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The Sound

Chad Elliott, the tireless troubadour

2/27/2013

Chad Elliott’s CD-release event will be presented by The GrapeVine on Saturday, March 2. See Sound Notes for details.

Chad Elliott’s CD-release event will be presented by The GrapeVine on Saturday, March 2. See Sound Notes for details.

Chad Elliott’s route to professional music should serve as a parable to aspiring musicians on the importance of creating your own opportunity.

“I was going to school for art, and all my roommates were all musicians,” he said. “They had a guitar sitting there, so I taught myself that and got hooked. It took me a few years to write my first song, but once I did, it took off from there.

“I was helping at an art gallery — this was about four years into playing the guitar — and I was lining up concerts. I couldn’t find somebody for a date, so I turned to my wife at the time and said, ‘Well, I’m just going to book us.’ That was the first concert that we’d ever put on, and it ended up being a great night. I realized then and there that this is what I wanted to do.”

Since then, the now 39-year-old has developed a sound that can be held alongside performers like Bo Ramsey and William Elliott Whitmore as being distinctly Iowa. A tireless songwriter, Elliott’s creativity seems boundless, and the next album is always right around the corner.

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“I’ve written over 1,000 (songs),” he said. “Before this CD was done, I wrote down a list for the next album. I did a ‘Den Sessions’ project in 2010 where I put out 10 albums. It was all home-released, 100 songs. In between studio albums, I like to do projects like that and kind of explore some of these songs that might not make it onto a studio album.”

Elliott finds the interplay with his producers to be paramount. It’s not a relationship he enters into lightly.                

“These songs are your babies,” he explained. “I have to be very cautious about who I work with. It’s a little scary having that trust in a producer. Obviously Bo (Ramsey’s) work is unbeatable when it comes to creating that Iowa sound, and I wanted to be able to work with him (on 2009’s “Redemption Man”). I already knew the players that were going to be on the album, because I’d heard them on other work of his. I could hear how my songs could be enhanced by those musicians. So it’s a little bit of a process trying to find out how my songs fit into (a producer’s) vision, but it’s priceless. I think a lot of people are going to their own home studios now just because their able to, but these producers have been doing this for years and paying homage to that is really important to me as an artist.”              

Elliott performs live as a solo act or as a duo with GrapeVine owner Bonita Crowe. So when he goes into the studio, his goal is often to create a different sound for the listener. The studio is a time for him to flesh out ideas, rather than try and recreate a live experience.                

“When I put on a live show, it’s kind of magic in that moment. When I make a studio album, I want that feeling to carry across, but I don’t want to copy it. Thematically, for this album, I really wanted some variety. There’s a song where I knew that I wanted a big, wide sound on, so I (played) lap steel to mix sounds a bit. Each song I tried to treat as a part of the whole album, but also as an individual thing. I wanted it to be a finished painting, where my live shows are more of a sketch on the fly.” CV

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