Entering his 4th decade as a musician, Dennis Ellsworth has stepped into 2020 with a new outlook on his career and what it means to be an artist today. Fatherhood, sobriety, anti-conformity, an ever-changing music industry, a decade in review, and the anticipation of years to come puts writing, recording, and producing music at the forefront of his musical endeavours.
Born and raised on PEI, Ellsworth looks back at how his career developed and takes a critical look at what lies ahead of him and his life on the Island. You may well know his music from his days in Battery Point or Haunted Hearts, from his tribute and cover bands, The Fabulously Rich and the Love Junkies, and of course most notably from his solo career.
A man of many genres, including but not limited to folk, country, rock, indie, pop, and chill-wave, Ellsworth, at the core, prefers the one-description-fits-all: a songwriter. At the moment, he’s currently working on new material, with plans on releasing something in the next year or so. Before that though, a deluxe edition of Common Senseless with four previously unreleased tracks will be launched this spring, followed by a brief tour with the band.
“Every time I try to write something, if it isn’t something I can connect with, it doesn’t make it into people’s ears, because I don’t want to put something out that I feel isn’t genuine.” When talking about the early period of his solo career, Ellsworth said, “a lot of those songs were written about my own life. A lot of them are love songs.” More recently, his album Things Change was about quitting alcohol and trying to navigate anxiety.
Common Senseless is a bit of an outlier in terms of lyrical content. “It’s pointing a finger at all the ridiculous shit that’s going on right now, but in a vague way; the fact that I think we’re losing control of ourselves. “There’s a powerlessness about everything, and despite all the effort, unfortunately it feels like it’s not really leading to a shift that’s going to save us.”
Despite the underlying cynical content, you can find a unique comfort in the spaces between the words and with the dreamy, ambient vibe of the songs on Common Senseless, including Better Luck Next Time. Not to mention finding solace in the fact that there are other people awake at night, staring at the ceiling, wondering what the hell is going on. With the birth of his now almost oneyear-old daughter, Esme Isadora, Ellsworth has different priorities. “I’m not going to be a touring musician for much longer. If all of a sudden a song of mine found its way into a good light, I would do it, but I’m not going to pursue it anymore. Often time if you’re far away from home, you’re fucked and you have to see it through. I just want to be close to my daughter and my wife.”
Though Ellsworth will still be touring when it’s worthwhile, such as for the upcoming Deluxe release of CS, it will largely be a thing of the past. He imagines playing 150 shows a year and it churns his stomach because that’s not a life he wants to live. “There’s too much at stake for me to take off, if there’s no benefit.”
The Music PEI Awards are next month and Ellsworth is nominated for four awards: Producer of the Year, Rock Recording of the Year and Solo Recording of the Year, both for Common Senseless, and SOCAN Songwriter of the Year for the song “Don’t Worry About It.”
Catch Dennis Ellsworth at St. Paul’s Church on February 6th for Music PEI’s Songwriter Circle, as well as at Hunter’s Ale House on February 8th with his band Dennis Ellsworth and the Electric Stars.