Coldplay-endorsed band El Born rising from ashes of their past
Ghosts of the past excercised by singer Si Connelly as they build on success of hit ‘1984’
At the age of five, Si Connelly was like any kid his age, too curious for his own good. Living in an ’80s Cheltenham council flat, he watched his mother light cigarettes off their gas stove cooker and one night decided to try it with a bit of scrap paper. He was lucky to make it out alive.
After being caught in the act, the young child had dropped the paper absent-mindedly on a sofa and returned to bed. Hours later, he and his family were standing outside the charred remains of his childhood home in shock.
It hasn’t been an easy road for the singer, now 31 – though he’s wary of it all sounding “a little bit X Factor”. When the idea for his band, El Born, first arose, he was delivering sandwiches for a living in London and sleeping in his car. Determined to bring his music to life, he decided to do what any sane musician would – sneak into the recording studios of two internationally-renowned record producers.
“At first they were a bit like, ‘This isn’t how it’s done,’” Connelly recalls, of the moment Chris Potter and Dom Morley found he’d slipped through the backdoor, “but I didn’t have anything to lose.
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“To be honest, I believed in the songs and thought that, once they heard them, they’d change their minds. I played a few on piano and guitar and they eventually agreed to help, but made it clear I’d have to do deals with management, venues, get everything else together myself.”
Having worked on classics like The Verve’s Urban Hymns and Amy Winehouse’s Back To Black respectively, Potter and Morley were certainly useful contacts to have at hand.
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Spurred on by their encouragement, Connelly placed adverts in free magazines and music shops, eventually finding fellow 31-year-old keyboardist Hils. “She got in touch and we connected straight away. I’d always felt this thing was operating at about 50 per cent and she kind of completed it.”
Five years later and El Born is starting to bear fruit. Named after the famous Barcelona region, the band has fittingly provided Connelly with something of a rebirth.
Their biggest single, 1984, is a colossal, ascending ballad; starting soft and ending with the throat-defying screech of “somebody hurt you”. Now taking it on a tour which will see them appear at the Good Ship this Wednesday, the West Hampstead resident is beginning to make sense of his past.
“I had a bit of a messed-up life I guess and like anyone, sometimes it’s been great and sometimes not so great. Most songwriters have ghosts in their past – I don’t know if it feeds the fire or eases it – but it’s made me feel like these songs are already written.”
Connelly is evidently doing something right – he’s attracted support from indie royalty Coldplay, who have featured two El Born songs on their website after getting in touch to declare their admiration.
It was a welcome surprise and the feeling is mutual. “I’ve always been inspired by Coldplay and U2 as big bands that fill stadiums. At the moment, we’re playing small venues and having to smash the roofs off them, but there’s something special in the way they can connect with their audience in such a huge space.”
With the release of their debut album – produced by Potter and Morley, of course – mooted for June, 2014 is set to be a big year for El Born. Connelly’s confidence is evident and justified, but equally, he is aware that they still have a long way to go to fulfil his stadium dreams.
“It took me a long time to get where I am and I’m still nowhere. If you want to create something original and not have it compromised too much, the price you pay is the time it takes. But I’m proud of what we’ve created and we’re getting there.”
El Born play Tthe Good Ship this Wednesday. Tickets are £5, doors are 7.30pm. For more information and tickets, visit www.thegoodship.co.uk.