Why I Am Asking John Ellis For Forgiveness
The day I learned that I would be appearing on The Raw Word to talk about my new book was the same day the ministry that I belong to performed one of my favorite Christian rock songs -- Blessed Be Your Name. It was the first time I had heard them do this. I took it as a sign.
I also took it as a kick in the pants by God, reminding me that I had yet to write-up the interview I had done with former Tree 63 vocalist and frontman, John Ellis, whose unique voice and passion turned me onto this song and made me an avid Tree 63 fan as a whole.
No longer in existence, John still “is” as a solo artist whose fourth album, Growing Silent, means that John continues to be anything but. Might I say “Amen” to that.
His raw words are filled with raw emotion, whether singing or throughout his interview below.
Share your personal mantra.
Be. Here. Now.
The depth of your music arises from deep within. The listener can, easily, hear this through the power and purpose that exudes from your voice. Explain where this all comes from.
I suppose all artists try to approach their work with passion and hope that some or all of that passion translates into their work. As a musician, it’s relatively easy to play guitar and sing with passion when you believe in what you’re singing about. It’s also relatively easy to fake, but since being an artist is also about a search for truth, passion can’t be faked for long.
Who are your musical and spiritual influences?
As a songwriter in a band, my earlier influences were band-orientated people: Lennon and McCartney, Sting, the U2 conglomerate etc. As I got older, I became more inspired by Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, Ron Sexsmith, Neil Finn, Bruce Cockburn, Ray Davies, Paddy McAloon, Andy Partridge, Paul Simon…
Spiritually? The list changes as you mature through the various phases of the journey. Early on, I leaned on older writers like C. S. Lewis and Oswald Chambers, looking for a trustworthy voice in the forest of spiritual writings. These days, its Richard Rohr, Cynthia Bourgeault, Thomas Keating, Ken Wilber…
How has your music changed since you began?
I’ve become far more interested in just making music I personally would like to listen to. The days of playing and writing music ‘competitively’ are over for me, thank God. The modern music industry is virtually unrecognizable from what it was when I first fell in love with music; there was a long time when music was for the sake of music, but now, for a variety of reasons, mainstream pop music seems to be a full contact sport.
At one point, you crossed over to more mainstream music? Explain why you chose to do this?
Singing about God, singing about spiritual issues, got Tree63 stuck in a very tight corner in America. The mainstream Christian music industry has a very particular agenda, a very narrow sense of what it wants and what its customers want. There’s no place really for wider views to flourish in that world. Plus, in my opinion, music with spiritual leanings is really for the benefit of those who are still searching for Spirit, not really to entertain those who have ‘found it’. I don’t come from a traditional religious background, so I couldn’t spend too long in that world before it eventually became too constrictive.
What compelled you to take a seven year hiatus at the height of your success?
Burnout, exhaustion, depression. The usual tolls of the music industry!
What's next for you?
I’m not sure. Who is? I have no game plan, no master-minded strategy to dominate the world. I just write honestly about who I am in this moment, and if I feel inclined to record those songs, then I’ll make a record. Or write a book.
Share a social cause or cause-based organization close to your heart.
Being a South African, I’m going to be more inclined to causes that affect South African society, and being a parent, I’m drawn more toward organizations concerned with abandoned babies, of which there are many in this country.
When all is said and done, how do you want to be remembered?
As someone who found God.
Having finally written this, I can now return to church with a peaceful heart when singing “Blessed Be Your Name” for the most part anyway. All I need is John Ellis’ forgiveness to clear my conscience fully. I’m a askin’!
Many thanks to John Ellis for making this interview possible