630 Under 30: Ellery Bonham’s indie, electro-pop breakthrough

At 21, Ellery Bonham has already made her mark on the Nashville music scene.

Her video for her debut single “Headlights” was released by Entertainment Weekly in February, and her indie, electro-pop tracks are already popular on streaming services like Spotify. What’s more, she only started releasing her music a year ago.

Bonham goes by the stage name “Eza” and says being a solo artist is a lot like running a startup.

“As much as you love making music it has to be music that people will buy,” Bonham said via phone from Nashville in a recent interview with WPRO. “If you want to make a job out of it you have to figure out how to build your brand, it’s just as important as when you’re starting out a company, it’s essentially what you’re doing: you’re starting up a small business of your own.”

It’s a lesson she learned well while in high school in East Greenwich. As a junior she auditioned for “American Idol” and made it through to Hollywood week.

“It definitely opened my eyes to finding out what kind of artist you want to be,” she said.

Bonham didn’t end up going through in the competition, but she said she’s glad it worked out that way – she didn’t leave with the grand prize, but she did leave with a lot of knowledge about the music industry. Bonham says she learned very quickly that if you want to make it big as a solo artist, you have to build your brand, and show what’s unique about yourself. You have to learn to market what it is you’re trying to sell.

Bonham just completed her degree in entertainment industry and music business at Belmont University in Nashville. Between what she’s learned in the classroom, and the connections she’s made in the Tennessee music scene, Bonham is quickly learning the ropes.

“It’s incredible,” she said. “I think when you’re feeling young or you’re feeling new to a city, you feel like, ‘Oh, there’s no way I’ll ever get in touch with this or that producer or this or that person. And I think the more that you network, it’s really not as intimidating as it first seems, you just really need to be confident in what you have.”

Bonham says she’s been building her own team: working with various producers, hiring a publicist and signing with a licensing company in case her music gets picked up for TV or film.

  • Watch Eza’s “Headlights” music video
  • Visit Eza’s website
  • Listen to Eza on Spotify

She began releasing her first EP about a year ago, but says music has always been in her blood.

Bonham moved to Rhode Island when she was three or four years old. She always liked performing around the house, but it was when her parents enrolled her in local community and youth theater programs that she really began to realize her love of the stage.

When she was 12, she began voice lessons with renowned local vocal coach, Fred Scheff, Jr. In high school, she started to find her own vocal style and began writing music and listening to her biggest influences like Imogen Heap, Fiona Apple, R&B artists and soul music.

“I was realizing this is really what I look forward to at the end of the day,” she said. “And the thing that I really put my character into.”

Since enrolling in Belmont, Bonham has been quietly working behind the scenes on her music, not wanting to release something she wasn’t proud of right out of the gate. She says some of her college friends didn’t know she was musical, and had no idea that she was a singer-songwriter until some of her music went public.

“I wasn’t going to release something I wasn’t proud of,” she said. “Once you put your name on something, it’s hard to take it off.”

As Eza, Bonham has now released four original songs and hopes to release another EP in the fall.

But for now, she’s busy working on new tracks and soaking up the success of her budding career. Her single “High and Low” already had 600,000 plays on Spotify in Januaryaccording to Hypebot.com, and Entertainment Weekly called her song “Headlights” a “breakup song that juxtaposes its bittersweet subject matter against an electronic arrangement that borders on the triumphant.”

Bonhham says she’d like to sign with a label, preferably an independent one. She’s also planning to start playing longer sets and take her act on the road.

“Hopefully next year I will be doing more headlining in cities outside of Tennessee,” she said, explicitly naming Chicago and Atlanta. Of course, bringing her music back home to Rhode Island audiences is on her list, too.

credit: 630wpro.com

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