The London-based musician known professionally as Eloise is using her elegant voice, heartfelt words, and exquisite, suave sounds to revive what’s becoming a dying art form in pop’s animalistic kingdom — the torch song. So Eloise deserves a proper introduction as a performer with style and grace who is putting pop back in popular music. All it might take to be declared the next great torch songstress is a full-length album and headlining tour that will make her audiences feel the burn.
The 21-year-old singer-songwriter already has been heralded in the United Kingdom as a “Breaking Act” by The Sunday Times and for her “witty songwriting and bluesy musicality” by Ones to Watch. But now Eloise is set to impress on an even bigger global scale with her eight-song mini-album Somewhere In-Between, which will be released on 18 June via AWAL.
Asked during an email interview for this article to describe her sound to first-time listeners, Eloise offers, “I’d say, lyrically, generally it’s a romantic spin on heartbreak. … Musically, I’d say it’s a marriage of jazz and folk … but that couldn’t be a harder question to get my head around!”
Soothing soloists from a variety of genres have been pulling heartstrings for ages, from Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, and Nina Simone to Carly Simon, Carole King, Linda Ronstadt, and Norah Jones. But some of those American torch bearers often relied on classic composers and lyricists such as Hoagy Carmichael (“Skylark”), Rodgers and Hart (“My Funny Valentine”), Cole Porter (“I Get a Kick Out of You”), and George and Ira Gershwin (“I’ve Got a Crush on You”, “Someone to Watch Over Me”).
Ronstadt, for instance, was an incredible interpreter, but primarily went through a country-rock phase early in her career before committing to a softer approach.
“I did some pretty bold things musically. I recorded [three albums] with Nelson Riddle [What’s New, Lush Life, and For Sentimental Reasons in the ‘80s]. I recorded American standard songs at a time when American pop music had decided that American standard songs needed to ride up and down in elevators for the rest of their natural lives,” the multiple Grammy-winning performer told Dan Rather on The Big Interview in 2013. That was after she was initially diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and had lost her most valuable musical instrument — the ability to sing.
“And it was a shame because I think what the United States gave the world at large culturally was the American popular song,” she elaborated. “And by far the best, the most beautifully crafted, the most complex and most artistic of all American popular songs is the American standard song a la George Gershwin or Rodgers and Hart.
“Those guys were just brilliant, brilliant, brilliant composers, both orchestrally and in terms of the way they crafted their lyrics so that they were multiple-layered, they could be as intellectual as you wanted them to be, they could be just about a broken heart, they could be about the fact that you lost your job, they could be all those things in one song. And anybody at any level could relate to it. And that is a brilliant thing to be able to do. It’s no small task.”
Now there’s an alert messenger across the pond seemingly up to the task of carrying the torch as singer and songwriter. And with early support from the likes of Billie Eilish and Sam Smith, find out why Eloise might arrive ahead of schedule.
Making Her Move
Eloise Alexandra Lamb was born in North London in 1999 (according to IMDB.com) to parents who are English actors, but she wants to be known professionally on a first-name-only basis. Preferring to keep some details about her life private, she did share that growing up “in a little countryside village” in Normandy, France, was “blissful.” Listening to records from her parents’ wide-ranging collection helped attract her to music.
Destined for a career as a pianist at the age of four, she began learning to play the instrument and taking a few theory lessons at a local shop. “However, I just couldn’t stand that I wasn’t allowed to learn jazz,” she confesses. “… Not only that, I couldn’t get my head around the theory at all, so I showed less and less enthusiasm as the years went on.”
When you hear her precious voice now, it’s hard to believe this admission from Eloise, who joined a choir as a youngster: “I was always a horrible singer when I was a little girl. I had a very confusing accent, what with growing up bilingual, and my voice was like a foghorn. So when I took a liking to the piano early on (to my parents’ relief, I’m sure!) they let me run with that.”
Her family moved back to London when she was 11 because “despite that little town being gorgeous, it didn’t have or offer what my parents knew my little sister and I were going to need,” Eloise asserts. “It’s not the place you live in to make a living out of being a musician. And on top of that, both my parents are actors, and the traveling between London and Normandy was getting too much after almost 10 years.”
To further her musical education during that time, Eloise was checking out a varied list of artists that included Billy Joel, Jamiroquai, Corinne Bailey Rae, Joni Mitchell, Carole King, Django Reinhardt and Stevie Wonder.
A future career as a singer-songwriter also required playing it smart. Besides still taking one piano lesson a week after the move, the determined teen started teaching herself the guitar, learning chords by watching YouTube videos. Her creative decision was based on pragmatic reasoning: “Purely because I knew you can’t carry a piano around as easily as you can a guitar, and that got me into songwriting.”
There are three names that contributed to Eloise’s career boost, and one of them isn’t a person. For anyone who considers Instagram a time-waster, think again when following Eloise’s claim to fame.
Uploading her cover of Bruno Major’s “Second Time” to the popular social media site in 2017, Eloise received not only a “like” and a comment but also a highly praiseworthy message from the English singer-songwriter-producer within 48 hours.
“He asked if I would come and sing the song with him at his next gig (which I already had tickets for, but I played it cool), and I said I’d be there,” she recalls. “I showed up, he called me on stage and, unrehearsed, we sang the song and knew it was the beginning of a new chapter.”
Meeting Major’s manager Sam Bailey after exiting the stage, she also became his client about a month later. “We all travelled the world on tour together, with me as Bruno’s support and backing vocals/keyboard player,” adds Eloise, who believes “without a shadow of a doubt” that Major and Bailey are responsible for her first big break.
“The sole reason for my achieving anything I have is their belief in me,” she contends.
Major produced Eloise’s official recording debut — a 2019 four-track EP — and two of the four songs on This Thing Called Living gained notice on social media thanks to some virtual cheers from Billie Eilish, whose curated Amazon Music playlist called “Billie Eilish at Home” found a spot for “Left Side”. She gave Eloise a shout-out that year for the “absolutely beautiful” song she was loving at that moment.
The 19-year-old Los Angeles-based sensation also sang segments of “Subside” on Snapchat, Instagram Live, and SoundCloud. But the Eilish-Eloise connection doesn’t end there.
“I just woke up one morning to find thousands of notifications from her fan accounts all tagging me in the same post,” reveals Eloise, whose Instagram followers currently exceed 62,000. “I checked out what it was, and Billie had spoken very highly of my EP in an interview. … I had met Finneas [O’Connell], her brother, the year before very briefly, so I can only assume he shared my music with her, but they have both continued to be so kind and supportive, and I’m so grateful.”
Having joined Major in 2018 when he was a featured guest on the UK leg of Sam Smith’s 2018 tour and through other close ties, Eloise has gotten to know the London-born, Grammy-winning pop star, who “had heard my music as a result, but really our link is more based on friendship and connection rather than music, which is so gorgeous.”