Ella Henderson Interview: Singer Shares ‘Mirror Man’ Video Details + Songwriting Advice [EXCLUSIVE]
If I'm being completely honest, I was a bit nervous to talk to Ella Henderson.
Although she just turned 19 years old (the day before releasing her debut album, 'Chapter One,' no less), her resume is already unbelievably impressive: an "out of this world" 'The X Factor UK' audition at 16, a shoutout from Adele herself and a hugely successful first single, 'Ghost.' Ella's career boasts impressive benchmarks -- and she's only getting started.
But from the minute Ella warmly greeted me, I felt at ease. The charming, accessible nature of her music transcended throughout our conversation, where she opened up about working with a panther in new video for 'Mirror Man,' explained the meaning behind 'Give Your Heart Away' and encouraged her listeners to always know their self-worth.
You just finished filming the ‘Mirror Man’ video. Can you give us a hint as to what we can expect?
‘Mirror Man’ is going to be the next single in the U.K., but not out in America. I haven’t decided what our next song will be out here. For now, it’s ‘Ghost’ over here, but obviously the video will be coming out worldwide.
I think it’s going to be another side of me that not many people have seen yet. It’s quite graphic, quite edgy and also I got to use the director Collin Tilley for it. He’s directed incredible music videos in the past, so it was fun working with him. It involves a panther, a live black panther we had on set.
Were you nervous working with a panther?
Oh, I didn’t go too close to it. They definitely like meat. [Laughs] So we couldn’t go too close to him … He was really cute. He was beautiful though. He had amazing eyes.
I don’t blame you! I would keep my distance as well. In ‘Mirror Man,’ you talk about being attracted to the kind of guy that lets you down. We've all been there -- do you have any advice for people in that position?
I would say just to rise above it and to know how much your worth and to have a little bit of self-respect and dignity within yourself to know how to be treated right. To never feel ashamed, to always stand your ground.
One of my favorite lyrics on the album is from ‘Give Your Heart Away.’ The line is “Now you’ve learnt to love / There ain’t nothing I’m afraid of now.” Can you talk about the inspiration behind that line?
That whole song was about the first time of giving so much and [to] experience what it feels like and it’s not everything you thought it would be. So I guess that line represents not being so afraid of something. It’s like anything, when you haven’t done something for the first time or it is your first attempt at doing something, you’re scared, you’re terrified, you’re nervous. Once you’ve done it once, you’re absolutely fine. It’s like riding a bike. It’s almost like that with anything in life. Once you experience it, you’ll no longer fear it. And that’s what that line represents. Once you’ve had your heart broken once or twice, you know what to expect from that kind of situation.
Watch Ella Henderson's 'Ghost' Video
When it comes to writing, how do you know when a song is done?
I know when I’ve finished writing something when I haven’t got anything left to say about the subject I’m writing on or what I’m writing about or the mood that I’m in at the time I’m writing. If I feel like I’ve completely drained of every ounce of energy out of me for this song and I can’t go any further with it, then I stop, even if the song is unfinished. Most of the time, when it’s finished, it’s because I’ve used every ounce of me to write it.
Was there one person who inspired you to begin writing music?
My grandfather was a massive influence in my music. Growing up, he would play a lot of old-school records to me. A lot of jazz and swing music, actually, growing up. He massively influenced me in that way. I would go to stay with him on weekends, stay at my grandparents’ house, and he is the guy who would dress as if he was dressing up back in the day. A slick suit, slicked-back hair and a comb-over, so I always admired and respected him. When I think of my first memories of music, I think of him.
When you have a handwritten letter from someone that’s five, six pages long of saying how your music altered the way they think about something or they completely relate to it and it’s getting them through a certain period in their life ... you never expect your music to do that to someone.
You wrote the song you performed at your ‘X Factor’ audition. Do you have any advice for young people who are sitting in their bedrooms, starting to write music of their own?
You’ve just got to keep doing it and make sure that you’re doing it for yourself and for no one else. As long as it’s making you happy and you’re enjoying it, then you should never stop writing music. Whether it’s going to take you somewhere, viewed by other people, or it’s literally you in a bedroom at home, it should be something that you do for yourself.
I was reading the YouTube comments on the ‘Yours’ video and someone wrote “This song makes me want to fall in love.” I thought that was such a lovely reaction. Have you had any moving experiences with fans?
You always experience different kinds of things with fans. I think out in the States at the moment, I’ve been doing a lot of up-close-and-personal gigs and different things at radio stations and actually getting to know them and them getting to know me for the first time. I love that. I love the sense of introducing myself to them … When you have a handwritten letter from someone that’s five, six pages long of saying how your music altered the way they think about something or they completely relate to it and it’s getting them through a certain period in their life, it’s very -- you know, you never expect your music to do that to someone.
Have you had any moments where you met someone you admire and really fangirled?
[Laughs] I don’t know really. I don’t think I’ve ever let myself go or something like that. I think I would fan over Beyonce or Adele. Those are my two girl idols, definitely.