Small Town Temple Black Vinyl
"Ella Hooper – Small Town Temple
“And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” – T.S. Eliot
Violet Town has always been a big part of Ella Hooper’s story.
It was here, in northeast Victoria, that 13-year-old Ella started Killing Heidi with her big brother, Jesse. “When we started the band, what did I have to draw on?” Ella reflects. “I hadn’t had a boyfriend; all I had to write about was my town and my surroundings, friendship and community.”
One of the biggest Australian bands of the 2000s – indeed, they delivered the millennium’s first Australian chart-topper – Killing Heidi put Violet Town on the map. And the town has always been close to Ella’s heart.
“Violet Town has always been my inspiration,” she says, simply.
As Ella sings: “It’s there I feel the magic.”
Ella Hooper’s eagerly awaited solo album, Small Town Temple, is a love letter to her hometown – “just a humble little mystery that keeps me going and coming on back” – as well as her family and friends.
Ella wrote the songs at her mum’s home, “a little church on the outskirts of town” – the Small Town Temple, “a place where all feel welcome”.
Ella’s mum, Helen, sings the album’s ‘Intro’, while her dad, Jeremy, closes the record, playing the alto recorder outro on ‘Long Gully Road’.
It was the first time that Ella had featured her mum and dad on one of her records, and she dedicates the album to Violet Town and her parents, “for all they taught me with their lives and their love of music”.
“They are the reason I make music and why I am who I am,” Ella explains.
But, as the classic song noted, true love travels on a gravel road. The Small Town Temple story took a tragic turn before the album was released, with the passing of Ella’s parents. Jeremy died suddenly after an unexpected cancer diagnosis, and Helen died of cancer two weeks later. “I had no idea when I started making this album how things would turn out,” Ella says. “It’s been a very strange time, to say the least. But I’m so grateful that something told me to include mum and dad. It seems so appropriate that they open and close the album.”
These are not songs of mourning, but Small Town Temple is a deeply personal exploration of family, friendship, community and childhood memories. “Didn’t come from nothing,” Ella sings, accompanied by brother Jesse on acoustic guitar, “but I didn’t come from much. We had what we needed – the basics and stuff.”
‘Oh My Goddess!’ is the sound of an artist coming to terms with her past – “shaking my demons out” – while ‘Love In The Time of Cowardice’ is a wry look at the modern dating world, and ‘Grow Wild’ recaptures the giddy joy of being young.
“You can say what you like,” Ella sings, recalling her childhood in Violet Town, “but we must have done something right.”
Indeed. As Ian McFarlane, the author of The Encyclopedia of Australian Rock and Pop, noted: “No one could have predicted the extent to which Killing Heidi would capture the imagination of the Australian record-buying public.”
Killing Heidi’s debut, Reflector, was one of the fastest-selling Australian albums of all time. It entered the ARIA charts at #1, spent six weeks on top, going five times platinum and winning four ARIA Awards, including Album of the Year and Best Group.
“I guess I’m old enough now to reflect,” Ella says, “and despite all the ups and downs, I’m proud of everything we achieved. And I’m still here, so I think that’s a win.”
In many ways, Small Town Temple is a new beginning. And Ella Hooper is starting over by going back to where it all started – in Violet Town, with a sound that evokes memories of her mum and dad’s record collection: Linda Ronstadt, Bonnie Raitt, Michelle Shocked, Emmylou Harris, Iris DeMent, Joni Mitchell and Stevie Nicks.
Sure, there’s a backstory, but Small Town Temple crackles with the vitality of an artist embarking on a new musical journey. And despite everything she has achieved, Ella remains committed to her craft and driven to tell her story. “I will not apologise for wanting the whole fucking ride and all the colour it brings,” she declares in ‘Old News’.
As T.S. Eliot noted, “We shall not cease from exploration.”
Or as Ella puts it in ‘Grow Wild’: “Still strong, still on a mission.”"
|Small Town Temple
|Words Like These
|Love In The Time Of Cowardice
|The Basics and Stuff
|Oh My Goddess
|Long Gully Road