Jason and Ella uniquely share their passion for music As a full-time musician, father Jason has encouraged his daughter Ella to explore singing, music, and creativity since she was three years old. When Ella’s passion grew into a real hobby, the only natural step for him was to join in. Though he remains in a band full-time, Jason helps the now 14 year old Ella to produce the songs she writes. While Jason is primarily a bass guitarist, he also amps up tracks with the acoustic guitar, piano and ukulele. He writes the music and produces videos and songs from a technical perspective, and will occasionally provide backup vocals. All from his home studio in the family’s home in Nepean.
For Ella, creating music with her dad isn’t just a creative outlet, it is a way to bond and ease the stresses of transitioning between two households each week. When she is at her Dad’s, music is a way of spending quality time with him, while being creative and having fun.
The self-titled Father-Daughter duo has created dozens of covers and original songs that Ella writes. Jason sets the stage for Ella to lend her vocal and lyrical talents to the music. When the duo began to share their work with family, friends, and Facebook over two years ago, the reception was amazing, and included a shoutout on CTV Morning Live as they previewed the duo’s original music video.
We sat down with Jason and Ella to discuss their music, their favourite aspects of creating songs together, and what’s next for the duo.
Photography by Sean Sisk
How did your family discover its passion for music?
Jason: My dad loves to play the guitar around the house and at family events, so my exposure to music, and love of it, started really young. John Denver, Paul Simon, Cat Stevens, The Beatles and Sega music (the native music of Mauritius, where both of my parents were born) were basically the soundtrack for my two siblings and I as we grew up. Then, when I was 12, my brother Chris encouraged me to start playing an instrument so that I could jam with him. He suggested the bass guitar since he already played the guitar, and together we both aspired to become rock stars during our teenage years, first performing at coffee houses and band wars, and then putting on local events.
Ella: My dad used to always sing songs like “Sweet Child O’ Mine” and “When The Stars Go Blue” when we went to bed, and sometimes my brother and I would like to join in. My dad loves to play guitar in any free time he has, so we spent a lot of time listening and singing together. When I was about 2 or 3 years old, I learned to sing some of my favourite lullabies with my parents like “Baby Beluga”, which we actually have a video of on our Facebook page. Now that I’m older, music has also become something that really helps me with my anxiety and stress. Plus, writing has always been my passion and I’ve been writing little poems and lyrics since I was able to write. Being able to express my emotions and thoughts in writing, and then creating music, is something I find so special.
When did you two first begin playing together?
Jason: Ella and I have been singing together since she was a toddler. She’s always had a beautiful, angelic voice, and was gifted with a great ear… she’s always on pitch! I love it. Ella and I created our first cover music video back in March 2018 using a DSLR camera I had gotten that Christmas. It was a live off the floor performance of Meghan Trainor’s “Like I’m Gonna Lose You” it wasn’t a fancy, well-produced recording by any means. We just used the camera’s built-in microphone. The video was very well received on Facebook, where we post all of our videos. From there, we’ve done almost twenty cover music videos, and two originals, which gave me a chance to hone my skills in the production/recording and videography side of things. This prompted me to build a studio in our den, which is in fact what I called my youtube channel, “Studio in the Den”.
Ella: My dad really influenced music in our household at an early age. He loved to play songs on the guitar we knew the lyrics to and always encouraged us to sing along. Even at the age of 3, I was singing lullabies with my dad and singing along to songs he had to learn for his gigs. I’ve always loved singing and have had many favorite songs, so I put the two together, sang my favourite song at the time for our first FD, “Like I’m Gonna Lose You”.
When did you realize that you wanted to share your music with others?
Jason: We love sharing our cover music videos but I have always had it in the back of my mind that I wanted to write original music with Ella. She is so lyrically and melodically creative! It makes it so easy to write music with her. It’s a no-brainer that we wanted the world to hear it!
Ella: In school, I found myself really loving English class, and would spend my free time writing stories and poems, which I’d love to submit into contests and competitions. With my friends, we’d get together and write numerous songs hoping that one day we’d be able to share them with people (and maybe get money from it as well, haha). I’ve always loved writing lyrics and melodies and it was always a dream to be able to hear myself on the radio!
Tell us about your recent song, inspired by the recent global coronavirus situation. How did the song come together?
Jason: Interestingly, the catalyst for ALL of this was a school project. In Ella’s French class, she was assigned to write a song just before the March Break. As a result of the pandemic and school closures that very same week, the project was never submitted but we had already written and recorded the song. Consequently, I asked my good friend, Tyler Kealey (an amazingly talented Ottawa pianist) and my uber-talented cousin, Rhiannon (violinist from Chelsea, QC) to add some flavour to this song. They emailed their recordings to me and I put the song together – I suppose that’s how things are done during lockdowns! We will be releasing this song soon.
Moving on, to not let this beautiful work go to waste, we decided that we should start writing an album. So, after the start of the pandemic, we wrote a song about our experience called Okay. I wrote the first few lines to start a lyrical conversation between Ella and I. I then asked Ella to write the following lyrics to add to the convo and it really just flowed from there. We shot the video for this single shortly afterward in our area of Nepean while also using a few stock videos. From emotions that range from fear, love, togetherness and hope, the idea was to create a video that people can relate to. From the moment it was released on Facebook, the video was picked up by CTV news, the Silver Lining Sessions (Shawn Tavenier, Dave Ledoux and Emily Scantlebury) and Ben Cooper Live – they are both great friends of ours doing live streams on Facebook dedicated to music and good vibes.
Ella: I really liked the idea of this conversation as the lyrics because I often see people saying, “everything will be ok” when nobody in this situation really has complete control or knowledge of what will happen next. Of course, we always need to stay positive, but some things in life aren’t always going to be okay. I feel that this song has a good way of explaining how we feel about the pandemic and just life’s struggles in general.
How does working together on music help your father-daughter relationship?
Jason: Ella lives in two homes, a week with me then a week with her mom, Sara, who lives just down the street from us! Music is something that we can do together at my house while Ella goes between her homes. We write music when she’s around, then for efficiency’s sake, I record the instruments when she’s at Sara’s place. The following week, Ella puts her vocal tracks down, and trust me, this comes super easy for her. No need for autotune for this girl!
Our time together playing music is such a beautiful experience. It’s so wonderful, especially in these times, to have someone here at home to be creative with. I will never take that for granted. I hope that these videos will live forever in our memories and to know that we created something special during these strange and uncertain times. We’ve gone as far as having my son, Jackson, be a special guest bouncing a basketball in two of our cover videos.
Ella: When I was younger, I had a really hard time with the transition of switching back and forth. It was something challenging I had to get used to, and singing and playing music with my dad made it a lot easier. Especially when writing original music, we get to express our ideas and collaborate together. It is something fun I look forward to on “Dad’s Week” and something that I am really happy for.
What are your plans for the summer?
Jason: Being a full time musician, this pandemic has decimated our industry, like a lot of industries. However, things are looking a little brighter as the vaccine gets closer in sight. As a result, I will be looking forward to getting back to gigging and performing at events this summer with my beloved bandmates: Peter Voith, Tony Raybould, Sam Timmins, and Nick Grabousenok.
Ella: Seeing that there is probably a longer time of home isolation to come, it is a very good time to sit down and get inspired to write music. For me, writing songs in summer can come pretty easily because summer is such a happy and relaxing time, making it fun to write about. Not trying to put any pressure on us, but our album will probably be out somewhere in the summer and I am hoping we could even put out a few more songs!
What’s next for your duo?
Jason: I’m leaving the “what’s next?” to Ella and where she wants to take it. I believe that I have the tools and skills to make whatever we wish come to fruition, but I want to go at her own stride and not overwhelm her. So in the meantime, we’ll continue writing music and put it out at a pace that she’s comfortable with.
Ella: The only gigs I’ve done are at the retirement homes and backyard parties. I would love to continue with that. Honestly, at the moment, I am pretty comfortable with just making music videos at home and I don’t think I am quite ready for full out gigs (but certainly in the future). I’m looking forward to collaborating with more of my dad’s very talented friends or even one of my friends! I think collaborating with more artists would be so much fun and is very likely to happen in the future, once this is all over. We will also certainly create more albums, singles and FD videos.
Find our song here: https://afatherdaughterduo.bandcamp.com/releases