Artist: Eli Lev
Hometown: Silver Spring, Maryland
Latest album: Deep South
Personal nicknames: “Ambassador of Good Vibes”
What was the first moment that you knew you wanted to be a musician?
While I grew up playing basic guitar and writing silly songs, I never really wanted to “be a musician.” That changed when I was about halfway through my master’s degree for education. I took a personal vacation during winter break and camped out on a beach on the west coast of Mexico near Sayulita. I hiked in supplies and brought my travel guitar and just sang to the ocean for a week.
After that I got real quiet, and I listened. After a while I heard murmurings on the breeze that the trees and the sand, the water and sky really enjoyed my new songs and performance, and recommended I take my songs seriously and go for it. So I took that to heart and set the intention to make music my life for a while and see what would happen.
It took about a year for the gears of time and space to turn the right way before I played my first show in Washington, D.C., in the back of Tryst Cafe in Adams Morgan. A few people showed up who also enjoyed the performance and they asked me when my next show was. The rest is living history.
What’s your favorite memory from being on stage?
This last summer I got the chance to play a full band set at the storied 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C., as part of the DC Music Rocks Festival. I grew up going to see my favorite bands there, so it extra special being on the stage. Playing my original songs with a six-piece band to an amazing crowd of friends, family, and fans was a moment I’ll always remember.
If you had to write a mission statement for your career, what would it be?
Be your best, give your best — the world will smile back and give its best to you in return.
Which elements of nature do you spend the most time with and how do those impact your work?
I listen a lot to rivers and oceans for songs, but they also come on the wind and in total silence. But there are songs everywhere, in train brakes, in people’s eyes, falling out of pockets and suitcases. It’s just a matter of how to listen and where to look.
How often do you hide behind a character in a song or use “you” when it’s actually “me”?
Love this question. In my songs, sometimes I’m the “I” and sometimes I’m the “you.” Sometimes the people in my songs are actually things or ideas, like in my songs “Anywhere We Can Go” and “Walking Away.” I’ve found that when I do it that way, the listener has an easier time making the song meaningful for their own life. I love that different folks get different things out of my songs — that’s the way it should be!