People Profile – Eleanore Duggan – Lost and found . . .

Eleanore is a Cranleigh singer-songwriter who describes her style as ‘symphonic rock’. She performs with her band ‘Eleanore & the Lost’, as well as composing & singing on independent projects. Over the past year, she has been gigging in the South of England to promote her second album “The Gift”.

Tell us a bit about your background.

We moved here to Cranleigh when I was 14. I loved the switch to the countryside, and since moving, I haven’t wanted to go back to live in any towns or cities – I’ve completely become a ‘country girl’. I love that village feel when you know people you walk by on the street. I was actually born in London, but we moved down to Guildford when I was 2 years old. Both my parents were classically trained professional singers, however, I never felt pushed into music at all. Growing up I also had a passion for ceramic art, and Biology- which I became interested in due to my love of animals.

When I was 11 and in the state school system, I told my mum that I wanted to go to Guildford High School (an independent school). She was a bit dubious at first, having been a teacher in state schools, but I sat the entrance exam and got in on an assisted place. It was a bit surreal at times as there were girls going to Gstaad just for the weekend! However it turned out to be a really good change for me as the school had so many resources available. In my A-level music technology course, for example, there were just two of us in the class and two teachers – we had a lot of time devoted to us.


Eleanore with her Mum and Dad 1993

Why music?

It must be in my DNA to some extent! Like anything creative, it’s something I can’t not do so it’s an essential part of who I am. If I don’t sing or create music then it feels like something is wrong or missing from my life. There’s always music in my head waiting to get out. I think I recorded my first songs on cassette tapes when I was around 10 years old – but I hid them and wouldn’t let anyone see them!

What influence have your parents had on you?

My mum played all kinds of music whilst I was growing up, which was lovely because when I went to school I knew the recent hits as well as artists from decades past that my peers had never heard of. I would also sometimes go to see my dad sing at the English National Opera where he was employed as a tenor. As both my parents were singers, it also meant that I had valuable insight into the reality of the music world – including the not so glamorous bits and the hard work involved.

When we moved to Cranleigh, my mum started teaching singing, running courses and putting on shows at Cranleigh Arts Centre. Getting involved in that was one of the best experiences of my life as I was a part of so many aspects, such as providing backing vocals for student soloists, being in group musical numbers, arranging and recording music, and choreography. I learned to sing in every genre and learned how to work with an audience. It was massively educational for me.


Eleanore age 7

What’s your process like?

I use piano to compose songs – I did some piano grades alongside my classical singing grades, but I still wouldn’t use one to accompany myself live! I also use a music software program to form my ideas, by playing every instrument used in the songs I come up with. I’ve written in lots of different ways and I try to write about a variety of subjects. When I’m thinking about new songs, I naturally envision melody and lyrics together, with instrumentation sometimes too. It’s a mysterious process! I never get rid of any musical ideas I have. One of my most recently released songs “What Goes Around” was just a verse and a piano line for years and I couldn’t visualise the rest of it, until one day it came to me whilst driving – now it’s one of my favourite songs to perform live.

What are the toughest obstacles you’ve faced?

Finances have been the toughest, however, when I went to university to do a music composition course, it ended up being a difficult period too. I had corrective surgery near the beginning of my first year to correct some bone overgrowth which caused asymmetry in my face. We had been preparing for it for years, but there was a long recovery time and it made my time at uni a lot harder. Just before the first operation, I was told I would look ‘extremely different’ afterwards – so I was terrified! When it was all over though, I could see it had just helped me to look like me again.


Eleanore at one of her popular gigs

My music is constantly taking money, however, I’m lucky to have relationships with people I trust and who are really good to me – such as my producer, the guy who masters my music and the band I work with now. On top of paying to have my music produced and paying the band members, I also have to raise funds for lots of additional costs that perhaps aren’t things you’d be aware of, such as pressing CDs and paying for prints of posters.

I’ve also suffered from depression, which started after my first maxillo-facial surgery and was later triggered through events such as the death of my grandmother and the breakup of a relationship around that time. I think it’s something that lots of musicians experience, as it tends to be a career of ‘highs and lows’. When I’m performing or signing CDs for example, it’s a real high having all these people saying nice things, whereas other aspects of my work can be very solitary and there’s a lot of stress involved with worrying about how I’m going to pay for it all. I do earn royalties from my music, but these days a lot of people just stream music and most monies are earned from selling merchandise at live gigs and getting music placed in film/TV etc.

What have been some of the best moments?

One of the best moments for me was when I was commissioned to create ‘asmākam – the quest’ which was a four part orchestral dance piece for an Indian dance company (SB Dance). It was a different genre from my usual music which I class as ‘symphonic rock’ and it made me realise I was capable of more than I thought. We also eventually did a run at the Edinburgh Fringe with it, which was a wonderful experience.

My first album “Parlour Game” had really positive feedback and reviews, and I was offered some prestigious gigs off the back of that such as one for the Windsor Festival where they actually designed a contemporary dance show around the songs on my album. Creating music and putting it out there has really helped me develop my own distinctive sound, as well as helping me to “find” my fanbase. Finding out what I have in common with my fans has also been really fun as we tend to like lots of the same things –so they’re very easy to connect with. My songs have also been used in a few films, which I’ve been offered ‘cameo’ roles in. One time I was asked to write a ‘fairy lullaby’ for one of these films and then appear as a fairy singing it!

On my second album, one of the songs ‘My True Nature’ was originally commissioned by the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF-UK) as the theme song for their 50th anniversary and also as the stimulus piece for a creative competition for 9-16 year olds around the UK. It was a song about the natural world to get children involved in creating their own musical pieces and artwork for submission.


Eleanore’s promotional video featuring her band ‘Eleanore & The Lost’

‘Eleanore & the Lost’–why that name?

On my first album, it simply said ‘Eleanore’ and when I got the band together I wanted to include them a bit more with the name – also it’s difficult for people to find me under just ‘Eleanore’ on Google! I wanted something a bit mysterious sounding and I thought of that 80s comedy/horror vampire film ‘The Lost Boys’– I didn’t want to cash in on the name so I went for ‘Eleanore & the Lost’ which sounds a bit darker, I think . My fans seem to like it and they’ve even started calling themselves ‘Losties’ on my band Facebook page!

Who’s been a role model for you?

Musically, I always cite a few people. My producer introduced me to Jeff Buckley’s music when I was around 14. I love his work, you take away the instrumentation and you’ve almost got a poem there. His music has been key in helping me develop my lyrics and inspiring me to work harder on making them more beautiful. There are also songs on my first album when I was into ‘rockier’ music and bands like Evanescence were my inspiration – I was really into the Gothic, long dark haired look then! There are other artists like Kate Bush and Bjork who can be quite hard to access and understand, but I admire their strength of character and the way they’re not afraid to experiment and be who they are – which is what I think music is really all about.

I’d also say that my mum has been a role model. Whenever I get really low and start wondering “is this worth it?” As soon as I say “I don’t want to do this anymore”, she asks me how I’d feel if I stopped – and it keeps me going. Having that support helps me remember how much I truly want this and how much I’d be denying myself, and to some extent my fans too. I’ve had fans tell me that my music has helped them with their thesis at university, or that it’s actually helped them through chemotherapy – which is quite humbling.

Have you got anything new coming up?

I feel like I’m in a really good place these days because with my second album I know who I’m aiming my music at and the sound I want to create with it, which has helped me plan how I present myself to my fanbase online and also onstage. My second album has been released in three parts (Parts I and II are already available online) with Part III due for release next year. My fans have also started asking for a CD so I’ll be making that, along with a special edition CD I have plans for. I got a new band together last year for the album promotion and I’ve really been enjoying performing with them since then. One of our gigs was at the Arts Centre which is where I debuted my first album. We were able to play our older songs along with the new ones, so you could hear how we’d evolved over the past 6-7 years.

We also recently performed at The Brighton Centre in October, which is a 4.5 thousand seat arena – I was almost swamped when I came offstage, which was amazing! I’ve now been asked to contribute to the festival CD and there are other offers in the works as a result, which is really exciting.


Eleanore and her Mum singing backing vocals for students at one of the Cranleigh Community Choir concerts

What would you say to anyone wanting to go down the same route?

I’ve realised that as the music industry has changed, I’ve had to become more than just a musician – I’ve had to become a whole business too. I’ve completed courses in online music promotion for different social media platforms and I want to do some further graphic design training because I design my merchandise and posters myself. I also do all the promoting, the costumes, the hair and makeup, the admin, and so on. You have to take on everything! The Musicians’ Union say that you can expect to be spending half your time actually running the business – and it’s true! However, you do lose all that control if you are signed, so I’d say prepare for a great number of “jobs” if you choose to be an independent artist, but also appreciate how much power you retain at the same time. It’s easy to consider becoming a world famous celebrity as having reached the ultimate, but the reality is that for lots of artists, they’ve achieved success when they’re free to creatively express themselves without limitations.

And if you could give one last piece of advice?

Obviously there are lots of things you should take into consideration, and I would probably say it is going to be tricky, but if this is really something that you want to do then don’t give up, because nothing will happen if you do that. Don’t give up because you’ve got all that potential ahead of you.

To contact Eleanore: 01483 271469

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