Ellis then went to university in Melbourne, where he studied classical violin.
He has also composed film scores with Nick Cave. Ellis plays violin, piano, bouzouki, guitar, flute, mandolin, tenor guitar, and viola. He learned classical violin and flute at school in Ballarat.
After that he then worked briefly as a schoolteacher in country Victoria.
In January 1988 he travelled to Europe, where he busked in Greece, Hungary, Scotland and Ireland. A year later he returned to Australia.
Ellis then wrote music for theatre groups and performed at art openings and plays in Melbourne, before he started playing in bands in the early nineties. In 1995, Ellis was invited to play with Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds on a recording.
He remained with the band and continues to play and record with the Bad Seeds, and Grinderman, formed as a spin-off group from the Bad Seeds, who have released two albums.
In 2002, Ellis released a solo album on King Crab records called Three Pieces for Violin. Since 2005 he has played on several Marianne Faithfull albums, and collaborated with Nick Cave exclusively. The two composed the award-winning score of the film The Proposition, and then collaborated again on the scores of The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, The Road and Far from Men.
In 2009, Nick Cave & Warren Ellis released White Lunar – an album that includes other soundtrack scores.
Cat Power" album You Are Free violin on "Good Woman"
The Blackeyed Susans" album All Souls Alive
Kim Salmon"s album Hey Believer
David McComb"s album Love of Will
"Hell"s Coming Down" from the Primal Scream album Riot City Blues
Slight Delay album by Loene Carmen
Also performed with the Chicago burlesque queen Maya Sinstress in early 2000
"Crazy Love" by Marianne Faithfull/Nick Cave, with Isabelle Huppert on Before the Poison (2005)
Theo Hakola"s album Drunk Women and Sexual Water (2008)
Jim Yamouridis" album Into the Day (2011)
Pirate Jenny with Shilpa Ray and Nick Cave on Son of Rogues Gallery: Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs & Chanteys (2013). Marianne Faithfull album Give My Love to London (2014)
Film and theatre scores with Nick Cave
Woyzeck, theatre score (2005), adaptation by Gísli Örn Gardarsson
The Proposition, soundtrack (2005)
Metamorphosis, theatre score (2006)
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, soundtrack (2007)
The English Surgeon, soundtrack (2007)
The Road, soundtrack (2009)
The Girls of Phnom Penh, soundtrack (2009)
Lawless soundtrack (2012).
Days Of Grace, soundtrack (2012)
West of Memphis: Voices Foreign Justice, soundtrack (2013)
Loin des Hommes, soundtrack (2015)
Mustang, soundtrack (2015).
He is a member of several groups: Dirty Three, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds and Grinderman. Ellis has been a member of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds since 1994.