“It was weird though because people then were calling me The Hunter Express, and I was like ‘no, my name’s Brad.’”
Most of us know that to get anywhere in life, sacrifices need to be made. Not all of us are willing to make those sacrifices. Melbourne musician Brad Ellis is one man who took that risk – a risk that ended up paying off. Leaving his fulltime job to focus on his music career, Brad created The Hunter Express and is in the process of releasing his debut album.
Named after his four-year-old son, Hunter, Brad tells The Real Songwriters of Melbourne how what was to initially become a music label, ended up becoming his own musical project.
“My wife, Kelly, wanted to work full time. So I said I’d stay home and look after Hunter. So then we just started hanging out – originally I had this idea of it being this kind of music label, because I’m really interested in the industry side of music. But then I just started writing songs, and thought The Hunter Express was a better fit than my own name! It was weird though because people then were calling me The Hunter Express, and I was like ‘no, my name’s Brad.’”
Despite The Hunter Express being a recent project, music has always run through Brad’s veins, taking up song writing at a young age. Even though he had particularly alternative methods of writing to begin with, it was the skills formed here that allowed him to want to better himself as a writer.
“I started in high school just putting lyrics over melodies of songs that were already created. I did it with a couple of Powderfinger songs, where I’d just rewrite the lyrics. I’d never perform them like that but I just started writing that. Every now and then I’d write poetry as well. It was probably after I left working that I wanted to get back into my writing and that’s when I started getting back into the whole Hunter Express Project that’s evolved.”
Brad admits he’ll write about anything and everything. With influences ranging from Tom Petty, to The Beach Boys, to Archie Roche and Julia Jackman, this isn’t surprising in the slightest. His debut EP launched in 2016, takes its listeners on a journey through five completely different stories. Despite this, there are particular themes that are evident on his upcoming album.
“Bluestone Lane is my journey of finishing up my job and leaving that part of my life and moving on. Never Felt This Way is a story about someone that kind of trapped by the things in their life. They’re just some of the ideas I’ve had.
“Hoping You Don’t Mind came very naturally. I wrote that song in about an hour, which doesn’t usually happen. It kind of wrote itself. It sits around four chords that don’t move around too much. But the process that I go through is, say if I get a little idea- which can happen anywhere- I’ll record it on my phone or if I’m near the studio, in the studio. I’ll sing as much of the song as I possibly can and listen back to it. There’ll be certain elements of the song that I find really interesting, so then I’ll take that and leave the rest and work on that really interesting stuff. And then, from there sometimes the lyrics are there but a lot of the times I’ll get an idea around the melody- especially if I’m not really singing any words and there’s just sound coming out and then that starts to form the idea of the song. I let it go whichever way it needs to go. My writing style has changed a lot now working on this album. With the Bluestone Lane EP and in particularly Hoping You Don’t Mind, there were things in that song that were sticking points for me and like I didn’t want to alter it. Since I’ve been writing more though, I try not to get attached to anything because potentially there might be a better idea that’s just passed the good idea I have at that time.”
There is no doubt that Brad is a talented, driven individual. However, he admits that The Hunter Express is by no means an individual project. Acknowledging the people he has worked with so far, he even believes that meeting people along the way has been the highlight of his career. Bouncing off other people’s ideas, receiving and returning energy and being open to other people’s suggestions have influenced the entire production of the Bluestone Lane EP, as well as his upcoming album.
“I have realised that maybe it’d be better to let that creativity really kind of move around in the studio. So that’s what we did with the album this time. I had lyrics and I had arrangements where I was completely open to it changing and being what it was at that time, depending on how we were all feeling. It’s been really really fun. There was a song that we’ve just recorded and I really like, like it’s my favourite. I literally just had the lyrics and a little bit of a melody and we kind of just created the rest all there at the one time. It was awesome.”
I couldn’t go without asking Brad about his friendship with Scott Candlish, a familiar face with the RSOM. Reflecting on how important networking and maintaining a sense of community in the music industry actually is, Brad admits that having likeminded people supporting him on his journey makes everything easier.
“I want to open that up and I’m keen to collaborate and work with other artists. It’s been really good and through that, Scott’s become a really good friend and just someone you can call if you’ve got ideas or you need someone to fill in gigs.”
Brad is currently in the process of recording his debut EP. Whilst he’d love for it to be released by the end of the year, he says he hasn’t set himself a timeline and has no intention of rushing it.
Written by Jordyn Hoekstra