We spoke to Ella Belfante ahead of the Melbourne Guitar Show :
Name: Ella Belfanti Member of Band: Solo Act (guitarist, singer)
Playing at the Guitar Show on Saturday 3rd August at 1:45-2:30 at the Acoustic Bar, and 3-4pm at the Cafe Corner.
How long have you been playing guitar? Why did you first start playing guitar?
I’ve been playing guitar for almost 7 years now. I guess I originally began playing to accompany myself singing, and so I could more easily songwrite. Also as a bit of a rebellion against classical music – I’d previously been learning flute and was frustrated with how structured the classical music system of learning music was. But the more I played guitar, the more excited I became about how versatile an instrument it is – particularly in terms of finger style guitar and percussive styles of playing.
Which guitarist influenced your playing?
John Butler and Tullara have to be the biggest ones. There’s actually a specific moment that made me the guitarist I am today though: I went to see John Butler Trio at the Twilight at Taronga series in 2016 – always loved their music, but there was a song I hadn’t heard before that gig. I was in the mosh pit with my sister, and John started playing a song solo on his 12 string called Ocean. It absolutely blew my mind, I might have even cried a little bit. By the end of the song I just remember thinking “that’s how I want to play – that’s what it’s all about”. Before that I’d always thought of myself as more of a singer, but that made me want to be a guitarist.
Describe your favourite guitar.
My favourite guitar is my Cole Clark series 2 angel, solid Tasmanian blackwood, with a blackbean fretboard. It’s got this clean, magical sound – it almost sounds sparkly but still with a rich natural tone. For percussive guitar playing it’s incredible too – it can make so many different woody percussive sounds. It’s got this gorgeous thin saline down the middle of the face, and mother of pearl fretboard inlays, and the whole guitar has a clear matte finish.
Tell us a quick, on the road or studio, anecdote.
Over winter I live at Mt Hotham, where I’m a ski instructor during the day and I play shows at the mountain bars and restaurants most nights for the season. Sometimes kids I’ve taught to ski end up at my gigs, and recognise me which is always really lovely. Last winter, a 7 year old boy I’d been teaching that day was having dinner with his family at Zirky’s where I was playing. During the break between my first and second set, he came up to give me a hug and told me he loved singing too. So I asked if he wanted to sing a song with me for my next set, which he was super excited about! His favourite song was ‘Dancing On My Own’ by Callum Scott, so I looped the chord progression on my loop pedal and gave him the microphone. He was amazing, and I sang some harmonies with him! We were met with a standing ovation by everyone in the venue, and his mum came to take get a photo of us together afterwards. I taught him at ski school for the next few days, and his mum told me on their last day he now really wanted to learn guitar because of me, and that his birthday was coming up and so his present was going to be a guitar and some lessons. So inspiring him to play has to be one of my proudest moments!
What, or who, inspires you?
There are so many people in my life that inspire me, but my family has to be number 1. My parents have done so much for my sisters and I in terms of supporting our interests and passions, even when it’s been super tough to do so financially or otherwise. They’ve definitely helped me believe that I can create the life I want despite any obstacles, that I can make it as a musician if I put the hard work in. Also, both my parents and two little sisters are really outspoken, intelligent and deep-thinking people who aren’t afraid to challenge norms, have tough conversations, and try to change things for the better. Their outlook on life inspires me massively, both personally and in how I approach my music.
Which song do you wish you wrote the riff for?
Either Rock and Roll Rave by The Preatures (it’s got to be one of the grooviest riffs of this generation of music. Simple and catchy) or Passionflower by Jon Gomm (my favourite percussive finger style riff – it’s so delicate but powerful).
What is the best thing about the Melbourne Guitar Show this August?
The lineup is amazing! I’m actually really stoked to see Sarah McLeod (The Superjesus were one of my favourite bands growing up and I cannot wait to see her play!). We’ve also got legends like Lloyd Spiegel (one of the best acoustic guitarists in the world I reckon) and Ash Grunwald.
Why should people come to your showcase at the Guitar Show?
Experimenting with different ways to play acoustic guitar is something I’m really passionate about – if you’re interested in hearing one guitar become a full band, you might enjoy my show! Also, my music is my diary. Everything I write is unfiltered and a pretty raw expression of what’s going on for me, and this means I don’t really stick to one genre – bit of blues, bit of folk rock, bit of indie, depending on what best suits the emotion I’m trying to get across.
What’s your scene?
I have two scenes, one for each half of the year. I’ve spent most of my adult life chasing winters – living in the NSW Snowy Mountains, Niseko in Japan, and my favourite: Mount Hotham. You’re surrounded by people passionate about nature, snowsports, and about the mountain community. This is my second year playing shows at Mt Hotham most nights of the week over winter, and I did the same on the mountain in Niskeo, Japan for the northern winter. Never had more enthusiastic and supportive crowds anywhere else, and so much inspiration for songwriting with those amazing mountain views everywhere.
In summer, I’m 100% a beach bum. Hanging out on the sand with my guitar and my dog, being salty and sandy all day. I feel at home by the ocean more than anywhere else.