Photo by David McClister
In 2011, Houston’s Robert Ellis made a sizable splash with his New West Records debut Photographs. The long-haired singer got a write-up in The New York Times and headlined tours across the country, and it’s easy to understand why. Photographs is a remarkably mature record for a man in his early twenties. Split between an acoustic first half and a more raucous second half, the album showcased Ellis’ obvious gifts as a country songwriter.
Flash-forward a few years: Ellis has cut his hair and moved to Nashville, two acts that are tantamount to treason here in the land of Willie Nelson. During a recent live session in Studio 1A, Ellis got a chance to explain himself. Speaking about his hair, he claimed he got tired of “looking like a dirtbag,” and the move to Nashville offered an opportunity to get more professional about his music. Being in the thick of the country establishment has been a real boon to Ellis, inspiring him to up his songwriting game.
But those two drastic changes haven’t affected Ellis’ music much. For those who are worried that the singer might go mainstream, take a listen to “Sing Along.” He unveiled the new song during his 1A session, featuring Will Van Horn on pedal steel and Ellis on a fleet-fingered guitar solo. The main draw, however, is the content matter. Ellis sings about his struggles with religion, offering a sobering take on a childhood spent in the South. He’s hard at work on a studio version of the song, and we can’t wait for its release.