Could you tell us a bit about yourself? Where are you from?
My name is Dominic Ellerbee, I am 19 and I was born and raised in Denver, CO. My mom had me at 17 and shortly after I was born my father, who had 2 other children at this time with another woman, went to prison for about 10 years on an attempted murder charge.
I never really liked music in general other than Eminem and 50 cent until I was 13 or so. I started playing music when I was 14 after falling in love with Guitar Hero 3 and Metallica. I got my first bass on February 4th, 2011 and from then until I summer 2012 all I played and listened to was 80’s Thrash Metal (Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer, Anthrax, etc).
During the summer of 2012 I fell in love with my first girlfriend, who played the viola and could read music and write it. I was so impressed by this and admittedly a little jealous I decided to learn some music theory myself. I started studying from books, and YouTube videos, and over time I taught myself everything I know.
By my senior year of high school, I had written a full length musical, directed a 9 piece jazz/classical ensemble, had 3 different bands, been in the citywide orchestra, band, and jazz band for 3 years, and taught all of the music classes in my school including advanced choir, marching band, jazz band, guitar, piano, and drum line. I also played the national anthem on guitar at my senior homecoming football game and also performed at the homecoming dance during the slow dance portion. I attended The Berklee College of Music on a nice $10,000 scholarship, but was unable to afford my second semester as the remainder of my first semester was payed by my ex girlfriend’s mother, who would not and could not pay for my second semester. I returned home in February of this year and put all of my work into my songwriting and band music.
How was your life growing up?
My life was very hard. We’ve never had money, we’ve always had to borrow some from my grandma or family friends. When my sister was born in 2001 things just got harder. I was always an outcast as a child, often times pretending to be someone I’m not so people would like me. It wasn’t until high school that I really found myself and fit in with people. During high school and college I could never go out and do anything with anyone that required money because we never had any. But I had some great friends when I first started and that led to them paying for me or us just hanging out and bonding.
Where do you find motivation to persevere?
Most of my motivation comes from my mom. I am 19 and I am struggling even living with my mom currently. When I lived on my own in Boston (I stayed in a house not the dorms) when my mom was 17 she was self sufficient on her own. She persevered and raised me with care and kindness and made me what I am today. Whenever she was weak she picked herself back up for me. Another part of my motivation is to help my family get out of this mess. We live in a gang filled neighborhood, we are poor, we eat one meal a day almost everyday, we have nothing really. I just want to make this album and this music, because I know I have something to give, I just need a platform to show people.
What sparked your interest in music?
Guitar Hero 3, but more specifically Metallica’s Bassist Cliff Burton. He was so pro and made the bass act as a lead instrument, this style of playing is what I initially fell in love with, and then I just learned as much as I could.
What do you like most about creating music?
Expressing what cannot be expressed through words, also writing lyrics is fun to me. I dream one day of having them analyzed or quoted. My life goal is to write a song or an album that someone uses to help get them through a hard time in their life. The Strokes entire discography did this for me.
Where do you find inspiration to play?
Inspiration comes to me all of the time. In my sleep, in every waking second I spend, even as I type this I am taking periodic breaks writing and composing new music. I love hearing new sounds, harmonies, but most importantly, a full piece of music. I love hearing how each instrument or rhythm compliments each other. In all styles of music, I love the storytelling capabilities, I love everything about it.
What is Stella Nova? How did it come to be?
Stella Nøva is a product of my old best friend Jordan and I’s culmination of sounds over the years. It started in 2013 when we formed our first band “Grand Central”. This was a mix of 2 guitars, 4 vocalists, 1 rapper, A drummer, one trumpet, one alto saxophone, and a bassist. This was our 9 piece Jazz/Classical ensemble that performed pieces written by me, including Jazz tunes, classical arias, and excerpts from symphonies I had started work on. That evolved into a sort of trio lineup in early 2015 as most of the members left to form their own projects, or gone to college. Our new lineup was more of a garage Rock/Funk mix with a drummer, bassist, and me playing guitar and singing. Once again I was the sole writer for everything and all parts. Later in the year our bassist (my old best friend) learned enough about the bass to write his own parts. I left in the summer for school and our band was on hiatus.
When I returned this February, I came back depressed because of school and a year long relationship that had just ended, and I had lost my job and therefore my house in Boston also. When I arrived back home I decided to get the band back together and become more serious about my writing. We renamed ourselves “Stella Nøva” (The ø represents a planet with rings on it’s axis because I am a huge space nerd, “Stella Nova” in latin means “New Star” so it was sort of our new flame.) We added another guitar to our mix again but we had trouble securing a drummer, so this whole year we have been cycling through drummers in all the performances we’ve done. In June and July my best friend and I had a falling out, and the other guitarist was too stressed with work and depression that he had to quit the band. I was left alone.
Now Stella Nøva is just me. It’s going to stay that way now because everyone I’ve ever cared about has left me, or not gone on this ride with me. It sucks, but I know that I can do this. I know I have something to offer, I’m more than just a singer or songwriter. I have so many ideas and musical abilities. I can write anything that I am given, I’ve written solo guitar/bass/drum solos. I’ve written duets for voice, Doo Wop tunes, classical symphonies, arias, concertos, suites, anything jazz you can imagine, Metal songs, Country songs. I make beats, I rap, I am a slam poet, I’ve written for as many as 22 and anything that I am challenged with I can create.
What kind of music do you create?
As stated before I create anything that I can I set my mind to. But for Stella Nova I create an effective mix of trap and indie music. I am heavily influenced by The Strokes. and TheAarctic Monkeys. while also taking advice from the Beatles’, Queen, and Led Zeppelin discographies, but dancing and getting down to Lil Yachty, Desiigner, Drake and others. I wanted to create music that would appeal to almost every audience. Which is what the album is, and it’s why I need to fund my kick starter and make it, every song on it stands out and compliments the others, they all tell one united story. I don’t create this music by using electronic drums and rapping over guitar riffs or anything like that. Rather I look at everything on a musical level and figure out a way to apply it using whatever instrumentation I am given. In this case I am given 2 guitars, a bass, drums, and up top 4 different vocal parts. For example, the “Old School Radio” drum beat is an altered version of the “Minnesota Remix” beat from Lil Yachty. But I am not using trap background ambience or electronic drums or ad libs or anything, instead I looked at what the beat looks like on sheet music (downbeat on 1, upbeat on 3, altered upbeats on 2 and 4) and filled in the rest with what I thought would fit the song most. I apply this principal to all music I write in Stella Nova.
Can you describe “Old School Radio”?
“Old School Radio” is the 10th track on my debut album “The Party” and the song by itself describes the struggles of a long term [and] long distance relationship. I wanted to give it a happy and upbeat feel ( running bass line, major chord emphasis, dance trap drum beat) but fill it with melancholy lyrics. The first line “I said girl I’m yours to keep, but the separation from your love is killing me, so I keep sip sipping on that syrup like it’s tea/ you know I can’t wait ’till the day, autumn symphony” describes me explaining that I am hers. It’s just hard, and I use drugs (Lean, cough syrup) to forget and numb my pain. Then bringing it back with “I can’t wait ’till the day’ meaning waiting until the day we see each other again. I follow the Strokes’ example in “Someday” and “Hey Ya” by Outkast to showcase the upbeat music but sad lyrics. I love writing songs that mean more than what they seem on the surface, another song of mine “Color in Black and White” explains this principle on a broader level. I also play all of the instruments and have written all of the parts.
What are your songs about and who are they for?
Well, my songs are about a lot of things. A lot of the music I write these days is to deliver a commentary on the state of the world today, and then some songs are purely for the rhythms and danciness of it all. Others are more personal and tell a story I heard or want to tell. For Stella Nova however, I have come up with what I hope will start a revolution in the evolution of musical storytelling. I am a huge nerd, I love astronomy, superheroes, comics, video games and anything else you can think of. I say this because I watch a lot of Marvel movies, and a lot of film in general. One thing I think was a beautiful evolution was the Marvel cinematic universe [because] marvel created a whole alternate universe and world alongside ours. I mean star wars did this too, [and] so does everything else, but not the way marvel does it. Marvel made some movies (Iron man, Hulk) and decided to make more like Captain America and Thor. They all met in one huge mega successful movie The Avengers and the story continues on.
I loved this so much I decided to take the idea and apply it to music. I want to make this album, and this album will tell a story, but there will be supplemental material following it. Comics, graphic novels, short films, continuous music videos and more will expand the lore of the world and the story I am trying to tell. The album itself tells the story of a boy and a girl who fall in love at a party, but the girl is in an abusive relationship and is being held back by her abuser, and the boy is stuck in drug and alcohol addiction which he uses to numb himself from the pains and sorrows of everyday living. But the story is the tale of them finding each other and healing each other and teaching each other lessons and self worth that they need to continue living their lives and not become so self destructive, The moral of the story is that they end up splitting up, but they need to get out there and love again, no matter how bad something is, never ever give up on it, or the idea, always fight for what you believe in, no matter the cost, or past mistakes you’ve made.
What makes you different as a musician from the others out there?
There are varying levels of musicians out there, some being your everyday musician who just play music for the hell of it, there are those who are professionals who do it for money. Then there are those who I can never compare to, who put their personal tales, and hearts, and feelings, and souls into their songs. The musicians who scream, cry, smile, make you feel their pain in the music. I don’t know where I fall to tell you the truth, sure I can do a lot of playing and I know a lot of music theory, but I’ve seen 10 year olds play better than I ever could, I’ve seen 65 year olds write songs about their entire lives, I’ve seen people my same age do what I can and more, or do what I can and a little less. In truth I think what really sets me apart is that I have a story to tell, not just personal, not only from what I see, not only from what I’ve done, but I have a whole universe in my head, and I want to share it with the world.
How do you plan to progress as a musician?
I am going to keep practicing, and writing, and performing. When I practice, I practice hard. I never stop listening to other music, there are so many ideas and sounds out there that I love to learn, analyze and figure out how they work. I am just in love with music and the study of sound in general. Books like The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russel about the first contact with an alien species being through music is my daily dream. I constantly write and rewrite my songs to make them more honest, more fitting, more able to get what I’m trying to say out there. If I am unsuccessful in my campaign, I will never stop working to achieve what I want. I need to get my family out of this pain and this sorrow. My music I believe, will take us there.
What advice do you have for others who are facing adversity?
Never stop dreaming. Never stop fighting. Focus on yourself, help those you care about, and most importantly of all have faith in yourself, and love yourself.
Check out his Kickstarter Campaign here
Photo credit: Dreamer Loop