edited by courtney marie
When Conor Wallace (Spiderweb co-founder) first heard Elia’s "40 Days and 40 Nights" at a showcase of ours one sweaty, friendship-filled night in July, he knew it was something powerful-- a song that was meant to be heard. After a bit of planning, and with a little help from our multi-talented friends Corbin Childs (owner of Shiny Sound Recording Studio), Jacob Greenan, and saxophonist Amari Johnson, Elia’s song was reborn in the studio. The group spent a Sunday morning collaborating and recording, and what came out of the studio was everything we all could have hoped for and more.
Elia gave us a little background on the writing of their song: "40 Days and 40 Nights" emerged from a Saturday of watching "Man Up" (a British rom-com) and thumbing through the Bible, which I do from time to time. Simply, I think my songs always have themes around the Bible (given my upbringing), romantic dysfunction (personally and including my love for rom-coms), and warring with the self/mental health. So, the song it's about a breakup or romance gone wrong and one of the lovers trying to save it, unfortunately to their own detriment. For some, the breakup/romance gone wrong could be resulting from betrayal or from spiraling mental health issues. For others, the lovers could be two sides of the self (a breaking up from toxic narratives and the narratives coming to life to stab us in the back when we least expect it). Still for others, it may signify something else.
Give the song a listen to hear for yourself, and read our exclusive interview with Elia on their ongoing musical journey.
So, how did you get into music?
I picked up a guitar in fourth grade because I thought it was a cool instrument. I didn't really do much with it until I came across and fell in love with Norah Jones and KT Tunstall. Seeing badass women making wonderful folksy music that had some feels of jazz/blues and rock really inspired me.
When did you start writing songs and performing?
I wrote poetry and random little songs that I never performed throughout high school. But, I didn't start performing until my senior year when my choir teacher decided to put on a showcase. Being the painfully introverted and anxious person I am, I opted out of it until the pleas of my mother to perform ("Don't Know Why" by Norah Jones) wore me down.
What’s changed since then?
Even while not being an always willing musician, I have been able to have my music heard locally, published in a movie, and recorded by brilliant people across the country. The newest chapter in the journey is finding my own sound now as I continue transitioning on testosterone. Learning a new voice while experiencing all the things in life, new and old, that contribute to my song-writing...it's all very different now. Even my point of view changes as a non-binary person who's now read as man, experiences most of the world as man, and so on. Experiences are different. So, now I'm working to infuse an honoring of the past with an embracing of the present and ever-lasting anxiety about the future. Overall my journey with music has mostly been a private one to help cope with life and because music just makes me feel good, alive, and home. And, I guess, this is where the journey is.
As I stated above, I often fight to not perform. I think--selfishly, so I've been told--that what I write is for me and that once I'm done with it, that's it. So I write in the moment to help me process the ebbs and flows of life and my mind, leaving whatever tidbits come out of it on IG, on the backs of napkins, in file cabinets. But, ever so often, the music comes back around. People pick up on a rhythm, find comfort in the message of the song, or I come out of hiding for Courtney Marie and Spiderweb Salon. That's how "40 Days and 40 Nights" actually came to be written and picked up by Shiny Sound. In the end, I appreciate the journey thus far; and, though it never gets easier to perform for audiences, I'm always glad when I'm able to let people in on my journey.
When you knew you'd have a half-day at Shiny Sound to record this song, how did you feel about it? What were your anticipations for recording?
When I found out that Conor and Corbin wanted to record "40 Days & 40 Nights", I was shocked and nervous. I haven't recorded anything in years, so I was unsure at first. Prone to having a question for everything, I shared the news (and some of my questions) with my mom and Courtney Marie. I also sat in reflection. Because I know Conor and had heard of the great work done by Corbin and Jacob, I felt comfortable with agreeing to record. However, since I don't record or perform or even play my guitar much, I was definitely nervous and awestruck by the guys when I first went in. But, the more we talked and they played (every instrument) and asked for feedback (to which I was just like, do what you want, it all sounds amazing...I was the kid in the candy store, eyes big, grin on face), the more at ease I felt. Each person had an amazing ear for what was needed, which was helpful to me because I know what sounds good but sometimes can't fully articulate it. Caitlin Childs was there too, cooking up a storm, making the space feel like home. In addition to the atmosphere and the guys' talent, it was really cool that they allowed me to bring in Amari Johnson who added the dope sax magic on my song.
What was the recording process like for you?
Process-wise, recording went smoothly. I laid down my part in one take. That's the great thing about writing and playing for yourself whenever you feel like it. The song is in your bones. Anyway, after I laid down my part, I just got to watch everyone do their thing. And, holy fuck (idk if I can cuss here), they were amazing! They filled in gaps, added richness (and smiles), and pushed the song further than I ever had any hope for. I was probably in a state of amazement the majority of the time I was there. Not only because how they play, but also their communication patterns and body language. I'm a nerd and people watcher. I love music, but don't speak music. So to watch them was to feel like I was both at home and in another world, one that I didn't really want to leave.
What are your interests and passions outside of music?
Outside of music, I love chatting/visiting my family and gf when I can, taking naps, going for walks, lifting weights, eating donuts and pizza, and learning from other's stories and experiences. I guess my dissertation is a passion too, depending on the day lol.
What or who are some of your influences as a musician?
Love (or lack thereof), suffering, and the residual effects of religion influence my music. Genre-wise: anything with folk roots and undertones. I find that I lean towards female artists and that jazz, R&B, blues, some bluegrass, and old gospel spirituals really influence. Funnily, what I listen to (jazzy folk music, Top 40, Neo-Soul, and electronic-dance music) and what influences me doesn't quite match up. I think some of those influences are in the bones and blood, passed down through ancestors who were storytellers and musicians. As far as musicians go, there are so many. Norah Jones, Iron & Wine, Lianne La Havas, Yukimi Nagano, Ma Rainy, Thom Yorke, Duke Ellington, Jill Scott, and others.
What would you like to accomplish creatively this year?
This year, I'd like to make strides in solidifying my own sound. I'd also like to actively create music for others' consumption (i.e. make a demo to say I did). I'd also like to make more art, in any form, this year. Too much academic writing and not enough creative endeavors in 2017 made Elia a dull boi.
For those too enraptured by this interview to do so yet, be sure to check out Elia's song, lyrics, and Marco Zavala's perfectly synchronized artwork on our new Bandcamp page!
If you loved the concept of this project, YOU'RE IN LUCK! We got to wondering, why don’t we do this all the time, with many different musicians, to create a whole catalog of new songs and sounds? With that simple idea, Spiderweb Salon’s Songwriting Scholarship has been born! We’ll be working with Shiny Sound Recording Studios, a lineup of professional studio musicians, and a new musician every month to record an original piece of music to share with the world. If you’re looking to get involved, send along a submission, and if you just need an awesome place to record your next project, look no further than Shiny Sound.