The following responses come from 20 year-old singer/songwriter, Elie Small. Born into a large, musical family Elie began recording professionally at the age of 13. He is influenced by artists such as John Mayer, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and Matt Nathanson. His fifth album, Dancing in the Fire, was released on September 25th and consists of ten tracks. Learn more about Elie and the new record from his responses below.
How would you describe your music to others?
I’d describe my music as an eclectic mix of pop, rock, and folk, with the intimacy of folk, the catchiness of pop, and the drive of rock.
Who and what influences your music? Why?
Some of my biggest influences are Wilco, John Mayer, and Creedence Clearwater Revival. My older brothers introduced me to these artists growing up and I’ve always aspired to write as creative songs/lyrics as them. In terms of what influences my music, definitely my life’s experiences. Everything that happens in my life finds its way into one of my songs.
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
I love watching sports (especially hockey), bingewatching shows on Netflix, playing music, and eating food. Definitely love eating food!
How often and how long do you practice?
If I’m really busy I’ll try to fit in 10 or 15 minutes here and there throughout the day. But normally I jam and work on songs for an hour or two a night.
How would you describe your writing process?
I always start writing my songs by finding a cool chord progression from messing around on my guitar. Then I’ll start singing on random words to find a melody, and then I’ll write my lyrics. Sometimes I’ll finish a whole song in an hour or two, but it can take me months to get some songs just right.
Can you talk about the inspiration behind Dancing in the Fire?
Of course! Instead of having one theme throughout the record, I like to think of Dancing in the Fire as a collection of ideas. However ambiguous some of the lyrics may be, each of the 10 tracks explain experiences I have had over the last two years of my life. The songs deal with relationships, falling in love, trust, loyalty, regret, and the idea of submitting oneself to cultural and societal norms that may not be all that healthy. The title of my record actually comes from a lyric in the opening track, Lego Girl. The lyrics go, “Your feet are running in the wild, but I know they’re never running home. And your hands are dancing in the fire, and I know I should’ve seen the smoke.” I feel that people too often buy into certain norms, like following the directions for Legos: whether it be waiting a certain amount of time before texting a guy back after a date or burying your innermost feelings in fear of people thinking you’re too emotional. I hope that those who listen to my music can challenge themselves to be curious, be passionate, and be themselves.
What is your favorite track from the upcoming record? Why?
It’s definitely hard to pick one track because there is so much hard work and different sounds on this record, but my favorite is probably No Bitter End, the last track. I started the song two years ago and when I began recording this summer it was still pretty bare bones. But one of the days while tracking the album I stepped outside and finished the song. I think No Bitter End adds a really cool rocky and ironic ending to the record.
How is your new material different from your previous releases?
I think my new material is definitely a lot more mature. I have really grown as an artist over the last couple of years and have found my voice.
Do you play covers at practices or shows? If so, which ones are your favorites?
I always play originals at shows! But I do like to jam on Redemption Song, Come on Get Higher, and Crazy Train from time to time.
What do you typically do post-gig?
Eat! I usually don’t eat much before I play because I don’t like singing on a full stomach. So after gigs, I like to get something to eat.
What image do you think your music conveys?
I like to share my stories through my music. I like to think that my music conveys the image of companionship.
What has been one of your biggest challenges?
I think my biggest challenge is keeping persistent. I didn’t have much of a voice growing up and kids were never reluctant to remind me. Before the age of 13 I released several albums on the Internet as well as a couple of videos on YouTube. I had some issues with parodies and definitely didn’t get the nicest comments on my videos. Even though music is what I love and who I am, sticking with my passion and growing as a musician has not always been easy.
What is something odd you want fans to know about you?
I don’t like peanut butter! It was my favorite food when I was younger, but one time I made a peanut butter sandwich and ate the whole thing in two bites. It made me sick. I haven’t eaten peanut butter since.
What else can we expect from Elie Small in the coming months?
You can definitely expect a lot more music! I plan on doing a couple collaborations with a few bands, possibly even some EDM. I also want to start making some acoustic videos for my songs, so definitely stay tuned for that. Otherwise, I’ll be touring all fall. I hope to see you out at one of my shows!