INTERVIEW: Ernie | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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It must’ve been awfully strange seeing your old friend look that way, you must think I’m awfully strange,” musician ERNIE wistfully remembers on Awfully Strange, the most recent single from his debut EP, Cold Cuts. A recollection of the Newcastle-based songwriter’s teenage years in a small Northern town, feeling like an outsider and struggling with his mental health around childhood friends, Awfully Strange demonstrates the sense of aching nostalgia that bonds all five tracks of the EP together.

All the songs are set in the same bracket of time from my mid to late teens, and they all feature the same common themes throughout,” explains ERNIE (aka. Joe Ernest Allan). “I knew that I wanted to group them together as one EP, almost to bookend that chapter of my life and my songwriting for a bit of closure.”

Having previously fronted successful alt. rock four-piece A Festival, A Parade, the part-time chef and full-time singer-songwriter couldn’t help but feel he had lost some of his creative identity as part of the band, so the idea was always to keep his experience at the forefront this time around.

Though I wrote most of the songs on this EP on my own in lockdown, I actually wrote the bulk of Awfully Strange when I was eighteen. I tried it out a few times with AFAP but it never quite worked, though I’m glad I held back and turned it into an ERNIE tune. Writing this EP, the plan was always that it would be for more of a solo project; I got that creative lease of life back and wanted something that was just mine.”

I had to break a bit of a pain barrier to get to where I’m comfortable sharing stories that are essentially diary entries, but it’s weirdly cathartic

Though the creative ball remains in Joe’s court, ERNIE is still very much a collaborative project that perhaps wouldn’t exist without the input of a talented bunch of local folk. The EP features gorgeous backing vocals from rising local artist IMOGEN as well as the hotly-tipped Lizzie Esau and Brooke Bentham, and is produced by Blank studio’s Josh Ingledew (who also plays as part of the band) alongside the legend that is Thom Lewis (Sam Fender’s producer). The Cold Cuts EP is, very impressively, being released by EMI imprint Gravity Records.

It came about through Thom, who is represented by Gravity and did some co-producing with Josh. Support from a label at this stage is incredible, it can make or break bands. Sometimes I worry about nepotism playing a part in how the first year has been, at one point I would have thought that I didn’t deserve it. To have testimonials from people like Thom is incredible, but I believe in the songs. It’s given me a confidence boost after losing that creatively for a while.”

Of course, the tracks speak from themselves: Awfully Strange is perhaps the stand-out, the instrumentation swelling defiantly alongside every shared vulnerable memory. Hold Yr Horses is a mesmeric slice of indie folk with psychedelic flourishes, while Pink Headaches is dreamy and multi-layered, Joe’s characteristically brooding vocals floating comfortably alongside Brooke Bentham’s delicate backing.

Joe cites Frightened Rabbit’s dearly missed Scott Hutchison as one of his biggest influences, recalling how much of an impact Scott’s lyrics about his wavering mental health had on him as a teenager dealing with the same feelings. With Cold Cuts being such an honest and personal EP, it took a while for Joe to feel comfortable to put these songs out into the world as ERNIE, particularly given the stigma that sadly still surrounds men’s mental health.

It was tough, I had to break a bit of a pain barrier to get to where I’m comfortable sharing stories that are essentially diary entries, but it’s weirdly cathartic. I hope people will pick up on and relate to it, particularly the idea of feeling stuck in a small narrow-minded town. I hope they feel like they’re not alone.”

ERNIE launches Cold Cuts EP on Friday 3rd November at Star & Shadow Cinema, Newcastle. He also supports Lanterns on the Lake at The Glasshouse, Gateshead on Friday 15th December.


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