Robert Ellis
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Robert Ellis

Houston, Texas, United States

Houston, Texas, United States
Band Folk Country


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos



"The Sounds Of Robert Ellis"

The first time I saw Robert Ellis perform was at the Secret Saturday Festival that took place at the Shady Tavern. I had the opportunity to meet Robert and see his performance several times since then. He is a soft spoken guy and in his own words he says, “If you listen to my music you can learn quite a bit about me, much more so than what I would choose to say about myself. So, have a listen.” Everyone I speak with about Robert Ellis’ music has nothing but praise. Robert Ellis also plays with The Lovely Sparrows, based out of Austin. The Lovely Sparrows will be playing several shows during SXSW, so make sure to check and see if you will be able to add them to your schedule. I am eagerly awaiting a show being brought to us by The Orange Show for Visionary Arts that will feature Robert Ellis, as well as highly regarded and dead musican headliner Townes Van Zandt. You can see Robert Ellis’ upcoming shows here. - Joel Hughes @ Indie Houston

"Houston Calling's favorite releases of 2009"

Robert Ellis, The Great Rearranger
Ellis is a musician that seems to never be satisfied unless he is making music. From his work with musician Chase Hamblin to various local side projects to old-school country covers at Mango’s to his excellent solo work, Ellis definitely stayed busy this year. The Great Rearranger is a folk album that could have been made at any point in the past 50 years and would still be as strong as it sounds today–and that is a testament to Ellis’ songwriting. After a single listen, I couldn’t get “Good Intentions” out of my head–good luck getting it out of yours. - David Cobb @ Houston Calling

"Some of 2009s best music came from local music"

7. The Great Rearranger
Robert Ellis
The music here is much like the man: sly, sensitive and full of folksy charm. Ellis says he wrote many of the songs about past heartbreak and new love. He keeps things simple, tempering introspective, intelligent lyrics with lighthearted arrangements that make the disc an effortless listen. - Joey Guerra @ Houston Chronicle

"Enjoy the Silence - Singer-songwriter Robert Ellis stands up for piping down"

It's not just touring acts who are fed up with Houston's talkative audiences, either. If you'd rather talk about the Astros or catch up on office gossip than listen closely to Houston singer- songwriter Robert Ellis's haunting, spare country-folk songs, he will shut you up and shut you down.

"That's the one complaint I have," the 21-year-old Brazosport native says over beers at Catbird's. "When I play out of town, generally people are very attentive and listening to my songs, which is kind of important for singer-songwriters. But I think [in] Houston, everyone kind of wants it to be bar rock and talk over it, which can be kind of discouraging."

At Ellis's CD release for his first full-length, The Great Re Arranger by Robert Ellis, at Mango's last month, one talkative group of friends found out they picked the wrong show for socializing.

"I singled a couple of people out," he says. "There were maybe five people that showed because I guess they'd heard about it, that didn't have any reason to be there. I was like, 'What are you guys doing here? Why are you ruining my show? Go home.'"

Did they leave?

"They left, and then the show was great after that," Ellis laughs.

Ellis is by no means a belligerent fellow. Thin and bespectacled, with shoulder-length locks and a dusting of facial hair, he's also soft-spoken, polite and self-deprecating. When he's not playing, either solo or with one of his several other gigs — he plays drums for fellow singer-songwriter Chase Hamblin, bass in blues revivalists Grandfather Child and several instruments in two off-kilter Americana groups, Austin's the Lovely Sparrows and Houston's I Am Mesmer — he teaches guitar lessons at Rockin' Robin, mostly to teenagers.

"I have to teach 'Enter Sandman' and stuff like that, because there's a lot of kids who want to learn that stuff," says Ellis, whose mother was a piano teacher. "But all the metal kids, if I show them gypsy music, they love it and they think it sounds metal. The kids that want to play fast rock, I'll teach 'em bluegrass and flat-picking."

Though Ellis has been writing songs for years and performing in public since his mid-teens, The Great Re Arranger is still an impressive effort for someone so young. Trafficking mostly in relationships — between lovers, family members, people and their surroundings — the songs are mature and evocative, Ellis's quavering tenor the only real clue to his true age. Despite the bravado of the album's title, in songs like "Givin' In" and "Good Intentions," he's all too aware of his own foibles and limitations, and relates them honestly and forthrightly.

A couple of songs pay tribute to the late great-grandfather who acted as a father figure to Ellis, whose mother was a single parent. His uncle was a bluegrass guitarist who sometimes took him along on the festival circuit. Agreeing his songs tend to be heavily autobiographical, Ellis says they usually spring from some memory or other that won't leave him alone.

"I don't usually write unless I'm kind of in a sort of fucked-up mental state anyway," he admits. "Usually the things that I end up holding onto are songs where I was thinking about something heavily. That's probably the reason that most of the stuff that I write about is sad, or reminds me of sad things or important things."

Ellis's models as a songwriter are staunch traditionalists like modern folk mistress Gillian Welch and bluegrass guitar legend Doc Watson, but he knows his songs will probably remind younger listeners of the current indie-folk crop of artists such as Bon Iver, Iron & Wine and Fleet Foxes. No doubt this is why he's caught on so quick at places like Mango's, in the same neo-folk scene populated by the youthful likes of singer-songwriter Elaine Greer and groups Buxton and News on the March. - Chris Gray @ Houston Press

"Daytrotter 4-10"

With "Good Intentions," Texan musician Robert Ellis has written a song that crackles with the kind of steady and enviable tone that makes it a natural cousin of America's "A Horse With No Name," giving us just short of three minutes of tantalizing and moody folk rock. It's a song that, while it should be considered the greatest achievement on his debut album, "The Great Rearranger," is by no means its only achievement. Ellis sings on "Good Intentions," "I don't care how wrong it is/I've got good intentions/I just can't hide it anymore/I've made my decision," and it's a statement that speaks to his general rule of thumb toward songwriting as he goes about it with his own personal intent. It makes for a hybrid of styles and experimentations, making a record of sunny times, dark times and melancholic burns, feeling as if it could have unrolled out of his soul directly following a colossal dinner, five courses, with a house full of friends and family seated around the table. The roast or steak still annoyingly lodged between a tooth here or there, some lettuce or broccoli tucked into the corner of a front tooth, a green blemish to a smile or hearty laugh. The bellies are full, the sweet whipped cream topping from the pie still not completely licked from the corners of the mouths. The dishes have been cleared, tossed into the empty sink for tackling later on in the night, before the locking of the doors and the shut-eye, and the coffees or wine is being passed around in a dimly lit den, where the conversations are turning down and the crowd is thinning some. It's as if these songs are being eased out of Ellis' mouth by his loved ones, by those whose pleasure it is to hear what he's currently been writing, maybe even feeling that they're partially what he's been writing about as he seems to rely on those close to him when making songs. They never seem to be unimpressed and, with reason, as every Ellis song sounds like it comes from a different, even more flattering segment of his mind, a place connected but still existing in a sovereign state. The songs on "The Great Rearranger" are full of virtue and a kind of all-American way of hoping for the best, hoping for a great last act, even in the face of ugly odds. These songs sound as if they have for themselves a haven and maybe that's where the idea of them being played in a den, after a home-cooked family dinner comes from. It's as if they have nothing to fear and can therefore be loose and joyous, even when the subject matter is less than joyous and things are going according to plan. Luckily, Ellis knows of this haven and these songs can enjoy the very meaningful escape, knowing that there is somewhere to go that is as close to home as anything ever could be and, there, things will be alright, as they always usually are. Ellis sings, "And I keep on singing my silly little love songs/Names and faces will change/Nothing ever seems to stay the same but that train will roll on/And it's already gone," and it's just a reminder that the pendulum shifts, as does the scenery, but much of it remains. There's a different train, but it will do the same thing as the one before and it will gladly take all of these silly little love songs as passengers to the end of the rail or to no end. -

"Interview: Robert Ellis"

Robert Ellis is one of those rare confluences of amazing songwriting coupled with masterful musicianship. I know, I am already blowing smoke up this kids ass. But deservedly so. Ellis writes songs you remember, melodies that make the hair on the back of your neck stand up, and does it all with shred-tastic guitar playing. His new album Rearranger is littered with Americana love songs and haunting odes to Houston. More importantly, he is the sexiest local musician in town. With long flowing hair, bedroom eyes, and chiseled jaw, Ellis is a heartbreaker. If I only had a vagina.

Tell me about your earliest musical memories.

My mom is a Piano teacher. She taught out of the house, and my room was right next to her office for quite some time. I remember her playing Debussy's Arabesque vividly, and its still of on my favorite pieces. Also, growing up, my grandparents used to take me to bluegrass festivals. That music still has a very dear place in my heart. It reminds me of my grandparents and of my Uncle, who plays Dobro and is also an excellent flat picker and singer.

You got chops. Tell us about your woodshedding routine.

I practice daily and learn a lot from my friends and from the bands I play with. I also spend a good amount of time listening to old recordings and trying to emulate my favorite musicians. (Doc Watson, Jimmie Rodgers, John Hurt, David Rawlings and Gillian Welch)

You’re from Clute, Texas. Do you think developing your song craft in a vacuum outside of scenes and trends has had a large part in your development? Please elaborate.

Yes. There is very little to do in the Clute/Lake Jackson area other than looking for ways to get out. Don’t be fooled, scenes and trends tend to trickle down into that area just about as soon as they are not cool anymore. But there is definitely less of an influence than there would be here.

Tell us about recording this new album and where content and inspiration stemmed from.

Many of the songs on this record are about splitting up with my ex over a year ago, that’s when I began recording. That’s where the breakup songs come from. Also my current girlfriend, Destiny was a big inspiration. Many of the song are about finding new love with her. Other songs are about my childhood, and family, friends and fond memories I have of them. I recorded in Austin with my friend Shawn Jones (The Lovely Sparrows). Between him and my friend Jason cooper I had a lot of support and constructive feedback.

Who are some of your favorite local acts?

Listen Listen! Buxton, Sideshow Tramps, Airon Paul Dugas, Chase Hamblin. Those are the ones I listen to.

What are you reading?

I have not been reading much lately. The last thing I read was A Brief History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson.

Springsteen or Dylan?

The Boss Forever! I’m not a Dylan fan.

You are obscenely sexy. In last issue, we explained how Fat Tony is a close 2nd to you being the sexiest musician in town. What can he do to improve his running?

I saw Fat Tony perform last week. I think someone may have us confused. - Omar Afra @ Free Press Houston


The Great Re Arranger (2009)



Robert Ellis is the consummate Country and Western singer songwriter. In the past 2 years, he has achieved more than many aspire for in a lifetime. After releasing his critically acclaimed debut album The Great Re Arranger, Ellis has built a rabidly loyal fan base, received rave reviews throughout the country, and built a concrete reputation for impeccable live performances. This nascent artist is the rare example of masterful technical prowess and utterly genuine heart and soul. His song craft is both irrefutably Country while transcendent enough to have appeal outside of any specific genre. Ellis is currently in production for his much anticipated follow up album.


Omar Afra
Managing Editor
Free Press Houston