Welcome back to Uncharted, an Uproxx original series highlighting the best artists you haven’t heard of, yet. With the support of our friends at Honda, we are following some of the best emerging talent as they follow their dreams and make great music.
Teenagers aren’t known for their decisiveness. It’s a confusing, low-stakes period of life that lends itself well to flights of fancy and trying a bit of everything, so they can be forgiven for being a bit all over the place. But it should be known, Ellise Gitas is not your average teenager.
At only 16 years old, Gitas opted to willfully abandon the bubble that protects most teens from consequence, uprooting her life to move 500 miles away from home and pursue her dream of making pop music.
Gitas has an advantage over most kids her age, in that she knows exactly what she wants to do (and has for a while). She decided she wanted to be a singer in the first grade and hasn’t deviated from that path since.
“I did a solo performance and I’ve known that singing is what I wanted to do ever since,” Gitas said. “Once I got onstage, I loved every minute of it.”
Gitas’ mother Luna is a bit more effusive about the moment that Ellise decided to dedicate her life to singing.
“It was a full house and they gave her a standing ovation. Everybody wanted her autograph afterward,” she said.
Living with the dream for years has given Ellise a cool demeanor when it comes to the idea of leaving home several years before she can buy a pack of cigarettes. When I asked her about why she felt compelled to move to Los Angeles, Ellise’s matter-of-fact answer rings with a single-minded sense of determination.
“I wanted to pursue singing as a career,” she said. “And L.A. is the place you go to do that.”
In fact, the only thing that seemed to rattle Ellise was pitching the move to her parents.
“That was nerve-wracking,” she said. “It was hard to tell them that I wasn’t going to go the traditional route.”
Luna says that she and her husband initially wanted Ellise to go the traditional way in life: graduating high school, attending college and getting a job. But Luna felt that she couldn’t steer her daughter away from her dream, given that she had done something similar as a teen. Luna immigrated to the United States alone when she was just 15 years old.
“I did that for the same reason everyone does. I had big dreams. I wanted to come to the U.S. and start a company,” Luna said. “I couldn’t be a hypocrite and tell [Ellise] she couldn’t do something that I did when I was two years younger.”
They had one requirement for Ellise: She had to finish high school before she could move. The teenager refused to be swayed from her decision, however, testing out of high school to receive her diploma years earlier than she otherwise would. True to their word and believing strongly that Ellise could make a go of it, the Gitas braintrust allowed their daughter to head out on her own.
So far, Luna’s faith in her daughter is paying dividends. Ellise was secretly submitted to participate in Uncharted, which led to her recording with producer Chris Seefreid. Their sessions together were slow-going at first, but all that changed when Ellise realized she should write a song about her own experiences and relationship with her mother. She was a bit nervous about this at first, but eventually sent Seefreid a message carrying the germ of the new song.
“It was hard, but I had to suck it up and send him the email because I didn’t want to release something I wasn’t 100 percent attached to,” she said.
The duo reconvened with the idea of writing about Ellise’s experience and she says that “the lyrics just flowed once we had this stable idea to work from.” Those sessions ended up producing Ellise’s first single “Break Down.”
While the single has yet to be officially released, Gitas’ first track already has one superfan. After Ellise debuted the track for her mother with the backing of her high school choir, Luna admits that she can’t stop playing it.
“I listen to it every morning,” Luna said. “It’s gotten to the point where Ellise will say ‘Mom, can you not play the song again?’ ”
Already a fan? Have a listen to the finished track for “Break Down” and follow the ascent of this aspiring artist on any of her social channels.