Elli Fordyce – Still very cool

by R27 CREATIVELAB on Thursday, 15 January 2009

A few words from me (Rajesh Pancholi): I like the idea of feeling. I enjoy being jolted by something unexpected, whether it’s something I'm into or not. The mere fact that I reacted makes me feel alive and gives me ideas I’m desperate to scribble down somewhere. Usually I tend to talk about the visual but I guess that’s just the nature of being me. However, I can't ignore sound, it’s part of my favourite movies, short films, music and the people I love ... and those whom I don't feel close to ... I'll make a note of trends, which agency is creating what for who, old and new, typography, illustrations, artists, writers – they all influence my day in some way. But then out-of-the-blue I hear something that makes me smile and sit back for a few minutes, it reminds me of the old movies I watched many moons ago.

How come a woman of 71 sounds so young... still very cool, Elli Fordyce.

(you can hear samples of her music at the end of the article and download desktop images)
From Elli Fordyce
A lot is changing in my fledgling career right now. When I came back to singing 15 years ago, I said: "This time's for me." I'd done the top-40 cover thing, singing songs I didn't love just because they were requested. I'm also not interested in learning and recording potential new "hit" songs I don't feel anything for. There's so much left to explore in "my" genre which has been on the back burner for so long awaiting the opportunity to dive into it.

"I will do what I do from the heart to whatever success it leads." Elli Fordyce.
How long have you been doing this, Elli?
I began singing jazz in public in 1955 with many breaks on-and-off to the present, sang professionally starting in '66, sang with top-40 cover bands from '71 to '76 and have sung only jazz since '94.

Tell me about your background.
As a freshman in high school, my boyfriend introduced me to jazz and it was instantly the music of my heart, though inside I'd always "been" a singer (albeit, secretly while growing up) since the age of three. We went to jam sessions his step-father hosted and to matinees in clubs which admitted underage kids to see famous jazz musicians and singers. I made a record, a cappella, in a public recording booth on Broadway for I think fifty cents, at 15, and that year I also rehearsed with a pianist (whom I'm still occasionally in touch with, after all this time) and performed twice with him and a little band at school dances. During two years of high school, I cut classes as much as possible to catch the frequent jam sessions held whenever musicians had free time or could themselves cut classes to play in the cafeteria or music room. I never sang, but was in awe of the musicians, which included Bobby Darin (then a drummer, not yet singing or acting), the guy who became his musical director at the beginning of his career and another guy who became the "jingle king," composing and producing many commercials -- among others, the "I Love New York" series in the '60s and '70s.

Born in Manhattan and, with my family, returning there to live from 1940-54, I went to a large school, Bronx High School of Science. Though my interest in science and math was less than zero, my folks thought it would be good "college-prep" and no one ever investigated the H.S. of Music and Art, which didn't even occur to me until years later. We moved to Cape Cod, to a tiny town with a tiny school and very different culture from the eclectic NY, and absent the freedom and flexibility public transportation had always provided. Since I didn't drive until the end of that school year, I felt even more isolated than expected for a "new girl" and missed NY and my friends on many levels, especially its jazz and musicians.

Even at so a young age, evidence of deep thought is revealed.

At 2 and a half, Elli's smile is unmistakable.

At 18, I started singing in a local club with a jazz trio, the leader of which I was introduced to and who took me under his wing, letting me sit in every night that summer. In September, I went to the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, met my first husband (a junior, also arriving early, for soccer-team practice) on the second day of Freshman orientation. I sang at the Freshman talent show with a jazz trio in front of 1000 people and began sitting in with them at local clubs and events but quit when my new boyfriend, jealous and possessive, didn't want me out there. Since I didn't think I was good enough to make it, that was my excuse to not try and in those days women didn't pursue their dreams if their husbands (we married between semesters) disapproved. Leaving my husband six years later, I returned to college, this time studying Music Education, where I learned basic theory and met my second husband (a jazz musician) on the second day of school! Two years later he got an offer he couldn't refuse for a great six-week gig which ruined him for further studying, and we went on-the-road, moving to Miami where we could fall back on my relatives while starting out. Two more years later, I got my first chance to sing professionally: a week on a small cruise ship. Since then, I've gigged off-and-on, moving around the US and touring here and in surrounding areas, returning to live full-time in NY in 1979. I’d again not been singing but resumed once more in 1994, focusing on jazz. My first reason for stopping was to devote myself to family. Unexpectedly, another break was after a devastating accident on a snowy highway en route to a gig when the car carrying my quartet and equipment crashed into a disabled truck, abruptly ending a successful year-long tour of "Elli Fordyce And Her Favorite Things." That experience left scars of several kinds and I stopped singing for 15 years ("Not 'Happy Birthday,' not in the shower") and focused firmly on much needed physical and spiritual healing.

My musical journey was rekindled by a ginger-colored Yorkie puppy named Dindi (pronounced Gingy and meaning "little jewel" in Portuguese as well as being the title of my favorite Jobim bossa nova). I discovered that she loved me to sing Dindi to her. Inspiration renewed, I joined a cabaret workshop taught by the brilliant MAC-Award-winning singer-songwriter Lina Koutrakos and soon after came under the influence of Barry Harris, the renowned jazz pianist and educator, to whom I give much of the credit for putting me squarely back on my path with a comeback inevitable.

What inspires you?
Early on, Chet Baker, Sarah Vaughn, Carmen McCrae, George Shearing, Stan Getz; in between, the young musicians with varying taste that I worked with on the road and the music I sang covering top-40 such as James Taylor, Roberta Flack, Chicago, Stevie Wonder and Carole King, later Barry Harris and a million others over the long haul; 43 years of following and using bits and pieces of techniques and wisdom from many spiritual teachers (currently most-frequently Eckhart Tolle, the Teachings of Abraham, Jo Dunning and various holistic-health-care concepts).

Hopes for the Future
To take this CD, "Something Still Cool," the forthcoming follow-up, "Songs Spun Of Gold," and my world-wide jazz-vocal performing and on-camera acting as far as they can go, and to develop and expand my reputation as an interviewee, presenting spiritual subjects -- especially to creative and senior audiences.

Future works?
A huge annual presenters' convention just ended in NY at which my new manager introduced my work to bookers and agents, and the first CD is being promoted at the world's largest annual music-industry trade show, Midem, in Cannes this month for possible licensing, booking and distribution. Both firsts in my career, my manager and I will follow up on whatever is generated by them.

Do you have any creative works in progress planned?
“Songs Spun Of Gold” (which comes from the lyric on the bridge of the Bill Evans' tune, "Waltz For Debbie," that reminds me of my daughter at four: "In her head, she dances to silent music, songs that are spun of gold somehow in her own little head"), is being mixed for release early this year.

Any chances of touring in the near future?
We hope that Midem and my manager, with whom I began working this month, will provide connections for lots of great possibilities.

Thanks, Elli, for taking time out and giving us a little insight into your world.

Useful Links

Elli Fordyce's Website: www.ellifordyce.com
You can follow Elli on twitter @ElliFordyce
Management: Redwood Entertainment [see artists page]
CD and samples available from | iTunes | CD Baby | Amazon | Napster | AmieST |

On behalf of Elli - download your desktop image by [clicking here]

Available in the following screen sizes 1280x960 | 1024x768 | 800x600

Certain images are provided and owned by © 2009 Elli Fordyce |
Desktop images and text created by R27 | © 2009 R27 Creativelab


Nice interview. I also enjoy being taken out of my design zone and exposed to other things, just as you were writing at the start of this post.

by Tracey Grady on 15/01/2009, 12:09. #

This is a beautiful interview and insight into a vocalist's life, mind and voice. Thank you. Elli, I look forward to hearing you sing live sometime soon. May you have great success now that you have committed to your original love.
David VanAmburg

by David VanAmburg on 15/01/2009, 20:24. #

What a great interview! Keep living your dreams, Elli. You are an inspiration to anyone who wants to follow their dreams. Keep singin' and keep smilin'! :)


by OneLuvGurl on 16/01/2009, 01:59. #

Elli is a true inspiration! I adore "Something Still Cool" and can't wait to see Elli live in person. Thanks for this in-depth story. Fascinating!

by Julie Gabrielli on 16/01/2009, 10:42. #

Thanks all for your comments so far and I can't agree more that the insight into Elli's life is encouraging. It was lovely to talk to her across the ocean.

So thanks again for your time and taking part Elli ; )

by R27 CREATIVELAB on 16/01/2009, 12:10. #

Most excellent. Great interview! I'm happy to say I will be meeting Elli for coffee in Yonkers today. I met her on Twitter. Here's to connecting with interesting people.

by Will Conley on 17/01/2009, 13:22. #

Will, thanks for your comments and pass on my best wishes to Elli. I look forward to seeing her myself hopefully very soon, well I can wish can't I...?

Rajesh ; )

by R27 CREATIVELAB on 17/01/2009, 16:09. #

Great interview. I met Elli on twitter -- although I live on the other coast, in California. I bought her CD, which is fantastic. It's hard for me to believe she is in her 70s, she exudes such youthful spirit and energy. She is a wonderful woman and a gifted singer. Buy her CD -- you won't be sorry!

by Michele Beller on 19/01/2009, 15:39. #

I so appreciate the lovely comments left about the wonderful article Rajesh posted. I hope to meet all of you soon while touring internationally, dates/venues to be determined.



by Elli Fordyce on 22/01/2009, 13:51. #

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Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment. Best Regards Rajesh