I met ELIAH for the first time, a little over two-years- ago. He had just released a few singles on ReverbNation. At the time, he was the “tableau” of excitement on the internet. Now, let me be clear about this one thing, our meet and greet wasn’t your typical, and formal introduction. I was perusing the FaceBook timeline, and this one post kept popping up. Oddly enough, a large number of our mutual friends commented throughout the day on this one marker. Therefore, the inquisitive being that I am (the nosey neighbor from across the street) clicked on the link. Oh, stop it. Just calm yourself! I’m not a busybody! As I mentioned previously, the commotion about this fellow was non-stop… I braced myself for the ear splitting music that would soon seep from my speakers, thinking that it was going to be something less than desirable. So I thought… His suave, and attention grabbing vocals floated through the air seamlessly. I knew in the short-lived moment that this guy was the real McCoy of R&B Soul.
His style reminded me of Luther Vandross. Eliah was able to speak exclusively to me through his song. The compelling lyrics weren’t the typical panties dropping, or break-up music that the industry has become accustomed to releasing into our mainstream society. His libretto was smoother, and absorbing. He unraveled my thoughts that were a tight lid on the matter of “falling in love”. Eliah allowed me to view, and believe in chivalry after listening to his tunes and I was more apt to welcome courtship; maybe even a relationship all over again because he made it that darn believable. And to think, I honestly stumbled across this person, and never would have known about the untainted talent that he possesses.
Indie Artist has taken over the social networks, as though it were the “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” type of conquest. They are leaving a heavy impression on the industry. To be completely frank, and this is my opinion, so don’t get angry… Anyone can get a deal with little to no talent because there are no set criteria. I have heard some of these recordings, and I have not been impressed. “Yes, I agree. There are numerous of talented Indie Artist out here, and they don’t get the notoriety that they deserve because so many others don’t take themselves or crafts as serious. Unfortunately the ones that only want quick stardom by any means, have put a stain on the title “Indie Artist”. Normally, I would not have clicked on the link and would have dismissed it all together because of that very reason. But, due to the continual fuss about Eliah, I had to see if people were being honest, and I am glad that I did listen to his composition. Eliah’s talents are volatile to the industry. He gives the Indie Artist hope on a larger scale, because he has set the standard for talent. This type of music will allow the title “Indie”, viewed with more sincerity and significance. Without trouble, I was exceedingly pleased, and blown away by Eliah’s vocals. I became a fan instantaneously. I can only hope that there is more artists out there like him to follow.
Eliah is releasing his solo project “ELIAH”, February of 2014. The CD is a series of love ballads from 1-12. The introduction of spoken word sums up the whole CD in one paraphrase, “I’m inspired to mention that real love has tension and is measured in inches by great feats.” Now, how heavy is that line? I enjoyed the album from the upbeat and modern tempo down to the twelfth track of commonality between two lovers. The sentimental lyrics moved me deeply into jubilation. I identify most with “Be with you”, the last song on the track. Men tend to be evasive on the matter, or least the men that I have dealt with. They prefer multiple lovers instead of embracing the one, and loving her to the fullest infinite capability. “I just want to be with you,” Eliah speaks seductively upon intro. “Take this how you want baby boo, I can’t take my mind off you. Every morning when you wake up, I just want to kiss you on your lips before you put on your make-up. Simply because I think that you’re beautiful, from your head down to your last cuticle. You’re so divine, and the best part of it is that you’re mine.” This snippet is sung with so much intensity and meaning. He expounds on her basic details, confessing that he is satisfied with her, and wants only her. Women vie for this acknowledgment because they aren’t told anymore how a man feels. One can only guess. The fact that he was able to articulate those lyrics makes the melody realistically beautiful.
In what way did you start out in the church? My grandfather was a pastor, and my uncles were all evangelist. So, anytime we had church, there was a lot of singing and a lot of music. I was always part of the choir singing solos. When we had family gatherings or church gatherings, I was the one that sang. As far back as I could remember, I was always singing or doing music in church whether it was playing the drums or trying to play the organ or piano. Whatever I could do, or whatever was open or available, that’s what I did.
Did you have education in music? I was actually supposed to attend the school of the arts for music in New York. I was born and raised in Brooklyn. So, I was actually accepted in the Juilliard School of the arts when I was 12-years-old. At that particular time, my mom brought us to Charlotte, North Carolina. I attended public school down here. I did the chorus, and choir. I traveled with high schools, and sang in different languages. I know how to read and write music. So, I do have some formal training in music that I adapted from the public school system.
Would you say that music is your first love? Oh, yes, definitely. Absolutely
Was there a split with your grandfather as a pastor and your mom doing music? Do you think there was a tug-of-war there? Would you rather have been in the church as a pastor, or singing? There has never been a tug-a-war because my personal relationship with God is paramount to my success. Even when it’s part of what I do now with this quote, un-quote R&B music, I’ve made sure that the music that I sing; I can sing it around my daughters. I can sing it around my grandmother or someone else’s grandmother. I would never disrespect where I came from. I would never do anything or say anything to disrespect my family, or take away from my relationship with God. So, even though I don’t sing Gospel music, the music that I sing and present is very respectful and very tasteful. In my own personal life, there is no tug-a-war at all. I believe what I believe. I try to give the big man upstairs as much glory as I can in everything I do, and I hope what I do represents that.
What is your motivation and inspiration behind your ballads? Well, of course the love of my life is my wife. Throughout the course of my career, I have drawn inspiration from what I was going through. It could be a heartbreak, or heartache. It could be a bad situation. Anything that I go through could be my means of expression. Some people write books or poetry. For me, music was always my escape. Even now, I feel uncomfortable talking about myself. I’m a little shy, and uneasy. But, if I sit down at a piano or pick up a guitar, and begin to sing, it always gives me the freedom to express what I feel emotionally.
What is a “put the needle on the record” mode for you when it comes down to your singing when you have found your center and you can just blow? Oh, man… That doesn’t take much. I love the live atmosphere. I love the process of making and recording music. That’s one of the great things about it, you can do it until you get it right. The live atmosphere where you can interact with the audience and you have your band mates around as well as people around that are skilled at their craft or instrument; and, you guys take a complete blank canvas, creating something that nobody has ever heard before. When I’m in that environment or that element, I lose myself. I don’t think there isn’t anything that I can’t do vocally. I couldn’t tell you what I do. I just get lost. It is one of the biggest rushes to be able to sing for people. I go for broke when that happens.
Do you think that you cater more to the older crowd because you have that type of Motown talent, or can you bring that Neo Soul, appealing to whoever the audience is? Oh, yea. I like being versatile. The music on the album is more Contemporary, more Urban, and more Neo Soul then the things I have put out previously. I try to keep a balance. You know my voice is not like Chris Brown, and I don’t really think that I am the greatest singer in the world. But, what I think separates me is the balance that I have created with the new record. There is a lot of Neo-Soulish, Eric Robinson, Dwele, and Musiq Soul Child type music on the album. The lyrics and the harmony is kind of like a throwback. It appeals to anyone that’s 28, or 27, even 50-years-old. My daughter will be 18 and then 20-years-old in a couple of years. I’m not trying to reach that crowd, the Chris Brown crowd. That’s kind of out of my “well –house.” But anyone in the range of 27, 28, or even a mature 26, up into their 5o’s, I think the music sounds good enough to draw in the younger crowd. The words that I’m singing have enough substance to keep the attention of the older crowd.
What is your favorite song on the new album? I don’t really have a favorite song. It has taken me about 2-years to record the album. I have gone through a lot, so it just depends. There are some up-tempo songs, and slow songs on the album. All of them are about love. I endured a lot. I went through a bad break-up, a life changing reconciliation, and then my son, my namesake was born. I really don’t have a favorite song on the CD. I bump some songs when I’m in the car. I have a few songs that offer a different type of energy. I guess it depends on the occasion.
You are bringing love back to R&B!? I would like to think so. That’s a huge compliment. “Thank you.” I would like to think that, but I would never say that. There are so many great artists out here that aren’t even national, but here locally. They are great at what they do, and they genuinely love music. They are bringing back good music, so I can’t say that. I’ll leave it to other people to listen and make that determination, but I won’t say it.
In previous interviews, you said that you immolated Donny Hathaway. I have always felt that your music in the past was that soulful and romantic type of music that you could play at a wedding, and the mellow stuff that you could even have at a prom. It’s not that loose music; it’s that right occasion music. So, I can see that Donny Hathaway. Is there anyone else that you want to immolate, or are you setting your own trend that others will respect and follow you? That’s exactly what I’m trying to do. I’m actually trying to show people that it’s okay to do “grown man” music. I see a lot of artist that get a certain level of success… I don’t hate anyone, but, I see the Jamie Fox’s, the Tanks, and the Ginuines. These guys are in their forties. But, when you’re singing and you’re 40, and 42-years-old, I don’t want you singing to my daughter. I don’t want you making sexual references when it’s younger people involved. It’s okay to be a grown man in the days of Gerald Levert, and Luther Vandross, because when a grown man puts on a Gerald Levert, or Luther Vandross record, you know what it is. A grown man sings to a grown woman about grown people stuff. There is no way to blur the lines. I’m trying to let people know that it’s okay to be a grown-man-mature. You don’t have to cater what you do to a younger audience just to be popular. I look at the success of someone like Kem, who didn’t come out until he was in his late 30’s or early 40’s. He has a strong following. I look at him and the success. He never catered to a hip-hop audience, and he never has to. He is true to himself, and he is true to what he does musically. I just want more people to be honest with the music, and the musical integrity and not so commercial, but be who you are. The first group that I was in was Anthony Hamilton. He is a close friend of mine. He has his own style and own mode. The best advice that I have ever gotten was from him. He said do a couple of songs that people like that can actually get you radio play. But, do what feels good to you and makes you happy. That way you don’t ever have to change with the times. Let people gravitate to what you do. That’s what I think. I think that people will come to where I am.
Do you think artist gear their music towards performing verses singing? If you took away the music, how many could hold a note? I agree with you whole-heartedly. It’s a machine. If you have, a six-pack and you are a good-looking brotha that can hold a note and dance, that’s great. I like watching concerts. I took my daughter to see Chris Brown; he is one of the few artists that can sing. He can perform and he can really sing. He’s a performer, and a rare breed. Singing is definitely a lost art form. People don’t really sing anymore. People like John Legend and Anthony Hamilton they sing. There are a few out there, but not very many.
If Eliah could be a song, what would he be? “Picture Perfect” by Eric Roberson… If you could take snapshots of your life, you can see where you are at the time. When you go back and look at the photograph, you can easily tell where you were, whom you were in love with, where you were mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. That snapshot captures everything that you are going through in your life. In the song, he’s saying that everything is picture perfect. You’re a perfect picture in my eyes, and right now when I look at my life everything I’ve been through, sacrifices that I’ve made the hurt, heartache, disappointments, and the setbacks. When I look at where I am right now, everything is picture perfect. I’m blessed beyond measure. I have my health. I have my loved ones supporting me. My children have their health with the exception of little man. He has something going on right now, but he is a healthy kid. My daughters are on their way to college, and preparatory school respectively. If I could have taken the time and written the script, I couldn’t have done it. If you asked me 5-years-ago if I thought things would have lined up the way they have right now, I would have thought you were crazy. From everything that I’ve seen in my life and where I am right now, it couldn’t have been more perfect. I’m so grateful. If it had to be a church song, it would be “How Great thou Art”, or “I Just Want to Say Thank You” because I’m humbled by where I am, and I am proud at what I have achieved musically.
What is a not so picture perfect moment that you have endured in your musical career? When I first started in music, I was a teenager. I had just moved to Charlotte. I had met some really talented people right before the Jodeci group had took off, and Anthony had left to go to New Jersey with Devonte’ and all those guys. I was involved with the church and my family was too. Being a young person, and having dreams as well as aspirations kind of got snuffed out. My mother wouldn’t let me go and be a part of what was going on because it wasn’t Gospel music. She wasn’t having it. I was her only son. I was taught to that what I wanted to do was “of the devil.” That was confusing to a kid because I knew that Stevie Wonder wasn’t the devil. I heard Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye at my mom’s house all the time. What I wanted was the devil because they didn’t understand. We fast-forward about three years when I moved to Atlanta and went to college. I did many records. I don’t tell a lot of people this but I was a background artist and that’s how I made my money in school. I would get paid from $500 to $1000 just to sing background vocals for people who were the Chris Browns of that time, and they really couldn’t sing. Their songs are on the radio now that I hear from time to time with my voice on them. I never got credit for them, and that’s why I don’t speak on it because you can’t find credit given on any record. As a session artist, they pay you $500.00 for 2-hours. That was a lot of money 20-years-ago as a 20-year-old getting $1000.00 for 2-hours worth of work. You only signed a piece of paper stating that you wouldn’t get anything further, and that you were just getting paid for that work. Now I listen to the quiet storm or sometime throwback jams, sometimes my daughter, and people’s favorite songs have my voice on it. I’ve worked with some of the biggest names in music. I worked background with “La Face” records, and when Jermaine had “So So Def” popping, as well as all the big names that sprang up, I was there. Shortly thereafter, my first daughter was born, and my second daughter was born. I had to make a choice; either pursue my music career or get a job and take care of my children. For the past 16-years, I made a choice to stay active in music, write music, and produce music, keeping myself honed, and putting my family first. Now, that my kids are about to take that next step and go away from home. I’ve raised them, and now my role as a parent is transitioning. Now, I have a wife to support my goals and aspirations. I can finally put myself back in the front. That’s the up and down. There have been some tough times that I felt like I wasn’t going to have an opportunity to do what I’m doing because I was getting too old or maybe my time was over. Maybe I couldn’t do it, or maybe no one would like me because my time is over. It’s never too late to follow your passion if you believe in yourself.
Are you able to elaborate on the people that you have shared the stage with? The very first concert that I ever did was with Grammy Award winner, Anthony Hamilton. I sang background for Twinkie Clark, and the Clark sisters, Changing Faces, Monica, Silk when they first came out, Father MC, and Joe from the Rude Boyz. At the time I was younger, I was only 19 or 20- years-old. My manger was a guy named Harvey Austin. He’s deceased now. During that time, he didn’t manage artist, he only managed producers. He took me under his wing. I remember that his roster was Teddy Riley, Baby Face, and all of the Super producers at the time. I recall being at his home, and he had me on speakerphone while he was talking to Teddy Riley during the time that he produced the Michael Jackson record. I heard him speaking to Michael Jackson. I have been around music all my life. I guess when you get to witness that type of greatness, and you are so far away because you feel like you can never achieve it. For me, it has come full circle. But with God, I believe now that any success that comes my way, I will be more humble. I will be able to handle whatever comes my way. He would never have given me the opportunity. I would never have had another chance to do what I love to do. But He has given me another chance to do it and present myself to the world. I’m going to take advantage of it and enjoy the ride. I’m also going to be grateful the entire time.
What else can we expect from this new album? Will you be touring and performing? I have some dates lined up in March and May in St. Croix, Virgin Islands. I have some things lined up in Australia, and I haven’t set a definite date in Australia, but it’s a couple of shows. I’m just going to get out there and expand the brand beyond city and state limits. There will be a launch online and an intimate listening party in Charlotte on February 22 that coincides with the launch. It’s invitation only. I’m bringing people from out of town, and definitely people that are interested in my music from here. I plan to be as active as possible, mostly on the Eastern seaboard, the East Coast. I have tentatively set up for Atlanta, New York, and Philly because I have good relationships with artist, and promoters in those areas. I’ve been waiting on the product before I did that.
Is there anything that you want to leave with readers, and fans? I love them all. I truly hope they receive what I’m giving. I hope that they can enjoy the music. I hope they enjoy listening to it as much as I enjoy making it. I am excited about interacting with everyone that I meet. I want them to know that the music they hear is who I am. I bared my soul on this record. I put my all into it. I hope they like it. I really do.
Outro: “We had a bunch of different names for the album, and it sounded corny and too contrived like I was trying to be overly sexy, and I’m like, that’s not me. I am who I am. If you ever meet me in person, I’m just going to be Eliah. I’m going to be me, and that’s how we came up with the title”.
Be on the lookout for “ELIAH”
For more information, please visit: eliahkeaton.com and @eliahsoul on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook