Ellisa Sun cuts her heart out and leaves it on the stage, which is why she never wears white.
Originally from Los Angeles, she decided to hit the road in 2018 and embarked on her nationwide Dreamboat tour, playing 170 shows in 365 days while living in a 30-foot Winnebago. After the tour, Ellisa relocated to Nashville, Tennessee.
Inspired primarily by R&B, soul, jazz, and bossa nova, Ellisa’s music is a unique blend of genres that creates a textured sound with raw, heartfelt lyricism. Ellisa’s music can be heard on the Sony Pictures Television show L.A.’s Finest, starring Gabrielle Union and Jessica Alba and the Hulu show Dollface, starring Kat Dennings and Brenda Song. Her song “Evening” was recently featured in the show Kung Fu on the CW.
Ellisa launched a wildly successful crowdfunding campaign last year with ifundwomen and successfully raised $15,000 to support her upcoming record, which will feature 8 original songs and a team of Nashville’s finest musicians, producers and songwriters.
On August 18, 2023, Ellisa released her soulful single Once Upon A Time. “Sometimes you need to end a relationship in order for both people to feel at peace, but the grief lingers,” Ellisa shares. “This song was a product of that grief and I hope it helps paint a picture of what it feels like to long for someone, yet also know it was better to end things than cling to something that wasn’t working. I want whoever is listening to my music to feel like they’re eating a slice of the best apple pie they’ve ever tasted, by candlelight, while wrapped in a weighted blanket.”
Ellisa released her sassy, subsequent single “Who Knew” on October 27, 2023. “Born in the 2020 lockdown on a zoom co-writing session with my friend, Kenzie Cates of Vancouver, ‘Who Knew’ is a very sassy tune about a guy who says he needs to be single to ‘find himself’ and then immediately finds another woman who looks just like the recently dumped one,” Ellisa explains. “When I tell this story at my performances, I’ve been surprisingly met with a lot of folks who’ve encountered this exact scenario…
This song tells a very specific story about rejection, loss, and saltiness. I absolutely loved the way my co-producer, Connor Gehlert, and I pieced together this song, making it a cool mixture of rock, soul, and singer/songwriter genres. The surprise ending is my favorite part!”
Six Things You May Not Know About Me…
You’re originally from Los Angeles, California. How did you decide Nashville, Tennessee was the place for you?
I’m actually from a city about 25 miles south of LA called Seal Beach. It’s a small beach town, so I was super lucky to grow up close to the ocean. I’m definitely a California girl, so the move to Tennessee was a culture shock at first! I was actually living in Oakland, CA before moving into an RV for a year and then settling in Nashville. I was feeling really burnt out in California because it’s just so expensive and the pace was too much for me. After visiting Nashville a few times while on the RV tour, I fell in love with it and absolutely adored the people. There was a really special sense of community in Nashville and so much talent. After thinking about it for a few more months and talking to more folks who live there I decided to make the move!
During your “Dreamboat” tour, you played 170 shows during the year and traveled in a 30-ft Winnebago. Tell us all the details!
This was such an amazing experience. Back in 2018 when I was living in Oakland, CA, I was ready for a big change. I wanted to embark on a big adventure and my partner at the time was also feeling burnt out and ready to explore new places. After doing a ton of research on RV life (shoutout to Heath & Alyssa, who have a blog/services for folks looking to do something like this), it was decided to get a 30-ft Class A motorhome and go for it! I actually wrote an e-book about my experience and strategies on how to book your own shows on the road, which you can read more about here. I hit 36 states, plus some of Canada, and played all kinds of shows on the road: from house shows to bars to restaurants to festivals to chocolate stores (yes, chocolate stores!) I wrote another blog about it here. This experience is something I do not take for granted and feel so lucky to have done. I learned so much about what living on the road feels like, and it was such a once-in-a-lifetime adventure to wake up in different places every single day! I think my favorite part about it was meeting all the amazing musicians and artists all over, and exploring the music scenes in each city. I made connections with folks I will be friends with forever, and it was such a supportive indie community.
Your music is a bit of soul, jazz, R&B and folk. Who are some of your musical influences?
I grew up listening to a lot of different genres, but mostly Soul/R&B. My first CD was The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, which came out in 2000. That album will always be a masterpiece. I was also raised by a single mom, and she loves R&B/Soul so she always had things like Bill Withers, Earth, Wind & Fire, or Tower of Power on in the background. But she also loved folk stuff like Fleetwood Mac or Crosby, Stills, Nash. So I think I grew up with a cool mix of genres. Then as I got older I became infatuated with bossa nova music. It just transported me and felt sooo good in my body to play and learn. It’s not an easy genre so learning the chords isn’t easy but I love the challenge!
You raised $15,000 via a crowdfunding campaign with ifundwomen. Can you explain what that support meant to you as a female artist in the entertainment industry?
Oof! Well, this was DEFINITELY a tough one. Asking for money is very, very scary. But the support I received was unbelievable. HUGE shoutout to Haley Combs, my campaign manager. She helped me kick off the campaign and kept me accountable to make the campaign successful. It felt so incredible to receive that support from my friends, fans, and family. As a female artist in the entertainment industry, taking up space is hard and scary. Most of the time I feel guilty for asking for anything, and doing this campaign wasn’t easy. But the outpouring of support was really surprising and beautiful!
We really enjoyed listening to your newest single “Once Upon A Time.” Can you give us a little background about the song?
Thank you! This song is the first single from the album I’m releasing in 2024, Sarabi. I wrote this song all the way back in 2020. I was actually doing a songwriting challenge with some friends in lockdown. We had to use 3 words to write the song: vanilla, warm, and dim. I immediately thought about apple pie, and at the time I was going through a tough conflict with a friend. Me and my friend ended up having to part ways, and it was tough. But sometimes you need to end a relationship in order for both people to feel at peace.This song was a product of the grief I felt losing that person, and I hope it helps paint a picture of what it feels like to long for someone, yet also know it was better to end things than cling to something that wasn’t working.
What’s next for you?
Great question! Right now I am focusing on launching the new album, which is coming in early 2024. I’m planning to release 2 more singles before the final launch. I’m also getting vinyl printed for this release which is a first for me and something I have always dreamed of doing. I’d love to do some touring in the spring of 2024, but I don’t have dates booked yet for that. Stay tuned!
Twelve Songs That Have Impacted My Life and Career…
“Ex-Factor” – Lauryn Hill
Lauryn Hill. This song encapsulates my 5th grade self. I bought The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill when I was 10 years old and danced around my living room, pretending I was in a music video. Her vocal delivery and immaculate talent in this record is unmatched!
“California” – Joni Mitchell
Joni is obviously a legend and I love the pictures she paints with her lyrics, as well as her incredible guitar skills and creative tunings. I’m also from California so this song has a special place in my heart.
“Midnight” – Lianne La Havas
Lianne La Havas is probably one of my biggest idols. She is so graceful with her mix of R&B, jazz and soul. Her voice is like butter and I love her unique guitar skills.
“Corcovado” – Jobim/Getz/Astrud Gilberto/Elis Regina (really any version!)
Bossa Nova is one of my favorite genres, so I just have to give that a shoutout. It always transports me to a beach, to the sunshine, and to a peaceful place in my mind.
“Don’t Make Me Hold Your Hand” – Lake Street Dive
I absolutely love everything Lake Street Dive does. They’re all such amazing musicians and they work really hard so I respect their hustle alot. I love their consistency and talent, and they always seem to have so much fun on stage!
“How Come You Don’t Call Me” – Alicia Keys
Alicia Keys’ first album “Songs in A Minor” is another one of the first CDs I bought in the early 2000s. This is actually a Prince cover, but I go crazy for Alicia’s version. She really belts it out and it’s just such a perfect bop.
“Fidelity” – Regina Spektor
I listened to Regina a lot in college and fell in love with her quirky lyrics and incredible piano skills. She doesn’t seem to take herself too seriously which is always so inspiring to me.
“Cicatrizes” – Roberta Sa
This is a samba tune by one of my favorite Brazilian singers. I feel like this song sort of catapulted me into being more of a ‘jazz’ centered artist. I don’t really think of myself as a jazz artist but more jazz-leaning, because I absolutely love the chords and sounds from songs like this.
“Distance” – Emily King
Emily King is such a magical artist and she works so hard too. She incorporates R&B, pop, soul and jazz in a truly unique way, and her voice is so gorgeous. I love the hard-hitting drum beat in this tune and the way it flows so seamlessly.
“Lovely Day” – Bill Withers
I grew up listening to a lot of R&B/Soul because my mom loved it. Earth Wind & Fire, Bill Withers, Al Green or Marvin Gaye played a lot in the background and definitely influenced my vocals. I think the reason my voice is so low is because I listened and sang alot to a lot of male singers for a long time. This song makes me so happy and like I can take on the day with grace.
“Brandy Alexander” – Feist
I love Feist’s voice, her poetic lyrics and her different metamorphosis as an artist over the years is really inspiring. Her album The Reminder will always be one of my favorites because it’s so easy to listen to and just feels like a warm cup of coffee on a cozy day. This song has a really cool jazz influence that I absolutely love.
“Don’t Know Why” – Norah Jones
I remember watching the music video for this song on a Canadian music video channel when I was like 10 years old, thinking she was so beautiful and the song was so gorgeous. I was inspired from her then and am still a fan of Norah’s!