Therapy comes in any number of ways. Some opt for the more direct route via a counselor, psychologist or various other licensed professionals. Some internalize and don’t do much at all. Others turn to drugs or alcohol. Others, meanwhile, find healing in constructive avenues like exercise or volunteering.
Ella Vos, to cope with all that life brings forth, created a record.
“There are stages of not knowing yourself or not really facing yourself and another stage where you kinda know where you need to go, or you know change is coming but you aren’t really accepting it,” the singer-songwriter said on a recent phone call. “But once you accept who you are, and you’re willing to face and accept yourself, you finally know where you’re going.”
Vos, who plays the Studio at Warehouse Live on Sunday night, certainly knows a thing or two about the stages of life. She recently became a mother, which certainly prompted much life change and subsequent introspection.
Vos has been a musician for many years but had yet to record a proper full-length album. That all changed when she wrote and recorded Words I Never Said, which released last November. The album is a throwback of sorts to the days before streaming, when proper albums had actual structure. And, at only 11 tracks and a shade under 35 minutes, it’s also a welcome return to the days when albums didn’t overstay their welcome.
“At the beginning of the album, I had just become a mother and was just really in shock about how my life had changed; it was fuzzy,” Vos said. “It’s hard to make sense of where I go with this. There was an uncertainty and a sadness, like my past life is my past life now, and things are going to change. I’m not sure I’m ready for it.”
The album follows Vos as she not only accepts her change in life circumstances, but comes to embrace them as well. No longer is Vos solely responsible for herself and her music; rather, she is entrusted with the care of another. Turns out, while her life has changed, Vos the person hasn’t.
“I learned it doesn’t have to be so black and white,” Vos said. “I’m still me; I’m also now a mother, but that doesn’t mean I’ve lost myself or that I’m not that person I was before. I still exist and have emotions and goals and dreams. It all comes together now, and once I accepted that, it gave me total clarity.”
It’s also resulted in an upward career trajectory. Not only is Words I Never Said a quality record, it is – by independent standards – a successful one as well. Rolling Stone lauded Vos as an Artist to Know as the album was being written and recorded, and since its release, publications from Billboard to the Huffington Post have devoted profiles to her story.
Now, for those who like to put a little mainstream spin on their indie music, Vos has been likened to Frou Frou and old-school Sia. And while those comparisons are certainly apt, her laid-back, introspective approach to music calls to mind the musical stylings of one Lana Del Rey. Both tackle personal topics and layer them in metaphors, and both make this difficult feat seem effortless.
If anything, Vos views music as her own form of therapy.
“Music as therapy is something I really needed, and maybe I always needed to do it,” she said. “But once I experienced that form of therapy, it’s quite addictive, so I continued to do it.”
Vos may be a personal singer-songwriter who tells the story of her life – the good and the bad – via music. However, that doesn’t mean she’s an outgoing person. For those who attend Vos’ show at Warehouse Live, you’ll notice Vos rarely makes eye contact with those in the crowd, nor is she particularly forthcoming with details of her life, even to her closest confidants.
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“I’m that person – if someone looks me in the eye and asks a very personal question, I’ll just start crying,” Vos joked. “I’m in the moment when I’m on stage. I’m in my own world, and I hope to make that connection with the audience, but I don’t like to look people in the eye. I’ve accidentally done it before and it’s so weird; it knocks me down.”
Now comes the hard part. Many a singer-songwriter has poured his or her heart, soul and life story into a great first record, only to realize there wasn’t really anything left for a follow-up. Fortunately for Vos, who is already writing what will eventually become her sophomore record, she treats music as therapy.
And as anyone who’s underdone therapy can attest, the process is certainly ongoing.
“Because this is my therapy, I just have to keep writing and see what comes up,” Vos said. “Sometimes, I have no idea what I’m talking about, but as I piece it together, it’s like I can see it. It’s a lot like life, actually.”