Peterborough’s own, Elyse Saunders has been taking the Canadian Country music scene by storm. In a year when most musicians were sitting on the sidelines, Elyse was racking up the ribbons. Two award nominations from the Country Music Association of Ontario for Female Artist of the Year and Rising Star of the Year, along with performing at the awards show, finishing in the Top 5 finalist in CBC Music’s country-wide Searchlight competition, a Top 10 finalist in the Corus Radio Summer Song contest, finalists in the Boots & Hearts Emerging Artist Showcase… Her new EP, “Free”, hit #2 on the iTunes Country Music Album Charts in Canada and #11 across all genres on opening day. She was even was chosen as the cover artist on Apple Music’s Canada Country playlist, while her new EP track “Genes” was added to 6 Apple Music editorial playlists! I spoke with Elyse back in June about songwriting, making the best of the lockdown and about all the industry nods she was getting…
Mb: Hey Elyse.
Elyse: Hi Michael, how are you?
Mb: All good. You home?
Elyse: I’m at my guitar player’s place. We just finished rehearsal and now we’re working on a couple of more things. Exciting that we’re starting to come back together as a band again.
Mb: And you’ve got so much going on.
Elyse: Ya, lots on the go these days. You go from nothing, because of the pandemic, to everything happening all at once. It’s exciting.
Mb: It’s great that you’re at the stage of your career where you can take advantage of the “downtime” and do some writing and recording, yes?
Elyse: Ya, and I like to keep busy. It gives me purpose.
Mb: And keeps the career moving forward!
Elyse: (laughs) Keeps the momentum going. When it first happened, ya, plans were totally different. I was suppose to be going on my summer tour. I was suppose to be recording my album… going to Nashville to record a duet… and then it all stopped. I was like “OK, how can I keep moving forward in a brand new world. It’s a bit of a lesson in many ways because, there’s been these opportunities coming out of it and it’s been nice to have that time to put a lot of time in and work hard at it.
Mb: So I watched a new lyric video for “Sunshine State of Mind”… as well as your other videos. They are great!
Elyse: The official video for “Sunshine State of Mind” will be coming out this July. With the “Wine Down” video, we wanted to make it a bit more simple, more like a movie… cinematic. It’s a story about a couple. The one we did for “Free” I was actually suppose to record part of that at the MusicFest stage at Del Crary Park and we had a whole other bigger story concept for it but obviously with the restrictions we couldn’t do certain things. So we made the decision ” Let’s just have fun” and go to a cottage and it will be all open air so restrictions wouldn’t be a big deal.. and it turned out to be such a highlight of summer 2020.
Mb: Well, that lyric video has garnered 70k views in the month it’s been up. Congrats!
Elyse: That was exciting. How it came about, funny how these things work out… I was asked to be part of something called PA Shop out of London, and LiveNation has this huge factory space full of equipment and lighting and a stage set up so they were like “Why don’t we just make it available for artists to come and they can play some original music and we’ll share it as free content.” So I said to them, “It’s a beautiful space why not do that and record my lyric video while I’m here too. They we’re like “Ya!” So I had all this professional gear there. It was fun that we could just play around and we ended up with that lyric video which has gone over really well. It’s unique because we have those panels and imagery.
Mb: Great theme, considering you’re all alone on stage during covid.
Elyse: Ya it was perfect too because we got it in just before Doug Ford made his announcement.
Mb: So let’s talk about all these competitions you’re about to win…
Elyse: Fingers crossed!
Mb: The CBC Searchlight is a huge deal. Boots and Hearts Emerging Artist Contest, that’s a huge deal, even if you don’t win!
Elyse: Ya Boots and Hearts has been on my artist bucket-list forever. I didn’t even realize they were doing it this year. I thought, just with the restrictions i didn’t know if they would do the competition. another artist friend said “You should be submitting!” I thought “I would have missed it, if he hadn’t told me.” So I’m so glad I sent something in. It was my song “Free” and the music video, that they loved. So now we’re just figuring out what the deal is and how we’re moving forward with it. And then, this Searchlight contest is another huge deal and with no expectations, because I checked out all of the people who had submitted and there was some incredible talent from across Canada so… to be chosen was cool and then to be the only Country artist, and a female Country artist… to be chosen was neat. Fingers crossed!
Mb: Ya, CBC tends to lean to the bohemian choices. I rarely hear anything Country on Radio 1.
Elyse. Ya I was surprised.
Mb: “Free” is a monster track. I have it on the Wire’s “Nashville North” playlist at Spotify, and it really stands out!
Elyse: It is! I love it. Dan Swinimer was the producer on that one, he just killed it. That song was inspired by ‘Rise” which was an anthem based on our equestrian Olympian and then I saw the response I got on it. With the cross over DJ Danny D remix I got new fans from that world too, so I was inspired to write something that would include some of those fans. So we re-wrote it, bringing some of those elements into Country music. So I think it’s a real Summer anthem.
Mb: Great video. Lots of summer fun. Is that your dog?
Elyse: No, it was a family friend’s. They own this beautiful farmland that has been in their family for centuries and they have all these beautiful fields. They were like “Come film it at our pool…” and the dog was there.. so perfect! (laughs) I think why it did so well was because of the timing of everything. Every time I watch it, it brings you back to that experience.
Mb: And it’s a co-write. Are you co-writing a lot of your material?
Elyse: Ya I co-write all of my songs. I write on my own but I always like to co-write just to make the song the best it can be. That one was written by myself and Shawn Moore and produced by Dan Swinimer. I usually like to go in with an idea. Either it’s a title or a hook and a bit of a story line, then we build off of that. That way it’s coming from my authentic voice. I always like to make the hook my own so it feels like something I’d sing.
Mb: What about the new track, Sunshine State of Mind?
Elyse: It was written with TJ Simpson and we wrote it just before everything shut down. We wanted to create something that was “summery” and fun and take the listener on a bit of a vacation in their minds. But it also says, you don’t have to be on vacation to be in paradise. We can find paradise wherever we are as long as we have the right mindset or with the right person. It will always feel like paradise.
More information: www.elysesaunders.com