Artist of the Week – DIY Musician Tony Michael Ellis Weaves Melodies and Harmonies on ‘Undertow’
It’s no surprise after listening to the debut album by Los Angeles singer and songwriter Tony Michael Ellis, that Ellis lists The Beach Boys as his top musical influence, followed by The Beatles, and various Motown legends. The single, “It Soothes My Soul,” combines upbeat melodies, acoustic guitar and piano, along with soaring harmonies, that couldn’t sound more like a rendition of The Beach Boys’ unique 60′s California pop sound that still sounds as fresh as it has for decades. The Beach Boys were really America’s answer to The Beatles (no, it certainly wasn’t, in musical considerations, The Monkees, although they did manage to give The Beatles a bit of a run for their money). There is no question at all that Lennon and McCartney and Brian Wilson were in a tug of war on the music charts for some time, and pushed each side to raise their game in regards to songwriting creativity, musical experimentation and overall production value, as demonstrated by The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and The Beach Boys’ classic LP, Pet Sounds.
This context is important when listening to Ellis’ music. He is not trying to hide the fact that he borrows heavily from the two bands’ ideas and signatures to write and record his own music. It’s easy to imagine that Ellis spent years listening to albums from The Beach Boys and The Beatles again and again and again. As a southern Californian himself, he obviously has a closer connection since he was a child to the Beach Boys because their sound was, and still is today, the California, fun-in-the-sun, beach cruisin 60s pop sound that lead the way to countless artists and bands who made some of the 60′s biggest hits based on the genius of Brian Wilson.
“It Soothes My Soul” – Tony Michael Ellis from Undertow – Jan. 14th
Of course there is no way at all that Ellis can be compared to Brian Wilson or Lennon/McCartney, it’s not anything like that. But, Ellis has a knack for taking their signatures sounds, along with dabbles of Motown riffs, grooves and melodies, and create songs that are still his own. Over the years, we couldn’t even count how many artists and bands we’ve heard who have been heavily influenced The Beach Boys’ sound or list the California band of brothers as a major musical influence.
Like some other singer/songwriters we’ve featured over the years, Ellis – who also plays keyboards – is not completely without help, and is not a one-man band (an artist that plays and records all of the instruments and then tracks and mixes them for a final recording – see IRC’s One-Man Bands archives – there’s a bunch of terrific artists and music to be found there; as is the case with so much of our archives, and where most of the songs after 2011 are still available for streaming and downloading). Assisting Ellis on his debut EP were Adam Marsland, on backup vocals, guitar, and drums, and Peter Green, on acoustic guitar.
“Without Her Love” – Tony Michael Ellis from Undertow