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Regan McDonnell

January 02, 2020
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Nashville based singer-songwriter Drew Elliott released the new video for his single “Drive” on January 2nd, 2020.  RX Music caught up with the artist to discuss the video as well as his debut EP, From Bonfires. 

 

RX Music: Belated congratulations on the release of From Bonfires, your first EP which came out in October.  How have you been feeling about the work’s reception so far?

Drew Elliott: Thank you so much man.  Things have been great.  I honestly went in with no expectations for this, I just wanted to make something that I thought I hadn’t really heard before and get some lyrics on paper of experiences from the past couple years.  The reception has been really, really great.  There are people listening in cities I’ve never been to and reaching out from countries I’ve never been to and it’s really insane.  It’s awesome.

RX: Having grown up in the Pittsburgh area and now operating out of Nashville, what influence did the change of scenery have on your writing and overall musicianship?

DE: I grew up near Pittsburgh, in a suburb called Bethel Park and moved to Nashville in 2014 to pursue business degree at Belmont University.  I went to a high school that was decently big, it was around 2000 students maybe, and we had a really good music wing and music department, but there was only a handful of students who played guitar and wrote songs.  Then when I got down to Nashville.  It was like everybody has an album, everybody was insanely talented, and so it was definitely a change of pace from what I was used to growing up in.

RX: And I guess people around you can help push you, right?

DE: Absolutely.  When I got to Belmont I wanted to do a guitar major, but I knew going into a performance degree, in my case, probably wasn’t the best idea.  I didn’t entirely know what I wanted to do but being surrounded by and befriending a lot of performance majors allowed me to learn a lot about the guitar that I’d never had the chance to before.  I was surrounded by a lot of incredible songwriters who are now touring the country, and to be able to go to Belmont with them and just watch from a distance – learn and be a sponge in a sense, I feel that was definitely very beneficial.

RX: Speaking to your guitar playing, from your website’s bio and your Instagram account, your appreciation of AC/DC throughout your youth is well documented.  Your music has gone in a pretty different direction from the early Angus Young inspiration – would you have ever guessed your writing would stray away from hard rock stuff into more pop-oriented sensibilities?

DE: I picked up the guitar when I was nine years old.  My brother handed me the AC/DC High Voltage record and in older brother fashion just commanded ‘learn this, do it’.  I had no idea what a guitar amp was or a guitar pedal or anything, but I listened to CD and instantly loved it.

There was a guitar store down the street that I would ride my bike to every now and then, so I was picking stuff up there and got obsessed with AC/DC primarily, as well as Ozzy Osbourne, Def Leppard – you know, all the 80s rock and roll metal stuff, and dug that for years until middle school when I realized that rock and roll wasn’t really a popular thing in middle school in 2010.  Then I started getting into the blues and more of the pop style singer-songwriter stuff.

I worked at a country club for about three years; on my home I’d pass a Walmart, and I had a 6-CD player in my car…

RX: Those were the days…

DE: Haha, yeah.  There was a $5 section in the Walmart, and I would go in to buy CDs once a week.  I would do this thing where I’d grab a random CD if I thought the album art was cool, and one of them was Mat Kearney, his album Young Love. I had never heard of him before and I start playing his album in my car on the way home.  There was guitar in it still, but there was this pop sensibility to it and the synths and all these other things going, and I felt like, ‘why have I never heard of this guy before?’.

I started learning from people like Mat Kearney, as well as Coldplay and John Mayer, who had light rock elements but also blended genres.  Copeland and Andrew Belle are other great artists like that who inspired me.

RX: With that in mind, you first gained some attention in 2018 with your cover of Snow Patrol’s “Chasing Cars”.  I now understand the light rock and roll with pop sensibilities inspirations, but are there any specific reasons you felt that cover would be the right choice to help establish your identity as an artist?

DE: At that point in time I was just trying to work on my vocals.  Singing had always been a bit of a struggle for me.  I definitely wasn’t born with that natural talent.  I was really trying to figure out how to best articulate my voice to be listenable.  Initially I was writing songs, but I really wanted to test something out, so I set up a little home studio in my apartment and started finding some popular songs that everybody knew, and eventually landed on “Chasing Cars”.  I always thought it would be a great duet.  I hit up a friend in town that wanted to start producing; we went into The Smoakstack in Nashville and decided to give it a shot.  I showed him the little demo I made and then he took that and got personnel and stuff and it came out as that little cover.  It was definitely more of a ‘testing the waters’ to see if people like my voice, because I didn’t know.

RX: Well, rest assured your vocals are sounding pretty good to me, the efforts seem to be paying off.

DE: Thank you.

RX: For this record, you worked with producer Jason Wozniak.  How did the two of you first meet and what was the writing and recording process like between you?

DE: We met at Belmont in freshman year.  It was only a couple times that we met, never had really hung.  He was in a band called Constellations and they were playing shows all over Nashville.  I would go to his shows and I would walk up to the stage before the set started and I’d be looking at their pedal boards, drilling them with questions because I had no idea how to work a pedal board.  Fast forward three or four years later, I was scrolling through Instagram stories aimlessly and I come across Jason.  I could see the computer screen in his home studio, and I could see all these tracks lined up on the screen, and then I looked at my computer screen and I had only four or five tracks.  I thought, okay I’m doing something wrong because his stuff sounds incredible and my stuff is kind of bare.  I randomly texted him after not talking for years and said, ‘hey, do you mind if I shadow you?’, and he said ‘yeah, absolutely’.

We had two sessions of him teaching me how to better use Logic, the digital audio workstation.  Things were clicking pretty well, we ended up co-writing and the first song we worked on together became “Love & Prozac”.  That’s when I looked at him and said ‘I would love for you to produce my record’.  So that’s what started the relationship.  Coming in to November of 2018, we would go into the studio and one of us would have an idea and we would start from scratch there, or I would bring in a demo I created from my home studio and we would then bounce off that and work to make the song.  That’s basically how the whole record was made.

RX: It’s funny how things like that happen, some guy whose pedal board you were peeping, and now years later…

DE: Yeah, you can never plan these things, man.

RX: The video for your latest single “Drive”, directed by Joey Brodnax has a bit of a narrative approach to its storytelling.  Was this concept and style dreamt up by your own feelings for the song, or was this decision made on the part of the director?

DE: The music video for “Drive” was something I came to Joey with, the idea of having a storyline within the music video, but still being a bit more of a visual.  The song “Drive” is essentially about a night I had during the recording of From Bonfires – the song was written the day after the events of that night, so I knew I wanted to communicate that experience through music and visuals.

I brought that idea to Joey, who is just one of the most instinctive, incredible videographers I’ve met in Nashville.  I think we spent 10 hours on this music video and that was it.  Just one night, 10 hours straight.  He would come up with things on the fly, bringing up different ideas.  He brought in the idea of choreography as well.  I never expected having a dancer in the music video, but we got my friend Teck Sokic, who is the lead in the video, to do some light choreography.  It turned out to be something that I never would have expected but the storyline itself is something I was definitely aiming for.

Honestly so much credit to Joey and Teck for putting that all together and knocking it out of the park for 10 hours straight, as well as to Ashlynn Tierney for the beautiful choreography.

RX: What’s next for Drew Elliott?

DE: 2020, man.  We’ve got some alternate versions of songs coming out, as well as the music video.  Really for 2020 my main goal is to be playing out in cities I’ve never been to before.  We’ve got some stops planned out in February for a little mini tour.  This is my first time booking and touring with other artists and I’m not quite sure what to expect but I’m excited to see how it goes.

RX: I’m sure you’ll kill it and I hope that if you ever make it north of the border, you’ll be letting us know.

DE: Absolutely man, I really hope to make it out there at some point.