Christopher Ellis, bringing something new to his dad's legacy Image

by Biko Kennedy

As the next generation of greats slowly start to tighten their grip on the musical torch, another diamond in the rough has surfaced, Christopher Ellis – son of the Godfather of Rocksteady, Alton Ellis.

The South London bred prodigy is determined to keep his father's legacy afloat but more importantly to create his own lane amongst the greats. If you let go and lean into the unexpected it may be something more thrilling than you can ever imagine, and that is exactly what Christopher is doing.

With his current single 'Don't Change Your Number' garnering more fans, met with Christopher to discuss his 2010 signage to the Marley's Ghetto Youth International label and upcoming solo projects.

Jamaicansmusic: You're the next up entertainer as a 'son of a great', sharing lanes with the likes of Tarrus Riley, Damian Marley, Stephen McGregor and the list goes one. Do you feel any pressure that you have to deliver to great expectations or you're simply focusing on what best you can bring to your dad's legacy?

Christopher Ellis: It's more based around what I can do to enhance what my dad has already set. This is just part 2 of my father legacy and keeping his music alive by introducing him to people who may have never heard his music, but at the same time I want to be myself and bring something different to my dad's legacy. I'm stepping out as Christopher Ellis with my own individual style.

JAmusic: What is the one thing that people who loves your father's music didn't know about him as a person?

CE: He was a comedian! Well I'm sure you're aware my first cousin is Ity from the Ity and Fancy Cat duo and Blakka Ellis as well, so it runs in the blood. My dad was so funny. One time we were on a plane and when it touched down in New York and everyone started to clap my dad turned to me with a blank face and said "Christopher, dem tink it's a stage show!" Any time my mum used to discipline me, my dad was a saviour so I could always run behind him for shelter and protection. I really miss him.

JAmusic: In today's industry there are many Reggae acts struggling to stay afloat the competition, what measures do you have in place to ensure your longevity and leaving your unique mark on the musical landscape?

CE: Just taking time out to make the best music I can possibly make. My music isn't dictated to one genre. I love one drop reggae but my passion is to make good music so don't be surprised if you don't hear me on a one drop riddim. My most recent single 'Don't Change Your Number' demonstrates that.

JAmusic: Being the son of an iconic figure sure comes with its perks. Was there any struggle being faced to get where you are today?

CE: To be honest I haven't faced a lot of struggles; my father being who is he is has done a lot of favours for me and I'm thankful for that. There are many struggles in the music but that comes with every career.

JAmusic: Who are some of the persons you are listening to that impacted your status today? And apart from them being timeless, what drew you to all these different types of artistes that influence your sound?

CE: Alton Ellis, Michael Jackson, Usher, Joe, Ken Boothe, Delroy Wilson, Jackie Mittoo and Amy Whinehouse, just to name a few. This was based on music I heard being played around me.

JAmusic: How does these musical influences compound when you're sitting to write a song and record it?

CE: I think for me mostly it's a subconscious influence from artists. I don't really write a song and say 'ok this artist influenced a track or a certain sound'. I would say my dad has the most influence on my sound really and you can actually hear it for yourself.

JAmusic: How would you describe your style vocally?

CE: My style vocally I would say is 'reggae gets very soulful'. The people tend to say to me I sing soul/reggae. I would say a mixture of the two, similar to my father's kind of sound. I would say soul meets reggae and it blends together nicely.

JAmusic: You're signed to Stephen Marley's label, Ghetto Youths International, how was that connection made? I heard it was a matter of them finding you while you were in search of Beres Hammond to do some work with him.

CE: That's correct, I was in search of Beres Hammond, not just Beres Hammond alone cause I was working with Sugar Minott at the time but yes we went to go and see him but that didn't work out and then we were led to the Marley's by a mutual friend and from there it just launched and took off…the relationship just blended.

JAmusic: Do you ever just sit and look at the Marley brothers at work, and the label in general, and say to yourself, "Wow, what's being done here is simple amazing…the sons of Reggae legends working together to create masterpieces."

CE: Everyday I think wow! When I'm in the studio with Gong Zilla, Stephen Marley, Juju Royal, never once have I taken it for granted. I'm very fortunate and very thankful to be in this position. It's great!

JAmusic: Do you think that because you're signed and recording under the Ghetto Youths International label that is the reason why you're receiving the recognition you're currently receiving or the music certainly speaks for itself?

CE: Being signed to GY is incredible but it's not going to be the reason why people are listening to the songs or liking the songs. Someone doesn't say 'who produced it' then decided whether or not they like it. If you put out good music people will like your music. The exposure of being with the Marley's helps to get music out there but ultimately if you put out good music people will like it.

JAmusic: What do you remember as your first interaction with performing?

CE: My first interaction with performing vividly oh so vividly, Hammersmith Palais four thousand people…Alton Ellis, Delroy Wilson, The Melodian, Phyllis Dillon, some more greats. I was 11 yrs old…I sang I'm Still in Love and the response that I got… will never forget the response…on the stage with greats…Brilliant!

JAmusic: When you write a song, to whom do you perform it to first?

CE: Well that depends…I've written songs and gone to the studio and just recorded it and other songs I've gone to record them and Gong has said change a line or two. So really I don't really perform it to anyone I just go and record it but I'm up for taking a word of advice if someone says that word sounds better here or there.

JAmusic: What's the story behind the single 'Don't Change Your Number'?

CE: Basically we were in Tuff Gong studios in Kingston we were just vibing…we did 2 or 3 songs previous that day but when the piano man started to play some chords I just sang 'don't change your number'. And then Damian said hold on to that. It was more of an idea that came on the spot. We took it to Miami and finished it and Damian put his magic on the beat and there you have it 'Don't Change Your Number'.

JAmusic: When it comes to your visuals are you as hands-on as possible or do you just pitch an idea and have the director do their thing?

CE: I'm not really too hands on. I know what type of attire I want to wear. But when it comes to visuals I'm really up for going with what the director has planned unless it's something that I really don't want to do then I'll speak up but if you're the boss of that field then I'll leave it up to you.

JAmusic: Apart from the release of the Ghetto Youths International compilation are there any projects to be expected from you sometime soon, maybe a solo EP?

CE: This year my debut album will be released. We've got the songs pretty much done already. We were going to do an EP but I just prefer to do an album now. It's been a few years now.

JAmusic: What kind of future plans have you set, some goals, for yourself as an artiste?

CE: Some may say [it's] very far fetch but that's how we do it, cause things that are farfetched have already manifested for me. So the things that I'm dreaming of now are no longer farfetched. I have many. I love and appreciate my current fan base but I really want to touch a different fan base too. When you go to a Jimmy Cliff and Toots and the Maytals show and see the diversity of audience it really appeals to me. I really want to sell out shows as a solo audience. I really want to touch another audience.

JAmusic: What would you always want people to associate Christopher Ellis and his songs with?

CE: I would ultimately like people to associate my songs with love; whether its love for a woman or love for your mother, just love songs coming up from my father's kind of mood of love and positivity. Associate me with Alton Ellis. Love songs and nice melodies.

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