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Elle Winter:The Future is Retro

by Ben Jolley

Meet our latest Digital Cover star, Elle Winter.

“My mom says I was singing my whole life, from when I started talking,” says country popstar Elle Winter, who took her first acting class when she was just six-years-old. A showcase at the end of the semester resulted in her being discovered by an agent and starting to work professionally around New York. “Growing up there meant there were so many opportunities to explore my love of music and performance”, she says. 

By the age of 14, Elle was scouted by Radio Disney’s Next Big Thing team – “it felt like all of my dreams had come true”. To have such a springboard was “a perfect opportunity for me at the time”, she says, describing it as “a nurturing community to be a part of”. And, of course, it was a whole lot of fun: “I could not imagine something more fun to work on at that age,” Elle reflects.

Despite the bright lights calling, Elle remained in school, which she thinks “really taught me how to prioritise my time and the different sacrifices I would have to make”. As well as organically catapulting her own career, she says the Disney experience taught her “so many things about life and the entertainment industry. It really trained me.” 

Growing up in the early-2000s, Elle’s music heroes were Beyonce, Christina Aguleira, P!NK and Avril Lavigne – “so many strong female artists that I listened to. It really was an amazing time,” she recalls. “We saw women coming into their own, sharing their stories and holding the stage in such a powerful way”. Encouraged by their self-empowerment, Elle felt inspired to follow in their footsteps, which she laid the foundations for with her debut EP, ‘Yeah, No’, which was released in 2020. 

The world of pop is just one half of Elle Winter’s musical make-up, however, as she is equally driven by the music of the 1960s, for example Motown and The Supremes. Naturally, she wanted to incorporate both passions in her own music. “The ‘60s was also such a revolutionary time for women and telling our stories, and I really wanted to include that type of messaging, especially because my last project was all about female empowerment and telling my own truth”. Doing so with her own distinct flair while channeling many of the inspirations that helped shape her musically is extremely important to Elle, who started working on her new EP, ‘Yes, Please’, after moving to Los Angeles two years ago.

While she doesn’t necessarily think the retro-pop sound is missing from the industry – “Meghan Trainor is really channeling that sassy, retro vibe and I love that” – Elle is keen to keep it going and put her own spin on it. “The thing I love about this sound and era is that it prioritises true music,” she says. With this in mind, and likely also because of her background of touring with Disney, Elle always envisions performing a song live whenever she’s in the studio. “I know that with the music I want to create, I want to be able to connect with people. Going into sessions with live music in mind can really achieve that goal.” 

Conveying the 60s aesthetic visually, too, via the new EP’s artwork has been “really fun for me because there’s so much to play with”, Elle adds. “It was such a colourful, amazing time. With that retro feel, there’s so much there to experiment with.” Alongside music video shoots and working with her stylist, a lot of brainstorming has gone in to capturing the look and feel of the music. “That’s been a whole other realm,” Elle says. 

Conveying the 60s aesthetic visually, too, via the new EP’s artwork has been “really fun for me because there’s so much to play with”, Elle adds. “It was such a colourful, amazing time. With that retro feel, there’s so much there to experiment with.” Alongside music video shoots and working with her stylist, a lot of brainstorming has gone in to capturing the look and feel of the music. “That’s been a whole other realm,” Elle says. 

Sonically, she wanted to create a body of work that “told my stories in a way that highlighted my strength while also being vulnerable and sharing my personal experiences”. Connecting with producer Kizzo and songwriter Autumn Rowe helped Elle achieve that ambition. “It’s been so many hours inside and outside the studio to really bring my stories to life through this music.” The key message that she wants people to take away after listening to the EP is that “you can be vulnerable and also still have strength. You don’t need to be taken for granted and life is too short to not get what you want in life. All of the songs encapsulate that.” 

Having released her debut EP during the pandemic, and therefore unable to tour it, Elle is excited to get back out there and start playing shows again: “thankfully, I was able to connect with so many people through social media and live streams but there’s really nothing like being out there and making eye contact with someone and sharing the stories, sharing the songs, which is really what it’s all about,” Elle says. 

While she’s in no way anti-TikTok, she says that getting caught up with social media distracts people from the real mission, which is “just to connect with another human being”. On the contrary, she sees the digital aspect of being an artist as “more of a project. I can sit up all night brainstorming things to do and finding ways to expand the song’s reach.” In many ways, she finds the platform empowering: “to be able to market your own music yourself and tell your story the exact way that you want to, and have that voice… but in other ways, it’s a riddle. It’s like a whole other terrain.” 

Being active online has resulted in one particularly surreal post-lockdown link-up, though. When Elle released the title track of her first EP, via social media, she connected with a group of girls that ran her fan club in Brazil; recently, they had moved to Los Angeles and Elle met up with them a few months ago. “It was so special to see how you can release something in the world and it can really bring people together. I love those girls so much.” 

When asked if there are any artists she aspires to be as big as, Elle is quick to answer: “Taylor Swift. Watching her right now on her ‘Eras’ tour, I’m just blown away. I think the way she continues to reinvent herself and connect with her fanbase and what she’s created over the years, and that she’s still able to maintain it in the way she has, is super inspiring,” she says. Elle says that she actually sat next to Taylor at a restaurant a few weeks ago; “I see a lot of crazy people in LA, but she’s truly someone I still look up to as she’s always been nothing but herself. And she won’t ever waver from that, so it’s really cool to see someone being so successful in doing that.” 

Like Taylor, Elle’s goal is similar: “to use my voice and help people. She has totally changed the lives of so many young people through her music and made so many people feel less alone. I just hope to continue telling my stories in an honest, genuine way, and that’ll be the dream to do the same”.

Photographer
Robb Klassen
Stylist
Paige Bittner
MUA
Shadara Holmes
Hair Stylist
Max Maxwell
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