Q&A: Ellis Brings Her Heart to Unity’s World Day of Prayer

Q&A: Ellis Brings Her Heart to Unity’s World Day of Prayer

Q&A: Ellis Brings Her Heart to Unity’s World Day of Prayer
Ellis Delaney — known simply as Ellis — is no stranger to Unity, having performed at churches from here in Minnesota this past April to Kansas City. Based in Minneapolis (she’s been featured on Prairie Home Companion!) Ellis makes her return to Unity Minneapolis on Thursday, September 8, for World Day of Prayer. In anticipation of the event, we asked Ellis about what inspires her music and what we can expect from her performance at the 7 PM service.


How did you get your start in music?
I started writing poems and putting them with piano ditties when I was 10. There was a lot going on at home, and I needed something outside of myself to find comfort. Music and words helped me feel more connected to God or that power greater than myself we are all connected to. I didn’t have piano lessons or show my ideas to anyone, I just played them for myself. I didn’t call myself a songwriter until my junior year of high school when I joined a rock band.


Tell us about your music — style, themes, sound, inspiration, etc.?
My music is mostly about love and life’s complicated tender joys and sorrows. It’s really coming from a hopeful place of reckoning and remembering. I have a yearning to see my life more clearly. Songs have a way of holding up memories or life experiences or feelings in a way that I can look closely and visit any time, and have that little bit of distance needed for intimacy. I feel closer to my own life because of my songs! But, the amazing thing is, songs are no longer just mine when I’m done writing them. They become their own in a way too and I like to think that they also belong to other people who love them and feel something.


I grew up listening to country music — simple verses with a memorable chorus! Simon & Garfunkel, The Beatles, and Joni Mitchell. A lot of my lyrics tend to be (hopefully) like memorable conversations. My acoustic guitar style is part self taught, part inspired by the music I love. I’m inspired by the alternate tunings of Joni Mitchell, finger-style of Michael Hedges and the excellent guitar fun of Patty Larkin. I love Bobby McFerrin’s vocal work and love the simple songwriting of Willie Nelson and Cat Stevens, too. There are a ton more artists I look to, but those are some deep influences.

 How do you engage/interact with the crowd during your shows?
Joy, appreciation, and love are at the roots of the songs I write. I believe performance is about connection and as much as I am sharing these songs with the audience, I also feel it is my job to see the audience, too. I remind myself of my mission when I’m performing and I intentionally try to connect with as many people as I can and to leave them feeling seen, inspired and open-hearted.


Music and songs can bring a room together in a feeling, and for me, that is the power of God.


What do you hope people to get from listening to your music?
I hope folks feel more open, more seen, and more loved somehow. My songs do that for me, and it feels wonderful and healing to share them. We can all get so caught up in this idea that we are so individual in our pain and we take our lives so personally. While it’s true that we are individuals, I think we share sorrows and joys very similarly. Music and songs can bring a room together in a feeling, and for me, that is the power of God. I think it’s what all music does at it’s best. Vibration creates universes! Songs are magic!!


What can the crowd expect from your performance at the World Day of Prayer service?
I’ll bring my open heart with a goal of opening their hearts as well!


Photo credit Terri Delaney