After taking some much needed time off, Ella Vos is back and her new EP, Watch and Wait-- out January 25th-- is even more raw, emotional, and inspirational than her last album. I completely fell in love with Vos’s music when I had the honor of interviewing her a year ago, and her new music journey is making me fall all over again. About her lymphoma diagnosis, this EP finds the silver lining in her hardships and gives meaning and words to emotions we all experience.
Using her music as a tool, Vos says, “Songwriting has always been about trying to make sense of the world around me, what I’m going through, or what I’ve been through.” While on tour for her first album, Words I Never Said, Vos was diagnosed with lymphoma and, after months of treatment, is now in partial remission. Of the new music she says, “This EP was special because this is the first time I’ve written a set of songs about a single incident and explored all the different emotions: loneliness, grief, acceptance, hope.”
Just like with her previous music, Vos’s openness with her personal struggles gives voice to thousands of others experiencing similar emotions and situations. She says, “I’ve heard so many cancer survivors say that their cancer was a gift, and I think that’s something to consider and explore if you’re in a similar situation. And as open as I try to be about my diagnosis, it’s really hard to share it all with my closest friends and family - having someone outside of that circle to talk to has been extremely helpful and I would highly suggest any type of individual or group therapy.”
“Cast Away,” her first release off the EP, chronicles a bit of the darker side of Vos’s journey, with lyrics and imagery depicting loneliness and isolation. Also her directorial debut, she explains, “The music video for Cast Away is about waking up on a ‘desert island’ - mine being the city of LA - and wandering through the tired, exhausted emotions that I remember feeling just before I found out I had cancer. I love the idea of waking up in ‘moments,’ like moments in my mind and exploring them. What was so exciting for me when making this was getting to direct myself - my emotions, my movements, my being - and my focus was to just be present in that moment right before you know everything is going to go south and there’s nothing you can do about it.”
Her most recent release, “Ocean,” again highlights the feelings of isolation, with Vos explaining, “I dream about the fearless girl I used to be, and wonder if I [can] accept myself, and ultimately become fearless again.” With a stunningly gorgeous music video, the song perfectly captures the essence of anyone going through trauma or life-altering situation.
Possibly my favorite from the EP, “Temporary” is now my go-to song anytime I need a reality check or reassurance. It’s uptempo beat, and catchy chorus is the perfect way to bolster your spirits.
Vos says, “I wrote Temporary just at the end of my cancer treatment. It’s about learning how to accept difficult circumstances. ‘It’s only temporary’ is basically what everyone would say to me to console me while I was going through cancer treatment. Sometimes it’d drive me crazy or make me angry because no one knew how long this difficult season would last. I felt like a child again, when everything feels like ‘forever'.”
For anyone in a situation like this, she offers sage advice saying, “It took time to understand that accepting your circumstance isn’t about being apathetic or giving up, but changing perspectives and expectations. It doesn’t happen overnight; it’s like a practice you have to learn.”
Both “Lonely Road” and “Empty Hands” are slower ballads, further illustrating the soothing and calming nature of Vos’s music. While “Lonely Road” seems a bit more optimistic and sheds some of the feelings of loneliness, “Empty Hands” breaks my heart.
Spotlighting the most heart-wrenching aspects of her struggles, Vos sings, “Tell me the point in making any plans? ‘Cause everything I love is killing me.”
Vos explains, “You can not accept a gift with your fists tightly closed. You have to open them up. That’s what 'Empty Hands' is about. I wrote a lot of the lyrics of this song at my first day of treatment. I was scared, sad, but also trying really hard to be brave and be hopeful. I believe there’s a reason for everything in our lives, whether good or bad, and I was trying to understand what reason or purpose this one played in mine. I didn’t want to ignore it or close my eyes and wait for it to pass. I used to think that hope and sadness couldn’t coexist, but they do, and they definitely do in this song.”
Despite the pain and exhaustion expressed in many of the lyrics, all Vos’s songs somehow still have a sense of hope to them, a sense of self-acceptance. The catchy beats and Vos’s hypnotic, calming voice bring the music to a new dimension, a level above the hurt. Somewhere vibrant, bright and full of optimism.
She says, “At the end of your suffering there is light, there is a new door, there is a gift - if you choose to see it. That’s what I’ve learned and I’d love to share that with others. A lot of my fans say that my music is “soothing” and I love that - and hope this brings more of that!”
Watch for Vos at SXSW this year as well on her upcoming North American headline tour this March and April. For now, you can watch her music videos for “Cast Away” and “Ocean” and follow her on Instagram here!