Interview – Daniel Ellsworth & The Great Lakes


As the United States of America is set to celebrate it’s annual birthday tomorrow, the sweltering heat is taking over with familiar ease. Luckily, all of the holiday entertainment will be well situated with the introduction and anticipation of summer tunes to come. With the usual seasonal boom of music already in full swing, Daniel Ellsworth & The Great Lakes (DE + TGL), are the ideal group of musicians to look for in this regard. With the release of their new music video, Headfirst (It’s All Happening), the men are in a prime position to launch their new album, ‘Fashion’, on August 24th. The men, who have been working nonstop, are plenty proud of the magic to follow this season!

Mr. Ellsworth took things off to elaborate a bit on the upcoming addition to their discography. “… It’s been a long time coming. We recorded this album over the course of a year here in Nashville with artist/producer Kyle Andrews. He has a beautiful studio called Elephant Lady just a couple of blocks from my house which was a really ideal situation. We’ve all been fans of Kyle’s music for years. He and I actually started an electronic side project a little while back called Chaos Emeralds. We worked so well together on that, that it became the obvious choice to have him come on board to record and help produce the DE+TGL album. He really helped to create a beautiful sonic landscape for these songs to live in, pushing us into some new musical territories we hadn’t ever taken our music before. We couldn’t be happier with how everything turned out. We’ve been releasing the album in parts over the course of this year. ‘Chapter One’ released in January, ‘Chapter Two’ in April, and now the full album ‘Fashion’ coming August 24th. We wanted to do something different and release the album in the same way we recorded it, one chunk at a time with the final ‘chapter’ being the full album as it’s meant to be heard. We’re also very excited to be releasing the album via Color Party Records, a label/creative community for independent artists that we’re starting with Kyle.”

Timon discussed their musical evolution and growth since. “The writing and recording process was different for ‘Fashion’. We had more time between writing sessions and recording sessions. As a result, we had more time to think about the songs and their arrangements, and that certainly affects the outcome. That’s not to say that having more time to think about things is better in any way, however, the previous two records, ‘Kid Tiger’ and ‘Bemidji’, were written and recorded in a much more concentrated amount of time and sound a little more garagey to me. Those two albums were recorded in about ten days. ‘Fashion’ was recorded in about four or five sessions spaced out over a year. It could be that or just the fact that we’re older now but the sound is more dialed and feels more like a harnessed, controlled thing and slightly less reckless than before. I think some will notice a change in the appearance and sound of the live show. We’ve been putting more thought into the presentation and spectacle of the live show. It continues to change, and goes through periods of trial and error, but it’s exciting to see these things growing and changing.”

Daniel gave his two cents on some hopes for the world during this dire time. “For the world? Damn, this is a big one. I think more than anything, I hope that people continue to stand up against all the hatred and injustice that seems to be consuming our world right now and that we continue to use our voices for goodness, positivity and dissent when needed. In America, and in many places in the world, we seem to be taking some huge steps backwards as humans. It can be overwhelming and disheartening. We see it in the policies of our elected officials, we see it in the way our elected officials speak, and we see it in the way people treat each other, whether online or in person. I think everyone should be required to go see the new Mister Rogers documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor?. In these divided times, it is a sharp and poignant reminder of how we are supposed to treat each other. One of my favorite lines from the film was when Fred Rogers says: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” My hope is that good people don’t give up. That we continue to fight. [We] continue to help. We can’t let hatred win. Raise your voice, go to marches, volunteer, meet people who think and look differently than you, and for the love of everything that is good, VOTE!” Words of the wise right there.

Other mediums in the art space help keep the men creative as Timon notes with obvious pride and appreciation. “… Today I’ll pick Travis Hetman. I first became aware of his work through his inventive drawings of Tom Waits and Waits-inspired pieces. In addition to that work, he does a lot with changing what would be seen as a ‘classic’ drawing or photograph from the 1920s, for example, by making it into this surreal thing, by changing people’s’ faces or body structure in an impossible way. I don’t have the correct vocabulary to talk about what he does, I’m sure, but a lot of his drawings are black and white and with just a little bit of color… The use of color, and the choice of not using it, seems very strategic and intentional every time. Most of all, I know it’s one of his drawings when I see it. It’s unmistakable and it’s his own. That’s worth its weight in gold when it comes to art, or music or whatever we make.”

When it comes to motion pictures, Marshall is sadly not impressed with the summer movies so far. “In my humble opinion, this summer’s list of movies has been…well…rather lackluster. The movie I am truly looking forward to is set to release in October, and that movie is Venom. When I was a kid, I loved Spider Man, and now to see his arch nemesis coming to the big screen, and with Tom Hardy playing Venom, I’m sure we will get an epic performance coupled with a large budget production and stunning special effects. I’m not a film purist, I just like to be entertained.”

Within the craft, the learning never ends as Mr. Ellsworth makes it clear. “There’s a Paul Simon quote that I love where he says: “Music is forever; music should grow and mature with you, following you right on up until you die.” For me, what keeps me on my toes is listening to and discovering new music. Growth comes from making the choice to not allow yourself to become stagnant. It’s easy to get comfortable listening to the same music you’ve always listened to and thinking that it can’t get any better than that, the same way that it’s easy to just keep writing the exact same type of songs that you’ve always written, but that’s not for me. There is so much amazing music in the world and pushing myself to listen to new artists and different genres is what keeps me excited and inspired and keeps me wanting to create. Every time I sit down with the band to write, I hope that I’m bringing something new to the table that we haven’t done before.”

Even in the overall scene, it is a new ball game. “With the growth of music streaming platforms, I think we’re starting to see the tides turn in the music industry as more and more artists are taking their careers into their own hands and releasing things exactly how they want to release them while still retaining full ownership of their music. As a band that has always been independent, that’s exciting for us to see. There are issues with streaming, to be sure, and those are important to address. We have to continue to fight to make sure that all artists and writers are being compensated fairly for their work. However, as artists, we also have to be willing to open ourselves up to growth and change. To not be willing to adapt in an ever changing industry is surely the death of one’s career. For every dinosaur still lamenting the death of the CD, there is a new independent band or artist getting millions of streams completely on their own and launching meaningful careers all without having to get past any gatekeepers. To me that is an overwhelmingly exciting and positive sign of things to come.”

Marshall is not only just a musician, he is a love of other crafts and fine cuisine. “… I have been doing photography as an art as well as for a profession for the last seven years or so. I love photography although sometimes it can feel like work. My wife and I are planning a two week trip to Scotland and Iceland specifically to pursue some artistic landscape photography and explore some amazing places. As far as artistic photography goes, my passion is street, urban, and cityscape/landscape photography.” Maybe a future album cover or poster is in the works? On that note, food saves the day as well when not creating tunes. “Hands down, the best day off activity goes to………..DONUTS. Yes, Donuts. Donut shops are easily one of our favorite places to stop while we are on the road. Those sugary delicious treats are so hard to resist. On top of that, we need something to help the coffee go down so we can keep rocking out.” Even Daniel has plans for when music does not take over. “I’m going to take my dog for a walk, get some Mexican food and margaritas with Kyle, then I’m going to probably go home and spend three hours on the internet trying to figure out what the hell happened in the season two finale of Westworld.” Freeze all motor functions. 

The music will continue onwards. “Right now, this album is pretty all consuming. As an independent band, we’re responsible for every little thing. We’re also currently self-managed, so we’re playing all the roles all the time. We’re definitely really excited to be launching Color Party Records. Through that outlet, we’ll be throwing quarterly parties/concerts in Nashville, starting with a hometown release party for ‘Fashion’ at the end of September.”

Jam on.

Give Headfirst (It’s All Happening) a watch and a listen below: