Meet Nashville’s Rising Stars: Karissa Ella
An Interview With Ming Zhao
Each year you change and grow. Take a second to appreciate how far you have come and the music you have created. I feel like at the beginning I always felt in a rush. There is no rush, enjoy the process and the ride. Do things your way, it might not be like everyone else and that’s okay! Don’t be afraid to take time to find who you really are.
As a part of our series about Nashville’s rising stars, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Karissa Ella.
Karissa Ella is a breath of fresh air in today’s world of country music, and she’s been recognized for it by CMT and countless more media outlets. Inspired by the likes of Shania Twain, Gretchen Wilson, Miranda Lambert and Carrie Underwood, her music and writing are a reflection of those that came before her. Her live performances at places like the ACM-nominated Dusty Armadillo, attract audiences of all ages, but they keep coming back for her infectious personality and genuine songwriting. As an Ohio native, Karissa made the move to Nashville to attend Belmont University and pursue her dreams. After graduating in June 2018, she completed her self-titled EP, having co-wrote the majority of the songs. Her second EP, Blossom, came out Summer 2019 with songs like “VACAY” featured by Parade.com and “Me and Luke” byTaste of Country. As she draws inspiration from the music she grew up on, Karissa released The Acoustic Sessions, made up of multiple covers, including “Who I Am,” “Maybe It Was Memphis,” “Blame It On Your Heart” and “You Can’t Make Old Friends” ft. Johnny Gates and Jenee Fleenor (2x CMA Musician of the Year and ACM Musician Of The Year). Karissa put out two original singles in 2021, “Bad Summer” and “Crackin’ Cold Ones”, and rounded out the year on the road with GRAMMY-nominated country star David Nail on his Bootheel 2021 Tour. With new music and tour dates on the horizon, Karissa is gearing up for a big 2022! For more information, visit karissaella.com.
Thank you so much for joining us in this series! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit of the ‘backstory’ of how you grew up?
I was born and raised in North Canton, OH and grew up in a non-musical household. My father’s in the car business and my mother was an accountant and even though they weren’t musical, they still showed my siblings and I how to appreciate music and entertainment. As I grew, I discovered a love for all genres of music and Broadway musicals. Music quickly became a constant in my life and country music stole my heart. I remember going to my first concert (The Cheetah Girls) and thinking how incredible it would be to be on stage. I thought it would be so much fun and it turns out, I was right!
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
Growing up, I was a competitive dancer and fell in love with acting and singing in my school musicals. When it came time to pick a college I knew I wanted to pick a school where I could still remain singing because it was important to me. I found Belmont University in Nashville, TN and that is where everything started. Being in the heart of music city was inspiring and I knew that I didn’t want to live with any “what if’s” so after I graduated I decided to pursue music full time. I love Nashville and the music scene as a whole and feel so lucky to be a part of it.
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
I recently got the opportunity to sing a Randy Travis song for the man, the myth, the legend himself! Country Rebel had Tony Jackson, Justin Holmes and I up to their ranch to sing for Randy and it was an incredible day, one I will remember forever. I covered his song “He Walked On Water” and I think he liked it!! Lots of fun was had that day and I feel really lucky for the opportunity. If you would have told me a few years ago that I would get to sing for Randy Travis I would have laughed in your face! Needless to say, I think younger me would be very proud.
Can you share with us an interesting story about living in Nashville?
The coolest thing about Nashville is that you will go to a random bar in the city and hear a hit songwriter or artist just playing in a writers round. You might even see your favorite artist in the Starbucks line too! It’s normal to see famous people around, you just act natural and treat them like normal people! They want their Starbucks just like we do!!
Can you share with us a few of the best parts of living in Nashville? We’d love to hear some specific examples or stories about that.
I have lived in Nashville for almost 8 years now and it still doesn’t get old. I have enjoyed watching the city grow and become somewhat of a trend! I love the bachelor/bachelorette parties and love the hype of broadway! I always have friends coming into town to visit and I love when I get to play tourist! The best parts of living in Nashville is hearing all the talented artists/musicians, the food of course, and the weather!! There is always something to do in Nashville, I promise you won’t be bored!
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
A few years ago I did my first full band show and was so nervous! I went on stage and for the first song and I started singing the second verse instead of the first verse. I completely blanked because of the nerves and fear of messing up! But I just kept going and laughed it off. I learned no one is perfect and we all make mistakes on stage, we’re human!
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I am forever grateful to my parents for pushing me to follow my dreams. Without them I would not be in Nashville singing and writing songs. They have believed in me from the start when I didn’t even believe in myself. My parents support means the world to me and being in the entertainment industry I have learned that it isn’t as common as you would think. Most parents want their kids to have a safe job, which is understandable. For some reason my parents were all for me singing on stages for a living! My dad loves being a stage hand and helping set up and tear down equipment and my mom and I even write songs together! I have many people to thank for getting me where I am today but it all comes down to the unconditional love I have from my family. I am very grateful for all of it and every person who has believed in me.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
I just released a new single called “Vintage” and this is just the beginning of some new music! I have been working hard on an EP that really reflects who I currently am and what I’m going through. It’s going to be real, authentic and fun! I can’t wait for listeners to hear it in the new year!.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
5 things I wish someone told me when I first started singing:
- I wish I would have learned to play an instrument sooner. I started over zoom in 2020 and playing guitar has helped me in so many ways including my songwriting!
- Learn the words to “Wagon Wheel” because someone will request it at every show.
- The importance of treating yourself like an athlete and taking care of yourself and your voice. You have to exercise, make sure you’re drinking enough water and getting enough sleep!
- Make sure to surround yourself with people who love and believe in your music! I already knew this and feel like I have done so, but it’s always a good reminder!
- Each year you change and grow. Take a second to appreciate how far you have come and the music you have created. I feel like at the beginning I always felt in a rush. There is no rush, enjoy the process and the ride. Do things your way, it might not be like everyone else and that’s okay! Don’t be afraid to take the time to find who you really are.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
My best advice is to take time off. Take time away from social media, away from writing and just collect yourself. It is easy to get burnt out in this industry or to feel as if you’re not doing enough even though you’re going above and beyond! Always put yourself first and take the necessary breaks. It is also good to keep in mind that everyone is on a different path, keep your blinders on and keep killing it!
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
There are so many topics I am passionate about but honestly self love and positivity are both topics I always try to spread. I want everyone to feel beautiful, worthy, and loved!!! I love my fans and am so grateful for them. I can only hope to inspire them to go for their dreams, love themselves and to believe in themselves. Spreading love and positivity is free and we need more of it in this crazy world.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I used to be afraid of hearing the word “no” because I was afraid to fail. I learned there is no such thing as failing, it’s really called growing. Now, I chase the “no’s” and try to get as many as I can so I can learn and experience new lessons!
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. :-)
Wow! One person?! I would love to sit down with the one and only Dolly Parton and ask her all the advice in the world. That would be a dream. She is an icon, a legend and such an incredible role model. I would love the opportunity to laugh and learn from her.
How can our readers follow you online?
Yes! Please follow me at @karissaellamusic on Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, Twitter and for more information visit www.karissaella.com
This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!