We had the good fortune of connecting with Ellen Winter and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Ellen, what principle do you value most?
PLAY. Play play play all the way. I will shout PLAY from the rooftops. I will make breakfast a game. I will douse myself in glitter and leap about my living room like a fool before penning a non-fiction essay – not instead of, but before – because I truly believe *play* is what inspires the deepest creative joy. Play liberates us to approach ourselves and our creativity with wonder. It levels the field so that we may embrace fellow makers as teammates rather than opponents or competitors. It allows us to view collaborators as co-conspirators in an extravagant game of pretend. Play informs how we commune with one another, how we make with one another, how we enjoy ourselves and share that with each other. Play also lowers the stakes. At the end of the day, regardless of what art we are making or how we are making it, we’re just a bunch of critters trying to make sense of it all. Perhaps with years of training or very cool instruments – but still: critters making [insert art here]. And when I boil my process down to that, any problem or snag I run into on a project becomes an opportunity to open myself up to possibility and be less precious with my work. Most of all, play gives me the courage to invite others in, which I think can be difficult especially for artists ’cause we often feel like we *must* do everything ourselves (hint: we don’t).

Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
WOW this is a layered question. I’ve started and stopped and re-typed my answer many many many times. These questions carry a different weight in this moment than they would have six months ago and I just want to acknowledge that. I mean the biggest lesson I’ve learned is, usually, the most obstructive thing in my path is my own dang ego – and the sooner I just name the thing, the sooner I can be in conversation with it and come to a solution or a possibility of moving through it. I digested and believed wholeheartedly for many years that I had to prove myself to others to be worthy of love, attention, collaboration – you name it! And I often thought “ahhh, must be so nice not to care what anyone thinks.” But then I was like, “wait, what if, instead of shaming myself for caring what other’s thought, I leaned into that first word: caring.” This isn’t at all to say “aha! I have figured it out!” but rather, “aha! I have figured out that I will continue figuring it out for as long as I live and I might as well enjoy doing it!” This all came from unearthing a deep shame I had about… well, caring. So. I make things because I want to uplift, celebrate, and liberate others who are sensitive as f*ck. Who often tell themselves they’re “weak” for feeling the waves that they feel. Who maybe are not aware of their own resilience and ability to move through the world. I’m queer. I’ve got mental health issues. I’m also a white, womxn-identifying human who has a heck of a lot of privilege and I want to leverage that wherever, whenever possible. I want to have the hard conversations. I want to hold you. I want to sing together. I want to dance together. I want to grow together. I want to play together! I want to shift the way we think about our sensitivity towards ourselves and others. Our sensitivity makes us powerful, interconnected beings and I believe it is super-freaking cool to care.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Well – honestly – I don’t live in LA and COVID-19 is still fully happening so I would encourage my friend not to travel unless it was absolutely necessary.

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
WOW this is my favorite thing! Yes absolutely. I must give credit to my partner/teammate in life, snacks, and kissing: Simon Ban. A creator and tattoo-artist who makes me laugh until my face hurts. He has sparked incredibly playfulness and joy in my life. My co-conspirator and frequent collaborator, Chris Littler, is an expert at making music a game. I’m DELIGHTED by what he brings to making. Oof and of course our band, Chamber Band (Sam Monaco, Anthony Cerretani, A. Sarr). My co-producer on my upcoming album, Charles Wanless, who will play Mario Kart with us until the wee hours – laughing all the way. My friend and teacher-icon, Kelly Tieger, who’s ability to explain and make even the most complex of games fun never ceases to amaze me. I’m deeply inspired by comedian, Addie Weyrich! We’ve made a couple songs together and the joy is per-va-sive. Gotta also shout out The Performing Arts Project – a program where I facilitate songwriting/making classes and have met some of the weirdest, silliest, brilliant artists. Shout out to the Snack Pack for always being my goof buddies. Shout out to the Feelies for making “Mantras” the hypest of hype. I must also express deep gratitude for the PUSH collective, a group of womxn-identifying musicians supporting one another in the NY area and beyond. And my dear friend Aleca Piper, who will do commit to the bit with me to the end of days and is my favorite improv buddy. Also my sweet family who are loud, silly, laughter-enthusiasts. And also adrienne maree brown for her musings, writings, and gifts regarding wonder. There are so many more humans and organizations that I may include when I share this because this list is ever-evolving and ongoing.

Website: ellenwinter.com
Instagram: itsellenwinter
Twitter: itsellenwinter
Facebook: EllenWinterMusic
Youtube: EllenWinterMusic

Image Credits
First image (studio image) by Sam Monaco Stage image with doodles by Sam Monaco Pics with the Feelies by James Jin Photo at the piano by Sam Monaco Photo with little ghostie by Alison Grasso and Colin Miller Photo of serious laughter by James Jin

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