The 1993 comedy classic Groundhog Day has always been on Eugene native hip-hop artist Marv Ellis’ mind. But as life under quarantine went on, the movie about a TV news reporter living the same day over and over started to feel a little more real.
“I don’t know about you, but I’ve been living the same day on repeat,” he posted Feb. 2 on Facebook to announce the release of his newest song, “Groundhog Day.”
Ellis tells Eugene Weekly he’s had writer’s block during the pandemic, and his new release not only explores it but also pays homage to the movie of the same name.
Ellis remembers talking on the phone with a friend about the cyclical nature of his life during COVID-19 and how he was frustrated that he hadn’t been writing or recording as much music as he hoped. “I didn’t know what I wanted to write about, but I wanted to make a song,” he says.
When he’s feeling stuck from writer’s block, he says he usually writes about it. “In this case, ‘Groundhog Day’ is what came out.” He adds that after listening to what he recorded, he realized the similarities and tragic beauty of his situation. “My process of creation is self therapy,” he says.
The beat to “Groundhog Day” is a hooky four-beat looped bass riff. Ellis says when he hit the studio to defeat his writer’s block, that was the beat he chose because of its repetition. “Like Groundhog Day,” he adds. He took his dogs on a walk to craft the melody. He returned to the studio to record kazoos over the bass to reinforce the beat and then worked on the lyrics in the studio for about two hours.
He says “Groundhog Day” was just a fun song that he shared with his inner circle. With the namesake holiday around the corner, he decided to release the song on the day. Ellis is a member of the Free Creatures, which includes his fiancee, Emily Turner, on upright bass and Skyler Squglio on guitar. The trio recorded the music for the song, and it was on its way for release on Punxsutawney Phil’s big day.
Two weeks before Groundhog Day, Ellis worked with director Daniel Favela to shoot a music video. The video pays homage to Groundhog Day the movie — he dresses up like Bill Murray’s character and he says he even bought the same model clock on eBay that was used in the movie.
In the video, he’s wearing T-shirts for local organizations, from Arcimoto to KWVA 88.1 FM. Ellis says he chose 15 T-shirts to fit into a theme. “Verse one was the now, having coffee, waking up. Verse two was musical history, in my studio, being creative,” he says. “Verse three was Bill Murray, and verse four was contentment and peace.”
A lot has been written about the movie Groundhog Day (such as estimating how many days Murray’s character lived through, why he got stuck in the loops, and so on). Ellis says he sees the changes of the character through seasons: “He plays, then he’s angry, then he’s morbid, and then he’s reborn,” he says. “Altruism is the key to his escape.”
As for how society can break through what feels like an ongoing loop since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Ellis says if we can follow with Murray’s character’s changes, we can make it through the hard times. “I know we would,” he adds.
Marv Ellis’ “Groundhog Day” music video is on YouTube, and the song is available on all major streaming services.