'The city thrives when Leeds United are doing well': Meet singer-songwriter Ellen Smith behind moving club anthem Take Us Home
The ups and downs of being a Leeds United fan are intertwined in singer-songwriter Ellen Smith's music.
As a lifelong Whites fan, she has lived through the highs of the Champions League team of the early 2000s and the lows that followed.
Ellen has received high praise for her poignant anthem Take Us Home, the title track for the second series of the Amazon Prime documentary of the same name.
She could have written a party anthem to celebrate the club's promotion to the Premier League, but Ellen felt the reflective lyrics and stripped-back sound better suited the momentous season.
Take Us Home has been a hit with fans, dubbed a modern Leeds United anthem, and has recently been released as limited edition vinyl copies to mark the end of the 2020/21 season.
Ellen jumped at the chance to work as a sound recordist for the Amazon Prime documentary, created by Leeds film studio The City Talking, and she was in the team's bubble for the promotion push.
Speaking to the Yorkshire Evening Post, 32-year-old Ellen said: “It was crazy. Myself and the director of photography were two of the only people who were allowed in the ground and around the players.
“That point when we didn’t know if the last games were going to be played was hard. I know so many people would have given so much to be there for those last games.
“It’s something I’ll never forget for as long as I live. It was amazing.”
Working on the documentary was just one highlight of Ellen's flourishing music career. She has performed at Glastonbury and Leeds Festival and toured across the country with her band Shadowlark.
Ellen, who grew up in Alwoodley, fell into her career in music when she was studying a BTEC at Leeds College of Music.
“I started playing keys and writing songs when I was a young teenager before I picked up a guitar at 15," Ellen added.
"But I’ve always sung since I was little. I went to Leeds College of Music for a year and that's when I met a lot of my friends who I still make music with now.
"I never intended to have a career in music when I was that young, but I just got the bug for it.”
Ellen cites The Beatles, Julia Jacklin and Sharon Van Etten as influences for her stripped-back, acoustic sound, while her music with Shadowlark is more up-beat electronic pop.
Football has always been a big part of Ellen's life and fans have been drawn to her reflections of life in Leeds in her music.
Ellen said: “I was really young when I first went to Elland Road, watching players like Gary Speed. The team I really remember was the Champions League team of the early 2000s.
“Football is such a big part of our culture and the city thrives when Leeds United are doing well. And I love my city. I’m proud to be from Leeds, I’ve lived here all my life.
“There’s a good feeling about being here at the minute and it’s nice, after so long.”
Ellen recorded a melancholy rendition of Marching on Together to accompany the first Take Us Home documentary, which covered the heartbreak as Leeds narrowly missed out on promotion in 2018/19.
Tasked with creating a song for the second series, Ellen's sombre yet hopeful lyrics struck a chord with Leeds fans: Been trading hearts for thicker skin/Throwing punches without a win/But there’s always a light that draws you in/At least we’re not alone, now they’ve come to take us home.
Ellen added: “We considered using the Marching on Together recording again and juxtaposing it with the first season, but we decided it was better to write something new.
“I could have written a party song, but it didn’t feel very apt to do that. I wanted to do something more reflective and beautiful, that suited the style of what we were doing with the documentary."
Following the first series of the documentary, Ellen was featured in the reveal photoshoot of the 2020/21 Adidas kit - another once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
“I was one of the first people to see it," Ellen said.
"I was at the shoot on the same day as the players which was so much fun."
Take Us Home has drawn new ears to Ellen's music; her moving lyrics have struck a chord with her fans after what's been a turbulent year for many.
“It’s been amazing that so many people have connected with it", she added.
"The reaction from fans has been great - I wrote it as a fan. I think people can relate to where I was coming from, it’s a relief and about the journey, having ups and downs.
"Aside from football, people can relate to that on a personal level. Everyone has been on their own journeys.”
Ellen is excited to get back to the festival circuit and Shadowlark are set to release their debut album Avalanche on July 30, which they hope to perform in front of fans later this year.
She added: “I’ve massively missed performing, but also going and seeing other bands and being in venues - being around people. You don’t realise how important that stuff is until you’re not doing it.
“I’d love to tour the world and keep recording and writing for other people. It’s going to be amazing to finally get back and start playing again.”