Annie Ellicott’s return to Tulsa
If you’ve spent any time in the last decade paying attention to the Tulsa music scene, you’ve surely run across the ethereal and seemingly not-of-this-world jazz singer, Annie Ellicott. Having been a staple of the jazz scene for many years, she left town for a bit, but found her way back home and finished making Lonesome Goldmine, an ambient, ethereal departure from her traditional jazz projects, which she released last September.
Inspired by Danny Elfman’s soundtracks to Tim Burton movies, Bjork and Norwegian singer-songwriter Hanne Hukkelberg, Ellicott and her production partner, Mark Kuykendall, made the record over a number of years, and in a truly non-linear fashion.
In 2014 Ellicott packed her bags and headed to Northern California, in the spirit of that great Okie tradition of westward travel, settling in Marin County just across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco.
“[The album] had been in the works for a couple of years by then, and I was taking regular trips back home to work on it while living in San Francisco,” Ellicott said.
But when her mother was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer, Ellicott moved home to care for her and focus on completing Lonesome Goldmine.
“My whole life through that period of time was basically caring for my mom and working on the album. Which was, as you can imagine, extremely intense … it was like being in a thick wilderness or something.”
Being back in Oklahoma gave her and Kuykendall the time and space to work together in the way that made the most sense for the vision they had, which was multi-layered and cinematic—“So that if you’re listening with headphones, you close your eyes and you’re transported.”
“Our process is very in the moment and loose…it needed breathing room because it was so experimental. It was a new thing for me and Mark, so we needed to be able to spread out and not worry too much about time and try things that failed like the first five times. My favorite song on the album right now is ‘Daddy Longlegs,’ and that was by far the hardest to make. We put the most hours into it.”
It’s hard to imagine artists having that kind of freedom anywhere else in the world, or even the drive to push forward on a multi-year project, especially when faced with caring for a loved one.
“The timing was really beautiful, actually,” she said.
She had a clear deadline for finishing the album, which was when her mom’s health was rapidly declining.
Pieces of her mother are heard throughout the album.
“Her father was her favorite person and a hero,” Ellicott said. “I actually used his typewriter on the album as sort of a way of honoring her and him, in ‘Father Bones.’ So the typewriter at the intro and outro of ‘Father Bones’ in my grandfather’s actual typewriter.”
This intimacy and vulnerability come through in the music, and Ellicott meant it to be that way.
“One of the great potentials of music is that it has a power beyond other art forms to really affect you viscerally, to give you an actual bodily experience … and when I hear something that really hits me, like it’s actually new, it’s just a powerful thing, and I thought, you know, maybe I could do that for people.”
The reviews of Lonesome Goldmine have been positive, leaving Ellicott feeling grateful.
“It’s always a delightful surprise to get positive feedback, it’s so nourishing,” She said. “I really did pour an incredible amount of time and resource and heart and soul into it. So to have it validated as good enough, and better yet wonderful, is not only pleasurable, but it’s also relieving … it brings me unspeakable joy when somebody tells me that they’ve listened to my album and they love it.”
For more from Amanda, read her article on Tulsa Artist Fellow Adam Carnes’ first gallery show, “Chunkism.”