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Get to Know the Singing Duo, TheEllewan

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Editor's Note: Introducing indie music duo, TheElleWan. In this feature, we learn about Michelle and Erwan's music origins, ambitions, creative music making processes, and some of the challenges they have faced. We have posted some of their videos below (including their RB Jingle), but to find out more about them, check out their YouTube channel. They are on Instagram too.

Have you known each other for a while? Any hobbies?
We’ve been schoolmates since high-school. We did A-levels together at Maktab Duli and then Universiti Brunei Darussalam for our degrees. Michelle did Linguistics and Erwan did Professional Communications.

One hobby we both share is that we like to make music, play music, and listen to music! But personally, I (Michelle) like reading and watching YouTube videos - real regular stuff. I actually like watching documentaries a lot. The odder the better, like sci-fi or weird creatures from the sea.

When did your interest for music begin?

Our interest in music started way before we met each other. We both come from very talented, musically inclined families. It was natural for us to drift towards music on our own. Erwan and I both can play the guitar and a little bit of the piano, and we do dabble in other instruments like drums and pan flute. Odd I know!

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When did you decide to pursue music and how did you come up with the name 'TheEllewan'?

We were jamming in Maktab Duli during our A-levels in 2011 and just thought, why not try our luck and start a band and a YouTube channel together!? We didn’t think it would get this far actually, to the point where we would get gigs an actually produce our own songs! It’s been a crazy ride so far!

The name ‘TheEllewan’ came about by accident, well, by default actually. We originally wanted to go by our own names ‘Erwan and Michelle’ but when we signed up for YouTube, that name was already taken. ‘TheEllewan’ was one of the suggested names. It has stuck with us since! By the way! It’s pronounced 'the-elle-one' not 'the-ellie-one'! 

A trademark of TheEllewan is our mash-up of covers. We do write our own songs, but we got inspired by Youtubers before us for mash-ups to give different dimensions to the songs. On top of that, we are writing originals and boy, is that a process in and of itself.

Tell us about one of your earlier performances.

Our first ever performance was for a Telbru event and actually Aziz Harun’s manager Bahzi Damit got it for us; great guy by the way! This was all before Aziz’s rise to the music scene. And we remember it quite well because we were so nervous to be on the JP Amphitheater stage, hands shaking and boy did we fake our coolness!

There were about 20-30 people in the audience and when we got on stage we just sang our heart out, with feedback deafening us, it was actually an awesome first performance!

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Tell us about the process you go through when writing music.

When it comes to covers, we kinda just go with what song really stuck with us that week or if we hear a cool song that we like. We’ll just text one another and say, ‘Hey, let’s cover this!’ But of course it isn’t always organized. There are many hours of just trying out songs and it failing horribly with me (Michelle) being irritated with the process and Erwan being cool and collected. You can tell who the more emotional one is! When it comes to writing originals, we both have different styles of writing and inspiration.

I think between the two of us, we have written hundreds of songs but because they were written at a particular time in our life, we may not pursue completing the songs. Actually, the best songs we’ve written so far stem from really tough seasons in our lives. I guess it helps, to write down what you’re feeling, get it out of your system and make it beautiful.

What are some of the challenges faced trying to get in the music industry?

One of the challenges we faced was finding out how we were going to do it. We knew about YouTube but you don’t get paid for videos in Brunei. Then there is the question of what sort of songs to do. It really made us think about who we are and more importantly, who we wanted to be. And honestly, to this day, we’re still figuring out. Someone once told us that this industry is an industry of rejection and we’re no stranger to that. But we think that if you have a dream and it means something to you, you just have to do something about it.

Any future plans for TheEllewan?

We launched our first original song ‘Maybe’ a couple of months ago and wow, it is surreal to hear it played on the radio! We’re planning on writing and producing more original music in the near future. We will also do more gigs and concerts, whether here or overseas. Overall, we just want to inspire people through what we do. Hopefully to encourage them to do something about that dream of theirs. We’re just a couple of ordinary people who have a passion and it’s great that we get to do what we love.

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Any final words for your fans or future fans?

Yes! For those who know us and those who don’t, we believe that you are capable of so much. Your dreams and passions aren’t small or insignificant. If something matters to you, pursue it. Work hard for it. Don’t let the fear of failure or rejection hold you back. We’re so thankful for the many friends we have who have been supporting us from day one and now as we’re moving towards a new chapter, we’re exciting to see what’s going to happen next! We love you Brunei, dream big!

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