Elena B Williams is an Australian Samoan singer-songwriter currently living in Byron Bay. Inspired by artists like Nina Simone, Patti Smith, Bob Dylan, and Tracey Chapman, Elena began singing and playing guitar at the age of 15, with no intention of making it a career—it was just a fun thing to do. After three months of playing music, Elena was hooked. She says, “when you find a place of freedom, how can you ever leave it, that’s music to me, complete freedom.”
Elena’s music is a unique blend of soul, folk, jazz, blues, and alternative—but really a sound all of her own. With a powerful voice that hits you in the heart and honest lyrics that tell stories of life as it is, Elena’s songs will take you on a journey and connect you to yourself and the world around you.
How long have you been creating your art?
I have been making music for over 20 years now, since I was 15 years old and got my first guitar. I would go to a lot of poetry readings and could always hear the music with the words. I just starting writing songs and music at the same time and I fell in love with the freedom of storytelling and creating a feeling people could connect to.
Where are you from? How does that influence your art?
I am originally from Perth, Western Australia but have lived in Byron Bay for the past 16 years. It is one of our great destinations for some of the best artists in the country. We also host one of the best Blues and Roots festivals in the world (Byron Bay Blues Festival). We have some of the most beautiful beaches and rain forests here. My music has a strong connection to nature, as it’s a big part of my everyday life. My music is also influenced by the abundance of artists that live in the area and world artists that visit.
What are you currently working on or recently finished?
I am currently working on a new album. The working title is It’s Only Mud, Songs from the Street. I started as a street performer before the stage and it made me a better singer, that’s for sure. To be able to get a street crowd to listen to you and buy your CDs is a gift. It set me up to play great gigs at venues and festivals. It taught me how to connect with people and bring them closer to my music and lyrics. I think it’s only fitting I make an album dedicated to the time I spent making music on the streets of Australia.
What is your inspiration? And why?
My inspiration comes from all forms of art: painters, dancers, actors, photographers, poets, writers, free style skateboarders—the list goes on. I guess it also comes from everyday life and the relationships we all have with each other and the environment around us. It comes from living as a lesbian woman of color and how strong that has made my voice want to stand up against racism and discrimination in Australia. I always want to find a way for the listener to have a feeling of freedom and understanding within the sound of music.
Why is music important to the queer community?
I think music is so important to our queer community because it is one of the greatest healing tools in the world. A song can really save a life or show someone they are not alone. As a supporter of the LGBTQIA+ community, I want to sing about our lives and having healthy, happy relationships and the fact that we’re no different from anyone else. The world still has so much to learn about treating the queer community with respect and music is a way to help that change. Every great movement in the world has had a song, so we have to keep writing them. A song can break down walls and bring people together—it moves us towards a higher frequency.
What do you hope to achieve as an artist?
I think I have already achieved more than I thought I could, so that’s a wonderful thing to be able to say. I only ever wanted to share stories people could relate to and find some healing and happiness, and I have done that. So many people over the years have come up to me or sent me a letter to say how much a song changed their life and that is really the biggest gift I could ask for. If I hope to achieve anything now it is to keep making music that people enjoy. Music that brings with it a positive message of love, peace and a future for the next generation.
Who are your top three major influences?
One would have to be my partner, who is a visual artist and whose work inspires me on a daily basis. I think being in a relationship with another artist makes life easier because they understand your obsession with what you want to create, or spend so much of your time doing. Nina Simone and Tracey Chapman were the two voices in the world that truly inspired me to want to be a singer.
How can we all support your work, talent, and gift?
The best way for everyone to support my music is to visit my website, www.elenabwilliams.com, and buy one of my albums online. If you like my music, share it with your friends and help get the word out. Please keep supporting independent artists from around the world—there is so much amazing music out there for you to fall in love with.