The Hammer - Pro7ect

Photos from my personal stash.

A while back I was invited to a songwriting retreat by the good folks at "Pro7ect" in Brighton. In case you haven't heard of a "songwriting retreat" it's where songwriters live together for a few days and write music with each other..and generally have a good laugh and relax.  I love collaborating and hanging out with strangers and creative people so I was in my element. Also we were all staying in a hotel I love in Brighton: Hotel PeliroccoLisa from the Pro7ect has written a guest post about a song we wrote together "The Hammer"...I paid her £2mil for her kind words 😉

- Elle xx

Photo by Ian Wallman

Photo by Ian Wallman

  • Pro7ect 2015 – Day 3: Singstar Studio
  • Song title: The Hammer
  • Producer: Ian Wallman
  • Writers: Elle Exxe, Ian Wallman, Lisa Fitzgibbon, Christina Kowulchuk

The incredibly talented Elle Exxe was the Pro7ect Guest Artist at our 2015 Songwriting & Production Retreat at Brighton’s Hotel Pelirocco. At Pro7ect events, teams of songwriters and musicians write and record a song in a day in the P7 Pop-Up studios...and this particular writing session was an incredible explosion of music, beats, lyrics and melodies.

The Guest Artist works with daily teams writing material specifically for them, and at this particular event Elle Exxe was looking for tracks for her upcoming album ‘Love Fuelled Hate’. The themes of Love and Hate were critical to her vision and she was looking for songs for the ‘Hate’ side of the album.

This particular day the writing team consisted of Ian Wallman (writer/producer/P7 House Producer), Christina Kowalchuk (topline writer/singer/songwriter), Elle Exxe and myself (Lisa Fitz- singer/songwriter/producer/P7 Creative Director).

We started the session by discussing different experiences we’d all had within the music industry. Unsurprisingly there were several Horror Stories told throughout the morning, which easily fuelled the flames of the song as it progressed.

Elle Exxe had a very clear musical vision for the song, and for her overall sound, so working with her in this collaborative environment was efficient and inspiring. Following Elle’s lead, the session flowed pretty smoothly once the idea of ‘The Hammer’ was discovered.

Ian Wallman (P7 Head Producer) and I worked on the track programming whilst Chris and Elle immersed themselves in the top-line lyrics and melody. Elle Exxe is not just an amazing singer and entertainer, but an accomplished musician. Inspired by the beats from the music bed Elle heard an descending bass line in her head. When she played it into the track it quickly became one of the stronger themes of the song, which in turn inspired the lyrics and informed other musical decisions on the session.

Once the “Stuck here with all this time on my hands...” melody and lyrics were written we decided that this would be the Chorus with the hook “Hammer will Drop” making a decisive statement to hang it all onto. We then focused on the lyrics and melody for the Verse, Pre Chorus, Bridge and Rap. It all came together really quickly after the hook was written. Elle wrote the rap in about 10 minutes and recorded it in one take with a couple of ad-libs and double tracking.

The consummate Pro... once we started tracking the main vocals in the afternoon session Elle Exxe nailed the vocals very quickly. She made it look so easy. Ian then spent the afternoon mixing the song for the evening playback and we received some really good feedback from the rest of the songwriters on the event.

Elle then took the session stems into post-production with her band and producer. She added keyboard, guitar parts, drums and re-recorded some of the vocals and mixed and mastered the track to blend with the rest of the album.

I feel very proud to have been a part of the creative process with such an authentic and original artist and to have had the opportunity to work with such a brilliant team of songwriters and music producers.

Our next P7 songwriting retreat is from 19th – 23rd Feb 2017 with Headline Producers including Talvin Singh, Iain Archer & Matty Benbrook. Invitation by application to:

Photo by Ian Wallman

Photo by Ian Wallman

A true story..

I actually sent this as a postcard to John Waters...he never replied. 😳

In September 2015 while I was working on “Love Fuelled Hate” I turned to my friend AA and told him:

“I met this lady on the tube today, she told me she'd been to L.A. She was at a party with friends when she fell for a guy. They spent days getting high, making love and became totally infatuated with each other and completely inseparable.”

AA “Wait she told you this on the tube?”

Me “Yes, I know, it’s weird but she was actually really sweet, just listen…”

AA “OK go on..” 

Me “So..she was only ever meant to be in L.A. for a few weeks. And when it came to their last night together they made the most of it. But unbeknownst to her while she was sleeping he got up, took her passport and hid it.”

AA “What the fk?”

Me “Yeh, not cool. So when she got to the airport and realised her passport was missing she had no choice but to call him and ask him to come and pick her up…obviously this must have been his plan all along cause he was there within minutes, collected her, drove her out into the desert and proposed to her!”

AA “Wow that’s crazy”

Me “I know right?! What’s crazier is they pretty much got married the SAME DAY at that Kill Bill church! She said they invited 13 friends who were all super eclectic amazing artists, drag queens, actors, rock stars, a homeless friend they’d met days before and all sorts…she said I’d know some of them but she didn’t want to drop names?! “

AA laughed

Me “Anyway, she worshiped films by John Waters and the priest apparently was just like him. The wedding was electric and the party afterwards was wild, she said it would have been the best night of her life. But it took a nose dive. When she was walking past the toilets her new-husband practically fell out the door with lipstick covering his neck and someone clawing after him”

AA “What?! How does that even happen?!”

Me “yeh…I know. She said she ran away and drank herself into oblivion.”

AA “Where did she go though?”

Me “Well..she eventually had to go to the apartment they’d been staying in together to get her stuff. She said for a while she was sucked back in, she said he was so charming, but one night she couldn’t sleep so she got up and was pacing the apartment. A car drove by, the lights shone in the bathroom window and in that moment she saw her passport hidden amongst his things. She said it was like something spiritual shone a light on the truth that she’d been hiding from and finally she could see everything, and she packed up, left and got sober.”


Writing "Lost in L.A."

"Lost in L.A." started everything off for me. I'd "moved" to London to chase my dream as a singer but couldn't afford to live anywhere and had been searching for a room for months. My friend Clare called me one day and asked if I wanted to go to Los Angeles with her, whilst I wasn't paying rent I'd saved up a bit of cash and could afford it so I immediately said "YES!".

When we landed in L.A. a man came up to us and asked "Do you know where the lost property is?" I said "No, do you know where the taxi rank is?" and then he asked where we were this point I realised he stank of alcohol, had a black eye and looked out of his mind on something. Trying to be "street-wise" I answered cautiously that we were going to Hollywood somewhere, he said "ME TOO! Let's get a cab together, it's this way". I looked at Clare expecting her to say "no"..but to my surprise she smiled and said "Yeah! Let's do it". So, we got to know each other in the queue and in the cab. It turned out this guy had come to Los Angeles on holiday, found a girl, spent every day in a hotel room getting messed-up with her and then when he went to leave she stole his phone and he didn't notice until he was getting on the plane. The way he told me the story was that he'd spent the week in his hotel room with this girl and they'd fallen madly in love and the fact that his phone was missing was a sign that he should never leave Los Angeles, so when he was sitting on his flight ready to go home - he changed his mind and decided to go back to Hollywood to find his girl. He borrowed the cab drivers phone and literally was talking to a lady at T-mobile saying "Please I can't remember my security information, but I fell in love with a girl, can you just tell me where the GPS of my phone is signalling?!". It's either insane or romantic..or maybe insanely romantic.

That story came from the first 10 minutes in Los Angeles, but every single day some other madness happened and the trip was a bit of an awakening for me. I became open to everything. When I was flying into Los Angeles I'd connected to WiFi and contacted everyone I knew asking if they wanted to meet up or if they knew anyone that might want to collaborate with me. Ron Entwistle introduced me to Tony Maserati at Mirrorball Entertainment and within an hour of arriving I'd set-up cowrites with Jon Castelli (worked with Jason Derulo, Beyonce, Lady Gaga to name a few) and Kevin Hastings (shared the stage with people like Rihanna, Jay-Z and Eminem again to name a few!). 

I wrote "Lost in L.A." with Jon Castelli and his friend Aaron Joseph. As I mentioned before on the "Lie To Me" blog, I don't really like talking about the meaning of my songs, but this song was clearly inspired by everything that happened on that trip. I loved working with Jon and Aaron on it and was so happy with how it turned out. Also - the little lesson of reaching out to people and learning to ask them if they wanted to collaborate was a life changer for me, I came back to the UK and did the same thing and started writing with loads of friends and other amazing writers and producers. "Lost in L.A." was the song I was sending to everyone at that stage and how I got people to understand my style. The whole "Love Fuelled Hate" album wouldn't have existed had I not learned how to put myself out there - I got my band, my manager and my first sync-deal from that song (it was on a Google advert). 

The video was a whole other story, which I'll definitely tell you about tomorrow! 

- Elle xx

Guest Post: Umong Shah

This month there'll be some guest posts from fans, friends and exxterminators to celebrate the anniversary of my album "Love Fuelled Hate". The following was written by my amazing manager Umong Shah about his favourite track on the album "White Lies".

- Elle xx

This month is really exciting, it marks the anniversary of an album that is very close to me. It's the first full length album that I've had the pleasure of working on really closely with Elle. Throughout the creation of the artwork, I could genuinely feel the creativity and passion oozing out. It was infectious. 

I want to write about ‘White Lies’ if you follow Elle’s Snapchat and Instagram, you'll have noticed throughout the year that whenever the song is played live, I make a big deal out of it. There’s something about this song that speaks to me and puts me in a little trance. The song has a really strong pulse, set by the kick drum pattern that mimics a heart beat. During the verse I just want to sway side to side, listening to Elle tell a story about the collapse of a once loved relationship (or at least that's my interpretation of it). 

As we enter into the chorus, you get some iconic metaphorical imagery within Elle’s lyrics, some of which are my favourite, as they paint such a strong visual when you hear them.

I fell down from the highest high
but landed safe upon my side.
My insides out. My heart is rare.
I laid it bare. I showed I cared
but you were never truly there.

The chorus then kicks in with beautiful instrumentation and charismatic songwriting, which just makes me want to sing along out loud (and I do at gigs). The ‘breakdown’, is gorgeous. The gospel vocal backing with the big drum beat surges through, making you want to join it, with all your passion. When Elle plays this live the whole room gets involved, it's like you're transported out of a venue into Elle's world, you close your eyes, sing together and for that moment, there's unity, nothing matters, because it's just you (and the collective audience) and the song. 

Watching this song live, takes my breath away. I think that it means so much to me because a lot of us have been in this position. I know I have. Where love breaks down, your insides hurt, and it's hard to communicate. But this song does it so well and lines like “landed safe upon my side” and “But I’mma be a better person than you ever could” show there's a light at the end of a dwindling relationship tunnel.