Tawny Ellis

Tawny Ellis


Tawny Ellis is a unique vocalist who dares to rock hard. Ellis’s new CD “Shelter” is raw in all senses - lyrically, melodically, and most importantly, emotionally.


Los Angeles-based chanteuse Tawny Ellis, nomadic by design and inspired by Michelangelo, David Bowie and Ernest Hemingway, has emerged with a fresh, femme, gritty rock sound. A potent brew of early Blondie, The Pretenders and Neil Young, Ellis has accrued a legion of fans, seduced by the dynamic live show and an irresistible voice. The latest offering, Shelter, resonates with listeners on a visceral level; melodically it hooks you in and lyrically it haunts you with things you've pondered or felt before.

Noticing a real deficiency of strong, post-adolescent rock frontwomen, Ellis is taking up the cause. “There aren’t a lot of girls out there doing rock, and I’m hoping to fill that void.

Ellis partnered with industry veteran Skip Saylor to produce the album and her long-time writing partner, musical director and multi-instrumentalist Gio Loria. While Ellis crafts the lyrics and melodies, Loria masterfully pulls everything together and co writes. “I write like crazy,” says Ellis. “I have stacks and stacks of journals all over the place. The songs spring from there.”

Ellis’s first album, Kneegirl (2002) was released essentially as an accumulation of demos, with several different producers and musicians – a toe in the water after failed development deals and music industry shake-ups. A marked departure from her first record, Shelter is a tight, raw and focused collection of profoundly strong tunes. The recording process was stripped down and authentic with live tracks being laid down in only three days at the legendary Cherokee Recording Studios where three decades earlier producer Skip Saylor was engineering the legendary Tom Petty album “Damn The Torpedos” with the great Jimmy Iovine. Shelter was finished in just three months.
“This is a real band…we don’t do fake. What – has live music been banned?” she says.

It was Saylor who saw the untapped raw power yet to be discovered in Ellis. “He shook me out of my dreamy state,” she laughs. As they worked, the record morphed into a rock tour de force. It was Saylor who christened her a “rock freak.” Ellis’s diverse background, both geographically and musically, add depth and a fresh dimension to her work.

The list of influences are long and diverse, running the gamut from Kurt Cobain, Jeff Buckley, Nick Drake and John Frusciante to Linda Ronstadt, Nancy Wilson, Talking Heads and yes, Karen Carpenter

The title track on Shelter is an older one but one with an illustrious past. It was written the very first night Ellis and Loria met, a sparkling sign of things to come. Held close to their hearts, they had never before recorded it until now. When trying to name the album, Ellis was stuck trying to find the right title. A close friend said ‘”Are you crazy? It’s ‘Shelter’ – everybody needs it, everybody wants it emotionally, it has such a special meaning.”

“And truly it describes what my life is about – all my life I’ve been building shelter.” Says Ellis.

Shelter has its share of aural treasures, including an extraordinary version of David Bowie’s “Let Me Sleep Beside You.” Ellis had never heard the rare tune until recently. When asked why he had never put it on any former album, Bowie mentions “my mother thinks it’s nasty.” It was at that moment Ellis knew she had to make the song her own. “Bowie has always been a huge inspiration for me…I have dreams of having coffee with him!” Far from being nasty, “I think it’s about coming out of your innocence and opening your eyes and having someone there to share it with,” she says.

The song “Perfect View” recalls a moment standing on a Los Angeles patio, taking in the cold expansive city skyline and feeling so small and lonely…but knowing you have it pretty good, nonetheless. Another remarkable cover on Shelter is “Who The Cap Fit,” a song made famous by Bob Marley, “says everything I feel about politics, people…y’know, like if the shoe fits, wear it. It says everything I want to say but is not aggressive or preachy”

The epitome of the do-it-yourself music movement, Ellis manages to have a hand in everything from writing, recording and performing to conceiving the album image. Proof of her artistic prowess graces the self-designed artwork of Shelter, complete with striking pieces of her own sculpture. “This is such a great time to be an indie artist,” she exclaims. “Incredible opportunities are everywhere. Somehow that worked out for me.” When others may scoff at her description of her own record label, Music Building Records, as “major,” Ellis just laughs. “Hey this is major,” she exclaims. “It’s major that I’m doing this! I am exactly the indie artist in every way.”

But although Georgia native Ellis left home at the age of 16 to “do the music thing,” she was sidetracked by, well, keeping the lights on. “I was moonlighting as a songwriter and keeping it hidden, attending to real life.” At some point, she found herself at a crossroads with other job opportunities. “I realiz


Shelter, 2006 (avai on c.d. baby)
Kneegirl by Tawny Ellis released in 2002 (avail on c.d baby)
daveashton.net producer (track :Lately)
soundtracks for V.I.P, The Huntress & misc. other film credits.

Set List

What kind of man
Anything and Everything
Is it me
Recycling Bin
Maybe it's not Forever
Perfect Veiw
Fall down