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 vapid, and intelligent but not cavalier. It is the idea of being soft-hearted but hard-headed that guides me in creating songs that are honest, but well-honed. It’s not normally virtuosic, perhaps understated, but masterful nonetheless. It’s song-oriented and the songs are self-examining, poetic and self-conscious. Musically, it’s harmonically interesting and often piano-based, but often steps into the territory of chamber pop in terms of composition and orchestration – it’s informed by my own discipline in jazz as well as Western classical music, and my personal study of pop music from the last 100 years.

Who do you think would most like the album?

Ship Life has elements of all these influences and so I think anyone interested in vintage or retro would enjoy listening to the record, and anyone who enjoys listening to lyrics, and listening to a story. There are elements on the album that are filmic and transporting, which, along with the storytelling element also would relate well to whoever likes a good musical. 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?

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 largely personal, but inviting and relatable, and can fulfil both the need for people to feel things in music and to have their minds awakened 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 greatest joys and influences come from the Great American Songbook, the Beatles and the Brill Building, the classic singer-songwriter era of the 70’s and film music. I particularly 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 don’t think I’m as striking or fascinating as Regina Spektor, Joni Mitchell or Yael Naim, but I would hope to be compared to their musicality and artistic merit.

I love prodigiously talented do-everything sort of people like Stevie Wonder, Todd Rundgren, Paul McCartney and Kate Bush and would love 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 remarkable sonic similarity there. 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 passionately 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 adverse to would be artists like Lady Gaga, Beyonce or Bruno Mars, where spectacle and aggressive self-belief replace, for the most part, attention to musical and lyrical integrity. Stuff that is overly commercial, overly compressed, fake, and 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, I hate with a flaming, angry passion.

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.

What’s been your defining moment in life?

I don’t think there is one!

Why do you want people to listen to your music?

I want people to listen to my music because I have made it to be worthwhile. Worth someone’s while, somewhere, who might be like me and derive a deep, memorable and powerful consolation/inspiration/fascination from listening to it. I also want people to listen to my music so that my work and my talent is recognized as being part of the deposit of great art in this world. I hope that it attracts those who I would like to work with.

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 music.