How Paul Simon Inspired Robert Ellis’ Latest Album, ‘The Lights from the Chemical Plant’

By Annie Reuter

When Robert Ellis sat down to record The Lights from the Chemical Planthe knew he didn’t want to make another country album. He’d done that already with Photographs, his critically acclaimed, George Jones-inspired album from 2011. Instead, for this new project, Ellis wanted to highlight his pop, rock, jazz and fusion influences. So, he turned to his hero, Paul Simon.

“Paul Simon is a huge inspiration for this record in particular,” Ellis told “He consistently has been one of the best songwriters and one of the most experimental and exploratory musicians genre-wise. Every record is completely different than the one before it. So, I looked to him as what I hope to achieve with my career. Not be pinned down by any one thing, but still being massively successful.”

Related: Paul Simon to Be Celebrated with Tribute Concert at Carnegie Hall

Released last month, The Lights from the Chemical Plant is Ellis’ third album. And as he explained, many of the 11 tracks came out of personal experiences and his own relationships.

“The really interesting thing about writing is, sometimes when I’m really confused or really unhappy and I sit down to write, there’s almost like this other voice coming through and giving me answers,” he said. “Something about the narrative quality to songwriting allows you to remove yourself emotionally a little bit.”

He added: “It’s like there’s this subconscious part of you that’s coming through and saying, ‘This is how you feel about things,’ rather than just the way that you feel. For me, I can go from being super confused and then three hours later after I’ve written a song I have this great clarity. It’s very therapeutic and helpful. I can’t imagine not having that in some ways. I don’t know what it’d be like to live with those feelings and not have a way to escape them or deal with them.”

Robert Ellis’ The Lights from the Chemical Plant is available now.

Robert Ellis album cover The Lights from the Chemical Plant


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