These days, the only evidence of the artist who made his name in Houston with a pitch-perfect, vintage-country-and-western sound is his delicate croon—which still has a certain twang to it—and his leather-tooled guitar strap. After moving to Nashville in 2014 to record his third album, he cut his signature waist-length hair, trimmed his beard, and honed his sound to reflect influences ranging from traditional country to folk and pop.
Willie Nelson and George Jones are still present in his music, but on his latest album, there are also echoes of Randy Newman, Paul Simon and Joni Mitchell. “I think it’s a continuation,” Ellis says of his new offering. “I think everything that I’ve done has been pretty different from the thing before it, so in that sense this is just the same.”