Local singer-songwriter Anastasia Ellis will be performing her original songs at the Songwriter Showcase on the stage of E.J. Halling Recital Hall in the Earley Center for the Performing Arts.
Ellis is a senior music industry student at Minnesota State University, Mankato, and she has always known that she wanted to be a professional musician.
“Ever since I was super little I was writing songs,” Ellis said. “I would say four, five years old. I got my first song book when I was in third grade and started writing songs competitively with one of my friends. We used to do this thing where each week we had to write a short song, and whoever had the best song was the winner of the week. It was cute.”
Although the Oakdale native has been involved with music her whole life, Ellis really started playing shows and recording last summer. Her first EP, “Emotions,” was released in 2017.
Influenced by artists like Lady Gaga, Rhianna and Donna Summer, her story-driven music pushes powerful pop sounds that are brought to life with the spirit of R&B.
“I write music basically like I’m writing in my diary. So, it can be anything of, like, my life struggles, to just talking about boys, like anything that’s kind of on my mind and, you know, bugging me or just feel like I need to get off my chest,” Ellis said.
Her involvement in the Music Department started two years ago in her sophomore year during Tony Award winning composer David Yazbek had a residency at MNSU.
Dr. Michael Olson, who supervises Ellis and the other songwriters in the music program, approached her about singing some of her songs for a songwriting session with Yazbek. She has been part of the showcase ever since.
Along with the Songwriter Showcase, Ellis performed with Rochester based singer-songwriter Annie Mack on October 6.
“Annie’s super sweet, and she has such a big, live stage presence,” Ellis said. “And she was giving me some pointers on how to make myself a little more lively on stage.”
On stage is where Ellis shines as a performer. Being on stage removes any nerves or inhibition she had and replaces it with warm confidence.
“I like how people talk about my music and how people can connect or understand what I’m going through or what’s happening in certain songs,” Ellis said. “Which is the main purpose of it. That’s really why I got into writing: it was a way of me venting out whatever was on my mind. Being able to connect with others on it and not feeling so alone.”
Ellis also works with MavHouse Records, the University’s on-campus, student-run record label. She will release her second EP, “Love and Attention,” in February 2019.
“I’ve been going through a weird transition, like, life stage right now,” said Ellis, describing her inspiration for the album. “Like how I am trying to figure out what kind of artist I want to be and how I want to present myself. Also, just trying to figure out who I am. And I always talk about how the only things I need in life are just love and attention and hugs. That’s all I need, and I’ll be fine.”
“That is really all that I crave in life. A little love, a little attention. Maybe some hugs.”
The showcase will be on Thursday, Oct. 25 at 7:30 p.m. in the E.J. Halling Recital Hall of the Earley Center for the Performing Arts. Ellis will perform “The Battle is On,” a single she released in August, and “Swishers,” from her new EP.
Tickets and more information can be found online at www.mnsu.edu/music. For more information, call the Performance Series office, (507) 389-5549.
Feature photo courtesy of Rachel Bonderman.