Elle Azar

Elle Azar

Nashville-based alt-pop artist Elle Azar revealed her new single “Get Your Hopes Up” on May 10th.

Co-written by Azar, Fleurie, Jeremy Lutito and Ezra Cohen, the uptempo pop-electro single is an anthem about finding hope again.

"To be honest, I don’t know if I’d ever really known true happiness until the past couple years, but they’ve been the happiest of my life. This single is celebrating that— celebrating life and human resilience. It’s amazing what people can go through and still come out okay. This song is for the people I know that are in pain and can’t see a way out, because I’ve known that feeling all too well,” explains Azar.

With the help of producer Jeremy Lutito and co-writer Ezra Cohen, Azar’s upcoming album explores her past struggles with mental health. The singer/songwriter is now sharing her personal stories and is becoming a voice of encouragement, hope and empowerment for anyone going through any mental health issues.

“Get Your Hopes Up” is now available worldwide.

Photo credit: Hannah Burton

Photo credit: Hannah Burton

Introduce yourself - where are you from?

Hey, I’m Elle Azar and I was born in Dallas, Texas. I moved to Brandon, Mississippi when I was 7 and lived there until I graduated high school.

I ended up back in Dallas for college and stayed there for a while— got married, made lifelong friends there. I’ve now lived in Nashville, Tennessee for almost 3 years and I’m in love with the community here and collaborative mindset.

What's your story?

A lot of the themes in my upcoming album come from a place of struggling personally with mental health issues and processing it all out loud. It’s something that I've dealt with for so many years. I experienced my first panic attack when I was 12. There have been times when my anxiety was so bad that I could barely leave the house for weeks— not even to see close friends. During those times, a lot of people assume the worst about you— that you aren’t being considerate or reliable or you are being lazy or antisocial. Not many people think to ask “Wait, are you ok? You don’t seem yourself lately.”

Of course life has its ups and downs. There were good days, but the bad days were really scary. There were days that I had suicidal thoughts. I went to a number of therapists through high school and college and afterwards. I was on medication for a little while. The song “Bathtub” was written in a moment where I just wanted to end it all. I remember grabbing my phone, soaking wet, and singing and that song came out. 

I was lucky enough to be able to see therapists and I had friends that I could talk to about it. Friends that listened and cried with me and held my hair when I was puking. I know all this sounds really dramatic. I’m not trying to tell exaggerated stories just because mental health is a hot topic right now. I genuinely can’t believe I’m alive and happy and here to tell this story. I honestly didn’t think I would make it this far in life.

A lot of it can still feel really uncomfortable to talk about even with people close to you, but the people who really helped me were the ones who didn’t avoid the conversation. I’m so glad that mental health is becoming a less stigmatized topic in pop culture, because it needs to happen. And releasing these songs is my way of contributing to the conversation. It definitely feels really significant for me.

While a large part of this project relates to mental health, it's also about anyone experiencing pain and how it can feel very overwhelming. The album is also about being able to find even the smallest amount of hope in the middle of suffering.. and eventually coming to a place where you believe there's more. You'll hear in one of the songs (“Reborn”), I have this wild realization that I would have missed what are now the best years of my life if I had given up during the really bad days.


Growing up, what were you passionate about?

I definitely always loved singing. That’s a given.

I loved helping people. I was always having super deep conversations with my friends and playing “therapist” which is partly why I ended up studying psychology in graduate school.


If you had to say something to your younger self, what would you say?

I wish I wouldn’t have been afraid to be myself. I wasn’t surrounded by a lot of artists or creatives growing up in a small town in Mississippi, so I think I felt alone in my weird ideas and big dreams and didn’t feel like there was a place for them. I think one of the most powerful things you can be is your full self… to be yourself even if you don’t see anyone else like you.


How would you define yourself today?

I feel like this is such a big question! Haha. My faith is a huge part of who I am. It gives my life a ridiculous amount of joy and clarity. My goal is to reach as many people as I can and inspire and move them, but also to tangibly help them in practical ways, as well.


Do you remember the first record you've ever bought?

Probably Celine Dion “Falling Into You”. My parents were super strict when I was growing up and I was really only allowed to listen to Christian music and Celine Dion for some reason. I remember hearing her voice the first time and being like “woah this is different” and trying to mimic her sound which is pretty much impossible.


What or who introduced you to the musical path?

I grew up around music in church and sang in the choir and led worship, and I was always singing around the house as a kid— so much so that it really annoyed my siblings! Haha.


When did you decide to pursue music as a career?

Music was always something I pursued on the side and I decided recently I needed to finally give this dream a real chance or I would always have wondered “what if."

starrynight-artwork.jpeg

What can you tell us about your song “Starry Night”? What's the story behind this song?

“Starry Night” is a sort of lullaby I wrote to myself. It's about all those late nights I stayed up tossing and turning and feeling like I was losing my mind... asking exhausting and intimidating questions about the meaning of things and wondering how it would all turn out… if I’d ever meet my soulmate or if I’d already missed that moment (and a million other fears).

I had the thought "we can't solve all of heaven's mysteries tonight." There was beauty in accepting that I didn't have to have everything figured out just yet. And to focus on the things that I do know and the beauty that I can see. There’s a lot of peace and perspective in trusting in something larger than me. It made all my anxieties look a little smaller.

The production started with my husband and co-writer, Ezra. I remember coming home from work one night and he had built out the vocoder on my voice and that soaring string section in the bridge. That string line has this romantic timelessness to me which is so fitting for the shift that happens in the song at that point. After the lyrics have been over the monotony of life, the song lifts into this new space, and all that’s left to echo is the idea that “we can’t solve all of heaven’s mysteries tonight.”

The ending came as an ad lib where I began to sing “take it easy” over and over, and there’s a sense of weightlessness that even takes over the production on my voice. Jeremy Lutito (producer) is so good at making little moments like that shine. And at the very same time, he brought a groove to the whole song that anchors it so well (it was basically a piano ballad before he got his hands on it).


You worked with producers Jeremy Lutito and your husband Ezra Cohen on this song. How was it like to work with them?

It was seriously a dream. I feel like there’s this amazing trust with Jeremy because he always takes a song idea to a better place than I originally envisioned. And a of couple people had taken a stab at producing some of these same songs. It’s the kind of thing where you don’t have to really explain yourself. You say one thing and he’s like “okay I’ve got this” and he just kind of starts to go crazy making weird sounds and dancing. Haha! 

My husband, Ezra, really co-produced the project and got a lot of the songs to an incredible place. We laid the foundation for the sound over the course of a few years. A lot of trial and error. And then when we connected with Jeremy he took it to the next level that we couldn’t. It was all a match made in heaven.


What can you tell us about the music video? What was the inspiration behind the video?

My husband, Ezra, is a filmmaker, and we got to work on this video together. We wanted to capture the juxtaposition of monotony and wonder visually and basically ended up tearing apart our house and making a set in the middle of our living room floor. It was just he and I staying up late together trying different things til 4 in the morning. Ezra is so gifted at making something really special with limited resources. I think the lights moving around the “bedroom” were $30 Amazon lights, but you would never know.

What made you want to release "Starry Night" as a single?

I felt like it was a great follow up single to “Mess” to show a little more of an approachable production style and simplicity in song arc. I think you’ll see that it plays a cool role in the album as a whole. It’s like another step of me asking questions and finding a little sense of resolve for that moment.

What can you tell us about your latest single "Get Your Hopes Up"? 

For a long time I didn’t know if I’d ever be happy again. This song celebrates finding hope after years without it.
 
In the years leading up to writing this song, I found myself in such a cynical place after battling severe depression and anxiety. There were a lot of days I didn’t want to live. I had been to several therapists and eventually decided to start medication. Those things definitely helped, but I still wasn’t completely well. It started to feel scary to “get my hopes up” that things would ever change. That I wouldn’t be depressed or anxious forever. I had been disappointed too many times to count. But this time, I decided to have full faith, and something finally clicked. I started to understand the power of hope— believing that something good would really happen. It became a sort of superpower. I could finally see beyond my present moment. I was starting to heal.
 
Writing "Get Your Hopes Up" was like creating the ultimate antithesis to the jadedness I had experienced before. It was a bold challenge to the crippling phrase I had subconsciously believed for so long... I’ll be careful not to get my hopes up. It’s so crazy now having the happiest years of my life after not being sure if it was possible for me. It could have ended so differently. So, I’m choosing to get my hopes up, and man, is it good.



What do you want to achieve with this new single? 

It’s kind of a love letter to anyone dealing with mental health issues or going through something deeply painful. I had specific friends in mind when I was writing this song. I wrote it as a reminder to myself too. 

I know what it’s like to feel like you’ve lost yourself completely. Anyone going through that now, I hope you know that you are incredible and brave and strong and resilient— more than you probably realize. I hope you know that you aren’t alone. Please don’t wait to reach out for real help. 

I truly can’t believe I made it on the other side. Life is so beautiful now and I wasn’t sure if it ever could be again. I know it can be for you, too. No matter how dark your situation feels. Don’t give up before right before everything could change. If you’ve got today, you’ve got a chance for hope. Sometimes hope can feel like all we have, but it’s so powerful.

What message do you want to deliver to anyone suffering from mental illness?

First of all, you are not alone. I think it’s so important to be more open and honest so we all feel less alone. On a practical note, I do have to say I think it’s necessary to talk to others about what you’re going through and not isolate yourself as much as possible, even though that can feel really hard in the moment. And to get real help whether that’s seeing a therapist, psychiatrist, etc. Don’t wait til you’re in a position you can’t handle. Secondly, I think it’s so important to fight for hope— to know that it is possible to find hope even in your pain. And finally, I believe healing is real, and that the impossible can be healed. It happened to me.

What appeals to you the most about being an artist?

I think it’s less of an appeal and more of an impulse. It’s just something I have to do. These songs have to come out of me and I have to share them. It’s just a part of who I am. I think it’s a beautiful thing to be lucky enough to have the opportunity to get to do this.

What are the things you are most proud of?

Not giving into fear. If I did I wouldn’t be doing any of this. And also that I kept believing that there was something better than the life I was experiencing. I almost gave up too many times to count, but I’m so glad I held onto that small part of me that wondered “what if”— what if life actually gets better and I haven’t experienced my best days yet? It has led to really beautiful things.  

Photo credit: Hannah Burton

Photo credit: Hannah Burton

How do you want to be remembered?

I want to be remembered as someone that created a variety of art mediums that truly connected with people on a deep level— someone that truly cared for others and loved them well.


In your opinion, what would make the world a better place?

A little more faith. Genuine human consideration and taking action for others— not just talking about it.

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