The Voice winner's Clarence connection

WINNER’S CIRCLE: from left, Anissa and David Drennan, son William, 11, Ellie, 16, The Voice judge Jessie J, and big brother Harry, 19.
WINNER’S CIRCLE: from left, Anissa and David Drennan, son William, 11, Ellie, 16, The Voice judge Jessie J, and big brother Harry, 19.

WHILE the nation certainly got to know 16-year-old Ellie Drennan and her powerful vocal range over the past few weeks as she smashed her way through the gruelling competition that is The Voice, those in the know in Maclean were doubly excited to see the talented and confident 'beyond her years' teenager be crowned the 2015 winner.

Ellie's mum Anissa Drennan grew up in Maclean, part of the well known Lewis family.

Her grandparents Fred and Pearlie ran the family store on River St for more years than Anissa can remember "it was the first grocery store in Maclean" and her parents, the late Peter, who was a well known face at the Maclean Post Office, and Judy, who is now based on the central coast along with Anissa, was a nurse at Maclean Hospital.

And while the family hasn't resided in Maclean for quite a few years, Anissa said her family always drives through their old hometown whenever they are passing by.

"Ellie's seen my grandparents' house and the shop where we used to live (next door) and the primary school and up to the lookout. We always stop at the fish co-op and get prawns there."

Anissa went to St Joseph's in Maclean along with her sibling Suzanne, Bernadette and Adrian and St Mary's College which became Catherine McAuley College in her final year.

"I was school captain the first year the name changed. That's my only claim to fame," she laughs.

Now as the mum of Australia's latest singing sensation Anissa said they were still coming to terms with the whole experience.

"We really didn't expect it to happen. There were such great singers in the competition and even though we thought she had a good voice, all parents think their children are fantastic so you feel a bit biased."

She said during the competition they "just hung back a bit" always thinking they could be going home this week. "But then it was oh my god she got through."

Anissa said Ellie had never won big competitions before, competing in "little things around the Central Coast" until she took the plunge on national television.

She said Ellie has been taking lessons since she was 12 but had known her daughter could sing from age 5.

"She wouldn't do it in front of us. She would go into her room and we had to sit in the lounge or dining room and listen through the wall. That's how intimated she felt. Now look at her."

Anissa said the scholarship Ellie won to the Gina Jeffries Talent School was one of the reasons she seemed so confident for her age. "It helped her learn about getting up on stage. Her singing teacher was fantastic too but she was so nervous for her during The Voice we had to get a vomit bag for her."

Anissa said Ellie and the family has worked hard as a team and put the time in for her to reach this high point.

"Our life has been her singing, weddings, engagement parties, markets, she very rarely had a weekend off," Anissa said.

"But we never went into it thinking she would be this successful. We thought long and hard about putting her at 16 into such an intimidating environment.

"The public can ridicule so easily now. Social media can be cruel but her maturity shocked me a little bit. She handled it all so well."

Team Drennan will be out in force again as Ellie gets into The Voice winner-mode with the album launch and Westfield tour, which kicked off yesterday in Sydney, where "she will sing a couple of songs and do a meet and greet in all the capital cities."

Anissa and her husband Dave will "juggle work" to help Ellie keep her commitments. "Thankfully we both have great employers."

She said Ellie will spend the next 12 months writing more songs with another album likely in the next year.

"It's been great to get lots of messages of support from my friends in Grafton and Maclean. The whole thing's just surreal. We still can't believe it. It's surprising, exciting and a bit intimidating all wrapped up in one."

Topics:  clarence valley the voice

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