An Interview with The Hip Hop Turned R&B Solo Artist, ELIJAH GRAE On His Breakout Solo Music, His Biggest Inspirations and More!
Posted On 24 Apr 2018
Meet Elijah Grae! He has penned hits for numerous headliners including Jake Miller’s “Tell Me You Love It” and E-40’s “Red Cup” featuring T-Pain, Kid Ink and B.o.B. You may also recognize him from the hip hop trio, Drop City Yacht Club- whose hit crossover single “Crickets” (Grae produced the track) that racked up more than 10 million Spotify listens. He has now gone solo, changed his musical direction to a more edgy pop / R&B sound and is gearing up to release his self-titled debut EP in May. Hid first solo single, “Rivals,” was released on March 30th.
“Music has always been a spiritual thing —That’s one of the things I’m most fortunate for: I just love music and don’t really need the other shit. It damn near saved my life in a lot of ways.”
Learn more about Elijah Grae in the following All Access interview:
Thanks for your time! So where does this interview find you? What’s on tap for the rest of your day?
– Thanks for having me. This interview finds me at a Starbucks in Reseda, CA, shazamming jazz songs and approving the masters for the album. Rest of the day will probably be spent being consuming more caffeine and hopefully working on new tunes.
Overall, how do you think 2017 was for you and your career? What is one big goal you have for 2018?
– 2017 was pretty wild. Not wild in an “empty bottles and hotel furniture being glued to the ceiling” type of way but wild in the sense that I knew everything was changing. It was a really transitional year and those type of shifts can be pretty challenging. Needless to say things straightened themselves out and all that lead to this project and I wouldn’t change a thing. In 2018 my major goal is just to get this music out.
Growing up, did you ever think that this would be the kind of life that you would have? Has music always been a big part of your life? Can you recall your first ever musical experience?
– I had a feeling at a pretty young age I wasn’t going to have a “typical” life…I didn’t really know why or how I just knew I was going to do something a little unconventional. I was raised in house that was always full of music and both my parents were musicians so making music just seemed natural. I never really had the “I wanna be a superstar one day” moment, it just felt like this is what I’m supposed to do. My first musical experience is hard to recall because I don’t really remember not having music around. I do remember one day my older brother and his friends were listening to some beats and free-styling and of course they demanded I rapped, and I did. I wasn’t terrible! More importantly I felt something change in me and I knew I could do this. It was like a weird threshold had been broken and from that day on I’ve always made music.
Let’s talk about your forthcoming self-titled debut EP? What was it like putting this collection together? Did anything surprise you about the overall process? How long have you been wanting to make it?
– This has been the greatest musical experience of my life. I went through some pretty heavy shit prior to making this project and it was incredible to be able to take the things and experiences that would normally be pretty awful and use them as the wheels and tires for this thing. The best part was being able to create and write in space that wasn’t polluted with pressure or expectations other than those I placed on myself. I literally sat in my sweats in my home studio with a few of my very close and talented friends and we wrote exactly what we wanted, how we wanted. No better feeling than that in my opinion. The biggest surprise on this project was how natural it was. Normally songwriting can be a bit of a grind but these songs were all really smooth in the process. Some easier than others but overall it was a very comfortable thing, even writing songs that were about uncomfortable subjects.
How do you think your debut single “Rivals” prepares listeners for the rest of your EP? What was the inspiration for this song?
– “ Rivals” sets a pretty good tone for the whole project both musically and ideologically. It was the first song I did for this project and it was kind of the benchmark for the direction it would move in. Like most of the songs on this EP, it’s a mashup of textures and ideas, which I think people will come to realize is a running theme throughout. As for the inspiration for the song, it’s essentially about where we are as people right now, or at least my take on it. I noticed that the tensions in the world right now closely resemble a relationship on the ropes. Pride, ego, pain, jealousy, fear, etc tend to go hand in hand with when love goes wrong. I wanted to express my thoughts and just overall feelings of our current state without being preachy or heavy handed. I think everyone can relate to being in love and also having that hit a few rough patches so I used that as the blanket theme and snuck in some B plot stuff that had been on my mind at the time.
I am curious to know how your various songwriting experiences over the years has helped make you the songwriter you are today?
– I started out as a rapper and that helped me so much in writing melody driven songs. The timing, the cadence, economy of words, metaphors and all that naturally carried over. Also, writing for and with other people has taught me a lot about what I like and don’t like when writing for myself. I’ve always had a pretty broad taste when it comes to music so working in all those different genres definitely helped when it came to my solo music. I was able to not feel boxed in or married to one style or idea.
What was it that initially made you want to be a solo artist and change your musical direction?
– There was a lot of things that I think landed me here. Some really cool. Some not so cool. Honestly, I didn’t really even intend on this music seeing the light of day. I was just in a place that I needed music…I needed to create. I took all the pressure off myself and just listened to my gut and went with it. Almost as a form of therapy. I know that sounds a little corny but it’s the truth. Music is the one constant thing I’ve had in my life and it’s always been the one place things have slowed down and made sense…I went through a period when that wasn’t the case and it become more of a job than a passion. I refused to let that happen so I said f*ck it, turned my phone off and pressed record.
Do you have any upcoming live shows you would like to tell our readers about?
– I should have shows coming very soon and all the dates will posted on the website (elijahgrae.com) and socials
Where do you find that you sing the most these days, in the shower, in the car, in the studio or elsewhere?
– I like to sing at home and piss my roommate off. haha Mainly weird vocal lesson stuff so it sounds like a tortured cat. Also, in the car.
We are living through a very trying and politically charged time right now so I am curious how you think being a musician gives you the most joy in life today?
– Like I touched on earlier, music is still the one place where everything makes sense for me. I try and keep in mind how fortunate I am to get to do this as a career and let that carry over into my writing process. I try and write for other people and what they might be experiencing as well as for myself. I usually try and find a point of relation in the middle. I’ve had songs literally keep me from going mad so that’s always in the back of my mind when I write and I hope that people may have a similar experience with something I’ve written. As personal as this project is to me I hope in some capacity people feel like wow, this song was written for/about me!
– Music has always brought people together. Different walks of life, races, ideologies etc and that’s still the case. Hopefully we use music as a way to heal and understand and that it brings some sense of clarity in what is right now a pretty wild time. I just hope that people listen to music and are reminded of how beautiful we are as humans and that art and expression are what make us, us.
Who are some of your favorite artists or rather, what musicians have continued to inspire you and your music? What musicians would you absolutely still love to work with in the future?
I was raised on a lot of soul music, reggae, folk, hip hop and rock so my influences are pretty broad. James Brown to Sting to Bob Marley, Joni Mitchell, Cat Stevens, E 40, The Clash etc…That’s what my parents listened to and my older brother introduced me to Snoop and Dre at a very young age and that started my love affair with hop hop. I didn’t realize how heavily those early introductions impacted me until I started this project. I noticed it was as much Peter Gabriel as much as it was Kanye. As for who I’d love to work with… I’d kill to be a fly on the wall in anything Rick Rubin is working on.
At the end of the day, what do you hope your fans take away from your music?
– I really just hope people can find a point of connection with it. Whether that’s just casually singing along or having it really strike a chord and resonate at a deeper level. I love the idea of music being an escape route for people and a way for them to feel like “I’m at least ok for the 3 minutes or whatever this song is playing for”.
Would you like to share anything else with our readers about yourself or your music?
– Just to say thanks for having me and thanks to whoever took the time to read this.