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Almost A Dirty Dozen with ELANA BRODY – September 2021

| 2 September 2021 | Reply

According to a recent press release: “NY-based singer-songwriter Elana Brody ties the beauty and ecstasy of the human experience to the wonders of the natural world in her new single and video for “Rock Steady,” out today. A euphoric dance-pop single produced by Max Martin protégé Dominic Fallacaro, the song has been something of a beautiful interruption in Elana’s personal and artistic journey, from the initial inspiration to the filming of the music video in Costa Rica this summer. Today, her spirituality courses through both the secular and the sacred with a poignant purposefulness. Whether it’s a slow-burn track about grief and heartache or an exhilarating pop song about the power of dance, her work offers a sense of wholeness—a belief that all things in this world are bound by something greater.” We get Elana to discuss new music, influences, and more…

1. Tell us a little about your latest release.  What might a fan or listener not grab the first or second time they listen through?  Are there any hidden nuggets you put in the material or that only diehard fans might find?

Great question. “Rock Steady” is full of hidden lyrical nuggets only diehard fans might find 🙂 I’m a little afraid that talking about them in interviews is like being a magician giving away her secrets… But don’t worry, I’ll tell you anyway. The story on the surface feels beachy.. a lot of people hear it like this! And obviously, in the music video we really played that up by having dance parties and wild times by the beach! But really what I am doing in the lyrics is comparing the feeling of being in a packed club, or dance-floor in a music venue, to the feeling of being in the crashing waves of an ocean. It’s so wild in there! When you’re packed in there like sardines, sweating, rocking out to this powerful energy coming at you from on-stage, you are just in the current, surrendering to the tides, you know? People also might not realize that I am singing this song to the drummer who is on the stage! And so much of the lyrical content is really referring to some drum lingo – like “in the pocket,” “locked in,” the “drop,” and “bass groove in your feet.” That last line, most of all, is quite specific to the instrument! The drum set might be one of the only instruments you play with your feet! So – people, who aren’t musicians, might not get this when it comes around in the chorus. They might just think about dancing with their feet. Lastly, there are lines in the song that refer to a particular dream that I had that was really meaningful to me, with this particular muse perched “high on a mountain” like a “warrior God.” When I realized that his role on top of the stage, as the drummer, was akin to being higher than me, down in the crowd – I felt like the line about the mountain worked, bringing in that image from the dream. It worked so well, in fact. And I loved how the lines continued – “with your heavy metal crown, the thunder pounding, drumroll sounding.” I feel like I am alchemizing this dream, with the production of this song – and even in the cover art, where I am perched atop a rock mountain, dressed in black, like some kind of a spiritual warrior Goddess. In essence, I have become the symbol in my own dream.

2. What got you into music, and can you tell us about the moment you realized you wanted to be a musician?

I was raised by two back-to-the-land hippies from the 1970’s – so you can imagine that music was a part of our home life and culture! Singing along to folk songs and Beatles songs was a huge part of my early life. Then, singing musical theater and pop music was a big part of my life. It wasn’t until I was writing my first song on the piano, at the age of 12, that I ever thought of myself as a musician, though. Writing music somehow helped me stand out, in my small community, and I was encouraged to perform my original songs and cultivate this passion. I think it was when I approached the decision of going to college and had to choose between pursuing a University that seemed like a football-team, liberal-arts, “normal” experience or… Berklee College of Music, that I really owned my desire to BE a musician. I chose Berklee. I chose to honor my gift, and belief that I could do something unique – with writing songs. I thought Berklee would be the place that would help me channel that gift and push it forward into a career. Honestly, it just made a mess of my mind and self-esteem – and I was a fish, from a small town, WAY out of water – but I also would not trade my experience there for anything. I learned so much, even just by exposure and osmosis. And.. I’ve been a really dedicated and more proficient musician, ever since.

3. Building on that, is there a specific song, album, performer, or live show that guided your musical taste?

How to choose!! Thinking about Berklee, I think about the times that I heard John Mayer and Paul Simon speak there, about their songwriting processes. Honestly – those experiences were so special because both of those guys are writers that know how to write the strong lines that hit you. They know the power of the mic-drop, gut-punch, aha moments in their writing. And I also aspire, and have since the beginning of my writing, to choose the lines that hit the heart, wrapped in assonance and imagery. Writing lyrics, for me, is writing poetry or mythology. I am attracted to the songwriters who are like bards, telling stories that seek to express universal human truths, sometimes in plain sight and sometimes in metaphor. And I would say that my primary musical influences are all doing that. Shout out to some ladies, as well- Joni Mitchell, Ani DiFranco, Anais Mitchell, Gillian Welch in particular come to mind- for being really incredible at that.

4. Who would be your main five musical influences?

This is the hardest question for me. I am the SPONGIEST sponge, and all music that I have ever heard has influenced me in some way. So, other than Disney Movie Soundtracks and Hit Music Radio – I will just shout out some of my top songwriting women who have really changed me, taught me, or resonated the most deeply with me. Joni Mitchell. Ani DiFranco. My Brightest Diamond. Jesca Hoop. Sarah McLachlan.

5. If you could call in any one collaborator to do a song with, who would it be, and why?

I’m all about producers right now, because I have SO many songs to arrange, orchestrate and record. So – here are 3. I’d love to sit with John Leventhal who did an amazing job with Sarah Jarosz’s last album “World on the Ground, “and see what he could dream up for some of my tunes; Todd Sickafoose who is the eclectic mastermind behind Anais Mitchell and Hadestown orchestrations; and Dave Cobb – who can really bring the country rock’n’roll into a pop project. I’d love to make my album with all three of them!!!

6. How would you describe your music to someone who’d never listened to you before?

Eclectic, baby! You want to hear a slammin’ pop song, I’ve got one. You want to hear a bawdy cabaret song about capitalism? Got one. Want to hear a gentle folk lullaby? Done. Want to hear a Hebrew prayer song? I have so many. Want to hear a murder ballad about the Devil, where I sing the role of the Devil in a low growl? My pleasure. How about a New Orleans flavored brass band, overtop a rockin’ blues piano song about a one-night-stand? Great. A piano ballad that makes you cry? Okay! An R&B anthem for women? I’ll stop. I have written so many songs! And, at this point, I do not care what category or genre they fit into.

7.  What is the one comparison a reviewer or fan has made that made you cringe or you disagreed with?

I have gotten Regina Spektor a lot, and I’m not always that into it! I think it’s because we are both… Jewish?.. and… extremely, and unabashedly creative, and sometimes surrealistic!!! She’s really cool. I am SO impressed by her piano skills. I love her bravery and warmth. I love all of her NYC imagery and storytelling in her lyrics. But I don’t think my music sounds like her. I just happen to play the piano, be kind of wordy, and also play with my vocal inflections.

8. When was the last time you were starstruck and who was it?

I am so easily starstruck. And also… good at playing it cool and pretending I am so grounded and unphased. I was probably starstruck most recently when Chris Thile looked at my Instagram story (because I tagged him playing.) It’s not really a big deal… but in my mind I was like — hiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii are we friends now?

9. What is the best part of being a musician? If you could no longer be a musician for whatever reason, what would be your dream job?

I love how many ways music can be expressed through you, as a musician. I love playing WITH people and winding through all the many energies and emotions of connection. I also love writing and playing solo. I love the professional work side – building a career with all the multimedia aspects! Making a music video and focusing on images has been so fun for me! I love that THAT (non-musical, but artistic work) can be a part of my life as a musician. But, if I wasn’t a musician, producing my own songs and dwelling in imaginative soundscapes with other creatives.. I’d probably be teaching kiddos in the forest about ecology and the spirit world.. or on Broadway, shining and singing my heart out – while pretending to be someone else and wearing a costume.

9. What is one question you have always wanted an interviewer to ask – and what is the answer? Conversely, what question are you tired of answering?

I want to be asked… How will I help contribute to a healthier society with my music? It’s not a question most people ask in an interview, because most of us artists are focused on career momentum. Don’t get me wrong, I am into expanding my reach, collaborating and sharing my music as much as I can – but – I’d also love to see how art can also touch into the healing of society. I have done a lot with prayer, specifically in the Jewish context, because of my desire to do more than just entertain. I want to see people healing deep parts of themselves, so we can make room for a better future! We need to imagine our world without so much strife, greed, and genocide/ecocide. It’s possible. And I didn’t expect it, because the song is so poppy, but even Rock Steady is inspiring people to see a brighter future! At least that is the feedback I am getting from people. And.. honestly that is why making my art is worth it for me. I’m tired of… talking about my influences! It confuses me. I want to just name everyone. I want to talk about the Ella Fitzgerald solos I learned, and how much her tone resonates for me. Or the phase when I was really into Bulgarian Choirs. Or that time when I was listening to Steve Reich’s Music for 18 Musicians and Prokoviev Piano Concerto No 3 on repeat. Or Rhianna. Can I just say Rhianna? I love Rhianna. How about the millions of times I have listened to and danced to Of Montreal’s “Hissing Fauna, are You the Destroyer?” I also love listening to the songwriting for pop country music. I’m both exhausted by the question, and obviously, into the question. But it’s hard for me to talk about it without feeling like I am a pure maniac.

10. Looking back over your career, is there a single moment or situation you feel was a misstep or you would like to have a “do over,” even if it didn’t change your current situation?

So many. My confidence hasn’t always been at the level it could have been, to make my best connections. I haven’t really believed in my talent along the way either, and so I haven’t cultivated it as much as I could have – over the years. Truly, I’ve let a lot of personal hardships get in the way of the joy that music making brings. I have chosen to pick up, from this point, with a joy and abundance approach to what I do, and who I connect with, and I already see the results!

11. If you could magically go back in time and be a part of the recording sessions for any one record in history, which would you choose – and what does that record mean to you?

I love the record Court and Spark by Joni Mitchell. The orchestration on “Down to You” probably changed my idea of what folk and pop music could be. It cracked it open, brought in the orchestra, which to me feels like the elements of nature, and made it huge and spiritual. I love how Joni was able to be in her flow-state, and somehow the world held her in it – “Down to You” feels like that. The rest of the record is also magnetic for me. The lyrics are heavy and raw. “Same Situation” cuts really deep, and “People’s Parties” right before is such a storytelling display. And I actually really love the funky 70s grooves of the LA Express on the album. It just takes me on a ride. I love that she ends the record with “Twisted,” a tongue-twisting jazz vocalese song. It’s so playful, and I love how so many Joni records capture her laughter at the end of a tune. I don’t know what I would do in the studio with everybody but maybe I would.. have.. tap-danced or brewed a bunch of herbal tea for everybody.. or sang backup, instead of Joni singing backup with herself. I’m a great backup singer!






Category: Interviews

About the Author ()

ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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