It was the height of the grunge era. Dennis Ellsworth was a bored, semi-rebellious, and occasionally stoned teenager. While he should have been paying attention to his high school curriculum, he began writing songs in the back of the classroom. Before long, his notebooks contained far more lyrics than schoolwork.
At first, the pages just held the material he’d shout out as the singer in a punk rock band. But as the years went by, he taught himself to play guitar, and in 1996, while living in Edmonton, he bought a 4-track and started recording demos. They were weird and they were terrible!
In 1997 he moved home to Prince Edward Island and went to university. While in his second year, he joined some old friends and formed The Rude Mechanicals, a pop/rock band that became a big hit on campus and beyond.
After graduation, The Rude Mechanicals moved to Toronto. As the band’s frontman and primary songwriter, Dennis began to find his true path setting stories and feelings to the music he created. During this time, he was also a member of a fun-loving, oddball band of rogues who called themselves The Little Pilgrims. And toward the end of his Toronto years, he founded the group, Battery Point, which took its name not only from the neighborhood where he’d grown up, but also from a limited release solo folk recording that he completed just before leaving the big city.
In 2008, back in P.E.I. after six years away, he formed the popular Americana group, Haunted Hearts. Within two years they released two albums Thank You, Goodnight and Howdy, both extremely well received, and both winners of Music PEI Awards, including New Artist and Alternative Recording of the Year in 2010, and Country Recording, Songwriter, Group, and Album
of the Year in 2011. Following this initial burst of productivity came a lull, during which Dennis repackaged and officially released as his first solo effort (the Battery Point folk record he had made while living in Toronto) and he called it Chesterfield Dweller of the Year.
From this point on, Dennis’s solo career became his focus and his priority. Between 2011 and 2014 he wrote, recorded and released an EP and three full length albums, and was again recognized with Music PEI awards.
Dennis’s 2012 release Dusk Dreams, produced by David Barbe (Drive-by Truckers, Sugar) at the Chase Park Transduction Studio in Athens, GA, won him Roots Contemporary Recording, Songwriter and Album of the Year.
Dusk Dreams was quickly followed up with Hazy Sunshine, produced by The Skydiggers’ Josh Finlayson and recorded in the heart of Canada’s winter at The Tragically Hip’s Bathouse studio on the frozen shores of Lake Ontario. Hazy Sunshine displays Dennis’s depth, range and development as a songwriter. Not only did it bring in 2013 Music PEI awards for Roots Contemporary and Male Solo Recordings of the Year, it also generated attention, interest and praise in both Canada and the UK. In 2014, (the year of its UK release), Hazy Sunshine made the Telegraph Journal’s top 40 country records of the year, Square Roots Promotions top records of year and the Lazy Brighton Blog’s top 20 records of the year.
Where Dusk Dreams featured one co-written song (with British rising star John Smith), Hazy Sunshine featured two (one written with Josh Finlayson and Andy Maize from The Skydiggers, and the other with Gord Downie of the Tragically Hip). The success of these endeavors encouraged Dennis to consider writing more songs with others and to begin writing for other artists, as well as himself.
Invitations to participate in a number of professional songwriters’ workshops confirmed his satisfaction with collaboration and he has since signed a publishing deal with Chapter 2 Productions in Toronto, ON.
It was the fall of 2014, and Dennis began preparing to record again, turning once more to his Dusk Dreams team in Georgia.With David Barbe producing, the crew recorded and mixed ten songs over eight sunny southern autumn days and nights. The result is a lush, timeless gem, with hints of Americana, folk, and roots-rock. It showcases an experienced songwriter hitting
his stride. Romantic As It Gets will be released in September 2015 on Busted Flat Records.
Dennis Ellsworth has written songs in an impressive variety of styles. The depth of his already strong sense of melody and craftsmanship is evident in each new effort. In 2014 Ellsworth
was named one of Canada’s top ten new artists by the judges of the CBC Searchlight Contest. He also performed at the Lincoln Centre in New York City as one of twelve finalists in the International New Song Contest.
The coming year will be full of great new plans and opportunities. Following the release of Romantic As It Gets, Ellsworth will tour in Canada twice, will re-visit the United Kingdom, and will make his career debut in continental Europe. There will be lots of co-writing around the world in the years to come. It’s a bright and beautiful road ahead.