Striking a Chord

| March 10, 2011
Elle Bass

Elle Bass

In the era of YouTube-bred sensations such as Sean Kingston, it is safe to assume that most teenagers have little appreciation for any song lacking autotune.

With the exception of Elle Leah Bass. The 17-year old, who taught herself how to play guitar at age 8 and recorded a CD at 16, somehow remains grounded, Bieber fever-free and witty beyond her years.

As I sat down with Elle (pronounced “Ellie”) in her family’s kitchen, I was impressed by her comfort level to pick up a guitar and sing me one of her originals, or mindlessly strum a chord in the middle of a sentence. She has plenty of reasons to be confident.

Her easy-to-relate-to attitude and maturity almost made me forget I was supposed to be interviewing her.

As a child, after seeing her sister pick up a guitar and bang on it a few times, Elle was fascinated by the sounds she heard coming from the instrument.

“I have always loved music,” Elle said “whether it was “˜Annie’ or any musical really. I even remember singing Loretta Lynn with my grandma driving to the lake.”

“I can’t believe she just admitted that,” said her dad, Steve Bass.

Elle received a guitar the following Christmas.

“I taught myself how to play from a website that showed me how to read tablature,” Elle said. “After that I just started learning any song I could, the first song I ever taught myself how to play and performed was “Tim McGraw” by Taylor Swift.”

But don’t get Elle confused with the equally as young and talented country music sensation. While she doesn’t hate on T. Swift, she is not one of her musical influences.

Colbie Cailat, Missy Higgins (who has singed Elle’s guitar), Counting Crows and John Mayer are some of her favorites.

Elle Bass“I love anything acoustic, or lyrically driven,” Elle said.

And after listening to her play one of her songs, I could see this was a trend in her music style.

“I write about simple life experiences,” she said “I don’t write about anything that is fake or not true. It’s all things I’ve experienced. Whether I’m overjoyed about something and want to let it out, or upset, I write about things people can relate to.”

And while you will hear a range of emotions coming from her songs, Elle definitely marches to her own beat.

Sure, there is “Your Lullaby” a meaningful ode written on Valentine’s Day, and “Thank God We’re Through” an upbeat, breakup song, but what can you expect? She is a junior at St. Francis High School.

Even after recording in Nashville and singing in front of Atlantic Records execs, Elle has one goal before pursuing music full time: to finish high school.

“I’d hate to be in the middle of trying to pursue music but having to be home-schooled,” she said. “I love my school and I want to graduate first.”

But this isn’t her parents decision, and it might be just about the only thing they disagree on.

“She wants to take it slow, and we are fine with that, but we think there are opportunities out there for her and don’t want to see her miss anything,” Steve said.

Her at-home support system will follow Elle anywhere. Mom and dad encourage and nurture her abilities. Realizing her love for music – and talent, Steve, Elle’s biggest fan, bought her a recording session in Nashville as a gift.

“At the time, Elle was 13 and she came up to me and said, “˜You know Dad, I’m just not ready yet,’ ” Steve recalled.

A few years later, that all changed. Elle and company packed up and headed to Nashville to record three of her original songs at OMNIsound Studios.

“The entire journey has been fun for all of us,” Steve said “In a year she’ll be 18 and off to college, and she has evolved into a beautiful young lady. Regardless if she makes this her profession, it is something she can take with her the rest of her life, and we are so proud of her.”

“No complaints here,” Elle said as she shot a smile at her beaming dad.

Her guitar has become more than a hobby, or even a passion – it has become an appendage. From heartbreak to covering T-Pain’s “Buy You a Drink,” and even singing about Chapstick, just about the only thing you won’t hear from Elle are angry ballads. This isn’t a tormented, Alanis Morissette-like teenager we have on our hands, as her father can attest.

“She is a happy child and in this day and age a happy 17-year-old is nice to have,” Steve said. “She’s just been a joy to have as a daughter.”

After Steve loaded me up with Elle’s demo CDs, I immediately put it in my car CD player – and yes, it’s still there.

What do you love most about playing guitar?

“It is just something that I will always have. I know that anytime I get bored or even just want to hear my favorite song I can pick up my guitar and play.”

Where do you get inspiration for songs?

“It will usually start with a chord progression I like and after that the words will match the feeling, the tune and the mood of it.”

What is your next project?

“Right now I am writing a song for my sister’s wedding and then I plan on hopefully recording a five song acoustic EP.”

If you weren’t writing and singing, what would you be doing?

“I really want to open my own daycare, or work in children psychology and development.”

Where do you want to go to college?

“Anywhere in California.”

Favorite shows?

“Modern Family,” “The Middle” and “Better with You.”

Which do you like best: writing or recording?

“Performing. I love the adrenaline and being around people and seeing the audiences’ reactions to my music.”

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About the Author (Author Profile)

Lauren DePaso
Voice-Tribune Staff Writer Lauren DePaso enjoys being a tourist in her own city, exploring the nightlife and cheering on the Cards. A Louisville native, she currently resides in St. Matthews.

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