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Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2000 | INDIE

Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States | INDIE
Established on Jan, 2000
Solo Folk Singer/Songwriter


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This band has not uploaded any videos



"Ellis - Wherever You Are"

Here’s something refreshing: Ellis Delaney is a folk singer like no other, a woman with a mission to communicate love, joy, respect and trust to a world that is ever in need of healing. If that sounds a little sappy, then think again and give the woman a listen, because Ellis sings with a rare degree of open, unaffected honesty that you’d need a heart of stone to resist. This triple cd set offers one disc of new songs and two discs of the two halves of a set recorded at the White Bear Unitarian Universalist Church in Mahtomedi Minnesota (her home state). Despite that setting, there doesn't seem to be an overtly Christian aspect to her writing (though it’s certainly in line with the original Christian message) and her open-hearted enthusiasm for life, love and kindness doesn’t make her blind to the rawness of real life, to the problems and confusions that we all encounter.

It is probably best to listen to the studio cd first, so that you engage with her songs before being confronted by the alarmingly goofy volatility of her persona in the between songs rambles on the live cds. I say “alarmingly”, but that’s unfair; it’s just that I’ve never come across anybody who allows themselves such unguarded laughter in public and it takes a little getting used to. It sounds like the audience are old friends/fans because they’re right with her, Ellis’ joyful openness bringing out the joy in them, and that is something great to hear.

This is a bizarre comparison and I might be alone in this but for style the nearest person to Ellis that I can think of is Ani Difranco; to my ears they share a directness that feels like the shortest possible route has been taken from the idea to the music – no over-thinking and no gloss other than that provided by a true heart and considerable talent. The thing with Ellis is that, for a woman with an earnest mission, she is incredibly funny. The jokes pop into her mind and are delivered before she can reconsider; the unpredictability and openness in that process makes us, the audience, feel more alive – and quite possibly more amused than we would be by the honed routine of a professional comic. Her songs do love, daydreaming, beauty and the humour of everyday life: yoga classes and coffee addiction are ripe subjects for her, just as much as lying under a tree, daydreaming. If ever there was a feel-good folk musician, this is the woman – somebody who really does send you off feeling better about the world.

John Davy - No Depression

"Ellis tours the nation, but Minneapolis will always be home."

By Michael Metzger

Musicians often struggle to create in the studio what they generate on stage with what appears to be ease. The flow of energy, pulsing between performer and audience, is impossible to reconstruct in the sterility of the studio, where musicians often have an "audience" of cigarette-puffing engineers staring for hours on end at digital readouts with baggy, bloodshot eyes.

It can make the proverbial mojo elusive.

It's also part of what sparks the desire to make and release live albums: getting out of the studio and in front of people who love you and your music. Get that mojo workin'.

On "Evidence of Joy," the new live album by singer-songwriter Ellis, the sparks are flying between her and her fans.

She'll be performing selections from it and other albums on Thursday, July 1, 4-6 p.m. in the mill ruins at Mill City Museum, 704 S. 2nd St. The performance is part of the free "Mill City Live" summer concert series and is open to all.

It's clear that fans love the Minneapolis folk artist and that Ellis loves 'em right back: so much so, in fact, that she had fans produce "Evidence . . . "

Rather than hire a knob-twisting professional producer, Ellis, who owns her label, Rubberneck Records, decided to make her fifth solo album a democratic affair.

Rubberneck ran a contest and wound up picking eight fans from around the country to fly here to decide which songs will be on "Evidence of Joy" and in what order. The eight also helped choose the title of the disc.

"The reason why I'm doing this live album in the first place is because the fans really want this," she said of her decision to make a fan-produced CD. "People really want to have more of the live-show experience."

The album is a mix of previously unrecorded songs and tunes Ellis said fans have been asking to be released in live versions.

The album's bonus track, "Grace," is a very new composition, she said.

"That performance [on the CD] was the second time I performed it. I just was doing it just to do it, not with the idea that I would put it on the album. The fans really loved it so much; they're like 'We want this on the album!' and the only way I could do it was as a bonus track 'cause it feels so raw to me."

She described "Grace" as a way of "coming to grips with imperfection in myself. For me, there's a lot of time spent trying to make myself a better person or a better version of me somehow. And a lot of self-reflection. And some of that's really great, but I think more often I need to be working on not so much trying to make myself better, but just being OK with who I am."

Coming home

Ellis said "Grace" has quickly become a regular part of her touring repertoire. Like most musicians, she has become very, very familiar with the road. It's that place -- whether it's called New York or San Francisco or Peoria or Dubuque, Iowa -- that's not home. It's the place she called from to do this interview. She's out there a lot, playing over 130 dates a year.

And like most musicians, she has a very favorite, very special activity she likes to indulge in when she finally gets home: "Nothing. I don't do anything. I don't drive, I don't go anywhere," she said with a laugh. "Maybe I go for a walk.

"I usually take a few days to just kind of crash. Unload the car and just kind of recover. I usually don't sleep as well on the road and I just have an adrenaline kind of going."

Though she grew up in Texas, Ellis said Minneapolis is where much of her family and many of her friends live, and it just feels like home.

"As an artist, I feel really comfortable there. I feel like there's a place for me, and I don't think that's the case, as I've gone across the country and talked to other artists, that's not necessarily the case for other artists in other places."

Of course, most of those artists in other places don't face the harsh realities of a Minnesota winter, either.

"I do long for the South," Ellis said. "I do. There are things about Texas I really love -- the politics, the conservative nature of Texas are a little bit hard for me -- but there are other things about Texas I really love. And even going out to California, being in warmer weather, having the sunshine, can really improve your outlook.

"But you know, I'm an artist. I kind of like the drama of Minneapolis," she said with a big laugh. "I think if I were too happy, I wouldn't be able to do any art."

That laughter of hers emerges in a co-starring role on "Evidence of Joy," alongside her strong voice with its soft edges and her big-hearted songs about love and other calamities. Ellis likes to talk to her audience, listen to their responses and play off the energy generated. She likes to giggle and laugh; a laughter that, once it's started, rolls over this self-described introvert in girlish waves.

For example, as she introduces "Parking Lot," a funny ditty about losing a car, she jokes about how dominant - Skyway News

"The Joy Inside: Ellis gets personal on her new record"

Maybe it's because she's a Buddhist. Maybe it's because she's 31 yet looks like a 17-year-old. Maybe it's because she's nine years into a relationship that still makes her visibly giddy when she talks about it. Maybe it's because she's an unassuming local folk singer who has sold more than 30,000 albums.

Whatever the reason, Ellis Grace Delaney is almost unreasonably happy.

Dressed in a plain black shirt, with a mop of brown hair that looks both elfin and early-teen snowboarder, she is staring at me with powdery blue eyes that never seem to wander—or even hardly blink—over the course of an hour. We are at the May Day Café in south Minneapolis, and it's a noisy, chaotic bustle of bodies on this Sunday afternoon. I'm having trouble keeping my focus, but she manages to simultaneously exude both eager curiosity and unshakable serenity. I'm simultaneously charmed and jealous as hell.

You may know her as just Ellis. That's the name she has gone by since she was a teenager. She was born Mary Grace Ellis, named after her grandmother.

"I felt very much like it was her name and not mine. It also felt like if I was named Mary Grace, I was destined for the convent. It didn't fit," she says.

Ellis's parents lived in Liberty, Texas, outside of Houston. They divorced when she was a baby, and her mom later married a man Ellis describes as emotionally abusive. After nine years they separated, and Ellis and her mom moved to Minnesota to live with her aunt.

"It was not a good situation. Not a happy home life. One that could inspire lots of creativity in a child," she says with a tension-easing chuckle.

It was after moving north that Ellis legally changed her name to Ellis Grace Bergeron—Ellis for her father, and Bergeron her mother's maiden name. Despite, or maybe because of, her childhood, Ellis is now a woman who is very intent on finding, and relishing, joy in her life.

A major source of that joy today is her latest album, Break the Spell (Rubberneck Records). It's her sixth in ten years, and—she says without hesitation—her best. She shivers a little with ecstasy when asked about it. Produced by Ben Wisch (Marc Cohn, Patty Larkin), Break the Spell is a cathartic, intimate, and ultimately transcendent modern folk record. It's not trendy, or groundbreaking, or particularly adventurous. What it is is very, very real. It gets to you the way you crave a record to get to you.

It got to me on the second track, "Before You Leave." Amid an ether of vibrating, sparsely strummed guitars, delicate piano, and understated percussion, Ellis's breathy voice and ethereal backing vocals transport you to someplace beautiful, bittersweet, fatalistic: "Every star at night is a beating heart/Someday will fall/Young and old/They are bright/And make a grand exit."

She played for five years with the band Bobby Llama in the 1990s, but Ellis now performs solo most of the time, just her voice and an acoustic guitar. It's when she is at her best, her most emotionally powerful, when she strips a song down to just her hushed, innocent vocals and a few notes delicately picked on the guitar. She takes this minimalist approach several times on Break the Spell, but never better than on the Simon and Garfunkel-esque "Words You Said." When she sings tenderly, "I met someone new/And I am confused by it/She is not you/And I won't ever forget it," you're taken aback by the raw honesty of the words.

"This record is so much more intentional than any other record I've done. It's 'clearer.' Albums are like a landscape, like a painting. There are certain things that can be barriers to having an image be clear. Having an idea of what that image is, first off, you know, the song, having a clear idea of what that is, and then painting in such a way that you can feel the image even more, is an art form that I continue to evolve with," she says.

Ellis describes her songwriting process as "very messy and fun. Kind of like finger-painting. Sometimes you mix too many things, and you end up with a big pile of brown," she says with one of her frequent laughs.

Having sold more than 30,000 records, and touring more than 150 dates a year, Ellis clearly hasn't created too many big piles of brown. She says she hasn't had to work a "normal" job in seven years—which in her case meant working behind the counter at a coffee shop and giving flute lessons.

"When I first started out doing music it was really more of the queer and women audiences, and now it's become more of the folk audience. Mainly folks who are interested in music that has a quality of introspection. It's a different thing than going out to a rock club and listening to a band," she says.

With her remarkable success so far, it only seems natural that Ellis would have specific goals for herself and know exactly where she wants to take her career. However, the concept almost seems foreign to her when it's brought up.

"Where do I want to be in three years? Whe - City Pages

"Ellis put fans in charge of new live CD"

When Minneapolis' most ascendant folk singer, Ellis, faced the idea of putting out another live CD, she winced. "I wasn't particularly excited about it," said the St. Olaf alum, who, it turns out, doesn't like hearing her own live recordings. The rawness and openness that her fans react to so well makes her uncomfortable in playback, she said.

In the end, though, Ellis couldn't sound more excited about her second live CD, "Evidence of Joy." Instead of a big-shot, high-dollar producer, she enlisted eight fans to steer the album to completion.

That's right, novices produced the 12-song disc, which she's promoting Saturday with a release party at the Cedar Cultural Center.

"The main reason for doing a live CD was because the fans wanted it," said Ellis, 28, whose cult-ish fanbase has made her one of the most successful all-indie musicians in town. "So it was like, 'OK, let's take it to another level.'" Ellis and manager Terri Mazurek held an essay contest late last year, wherein 50 or so fans wrote about why they would make a good producer. In March, eight of them from across the country were flown to Minneapolis and put up at a hotel for one working weekend. And they really did work, said Jennifer DeLopst, one of the fans now credited as co-producer of the record.

"I wasn't sure what level of involvement we'd really have," DeLopst said, "but by about the first half-day, it was obvious this was serious." The group wound up being all women, but DeLopst, 24, said "the backgrounds were all over the map." They included a couple college students and a mom, while DeLopst works with Fortune 500 companies at a consulting firm in Chicago.

The producers actually started working a few months earlier, when they helped create set lists for the recorded shows at Bryant-Lake Bowl in Minneapolis and Ginkgo Coffeehouse in St. Paul. With the recordings done, they had to choose the 12 songs for the CD. During that process, DeLopst said, "The gloves really came off." "Ellis and Terri demanded honesty from us, and I think we gave it," she said.

Ellis said the producers picked several tunes she wouldn't have chosen herself, including the newest song, "Grace," which she had not played live before. The disc also features three other unreleased songs plus tunes from recent albums, such as "Sacred,"Begin Again" and "Parking Lot." On their final day together, the producers went into engineer Rob Genadek's studio and gave input on the CD's mixing. There, they also had a little fun: All eight sing harmonies on a song that Ellis gave them as a memento. "It wound up being a slumber party kind of atmosphere, but after we got the work done," DeLopst said.

Ellis said she'd do it all over again.

"Honestly, the CD turned out better than I could have expected," she said. "But even better than that was the chance to get to bond with these eight amazing people." She added, laughing, "I'd recommend them as producers to anyone."
- Star Tribune

"Evidence of Ellis: There's more to the indie rocker than you might think"

There are some things about Ellis that may surprise you. For example, you may be surprised to know that she walked away from discussions about becoming a major label artist in favor of total independence, which meant releasing her own albums while maintaining a nonstop touring schedule. You may also be surprised to learn that the producers on her last album, Evidence of Joy, were winners of an essay contest she sponsored for her fans. Ellis flew the eight winners to Minneapolis and put them in a hotel for a weekend in order to solicit their opinions face to face.

But that openness to new experiences and viewpoints is no surprise to those who know Ellis's story. She grew up in Liberty, Texas, and, at age sixteen, found herself suddenly transplanted to Bloomington. After attending St. Olaf College, she enjoyed regional success with the Bobby Llama band, which, after winning the Sam Goody Best Unsigned Band in America Contest in 2000, stood poised to hit the big time. After that came the biggest leap of all, the leap of faith that established her as an independent artist with gigs aplenty and a national following.

Ellis, twenty-nine, has been compared with Ani DiFranco, Suzanne Vega, Edie Brickell, and the Indigo Girls, but those comparisons only approximate what she's all about. She is funny and smart and has a way with lyrics that makes critics take notice. These days she's recording her new album (due out in early 2007). Asked to describe the new project, she says, "A handful of songs have a pop-rock feel, and the most recent ones have a little alt-country vibe. Must be my Texas roots finally coming through." June 24, Loring Park, Mpls., tcpride.org; June 24-25, Bryant-Lake Bowl, 810 W. Lake St., Mpls., 612-825-8949, bryantlakebowl.com, ellis-music.com.

Reach Marlee MacLeod at likehollywood@mn.rr.com.
June 2006, Page 334 - Mpls St Paul Magazine

"Catching up with Ellis"

The last time I saw Minneapolis-based, Texas-born singer-songwriter and dyke heartthrob Ellis, she was sitting in the corner of the Media Tent at the 2005 Michigan Womyn's Music Festival, patiently giving a one-on-one critique to a young festie-goer who was attending her songwriting workshop.

That image has stayed with me, as it sums up who Ellis, the artist and person, is — open-hearted, generous, down to earth, and genuinely interested in connecting with people through her music. That, in combination with her gorgeous smile, beautiful blue eyes, charming personality and obvious talent, is exactly why audiences — lesbian, straight, young and old — adore her. Ferociously.

Ellis' last album release was an experiment in breaking down that barrier between fan and artist, by actually having fans produce the album. Evidence of Joy, her fifth self-released album on her own Rubberneck imprint, was not just a gimmick; it was an actual effort to make her audience part of her creative process. And it worked on so many levels for all parties involved, from Ellis to the fan-producers to the listening audience.

Ellis has been busy working on several projects since I saw her last. "I’ve been out on a few tours, but I've also been taking a little bit of time to be at home and write," she tells me. "It's been nice to have time to write. I write in pieces on the road, and then when I get home, it's like, OK, do they fit together? I have to see if anything works."

Though she loves life on the road, slowing down a bit has been productive. "For me, that's really important for the creative process," she explains. "Staying in constant motion, there is something to that. It can be a really wonderful creative thing. But then I think the settling down is when you find what you’ve really created and see it more clearly."

The conversation quickly turned to the topic of her new album, which she’s in the midst of recording. "Once all the pieces are in place, I'll have more information," she says coyly. Fans can get a sneak peek, though, from two new tracks posted up on her MySpace.com website, "Hurricane" and "How Would It Be." The former is an infectious love tune likening the passion between two lovers to the intensity of a hurricane, while the latter is a more philosophical endeavor that reminds us to take nothing for granted. Both songs are very typically Ellis, her confessional lyrics complimented perfectly by her hooky guitar rhythms and sweetly melodic vocals.

In order to fund this new record, as an independent artist, Ellis had to get creative. "Yeah, Terri [Mazurek, Ellis’ manager, Rubberneck Records co-conspirator, and girlfriend] and I were brainstorming ways [to come up with funds]," she recalls. "As the industry is changing, how does an independent artist continue to really do it? And [the answer is,] through the generosity of others … through the community, the sharing, offering, and then giving other people the opportunity to say thank you, to help and be part of things." The result is the Ellis Angel Project, a sponsorship drive that offers special membership benefits — like free song downloads, discounts on albums, autographed merchandise, and public recognition on Ellis' website [ http://www.ellis-music.com ]. There’s even a "Hands-On Angel" level, for folks who lack money but really want to contribute by volunteering their time.

A new album isn't the only thing that's been in the works; she’s also working on a DVD. "It's a documentary about my story, being an independent artist and what it's been like, how I got started," she explains. "It will revolve around an interview, and have live footage from now and also the band I was in five years ago [Bobby Llama]. Just really talking about how things have been and where things are going. It’s really an exciting process."

She continues, "The underlying theme of it is that anytime you follow your heart and your dreams, do what you’re meant to be doing, exciting stuff happens! It just feels really good. It's just a matter of deciding now, yes, and really going for it. So many people hold themselves back, for various reasons. But I just think if more people in the world, if they hate their day job, if they would just look for another way out, you know?"

- Curve Magazine

"Falcon Ridge stars to roost at Night Eagle"

On a sweltering July afternoon last year, 22 acts got onstage for a few thousand people and, with three songs each, tried to capture audience members' hearts.

No, it wasn't some road tour of "American Idol" -- the annual "Emerging Artist Showcase" at the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival has plenty more talent than that, and no snarky trio of judges to face.

But the idea is basically the same: Festival-goers who gathered at the upstate farm in Hillsdale got to vote for their favorites, and the three winners would become part of the festival preview tour sent to venues all over the Northeast.

Two of the chosen ones, country-folk trio Red Molly and slide-guitar songwriter Pat Wictor, already should be familiar to Tier concert-goers; the third, Minneapolis-based singer/songwriter Ellis, is new to the region. None of them is still wet behind the ears career-wise -- Ellis, for instance, just finished recording her sixth CD for release early next year -- but the tour should help all of them "emerge" to more recognition in the national folk-music consciousness.

Reached a couple of weeks ago during a long drive across South Dakota, Ellis expressed excitement over going on the road with her newfound Falcon Ridge friends: "We couldn't have asked for a better mix of people. I anticipate much fun and goodwill happening on this tour."

While Red Molly and Wictor lean more toward the traditional end of things, Ellis is a vanguard of a more personal brand of folk that looks inward for meaning and answers. Her songs are poetic and powerful; her vocals are passionate, with a helping of rock and a touch of jazz. In concert, her self-deprecating banter and infectious laughter help her form an easy bond with audiences.

"I do feel there's an energy and a connection that happens when I'm onstage, and it enriches my life so much. It makes me feel less alone in the world, and I get so much joy and connection out of it," Ellis said. "It reminds us that we're all the same. It's a cliché for a reason: We are all the same, and we're all caught in this crazy human game -- we're trying to figure it out, and loving and losing and laughing and crying and all of that. Music is a wonderful way to really get to the heart of the human experience -- man, I'm sold. I love it."

Ellis started performing in high school. In college in Minnesota she was part of a rock band with the unlikely name of Bobby Llama. Striking out on her own in 1996, she formed her own record label and began building her cultish fan base in the Twin Cities area. It's a love that flows both ways: Six fans co-produced her last CD, a live effort called "Evidence of Joy," and investors helped to fund her new album in $1,000 increments.

"I do feel that asking for help is very humbling and vulnerable in some ways," she said of the unusual collaborations. "People really want to be involved -- that's the thing I've heard from people who love my music. They want to help out in any way they can, so for me to offer a way to help is also a really wonderful gift that I can give them."

The best gifts, of course, are the songs themselves, from the love roller-coaster of "Hurricane" and the honest come-hither of "Pick-Up Song" to the challenge to strive higher in "How Would It Be." But like most of us, there's also a whimsical side: "Coffee Song," an ode to her favorite beverage; "Georgeanne," about a series of wrong-number phone calls to her apartment, and "Parking Lot," about her tendency to forget where she's left her car.

"It was inevitable that I would write songs that express light-heartedness, because I have that in my life -- I have some humor as well as feeling very intense at times, very philosophical about life and taking life very seriously," Ellis said. "I really do feel I'm two-fisted that way -- the daylight and the dark."

Standing in between those extremes is Ellis, strumming away and trying to make sense of it all -- for herself and for us.
- Press & Sun-Bulletin - Binghamton, NY


Wherever You Are (2013)
Right On Time (2010)
Scrapbook DVD (2009)
Break The Spell (2008)
Undefended Heart (2008)
EP (2006)
Evidence Of Joy (2004)
Tigers Above, Tigers Below (2003)
Everything That's Real (2001)
Blueprint Live (1998)
Soft Day (1996)



***Winner, Kerrville Grassy Hill New Folk Contest, 2013
***Voted "Audience Favorite", Moab Folk Festival, 2013, 2012
***Featured Performer, A Prairie Home Companion, 2013
***Featured on Troubadour, TX syndicated television show, 2011-2012
***Winner, 2011 Midwest Regional Finals of the Mountain Stage Newsong Contest
**Winner, 2009 Best Album, Female Singer/Songwriter category, Just Plain Folks Awards (Break The Spell)
**Voted "Most Wanted To Return" Artist, Sisters Folk Festival, 2009
**Voted "Most Wanted To Return" Artist, Falcon Ridge Folk Festival, 2006
**Named "Best Musician" five years in a row in Minneapolis


There's just something about Ellis. She is at once funny and wise, thoughtful and uninhibited, and her captivating voice is matched by her uplifting lyrics. After her Feb 2013 appearance on A Prairie Home Companion, Ellis music charted in the Folk Top 100 in iTunes and Folk Top 20 on Amazon.com. She also received hundreds of messages from strangers including, "you exude pure joy", "I heard you and fell in love" and I was stopped in my tracks by your music and captivating laugh as well as "Yours is a voice we all need to hear. Ellis performances are transformational; she leaves her audiences better than she finds them, with softened edges & opened hearts.

A winner of several awards and honors, Ellis has been recognized both for her songwriting skills as well as her engaging performances. Many folk festivals have audience choice awards, and Ellis has claimed those honors at Falcon Ridge Folk Festival, Moab Folk Festival, and Sisters Folk Festival. She also won the Grassy Hill Kerrville New Folk Contest in 2013, the Midwest Mountain Stage New Song Contest (US) in 2011 and the award for the Just Plain Folks (International) Best Female Singer Songwriter Album in 2009.

Moab Folk Festival, 2013, 2012
Rocky Mountain Folks Festival, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007
Old Songs Folk Festival, 2012, 2011
IAMA Mountain Music Festival, 2011, 2012
Falcon Ridge Folk Festival, 2012, 2010, 2007, 2006
Sisters Folk Festival, 2010, 2009
Philadelphia Folk Festival, 2008
Festival for the Eno, 2013, 2012, 2010, 2009
Great River Folk Festival, 2010, 2008


"Ellis walks on stage, flashes a bashful grin and does what she does best: singing her heart out every single time. "
-Just Out, Portland

"She has real star power, and audiences are utterly mesmerized by her."
-Curve Magazine

"Ellis has one of most engaging personalities that I've ever witnessed on a stage... her captivating laugh has been echoing in my heart all week!"
- Ron Olesko, WFDU

Band Members