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Interview:
Robert Ellis at the Loving Touch, 3 Things to Know
 

By Gary Graff
ggraff@digitalfirstmedia.com, @GraffonMusic on Twi

» See more SOUND CHECK

For the past decade Robert Ellis was known as (another) guitar-toting Texas singer-songwriter blending a variety of flavors into his music.



Suffice to say there's been quite a change.



Ellis, 30, had adopted the guise of "Texas Piano Man" for his latest album, which came out last month. He's traded his denim for a white tux, tails and top hat, his guitar for a piano (duh!) and has lightened the mood significantly -- as titles such as "F***ing Crazy," "Nobody Smokes Anymore" and "Aren't We Supposed to Be in Love" indicate.



It's a bit of a surprise, of course -- but then again this IS the guy who titled his first album "The Great Re Arranger." So who knows where he might go next...



Ellis says by phone that even though the Texas Piano Man persona is very different than what he's done to this point, it actually comes from the same creative space. "I tend to write in character and like to have a little bit of a mask to wear on each record. I started writing these tunes and really thinking about this kind of crazy brazen Texas character, drawing on kind of classic piano man bravado like Liberace and Billy Joel -- and thinking about that in the context of Texas and how I thought those two things could go together. I think three or four songs in I had this idea of who this character was, and everything else fell into place."



The Texas Piano Man, he adds, is also a bit more fun to "play" than his usual troubadour role. "I have done very serious, serious music for, like, four records now, and I'm proud of that work and I really do like it. But it can be a little sad at times, just going up on stage every night playing these sort of morose, sad ballads. This Texas Piano Man guy is all fun. He's all about drinking red wine, wants yellow roses around. He's constantly in a good mood, which is really so fun to do."



Ellis is also using the Texas Piano Man persona to expand his repertoire a bit. "In my normal Robert Ellis set, if I was going to cover a Paul McCartney song I'd cover something obscure, like off 'Back to the Egg' or something, and I would really love it and maybe two people in the audience would love it. But the Texas Piano Man, he'd do 'Hey Jude,' because everybody wants to hear that song. So I'm sick of being precious, and I want to play exciting material. I want to do (Elton John's) 'Tiny Dancer.' I want to do 'My Way' by Frank Sinatra. The Texas Piano Man is a guy who just wants to have fun, and I'm having fun going that way."



Robert Ellis and Ian O'Neil of Deer Tick perform Friday, March 29, at the Loving Touch, 22634 Woodward Ave., Ferndale. Doors at 7 p.m. $15. 248-820-5596 or lovingtouchferndale.com.

Web Site: www.lovingtouchferndale.com

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff

 



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