Whether or not you know the name Ella Mae Bowen now, if you’ve seen last year’s Footloose remake, you definitely remember her slow cover of “Holding Out for a Hero.” The 16-year-old country artist, working on her debut album for Big Machine (home to Taylor Swift and The Band Perry), was invited, like many artists, to submit songs for consideration for the Hunger Games soundtrack.
Having become a fan of the first book when she read it in eighth grade English, she penned “Girl on Fire” — inspired by heroine Katniss Everdeen’s nickname — with her producer Seth Bolt of the band Needtobreathe. Though it didn’t ultimately make the track list, Bowen is releasing the song to fans in the hope that those who loved the book as much as she did will enjoy it. Watch the lyric video and read what Bowen had to tell EW about producing the track below.
The song, for which Bowen also filmed an iPhone home video while in the studio, hooks you with its ethereal opening. Bowen tells EW she and Bolt described these sounds as “underwater percussion,” and they thought this contrast of fire and water was intriguing.
Then there’s her voice, which has an urgency beyond her years. “I just want that fight for something to come through when I sing,” she says. And it does, especially in the chorus: “Lover hold me/Fighter join me/Whose side are you on/Oh, when the lines are drawn/Fear that blinds me/Faith that burns me/Lost and confused/Through all the smoke and the blaze of you/The flames are getting higher/Girl on Fire.”
Bowen says it was easy for her to relate to the book. “I just remember being really inspired by the themes of fighting for love and family, the unrequited love, the strength of the girl character. She’s such a great character. It’s in a different time period, but it’s setting is like Appalachia, which is where I grew up,” says the Walhalla, S.C., native, who has now moved to Nashville. “I put myself there the best that I could. When I saw the quote ‘Girl on Fire,’ Seth and I just jumped at it, like, not only is that a great title, but it symbolizes how hard she was fighting for something.”
Bowen says her family has put a lot on the line to get her started in the music business. “I’m just starting out. I have a long way to go, have so much to figure out. But I just know I couldn’t do it without them being willing to look at the odds and just say they didn’t care, this is what God chose me to do, and fight for me to have a chance, even though I really wasn’t in a position a few short years ago to be doing any of this. I was just a student in a teeny tiny town who was struggling with self-confidence. Now I’m getting a shot at my dreams. So it’s their fight to never let me think the odds are too high against me.”
May the odds be ever in her favor.