It’s no surprise that Excelsia Bachelor of Music graduate, Ella Sterland, is at the top of her game. With a stellar music career that has spanned over five years, she has repeatedly smashed career goals. With an easy-going, warm and refreshingly down-to-earth approach to the industry, she proves that a fierce passion for her craft underlies everything she does.

Since graduating from the College, Ella has gone on to become an outstanding musician, including getting one of her songs played on one of Australia’s most popular alternative music stations Triple J.

Our Music Program Director Dr Christine Carroll recently sat down with Ella to talk how her professional life has gone from strength to strength, why she chose to study at Excelsia and why having a product to show is crucial to industry success.

C: Can you give me a quick snapshot of what your work in music has looked like to date?

E: Sure. Before studying it, I wasn’t really doing anything in music, I just liked it at school. And while I was studying, towards the end of my degree at Excelsia, I decided I wanted to do some of my own original music. So, I pulled some resources and recorded a six track EP at the end of 2017, just to really put myself in that world which I hadn’t really done before.

I then moved to Melbourne at the beginning of 2018 to study Audio Engineering, because I was doing all that for myself with all my own music, and I thought, well if I could get paid for this, that would be really fun. But I found that wasn’t really my passion. It was more about me studying it for my own music, and not to outsource that for other people. I found that I have more of a creative mindset, rather than the logistical mindset…that gets all the cogs working…I wanted to create the music, not just put it together.

C: It sounds like you are a self-produced singer songwriter type of musician.

E: Yeah! I find if you invest yourself in a lot of different facets of the music industry, it makes you better at a lot of different things for your own music. So, I’m very comfortable performing, and I’m very comfortable writing my own music and producing it. Because I’ve written for other people, and because I’ve performed for weddings, and I did a lot of cover gigs just before the pandemic happened. I was doing that two or three times a week. That was my main source of income.

So now, I’m able to bring those different skills into the music that I am making for myself…which is cool.

C: And right now?

E: Since the pandemic happened, I’ve been at home a lot more. I’ve been doing a lot more writing and figuring out how writing can be a source of income, but also a source of fulfilment, and just a way to keep doing music especially when I can’t be out there performing.

C: Great, well this next question might take you right back…Why did you choose to study music? Did you have a lightbulb moment, or did you just go…eh, why not?

E: I think for me I knew that I would enjoy music, and that the process of learning it and studying it would make me better at it. And even though I knew it would not be easy to get work, I knew it would be fun. I guess it’s just one of those things, you just decide on something, and then hopefully that will work, but it’s not the end of the world if it doesn’t.

C: So, taking you back to when you first started in 2015, why did you choose to study at Excelsia?

E: I got a sense that the place was not only filled with people who were wanting to enjoy music, but who were also great at what they do. I think that was the environment that I wanted to be around…to be around people who had a sense of community in what they do, but who also excelled at what they do.

C: Are there any career defining moments to date you can describe?

E: I think a lot of musicians’ experience enter this thing called ‘music’ and you don’t realise that there are so many branches of what that means. And I think the career defining moments have been the times when I’ve felt a sense of validation in what I’m doing, So, one of those moments was when I was invited to go to the APRA songwriters camp hub week in Box Hill last year, an event that is curated by a musician. In my case, it was curated by Chris Walla from Death Cab for Cutie, and he’s someone who I look up. The band is amazing, and I’m a big fan of theirs.

Another was when I got one of my songs played on national radio [Triple J]. I think I was really proud to have a song on the radio that wasn’t facilitated by me paying anyone, or trying to direct anyone to what I was doing, I just put it out there, and someone connected with that. That was exciting. The song is called Gone from my new EP Overdue.

C: If you could give any advice to a young musician, what would it be?

E: My advice would be that honing your craft is genuinely step one. I think a lot of people, they see the industry, and it’s overwhelming, and they think… "how am I ever supposed to make it as a musician?” But you can’t make it if you have nothing to show people. I have been saved so many times by having this EP on Spotify – the first one I did in 2017. If I was doing a gig, and I had someone come up to me and say, “oh, I really like what you’re doing, can I find you on Spotify” – I have something that I can show them…I can say, “yes! I do have something on Spotify, and you can go and listen to that.”

Excelsia College will be running their very first Creative and Performing Arts Virtual Open Day on Saturday 29 August. If Ella’s story has sparked your interest and you would like to discover more about where a Bachelor of Music degree at Excelsia can take you, register your interest below.