We have a special little relationship with Ellen Murphy, aka Only Girl. Not in a weird way, calm your boots – it’s more that we’ve followed her from day dot of her career to the point that she sort of seems synonymous with blogging for us. Even better is the fact that she scales new heights with every release, such as her latest song called, er, Heights. Anyway, we caught up with her at long last to find out more about the Only Girl for us…
Hiya Ellen. Where are you right now and what are you up to?
Right now I’m on a family holiday in France doing a Beauty And The Beast jigsaw with my niece.
Living the actual dream. Right, full disclosure for everyone: our worlds collided in an unexpected way earlier this year when we met each other on the set of The Nightly Show. How did that experience come about for you, and how was it being up there and performing on TV?
So this came about just from Dermot [O’Leary] reaching out and asking if I was free to perform on the show – which was amazing! I did one of his Saturday sessions on Radio 2 the year before and he’s been a big supporter of my music ever since. It was actually terrifying performing on TV – a completely different experience to doing a gig at a normal venue as I guess the pressure is mounted and you’re so aware of not messing up. My throat was dry as sandpaper and I felt like I was uncontrollably shaking, but apparently no one could tell this!
You were bloody brilliant on it. Also can we take a moment to gush about Dermot. Isn’t he the absolute dream?
Yes absolutely! One of the nicest most genuine people I’ve ever met. And he really genuinely takes an interest and has always really got behind my music and helped to promote it however he can.
Right, so let’s talk about your music. How did Only Girl start? And is the name a Rihanna reference?
No Rihanna reference although I am quite a fan! I’ve basically been the only girl my whole life – growing up with four brothers and it was just something people would always ask me, “so you’re the only girl?!”. So I thought it made sense to have this as my stage name, as being the only girl in my family really shaped me into the person I am today.
You’ve talked at length about some of the more difficult circumstances your music comes out of, specifically your husband being in a coma. How is he now? Does that experience still inform your work?
Yeah I think I drew heavily on this experience in my life as I it was such a sad, traumatic time for me that music was one of the only ways I could release some of the sadness and anger that I was feeling, and it resulted in some of my most emotionally honest and poignant songs. He’s doing really well now but he has to live with his brain injury and the resulting disabilities for the rest of his life and we continue to deal with the challenges and hurdles that this brings – so it’s definitely something I still write about a lot as it affects my life on a daily basis and brings up difficult emotions that I find easiest to deal with by writing a song about them.
Where else do you seek inspiration for a song?
I find inspiration everywhere – like you never know when you might be walking along and a melody idea just pops into your head! Recently I’ve been writing quite a lot of happier songs as well as I feel like it’s quite a rare thing to have moments in life when you’re truly 100% happy so I think it’s nice to try and encapsulate that emotion. My friendships inspire me sometimes and being in love and situations I find myself in life. I find that I always like to write songs that sound quite happy and uplifting but with quite sad lyrics – as I feel this represents my life experience. Even though you might be struggling and going through something really difficult, you always have to try and reach for that hope and lift yourself up.
Your sound has sort of been drifting between pop and, especially on Heights, R&B. Is that the sort of stuff you grew up with and enjoy listening to?
Yeah I definitely grew up as a pure pop kid – plastering my walls with the lyric sheets from Smash Hits magazine! I used to love the classic Whitney and Mariah tunes; Aaliyah and Missy Elliott and stuff like Eternal and Destiny’s Child. But then my Dad brought us up on the Beatles and Stevie Wonder and old blues and folk as well so I always had quite a mixture of influences. When I was at uni I was a total indie kid and also love punk music – but I guess my heart always lies with soul / blues and like really emotionally raw music like Janis Joplin and Nina Simone.
We love Heights – tell us about how it came along?
Ah thanks – That song came together really quickly when I was just writing one day in my little shed studio at the bottom of my garden! The sun was shining and the birds were tweeting and I just felt like I wanted to write a really chilled summery tune to capture that feeling. So I was just trying to find some nice chords on the piano and just chanced on these two sevenths that sounded so chill together – and then I started singing the little hook over the loop and that became the start of Heights.
What else are you listening to at the moment?
Recently I’m obsessed with the new Tyler, The Creator album Flower Boy and also Telefone by female rapper Noname who is an amazing storyteller. The production on both albums is so dreamy and I just have them on repeat at the moment.
Finally, the question we ask everyone: favourite Beyonce song?
Ooh that’s a hard one- so many good ones! I would have to say Love On Top just ‘cos it’s such a feelgood tune and makes me break out into a jazz side step! Also you’ve gotta love the multiple key changes at the end.
Heights by Only Girl is out now.