by Kimberly Shires
Eli Lev’s third EP, Deep South, is released December 13th, just in time for the holiday season. You can stream Deep South through your favorite service or through this link:
Deep South is the third puzzle piece to Eli’s Four Directions Project, which started with All Roads East and Way Out West. Eli likes to describe Deep South as a great little road trip album with a more energetic and full sound than his previous EPs. Eli Lev is one of Washington D.C.’s acclaimed new artists and wows audiences with his positive energy, sense of humor, roots sound, and Native American flute styling.
Eli worked with three different studios and four co-writers while creating Deep South. All studios are located in the DMV and include House Music Group in DC, Blue House Productions in MD
and Austin Bello in VA.
Eli thought to himself, “How am I going to keep a sound with three studios and four different co-writers?” As it turns out, all of the tracks are about some form of movement. Eli says, “It took me a little bit to figure out the order ‹of the songs›, but once I cracked the code, it flows.” Eli is a little old school and still appreciates listening to an entire album, which is one of the reasons why he put so much thought into the order of his record.
Eli really leaned into the idea of collaboration for Deep South. He tells us, “The first song I ever recorded, which was ‘Chasing Daylight’”, which he co-wrote with Austin Bello. Eli continues “Co-writing was what got me the grand prize in the Mid-Atlantic song competition.” After that success and after achieving his own personal growth as a writer, Eli figured it was time to really explore what collaboration could deliver. Eli co-wrote “Anywhere We can Go” with Jay Stolar, “On the Run” with Brendan Lane, “To the Stars” with Dan Strauss and “Walking Away” with his original collaborator, Austin Bello, which they wrote and recorded in just two days. Eli gains a lot of energy from collaboration and notes, “The funny thing about that, these songs are more me than ever. It’s me but me in different ways that I would not have necessarily gotten to on my own.”
The process of co-writing has taught Eli a little bit about himself as a songwriter. He says, “I have learned that lyrics are incredibly important to me. If I don’t feel a line, I can’t sing it. If it doesn’t resonate with me, I can’t do it.” Eli continues, “I have also learned to trust people’s ears and their direction and to incorporate that into my own process. It makes me a stronger songwriter.” Co-writing helps Eli apply a new slant on subjects and provides a more complete picture when articulating the tone of a theme.
After self-funding his first two records, Eli decided to try Kickstarter for his third EP. The album was largely complete by the time the Kickstarter was successfully funded by 110%. Eli says, “I like Kickstarter because if you don’t reach your goal, you don’t get anything. I like that kind of fire.” Eli adds, “It was amazing just to connect with people and reach out and see who really wants to see me succeed.” Eli’s Inner Circle group really helped to shape the program by creating the merchandise options, which will be sent out soon.
2019 marked the year that Eli Lev headed out on his “Anywhere We Can Go” tour. Eli was joined by Megan Leigh during the tour. The pair performed 30 shows in 33 days to hundreds of people all across the country. Eli and Megan performed everywhere from living rooms and backyards for house concerts to coffee shops, restaurants, casinos, bars and ticketed events, such as Sofar Sounds. The name of the tour comes from one of the title tracks on the new EP. Eli jokes, “We like to repurpose things”. This tour taught Eli that gigging throughout the country is just a feasible as playing in his hometown. This was the first time that Eli toured out West and got to play for many of his friends and family.
Eli and Megan Leigh were on the move, spending only one night in each city. Eli says, “Our main job was just to keep ourselves in good body and mind working order. Like if you eat the wrong thing, there goes two days.” Eli adds, “Being a singer, if something goes wrong, people can tell right away. First thing was hydrating, so we had two gallons of water in the car all the time.” Fueled by grain bowls, vitamin C packets and minimal alcohol, they managed to keep healthy. Eli also tried to do a morning run every few days and maintained a short morning meditation. Eli says, “It’s really good to disconnect from the constant movement.” He generally tries to maintain healthy habits such a banning his smart phone from the bedroom and keeping up with healthy eating and mindfulness.
During the tour, Eli and Megan took a one-day break each week to keep their piece of mind and just stop moving. Eli notes, “The wheels keep turning and you can feel the road in your head.” The duo tried to fit in a few state parks and some awesome landscapes such as Big Sur in California and the Garden of the Gods in Colorado. The tour hit a high point as they drove into San Diego from the mountains of Flagstaff. Eli says, “It was really nice to feel like we made it from the other coast.”
Going forward, Eli says, “2020 is going to be massive”. Eli has an international tour planned through Iceland, England, Ireland, France, Spain and Andorra. 2020 will also mark the year that The Four Directions Project will be completed. Eli is incubating the ideas for the final EP where he plans to lean into his more acoustic singer/songwriter sensibilities. Eli says, “There’s this huge ocean” of inspiration that has welled up during the tour.
All and all, 2019 has been a good year for Eli Lev. From Kickstarter to the west coast tour to the album release, Eli concludes, “It was a really good flow.”
Kimberly Shires is a producer and owner of Hear Me Roar Studio. She is a multi-instrumentalist and songwriter who is passionate about empowering women to express themselves through music. Outside of music she enjoys hiking, biking and snuggling with her dog. Kimberly has called the DMV home her whole life.
Flow-bending artist aSanTIS discusses art, culture, and whether sound can solve the world’s problems in celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month.
My interview with Amy Santis aka aSanTIS began in the most unexpected way. The Maryland-based flow-bending artist and lyrical storyteller came prepared to engage in conversation around questions I had posed – and she also brought one or two of her own thoughtful prompts based on her curiosities around my view of learning.
This practice of taking in her surroundings deeply through observation and inquiry has come naturally to aSanTIS ever since she was a young child. In terms of her early starts in music, she notes that she began as a discerning listener. “Just listening to music from my mom, on the radio, just being a consumer in the world of sound. But I think mainly, my mom has always loved dancing and listening to music, so that was sort of like second nature. We play music at gatherings, we play music in the car, and these songs are sort of like diaries that take us into a specific place.”
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