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So eager to join the ranks of her prolifically musical family, Elly was born 14 weeks premature with the odds of survival not on her side. But she didn’t just survive, she arrived with unwavering strength that continues to shine though her music and performance to this day.

Elly-May’s premature birth left her facing a lifelong battle with cerebral palsy, but she didn’t let it stand in the way of joining her first band, The Tin Lids, at just two years old. The band of siblings recorded and released multiple award-winning albums in quick succession and, by the time she started pre-school, Elly had already had her own platinum selling albums to hang on the wall. The Tin Lids eventually split in 1994 due to “creative differences”, though it is said that the siblings are still close.

At 12 years old, Elly-May started singing and touring with her father, Jimmy. By the time she started high school – a daunting time for any adolescent – she was already performing to massive crowds, holding her own alongside the best of the best. For decades, Elly worked hard honing her craft with the family band to become a certified professional, though barely old enough to buy a drink at a bar.

Forging her own path, Elly-May’s talents have awarded her some incredible moments, from collaborating live with The Preatures on their album tour and supporting Harry Styles, to featuring in Neil Finn’s choir in an exclusive run of shows performing his album, Out of Silence. She has also recorded a song with Kirin J Callinan, Clayton Doley and Liam Finn for the absurdist comedy film, Nude Tuesday.

Elly has a deep understanding of music history, and a fanatical appreciation for the intangible power of emotive songwriting, lyrical storytelling and transportive live performance. She has channelled this love into her aptly named cabaret shows – Glittery and Unhinged – to which words can do no justice. Glitter, glamour, iconic entrances and disarming comic timing is just the beginning of the journey that could go absolutely anywhere (and often does), with a cast of high-profile special guests jumping up for impromptu performances. No one can predict who might appear on the night ... not even Elly herself! A self-proclaimed, number one Bob Dylan fan, Glittery and Unhinged is inspired by her own imagining of a contemporary Dylan show, that is if he emerged onstage from an oversized clamshell, self-crafted light-up outfits that almost steal the show, and umbrellas filled with confetti reserved for the show’s more sombre numbers.

Glittery and Unhinged features a carefully curated list of hits, everything from Dolly, Dusty, Dionne, Dylan, David (Bowie), that all hold a special place for Elly and her artistic evolution. “The cabaret is an insight into my mind”, she chuckles. “My therapist once came to see the show and needed a bit of recovery time”.

However, the cabaret is far from Elly’s first steps toward her solo career. With a lifelong love of writing and performing music, her debut solo album, No Good began taking shape behind the scenes for many years, writing at her father’s studio with friends like Davey Lane, Shane Nicholson and the enviable list of collaborators you’ll find in the album’s tracklisting; as well as quietly working on her own material as her vision took shape.

With Glittery and Unhinged Elly-May brings the incredible world inside her head to life, live on stage, while No Good offers a more insightful journey into her unique mind, life and heart.

“Music has as always been my greatest source of joy and has got me through my darkest times. Creating my own music, my own little world has been such an amazing, fun and emotional process and I can’t wait to share it with the world. I hope people connect with it.”

No Good brings together an A-Team of Elly-May’s family, loved ones and huge musical influences - who just happen to be the crème de la crème of the Australian and New Zealand music industry. It’s extremely fitting that the people who have influenced Elly throughout her life were by her side to bring the vision of her unique debut to life.

The first single from No Good, a cover of Radiohead’s Creep was a deeply personal choice of Elly-May’s, “Creep reflects me living in a world that wasn’t made to accommodate my body. That feeling, like you don’t belong in the world”.

Creep was produced by Elly-May’s dear friend Kevin Shirley (Aerosmith,The Black Crowes, Silverchair, Journey, Iron Maiden, Led Zeppelin) and showed brief hope for Tin Lids fans with her old band mate and brother Jackie Barnes played drums.

Neil Finn, who rarely writes with or for other artists, also wrote a song with Elly-May for the album. She’s A Thought has a shimmering melody, harmonies and words to match and if it already wasn’t special enough, Split Enz keyboard player, Eddie Rayner, adds his magic touch to the song.

In continuing with the theme of music legends, a special mention must be made to the one- and-only Don Walker, who gave the ‘Chisel’ classic 20th Century a modern makeover titled 21st Century.

Twice named Producer of the Year (CMA) and singer/songwriter Shane Nicholson (Suze DeMarchi, Alex Lloyd, Catherine Britt) has produced half the songs on No Good, with Elly-May. He chuckles, “Elly-May Barnes must be the most seasoned performer to ever be making a debut album! She’s been surrounded by and immersed in music her entire life, so her radar is razor-sharp. She knows what she likes and what works for her. I’ve always known she’s a killer singer and performer, but it’s been a joy to see what a great writer and artist she is. I’m so chuffed to be a small part of that journey.” He adds, “We also share an unwavering love of all things ‘Bob Dylan’ and the importance of that can’t be overstated”.

Mark Lizotte (Diesel) produced the other half of the album, as well as contributing a number of songs. “It's like tailoring, you make something bespoke, it’s like a tailor fitting. Her voice is unique, she really knows how to pour a lot of emotion into a phrase. I know she’s got a cracking and black sense of humour. She comes from a pedigree of singing and it runs deep. I feel like I’ve recorded everyone in the family. They all have amazing focus. Not everyone can do that. With El, she’s definitely got her character, she’s super malleable”.

Halo (one of the songs Mark has written for her) lyrically taps into Elly’s infectious self- deprecating dark humour with the line, “how can I live with you, when I can’t even live with myself”.

As for Leaving Eden, Diesel explains, “I know she loves rock and roll and guitar with edge, so I put my rock hat on. It also sounds a little English (Cilla Black or Mark Ronson vibe) retro, she loves a bit of that”.

Elly-May’s music mates of many years have come together to work on and record her debut album, including Charley Drayton, Jack Moffitt, Clayton Doley and Jackie Barnes, just to name a few.

Davey Lane (You Am I, The Pictures, The Wrights, The Stems, Chris Bailey & The Saints) who has appeared onstage with Elly-May at a number of her cabaret shows, contributed four songs on No Good, including the title track No Good and Baby Don’t Slow Me Down which were co- written with Elly.

Davey said, “What I have always wanted is to get better at what I love, playing instruments, singing, writing and producing. I’ve known Elly-May for more than 18 years and the tunes are really a mark of the woman she is”. He continues, “She’s a woman of strength, courage and humility. With an unparalleled sense of humour to match. These songs stand completely independent from (yet proudly alongside) those of her not inconsiderable family legacy.”

Diesel praises Elly’s “voice and spirit” as the “commonality on the album. She’s done a lot in the studio and on stage over the years, but this is a part of her journey and it’s capturing her confidence. It’s Elly!”

To paraphrase Phil Spector, to know Elly-May is to love her.

Elly-May Barnes’ debut album, No Good, will be released through ABC Music on Friday, 12 April 2024.

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