Elysse Yulo is a singer and songwriter who was born and raised in Connecticut but now lives and works in New York. Elysse plays several instruments and writes her own lyrics to the songs that she performs, and she also plays as the house band for a variety show titled "Kate Shine Has An Agenda" in various locations around the city. Elysse’s original music can also be heard in two web-series, “How To Grow Up” and “Looking Through The Windows,” both of which can be watched on her YouTube channel. Moreover, she performs in an acoustic pop-duo called The Femme Fends and is currently working on an untitled EP with her co-writer, Briana Maia. Elysse has a B.A. in Theatre Studies from the University of Connecticut and, when not performing, she works as a producer at an audio post-production studio in Manhattan. Recently, she spoke to AXS about her experiences working in the music industry:
AXS: What inspired you to become a musician and songwriter?
Elysse Yulo (EY): Growing up I was always around music. My mother played a variety of music all the time in our house. By the time I was five I knew all about Motown, Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, Carole King, Elvis, the Beatles, and countless other artists. When I was young, I also spent a lot of time with my grandfather. He would always be in his garage tinkering with his Lincolns and playing his oldies. I heard a lot of Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Dean Martin from him. I started out as a dancer first when I was very young and then started to play piano when I was eight and trained until I was eighteen. My mom was the one who signed me up for piano. I think she knew it would be good for me. I picked up and taught myself the guitar starting at age fourteen and have since picked up a few other instruments along the way. Something always drew me to music. It was just always a part of my life. I think I knew when I was a kid that I was going to do something in the arts. For a while, I thought it would be theatre but music kept pulling me back in. I never saw myself doing anything else. My parents were, and continue to be, very supportive of me. I think we all just knew that music was going to be it for me. I didn’t really start focusing on songwriting until a couple of years ago. It was something I did subconsciously when I was a kid but I never said, “Today I am going to sit down and write a song.” I rediscovered country music recently. I think it was always waiting for me in the back of my mind. I had heard it when I was very young with my grandfather but my parents never played it. Once, I rediscovered the genre, everything just kind of clicked into place for me. The storytelling and that pedal steel guitar had me hooked. My roommate and I also took a vacation down to Nashville and I fell in love with the town and the songwriting community. After that, I dove into writing head on and haven’t looked back.
AXS: How did you go about finding places to perform?
EY: Many of the places I have performed at I have found through friends who have asked me to join them in performance or who have mentioned a place in passing. Whenever I go to see a performance, I make note of the venues that I think would be good for me. Also, open mics in your local neighborhood can be a great start and introduction into performing. I started playing open mics to get more comfortable performing in general and to try out new, original songs.
AXS: So far, how many projects have you been involved with in?
EY: I have been very fortunate to work on a wide array of projects. I have played as the house band for the comedy, variety show, “Kate Shine Has an Agenda” which has played at both the Treehouse Theater and the Peoples Improv Theatre. My original music can be heard in two web-series on YouTube. I have also co-written original music with actress and singer, Briana Maia, for a currently untitled EP project. I play around town with singer, Jessica Stark as part of a duo called ‘The Femme Fends’. I am a member of the New York City chapter of Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI), which is a wonderful and supportive community of songwriters. I have had the pleasure of performing original music in two of their showcases.
AXS: How did you start working with Sarah Murdoch?
EY: Sarah and I met in college. We were both in the theatre program at the University of Connecticut; she was an acting major and I was a theatre studies student with a concentration in directing and dramaturgy. She graduated two years before me. We kept in touch via social media and would run into each other around the city. I had posted a video of myself performing an original song from a showcase on Facebook and she contacted me to play with her at the Parkside Lounge.
AXS: What has been the best part of working in the music industry?
EY: Hearing the reception to my original songs. When you are writing, you are in this little bubble. Your song sounds great to you but you have no idea what it might mean to someone else or if they will enjoy it at all. The feeling you get when someone comes up to you after a performance to tell you that they identified with something you’ve written is one of the best feelings. It gives me energy to keep going and to write the next song.
AXS: Career wise, where do you see yourself in ten years?
EY: Every career has its own path and we all have our own journey. It’s hard to put any timeline on a career in this industry. I would like to see myself in ten years in Nashville full-time. I would like to be co-writing with great songwriters and having my songs cut commercially by artists as well as having an artist career myself.
AXS: Do you have any upcoming projects that you would like to mention?
EY: I will be playing with, singer Jessica Stark at The Groove on Monday, August 29 at 7pm and will be back with Sarah Murdoch at the Parkside Lounge in late-October. My original music will be featured in the second season of the web-series “How to Grow Up” which will be premiering in October on YouTube.
AXS: What advice would you give to someone who is aspiring to enter the music industry?
EY: Create your own opportunities and be your best advocate. Be happy and supportive for the success of others. Your colleagues and collaborators are your best allies, not enemies. Everyone’s path is different. In such a competitive industry, friends are essential. Many of the opportunities I have been given have been through friends, people I know, and word of mouth. This business is always a lot smaller than you think it is. Show up to your friend’s shows all the way in Brooklyn because you will leave an impression and it will come back your way. Be original. Don’t attempt to copy what’s already out there. Someone is already doing that and doing it well. Follow your instincts and find your own voice. Write what you know. It will mean more. Most importantly, be patient but not comfortable. Keep at it even when it seems like no momentum is being made. It is. It will just take you awhile to realize it.
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