Posted On 12 Mar 2019
On his debut album FOREVER TO FADE, Louisiana singer-songwriter Caleb Elliott tells his story, from preacher’s son in a cult-like religion to finding musical freedom in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. His lead single is called “Don’t Go Losing Your Head.” FOREVER TO FADE was released on March 8th on Single Lock Records.
Elliott’s first single “Makes Me Wonder” was one of Rolling Stone‘s “10 Best Country and Americana Songs To Hear Now” alongside Maren Morris, Patti Griffin, Caroline Spence and more. Rolling Stone called the track a “song that blends the cool strut of a 1970s film soundtrack with orchestral flourishes and a steady unhurried groove.”
In 2018, Spotify highlighted Caleb Elliott’s song “Get Me Out Of Here,” which was added to numerous playlists including the prestigious “Fresh Folk” and “Chill As Folk” playlists. The song continues to grow and has been heard nearly 400,000 times to date in over 77 countries.
While riding in the backseats of tour vans with Nicole Atkins, Dylan LeBlanc and Travis Meadows, and backing other artists like Lera Lynn, John Paul White, Donnie Fritts and Sean McConnell in the studio, Elliott never stopped writing his own materials. To record Forever To Fade, he joined forces with Alabama Shakes keyboardist Ben Tanner and Alabama Shakes bassist Zac Cockrell, while John Paul White added backing vocals.
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Learn more about Caleb Elliot in the following All Access interview:
Thanks for your time today! Where does this interview find you?
– Hi! I am at my apartment in Florence, Alabama..aka The Shoals.
Now that 2019 has started, what musical goals do you have for yourself and your music this new year? Did you make any new year’s resolutions?
– I’m not too big on new year’s resolutions, but I do hope to continue to grow as a musician and songwriter this year. My big hope for 2019 and beyond is to tour this new album as much as possible! It would also be really rad to get in to arranging/scoring for film and tv. That’s always been a dream of mine…I’d be on it like a hobo on a ham sandwich.
Growing up, how important has music been in your life?
– Music has always been an extremely important part of my life. I’m the youngest of four kids and we all started on a classical instrument in elementary school. Between that and my mother singing and playing the piano at church and at home, there was always music being played in the house growing up.
Can you recall the moment when you decided that you wanted to be a musician? Was it an easy or difficult choice to make?
– I remember calling home at some point in my third(ish) year of college to tell my parents I wanted to pursue music. They advised me to finish my degree first, and I’m glad I did. It felt good to finish what I started.
Was there ever a time when you thought about doing something else? If you weren’t a musician today, what could you see yourself doing?
– Yes indeed, I have thought about doing other things. If not music, I’d most likely consider putting the Biology degree to good use..somehow.
What has been the biggest surprise so far about making music your career? What has been an unexpected or welcome challenge to it all?
– Embracing the side-man role and learning to be a session cellist have been unexpected and welcome challenges for me. Without a doubt, the way cello has affected my path is the biggest surprise so far. When I decided to pursue music as I career, I was living in Lafayette, Louisiana at the time..it never occurred to me that cello could be a thing until I released an EP in 2012. The biggest thing the EP did for me was make local folks aware that I could play cello on albums. Next thing I knew, I was getting a few session gigs here and there..playing cello with folks live here and there..fast forward a bit..I randomly got the opportunity to sit in with Dylan LeBlanc on a few tunes one night at Blue Moon Saloon when he was passing through. It went really well and Dylan asked me to go on tour with him (I said yes instantaneously). That led to me playing cello on his album, which was recorded here in Florence, Alabama at Single Lock. After that, Ben Tanner started to hit me up any time he needed cello on a track..other studios in the Shoals started to follow suit. Cello has opened a lot of doors for me, I did not see that coming.
How do you think you and your music have been influenced by your hometown and where you live now?
– My dear friend and mentor, Mr. David Egan, who is no longer with us, gave me a lot of wonderful advice in the time we got to hang. I’ll share something he said to me that I really took to heart and based a lot of decisions on..he said “if you wanna be a better songwriter, hang with other songwriters” … so simple, yet SO true, not just for songwriting but for any skill you might aspire to. When I first started coming around the Shoals I suddenly found myself surrounded by really good songwriters. It was extremely humbling to realize how clueless I was..to the point that I didn’t really make it known to folks around here that I wrote my own tunes at first. I just jumped on every opportunity as a session cellist/sideman and soaked it all in as much as possible. I got to see first hand how really good records were made from watching folks like Donnie Fritts and John Paul White do their thing. My friend David was right, hanging with other songwriters changed the game for me in so many ways. Not only did I start to approach songwriting differently, but it also helped normalized the entire venture. Before, when I was only acquainted with a small number of folks that were even remotely interested in writing songs, I felt like an oddball with an impossible dream. Hanging with like-minded people changed that. I’m blessed to have known David, and for the advice he gave me that eventually led me to be a part of a community like the Shoals.
Let’s talk about your newest single called “Don’t Go Losing Your Head.” What was the inspiration for this song? How do you think it prepares listeners for your upcoming album, “Forever To Fade”?
– I love my family very much and hope that comes through with “Don’t Go Losing Your Head.” If someone is going through a hard time, I hope this tune might help some folks through it. There are several underlying themes from the record that are represented in this song..how relationships affect us, letting go of the negative relationships and nurturing the positive ones. Also the strings and laid back groove on this track should prepare folks for what is in store.
What was it like working with John Paul White, Alabama Shakes’ Zac Cockrell and Ben Tanner on this collection of yours? Why did you decide to work with these musicians?
– When it came time to record, the choice was obvious. I had worked with these fellas many times before as a cellist, so we already had a solid rapport. The sessions were extremely laid back because we were all already friends. No need to break the ice, or wonder if someone is capable..just a group of folks doing the thing they do together, having a good time and eating good food. Same as it is any time we get together to record. The only mystery involved was me..they knew me as a cellist, not as a singer/songwriter. I was more nervous about whether they would dig the stuff than anything. Because, if they didn’t I would know!..and that could have been awkward. It was a huge relief to see these fellas, whom I respect so much, get genuinely excited about the record.
Did anything surprise you about the overall process of putting this album together?
– I‘ve been surprised by the positive response so far, for sure. In my wildest dreams, a record label would someday maybe release something I did…it’s crazy that it’s happening!
What inspired these songs to be on this collection?
– I was going through a lot of change when I wrote this batch of songs, mostly for the better. I think a common theme throughout is moving on from dysfunctional relationships and unhealthy ideals in your life.
How will you be celebrate the release of “Forever To Fade”? Can you recall what it was like when you heard the whole album from beginning to end?
– I recently listened to the whole album on vinyl for the first time and it was surreal. I’m definitely proud of it and grateful for the opportunity to release it with Single Lock Records. The day the album comes out, March 8, will be day two on the road opening for my friend Sean McConnell! I’m also playing bass with him on that tour, so I’ll be super concentrated on making sure I don’t screw up his songs. After the show I might have a few drinks..nothing crazy 😉
What do you think was the biggest lesson you learned from all your experiences backing up musicians over the years?
– Dang..there are so many to choose from. I guess I’ll go with less is more. It may seem obvious, but there are so many amazingly talented folks out there that can play circles around a tune, but no one hires them. You have to really listen to the song and let it breathe. You’ll get a lot further with one or two moments of subtle brilliance than showing off your chops. My favorite session players are all this way. Less is more.
What has it been like keeping up with your social media accounts and all of the different platforms? Is it hard to stay up to date on it all? What would you say is your favorite way to connect with your fans now?
– I prefer Instagram. I can post on there and it go directly to my FB and Twitter pages, which makes it easier.
Who are some of your favorite artists or rather, what musicians have continued to inspire you and your music? Who would you absolutely still love to work with in the future?
– Ah man, I’m a Beck fan, Sea Change is a favorite. Been really digging Carl Broemel’s solo stuff a lot, would love to work with him. M. Ward is an enigma to me…is he even real? If he actually exists I’d love to work with him. So many more…Jonathan Wilson, Blake Mills, Michael Kiwanuka, Gillian Welch & Dave Rawlings..there are lots.
Where can fans see you perform next? Do you have any kind of a 2019 tour scheduled yet?
– I’ll be out opening for Sean McConnell in March, east coast and midwest! Then I’ll be across the pond opening for my pal Nicole Atkins for the month of April in Europe! SO excited!
If you had an unlimited budget and your schedule was free, what would your dream music video look like?
– Hmm..maybe use it as an excuse to see the entire world..filming on location EVERYWHERE! Or, I would hire Tarantino and tell him to go crazy crazy.
If you were going to be stranded on a deserted island, what musical item would you take with you and why?
– I’d bring a guitar and use the strings to catch fish..then put the strings back on and play Hey Hey My My after dinner.
If your music was going to be featured on any TV show that is currently on right now, which would you love it to be on? Or if you prefer, what is a movie that you love that you wish your music was featured in?
– Hm…I’ll say Black Mirror. It’s one of my favorite shows to come out recently.
At the end of the day, what do you hope people take away from your music?
– I hope to find my people. Through the years I have found artists that have really inspired me and I continue to look forward to what they are working on. I hope to connect with some folks in that way.
Would you like to share anything else with our readers about your music?
– Just a big ole thank you! It can be hard to get people to check out new music, so thanks for giving this Louisiana boy a listen!