m an idiot, but it is, and I’ll fucking fight anyone who claims differently. “I’m Not Leaving This Time” is a hit, but in an industry full of stupid motherfuckers who wouldn’t know good shit if it kicked them in the nuts, it’ll probably never be a hit.
As far as the good times are concerned, we’ve had a few to say the least. I wish I had the secret drunken footage that Phil Dog took of us getting wasted after the sessions for the first record we did with him, that would alleviate the need for any discussion on the subject. I can say I’ve never tracked a record more hung over than with Jeff Ellis. I know that Jimmy Lykens hasn’t.
The new disc is great, the songs are great, the playing is great, it sounds great, and I’m very honored that Eddie and Jeff gave me an executive producer credit. Apparently all you have to do to produce a record is give Steve Barker a bunch of shit during the sessions. J/K He played great, all the guys did, and we’re all real proud that we could be a part of it.
The thing that was most notable to me about the record is the fact that there were hardly any rehearsals before it. We tracked most of it live in the same room together, with very few fixes or overdubs. Hell, some of the takes on the record are the first time I had even heard the songs. But when you are playing on great stuff, it’s easy to hear your part if you know what your role is. And when you’re working with Jeff, it’s rare that what you are ever playing on is anything less than great.
--- Bud Carroll
Jeff Ellis is a natural born superstar. One of the all-time great tightrope walkers. Hemmingway would count him both as friend and nemesis. Both great writers, and great drinkers.
--- Steve Barker
Jeff’s favorite accommodation in the whole world is the Highlander Motel, otherwise known as “The Second Worst Motel In Athens, Ohio.”
Not sure why this is.
Perhaps it is the constant smell of curry that wafts from the office (where the owners live) and seems to permeate every room in the establishment. Or the din of out-of-town partiers who frequent the place on weekends, when Jeff and the crew are most likely to stay there. Or the noisy HVAC that is too cold in the winter and too hot in the summer. Or maybe it is just the allure of the free HBO.
All I know is, when asked by a band member why he ALWAYS stays at the Highlander when in Athens, when there are other, only slightly more costly, and much more, uh, clean establishments to spend the night, Jeff’s answer was “I freakin’ LOVE this place!!!”
--- Eddie Ashworth
I have known Jeff since he was about seven years old. We grew up not five miles from each other in Chapmanville, and have been very close for over 15 years now. I really cannot think of any one individual in my generation that will have more of an impact on the landscape of WV music than Jeff Ellis. Period.
He has already at the ripe old age of 30 delivered a wealth of good, independently produced music. I myself own at least 10 releases going back to Harvest. I envy Jeff for the volume of great material he seems to so effortlessly put out. But, Jeff doesn’t come by it easy. He has forced himself into hard situations, into wars, into fending for himself at a young age, just so he could write from the heart. A lot of musicians, including myself, have taken a path more traveled.
Although Jeff and I have very different musical tastes and went different directions with them, we have always shared a certain admiration for our differences. He has had me guest vocal on his albums, Byzantine has had Jeff guest vocal on ours. It might stem back from knowing Jeff since he was in 10th grade, but I pull for Jeff more than anyone. He does it his way. If you don’t like it, there’s the door. He orchestrates whole albums in his head. He gets off a plane from Afghanistan and immediately books shows. You tell me who does that. I couldn’t do that.
--- Chris Ojeda, Byzantine
I was around Jeff quite a bit when he was writing many of the songs that ended up making the cut for The Forgetting Place. There were a lot of nights, consuming a lot of beer, where we exchanged stories about our similar situations in the female department. If you’ve listened to the CD, then there’s no need for me to tell you what those situations were -- ha!
I saw Jeff perform a good amount of those songs acoustically around the Tri-State and was super pumped to hear that some of them made the cut for the actual disc. I always told him I was ready for another Jeff Ellis heartbreak CD -- he delivered with a CD that hit me in the heart pretty hard. Even though he wrote the songs for someone else, about 75% of them could have been written about a girl who was once in my life.
It was disappointing when Jeff said he was getting shipped back out before the CD came out. I’m really looking forward to having Jeff back in town and hearing the full band versions of the new tracks!
The last time Jeff was overseas he came back with what is his best material in my opinion. Although I connect with The Forgetting Place, I still feel overall A Front Seat [for the End of the World] is his best quality CD, maybe even better than any of the Guinness Clarke’s Wine works.
There’s been plenty of wild times with Jeff over the past couple years. I can’t wait to have him back over here for good -- although my liver isn’t really ready for him just yet!
--- Brandon Woolum, X106.3
--- photo: Taylor Kuykendall