Ottawa Sun Feature

Performance a buzz for songwriter
By Denis Armstrong
Ottawa Sun, Tuesday May 11, 2010

“Singer-songwriter Karyn Ellis keeps a positive outlook on life.”

Karyn Ellis says that playing live is “like taking a drug, a wonderful, uplifting drug.”

Whether she’s ever actually tried such a drug is unclear. Take my word for it, the singer, songwriter and sometime actor from Toronto catches a little buzz every time she performs for an appreciative audience. The glow she gets is so agreeable, that three years ago, Ellis even sold her farm near Tweed, Ontario to pursue her dream of performing for a living.

“I always wanted to be David Bowie when I was young because he was so theatrical and otherworldly,” Ellis says post-gig at Maxwell’s in Kitchener-Waterloo. “I feel really big and happy when I’m on stage. Acting is terrifying but it’s a lot of fun. At least when I play music I can hide behind my guitar. It’s become my best friend.”

But first she needed songs. So Ellis, who studied at Humber College where she won their Most Original New Voice Award in 2007, and the National Theatre School, partnered up with former alumnae and indie heavyweights John Millard, Hidden Cameras’ Amy Lang, Creaking Tree’s Brian Kobayakawa and producer Don Kerr to make her first record, the whimsical romantic fantasy “Even Though the Sky Was Falling”, on which she sings about such unconventional topics like cancer, “Motorcycle Rides”, which has been short-listed for the Colleen Peterson Songwriting Award and the hit TV series CSI. No doubt, she’ll be playing a few of them when she performs at Kaffe 1870 in Wakefield on May 15.

“The songs are little snippets of wonder. It’s hard to remember that life is beautiful sometimes.”

It’s that positive attitude that fuels her songwriting and theatrical performances that made her bold enough to choose music in the first place.

Ellis studied opera at Queen’s University before busking her way through Europe and even selling Christmas trees in New York City before recording her EP “Bird” in 2002, and her critically-acclaimed debut CD “Heart’s Fall” three years later.

For some reason she can’t explain, Ellis is huge with the Dutch. “Karyn Ellis is a singer we simply must embrace in Europe,” wrote.

So, even when she’s broke, which is often, life is going Ellis’s way, because she willed it to. If she were to sum up her philosophy of life, its to not get too wrapped up in the daily crisis’s we’re exposed to everyday.

“The world is a hard place to be. We hear that all the time now that the Internet delivers bad news that much faster. But I don’t want to turn into Chicken Little, worried that the sky is falling. I want to live life well and focus on the joy and wonder of life. Why not live life like the world is beautiful?”


Karyn Ellis and Janine Stoll play Kaffe 1870 on Riverside in Wakefield on Saturday, May 15 at 9 p.m.. Tickets are $10, or pay-what-you-can at the door