Photo by Alyssa Gruhn
‘Expertly-crafted work developed by an astute and heartened artist’ – Jonathan Frahm, For Folk’s Sake
SF based singer/songwriter EllaHarp is a curious sort of artist. After years honing her skills touring, recording, and releasing music on a unique harp she designed for the purpose, 2020 saw the addition of another self designed/built instrument that got swiftly put to work; a small, 5 string banjo which fits just inside said harp’s case, which in turn fits neatly in an airplane overhead. A bit like musical Russian dolls…
Singles (off her newly released 2023 album) like ‘Lost in January’ and ‘Restless Lullaby’ showcase both instruments in signature style, blending folk and Americana with pop sensibilities, highlighting dark, thoughtful lyrics and memorable hooks.
Her 2021 and 2018 albums ‘Screaming Into the Void’ (which saw multiple chart appearances on the NACC Top 30 Folk, the AMA top 200 and the FAI Top Albums in both Oct and Nov 2021) and ‘Who Asked You Back’ (#4 and #2 on RMR Top 50 Folk and Top 50 Contemporary Folk Album charts) spinned on over 100 radio stations nationally and abroad.
Bringing dynamic live performances that contrast dark songwriting with humor and a knack for creative storytelling, EllaHarp has opened for Hollow Coves, Harrison Storm, Smith and Thell, Ira Wolf, Humbird and Willie Watson with her unique, travel-made instruments. She has built 50k followers across Instagram + Facebook and over 3 million streams since COVID. Her track ‘Time’ can be heard on popular Netflix show ‘Emily in Paris’.
“Blues-tinged bass lines and drones depart from the celestial plucks and swirls typically associated with her ancient instrument…understated, intimate vocals are set off by the rhythmic snap and resonance of her harp strokes”
–Jesse Hamlin, San Francisco Chronicle
Technically I was born in a horse trough. Filled with water, in my grandparent’s Broad Beach home in Malibu. Technically my mother was by herself, because who really needs doctors for these trivial types of things.
My grandfather and Sinatra
My paternal grandfather, composer/conductor/arranger Gordon Jenkins had bought this home in the late 40s to get away from the crowds in LA. A few years later, a family moved in down the street. My mother’s father, Bill Ulyate, was a saxophonist/studio musician/band leader at Disneyland (Carnation Plaza), and the two musicians held a mutual respect for each other. Years later, Bill’s youngest daughter and Gor’s youngest son became my parents, the boy and girl next door.
That’s Elvis, and Grandpa Bill on Sax.
When I was 8, after moving to the mountains and many run ins with horses and tepees and goats I began taking harp lessons. My sister played as well, and every week on Friday for 8 years, my mom drove us nearly 100 miles each way to my teacher’s house and back.
My love for traditional music took me all the way to Glasgow Scotland, where I knew a grand totally of absolutely no one, on an unconditional acceptance to the RSAMD (now RCS) in Scottish harp and Gaelic song. 3 years there and a final year studying Gaelic at the quaintest college in the world (Sabhal Mor Ostaig on the Isle of Skye) I returned home a pasty shade of grey and dying for sunshine and vitamin D.
I built a very small house on a trailer 2011-12 and moved myself up to the Bay Area for what I find to be the happy medium between Scotland’s soggy unpredictability and LA’s burning fire of death.
My tiny house, Little Yellow
These days I am a full time musician touring with a small harp and banjo I designed to fit in the overhead bin of an airplane. 9 states, 1 province and counting.
Photo by Alyssa Gruhn
Interesting fact: my grandfather, Gordon Jenkins, wrote the song ‘Crescent City Blues’ which Johnny Cash shamelessly ripped off for the well known ‘Folsom Prison Blues’.