©2014 By Bronson Herrmuth
Tall and strapping in appearance, Chad Elliott plays his guitar in a way that speaks of countless hours of performance. From single note riffs to finger picking to rocking back beats that make you tap your foot and go along for the ride on each song. His quick smile and quiet confidence speak volumes about Chad and his experience performing and entertaining his audiences. Not one to brag and totally unpretentious in demeanor, Chad Elliott lets the strength of his voice, his songwriting and ability to play guitar, speak for themselves. He takes the stage, tunes his instrument, checks his microphone and then delivers. Show after show, strong and true, his music rings out and never fails to please.
Chad's songs are inspired by real life and by real people. They're not conjured up in a cookie cutter fashion designated by songwriting rules or regulations. He sings out loud and proud about the places he's been, the things he's seen, his life experiences and those of his family and friends. Nature plays a huge role in his music and rightly so, seeing how he grew up in the country on a farm in rural Iowa. The lyrics to his songs could be about any of us that were raised in the Midwest, growing up on those farms and fields or in the small towns and timber of the Heartland. When you listen to him sing them, you realize quickly that Chad's music is pure and sincere.
Singing out in a voice strong and true, Chad Elliott is a modern day troubadour. As soon as he starts singing and performing his original music, you know you're listening to someone who's real and unassuming, yet so full of music that it pours out of him like a clear mountain spring. His quick smile and calm demeanor belies a powerful voice strengthened by the assurance of having performed thousands of shows to the delight of all who have heard him. Performing over 150 shows a year, Chad continues on his chosen path of making music as a singer/songwriter. The truest form of music on the planet, stripped bare to the bone and exposed for all to witness. Naked of effects or gimmicks or pomp and circumstance, relying on the power of his vocal delivery, his guitar playing, the stark truth of his songwriting ability, simply talent in it's true form.
The following is taken from my studio interview with Chad on November 6, 2014. Meet Chad Elliott:
You can listen to this 12 minute interview All photos ©2014 by Roger D. Feldhans
Bronson: I've really been enjoying listening to your music and following up on your career and this album that you're recording right now is album number 20?
Chad Elliott: Yeah, that's right.
Bronson: Well talk about it. You've been working all week, you've been in the studio?
Chad Elliott: Yeah, I've been working on it. This is the second go round, this is the second half of it. I came down last year and we were working on the first half and I've just been raising funds back in Iowa, trying to make the money to put this out. Got some killer players on it, were gonna have Kenny Vaughn (guitars) on there and Ken Coomer on drums - he's producing it - and Dave Roe on bass and Bronson Herrmuth on harp (laughing).
Bronson: Dave's another Iowa boy.
Chad Elliott: Yes, we've got some connections there (laughing).
Bronson: How many songs are you recording?
Chad Elliott: We're doing 10.
Bronson: Are they all new? Have you written all of them for this project?
Chad Elliott: I wrote about half of them specifically for this project. Some of them I've been saving up and I've been releasing albums with these songs but I knew they weren't going to fit the bill. I wanted this to have a full band kind of raucous, more of a roots rock feel to it and so I saved the for this kind of project. It's exactly what I wanted.
Bronson: So have you come up with a name for it yet or is that still to be decided?
Chad Elliott: Still to be decided. I'm still on the fence with a few ideas (laughing).
Bronson: When do you think it will be coming out?
Chad Elliott: By this next year, 2015. It'll probably be the fall.
Bronson: So you've been enjoying Nashville since you've been here?
Chad Elliott: Oh I love it.
Bronson: You were at the Bluebird last night.
Chad Elliott: Yeah the Bluebird, we were on the East side the night before. We were taking in The Five Spot and heard some great singing there.
Bronson: You've been traveling a lot. You do 150 or more dates a year.
Chad Elliott: Yeah.
Bronson: And the majority of them are solo, right?
Chad Elliott: Yeah, almost all of them now. Pretty much all of them.
Bronson: You just came back from Denver. How was Swallow Hill?
Chad Elliott: Oh it was phenomenal. You know it was a mixed audience of people I knew, new people and family (laughing). There was some family members there, yeah, it was a good night. It's one of those historic places I've always wanted to play.
Bronson: Oh yeah, that's one of the premier singer/songwriter clubs in the world.
Chad Elliott: Yeah, it was an honor.
Bronson: I've never worked it but I've had different writers that I've worked with went out there and every one of them says the same thing.
Chad Elliott: Yeah.
Bronson: So with your songwriting. Basically you didn't get into your songwriting until actually later in life, right?
Chad Elliott: Yeah, I was on the track to be an Art Professor. I was an artist all grown up and I loved sculpting and painting and even wheel throwing pottery and things like that. I thought, well I'll just teach because my whole family on one side is all professors and teachers and the other sides all farmers. So it was kind of this decision that I really didn't make for myself, I just thought that'll be a save thing and then I picked up a guitar and started teaching myself when I was in college, an undergrad, and I fell in love with it. I knew immediately I wanted to write songs.
Bronson: So where did you graduate from?
Chad Elliott: I graduated, my undergrad was from Graceland College. It was College back then and now it's Graceland University in Lamona, Iowa. I went to graduate school for ceramics at the University of Montana in Missoula, Montana.
Bronson: You actually live in Coon Rapids.
Chad Elliott: Yes.
Bronson: Where were you born?
Chad Elliott: I was born in Mount Ayr, Iowa, southern Iowa. A tiny little town of about 1000 people and that's where my father still lives, down in there. He's a farmer and his father was a farmer on the same land, his dad's dad was a farmer on the same land, so it's tied to that area of southern Iowa.
Bronson: He has to support your music?
Chad Elliott: Oh yeah, yeah. The funny thing is the first time he ever saw me play was opening for Eric Church in front of 20,000 people. He was one of the 20,000 out there and I didn't know he was out there. He didn't tell me he was coming. It was that kind of a surreal thing where you're going, well you know I play for usually about 50 people (laughing), but there were a few more this time (laughing).
Bronson: The last time you were in town we had gotten together and we were visiting. You actually have a preference for the intimate scenarios?
Chad Elliott: Yeah, I love it. That's kind of the way I do my story telling behind the songs and I find that I can connect with an audience through my music. For me songwriting isn't about just getting the hit, but it's about my life story and hopefully I get a hit with that (laughing). But it's also just tying people, the listener, to my life and that's where I feel like I can do that until I die without worrying about whether I'm happy or not because I can do that every night if I have a small listening room. Yeah, I wouldn't be opposed to 20,000 people in the audience but it's one of those things where I can pretty much be happy wherever I go as a songwriter as long as I keep to that creed and tie people to my life story and hopefully they connect on that level.
Bronson: Well you do, your writing does that I think. You know being from Iowa myself I think it's very Iowa. So many of your references are Midwestern, when you paint the picture of being in a field or in the woods or timber, you know? As an Iowan, with nothing to do with the music, lyrically it's very relatable to for anyone from the Midwest.
Chad Elliott: Yeah.
Bronson: I mean anywhere but really it's got that feel.
Chad Elliott: Yeah, thank you.
Bronson: And your art, you've not stopped pursuing that. You're always painting and you have a new book, a new children's book.
Chad Elliott: Yeah, a new children's book I've been working on. I have a 16 year old and a 3 year old and a 1 year old, and so there's a big window there where I kept talking about getting this book out. I paint paintings based on children's songs I've written for my kids and that started about 14 years ago, that I started writing these songs for kids. So yeah, finally this year I'm putting out the book with paintings and lyrics next to it as well with a little children's album under Wilderman's Treetop Tales. Hopefully it will become a series that I just keep doing and I'm doing a lot of kid's shows too.
Bronson: So you do combine that right. A lot of times when you have your art shows and show your art, you also perform?
Chad Elliott: Yeah, I have a whole art exhibit based on lyric paintings where I can go and put up an exhibit you know, a gallery exhibit of my paintings where I can perform the opening as a concert. I feel like they kind of go hand in hand, where the paintings come from my songs come from too, that creative spirit and energy behind that and tapping into one is like tapping into the same one, the same place. A lot of times in my song journals there'll be little doodles and stuff, paintings I can see going with this.
Bronson: Now the book. It's coming out, it's out?
Chad Elliott: Just got it mailed in this week actually. We're going to be releasing it here in this next month in Burlington, Burlington, Iowa. There's a bookstore there that we're gonna have a release concert and kids can come and play. Everywhere I go on tour for my regular music I'll try and find independent bookstores or libraries or schools.
Bronson: What about over seas? What about Europe?
Chad Elliott: I'm looking at that. I've just started booking myself again and trying to find a European booking agent out there. I want to be able to play out there with this new album. I'm going to try to push really hard on getting outside of my own comfort zone and touring new areas. Yeah, I'd love to get over to Europe.
Bronson: I think you'd do really well. I think they would just eat it up.
Chad Elliott: I've heard great things. A lot of friends play over there and they say, Oh you've got to get over there (laughing).
Bronson: That could be how you get there, as far as getting with them.
Chad Elliott: Yeah, use their contacts.
Bronson: Yeah, whoever's booking them. Maybe they could grease the wheels a little bit.
Chad Elliott: Yeah (laughing).
Bronson: So if you could perform and were able to share the stage with anyone that's out there right now, anyone you could choose, who would it be?
Chad Elliott: Well I mean obviously, Bob Dylan would be a huge one for me, but I'm a big fan of Texas songwriters. Billy Joe Shaver would be great, Steve Earle (laughing). Some others would be Greg Brown. I'm a big fan of his. Yeah he doesn't tour as much now, these days, but yeah, to be able to share the stage with him on a regular basis would be an honor. A lot of great songwriters out there I could see myself - Amos Lee, I'm a big fan of his work.
Bronson: You're talking all male.
Chad Elliott: (laughing) Yeah, there's a lot of good females.
Bronson: So on the female side?
Chad Elliott: Well, I mean Norah Jones would be a dream come true (laughing). I'm a big fan of hers. On the more Americana side, Elizabeth Cook, or Patti Griffin. I mean I'm a huge fan of hers.
Bronson: So your touring. What's coming up next with your touring?
Chad Elliott: Well I'm doing some tours, like this winter I'm going down south. I'm going down to Texas and Oklahoma and I got some dates in Alabama as well, and then further out I've got some more dates out west. I'm coming down to Tennessee here in the springtime so I'm coming down to Nashville again. My wife's gonna hit the road with me on one of those. We're gonna have my mom watch the kids and she's gonna take a tour down in Nashville. I want her to get the full Nashville vibe (laughing).
Bronson: Yeah, she'll love that and one of these days you'll have to bring the kids down too.
Chad Elliott: Yeah, we were down this summer. We went out to Kingsport and we went out to Gatlinburg on a family vacation, so they got to walk around Tennessee and it was a good time.
Bronson: Do you ever see farming in your future?
Chad Elliott: You know I've thought about that many times because I've always wondered what my dad will do with the land he's got you know, as he's getting older. His dad just passed away 2 years ago and I started thinking about that. I don't see myself farming unless it's a small operation (laughing). I spent enough time on the farm with him in the summers to know, well maybe that's not my cup of tea (laughing). I feel like I'm always farming but it's songs that I'm farming (laughing).
Bronson: Well listen, I really appreciate you doing this.
Chad Elliott: Thank you.
Bronson: I'm really looking forward to hearing this music too.
Chad Elliott: Well hopefully we'll do that in a few minutes (laughing).
Bronson: Allright and welcome back to Nashville and have fun. You're heading back to Iowa tonight?
Chad Elliott: Yeah, heading back for a Gala there in Des Moines.
Bronson: Well you tell all them folks up there I said hey.
Chad Elliott: (laughing) I will do that.
For more information about Chad just visit his website
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