Pop-Culturalist Chats with Ellington Ratliff
For Ellington Ratliff, music runs through his veins, so it’s fitting that he’s named after one of the most iconic musicians of all time: Duke Ellington. This Ellington is an incredible quadruple threat that sings, dances, acts, and plays drums. He’s one-fifth of the hottest band in music, R5. Pop-Culturalist spoke with Ellington in the mist of their European tour and talked about the band’s new EP, their creative process, and how he discovered his passion for music.
P-C: Walk us through when you realized you wanted to pursue music as a career and the feeling you got when you first began playing drums.
Ellington: There was no moment per say—it was so gradual and natural that I didn’t even realize what was going on until I was looking in hindsight, but I am grateful in terms of what has happened and I love what I do.
P-C: Your band, R5, formed in 2009, and has had tremendous success. Did you think it would happen so soon and is there a particular moment in the last eight years that stands out to you?
Ellington: Touring the world is definitely humbling and it’s amazing to experience different cultures—even ones that don’t seem different, like in England (where I’m answering this from), are eye opening. Touring in general is one of my favorite parts of being in a band.
P-C: New Addictions finds the band tapping into a deeper part of yourselves and highlights the group’s evolution. What was the creative process like for it and did it feel special or different from any of the previous albums/EPs you’ve released?
Ellington: The main difference between New Addictions and our other projects is that we wrote and produced the whole EP (with the exception of the cover of INXS’s “Need You Tonight”) in-house. Writing the EP on our own was such a great experience!
P-C: How did the band decide what made the EP and what didn’t? What’s that process like?
Ellington: We spent about six months writing songs in our house or in New York without really knowing in what format they would be released. After those months, the best songs made it on to the New Addictions EP.
P-C: Of all the songs that you’ve released, which is your favorite and why?
Ellington: I think our new song “Hurts Good” is impressive. It’s our newest release, but I think it was one of the earliest songs we started. It was one of those that we liked but couldn’t finish and we then forgot about. We decided to release it and then finished it while on our North American Tour. We even booked a studio when we were in Boston to finish up some vocals.
P-C: What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think of…
Ellington: Ross is extreme in all ways. He’s either extremely serious or extremely goofy. His talents are pretty extreme, as well. He’s the type of guy that will try a sport for the first time and just automatically be better than everybody else.
Ellington: Riker likes to have things in order. He’s not a clean freak, but he’s freakishly organized. Like, he’ll have the clothes he’s wearing the next day steamed and hung up in his hotel room closet within an hour of walking in the door. That baffles me because I just can’t do that. As much as I try to be organized, it just doesn’t happen.
Ellington: Rocky can pretty much fix any technical issue; he’s very good at troubleshooting. May it be Rydel’s keyboard taking a dump during a show or our computer crashing while we record a “hit”, Rocky can fix it in no time.
Ellington: Rydel is incredibly persistent. She edits all of the videos on her Youtube channel and does the final edit on R5TV, which adds up to many hours of work on top of the work we already do while touring. She’s also been persistent in trying to get me to put a ring on it [laughs].
Pop-Culturalist Speed Round
P-C: Guilty pleasure TV show?
Ellington: Rick and Morty
P-C: Guilty pleasure movie?
P-C: Favorite book?
Ellington: The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz
P-C: Favorite play or musical?
Ellington: The Drowsy Chaperone! It’s the funniest musical ever.
P-C: A band or artist that fans would be surprised to learn is on your playlist?
Ellington: Simon & Garfunkel: The Bridge Over Troubled Water album is fire
P-C: Favorite social media platform?
P-C: Hidden talent?
Ellington: I can juggle.
Photo Credit: Valentina Socci