Q&A with Eli

How would you describe your music?

In the creation of my music, my goal is usually is to be emotional, but never maudlin, and clever but not cavalier. It is the idea of being soft-hearted but hard-headed that guides me in striving to make songs that are honest and thoughtful. I’m quite song-oriented, and not really into making stuff crazy hard or trying to blow anyone away with some 7/8 crap. My ears go after things harmonically interesting and of course, I’m a pianist, so that’s where I start, but I’m all over chamber pop in terms of composition and orchestration. My own discipline in jazz as well as Western classical music, and my personal study of pop music from the last 100 years is really the soil of where my stuff springs from.

Who do you think would most like the album?

Ship Life has elements of all my influences up to this point and so I think anyone interested in vintage or retro would enjoy listening to the record…though I’d kind of hate to be branded as either of those words! Anyone who enjoys listening to lyrics, and listening to a story I’d hope would enjoy the record. People often say some songs on there are “filmic” and “transporting” – those specific words –  which I LOVE to hear! I also hear frequently it sounds like a musical…I have mixed feelings about that. My hope is also that anyone who has worked on ships could gather something of a consolation or feel a privy acknowledgement from what Ship Life describes. 

What makes you unique/different/wonderful?

Haha, WELL…I think my uniqueness might be that I have a wide net of loves and influences but also the creativity to synthesize something original – reminiscent of them, but also quite different and apart – and that I can do this with a high level of skill and musical proficiency. But still with my heart on my sleeve and my conscience pulsing through. So my songs are really personal, but (hopefully) inviting and relatable, and can fulfil both the need for people to feel things in music and to have their minds nourished by music. 

What other singers/artists inform or influence your work? / What artists are you MOST LIKE, and why? (Who might you be grouped with, or compared to?)

My favorite stuff is from the Great American Songbook, the Beatles and the Brill Building, the classic singer-songwriter era of the 70’s and film music. I love artists that are varied and gifted, but grounded in a mainstream sensibility, like Carole King, James Taylor, Hall & Oates, Paul Simon, Tom Petty. I wish I was striking or fascinating as Regina Spektor, Joni Mitchell or Kate Bush, but would at least hope to be compared to them somehow.

I love those prodigiously talented do-everything sort of people like Stevie Wonder, Todd Rundgren, Paul McCartney, and would wish to be written up as being part of that lineage. Current artists like Fleet Floxes, Benjamin Gibbard, Ed Sheeran, Pete Yorn and Tegan and Sara and John Mayer all have things I chase after and admire greatly. Anything from Radiohead/the Smashing Pumpkins to Snarky Puppy/Aaron Parks to Justin Hurwitz/Stephen Soundheim to the Roots/2 Pac could be considered influences, even if there is no apparent similarity. Sometimes it’s just the operating principle, or the attention to craft or detail that I find inspirational and that influences me to apply those things to my own music. 

What artist are you the polar opposite of, and why?

I suppose the things I really…hate..are most often the mediocre songs or artists, the ones that are celebrated for a greatness that isn’t there. It’s not as often that someone truly terrible is going to have their music floating around and so what I find myself mostly getting mad about would be artists like Lady Gaga or Bruno Mars, where spectacle and aggressive self-belief replace, for the most part, attention to musical and lyrical integrity. Stuff that is written to grab as many people as possible by their fraying heartstrings and by their broken parts, and that crams junk into where nutrition should go – that stuff really bothers me. 

What are your inspirations: in life, faith, for this CD?

This album is my usual stuff, shaped to in idea of ‘ship life’ that I have lived. So it is inspired by specific songs, sounds or genres in some places, and in some places was a great reaching out to find how to best express a song I didn’t have a sound for. It’s inspired by musicianship I’ve witness and poetry I’ve read, and is the product of the deep desire I have to embody joyful, interesting and painful experiences, feelings and observations into the form of a well-written, well-produced song. 

Why do you want people to listen to your music?

I want people to listen to my music because I’ve really poured myself into it. I want it to be worth someone’s while, somewhere, who might be like me and derive a deep, memorable and powerful consolation/inspiration/fascination from listening to it.

What’s the takeaway for people who listen to Ship Life?

I hope that people who listen to Ship Life will gain an understanding of me as a musician, especially those who have only known me all this while as only a piano player. I hope that those who listen will be inspired and occupied by the thoughts and sounds in these songs, and will be reminded of their own abandoned hopes, and reminded of their own desire for a higher standard of meaning in the songs they fill their souls with.