After a five-year incubation period, Bristol-based singer-songwriter and harpist Elly McCabe last month released her debut EP, Wake.
The daughter of musician Nick McCabe, who is most famous for playing guitar with The Verve, Elly has clearly inherited her father’s musical genes. Her 12-minute nautically themed EP is a beautiful collection of four delicate, intimate songs – “some old, some new”.
Recorded live in studio on December 30th 2015, Wake was released on Bandcamp in the early hours of January 26, alongside a video blog Elly shared on her music’s Facebook page, explaining the release and its background.
“I’m really, really excited about this EP,” Elly says in the video, which shows her uploading the four tracks to her Bandcamp account.
“This is my first EP. It’s been five years in the making. It’s titled Wake, as in the trail of water that’s left when a boat or ship departs,” she says, going on to explain each song’s meaning.
EP opener, ‘The Merchant Royal’, Elly says, is named for an infamous 17th century ship that had “ridiculous” amounts of gold and valuables onboard when it sunk off the coast of Cornwall, its wreck and treasures never to be found.
Representative of the themes of romance, tragedy and storytelling that endure throughout the EP, ’Mal Del Mer’ (French: “seasick”) Elly says is “a very personal song set in a deserted ghost town”. Similarly steeped in quiet contemplation and sorrow – feelings Elly’s angelic harp-playing evokes effortlessly – ‘Roslyn’s Eyes’ is “a ghost story about a sailor’s wife whose husband died”.
The least nautical song on the EP, ‘The Other Method’ closes Wake with beautiful cohesion, despite having been written five years ago. Created through a writing process that “was the most cathartic process I’ve ever gone through”, Elly explains the song’s placement on Wake through its importance to her and her craft.
Though Elly warns listeners the EP isn’t “the most professional thing” and was recorded as simply as possible with just herself, her pedal harp and some microphones in a little studio covered in fairy lights, Wake feels anything but haphazard. With her blissful knife’s-edge vocals accompanied perfectly by the heady, arresting notes of her pedal harp, Elly’s music sounds as polished and well thought out as it does delicate and personal.
“I feel like this [EP] is a really good representation of how I wanted the music to feel,” Elly says, explaining that each track was recorded in one take, intended to be “incredibly personal and reflective of” what she wants her live shows to sound like.
“For me to go in there with no expectations, to come back with what I have and feel this happy about it is a really, really, really big deal for me.”
Admitting that there were times in 2015 that made her consider “throwing the towel in” on music, Elly also explains how one fateful gig (and charming doorman) changed her mind and made her “rediscover music again”.
In the video, she also thanks fans for their patience and support throughout 2015, expressing her wish to start gigging again. Apologising for being so quiet, she says ‘Wake’ is an important gift to her fans, who she wanted to give something to download and enjoy.
“I hope you love it as much as I do, and I hope it makes you happy,” she says. “And sometimes depressed… because that’s what my music is supposed to do,” she laughs.
Wake is available for digital download now for £6.