Guest Interview: Chris Ely, Rising Musician

As promised, here is the interview of the week with a very special guest musician: Chris Ely, who released his debut album, Can’t Stay for Long last summer. Chris is mega-talented, down-to-earth, and just plain nice all around. Did I mention he’s pretty cute too? It is such a pleasure to have him as a guest on my blog this week, introducing him not only as an up-and-coming musical star, but also as my friend. By the end of this interview, you will admire him just as much as I.

1. When and why did you start playing?

Growing up, all I wanted to do was play baseball. However, when I was young, I was in a car accident that wrecked my knees. I soon came to the realization that my dreams of playing baseball in the future would never happen.

Ironically, accepting that was probably one of the best things that has ever happened to me. My sister’s boyfriend at the time was a musician. I used to sit and watch him play guitar as long as he would allow me. He told me that if I wanted to be in a band I should play bass. “Bands are always looking for a decent bass player and chicks really dig bass players,” he would say. So, I picked up a bass and within six months, I was in a band.

2. When did you first realize you wanted to pursue a career in music?

I love challenges and what challenges me the most is trying to carve out a melody that sticks in your head. Seeing a song take shape from nothing gives me a great sense of fulfillment– especially if it sounds good. And um…there are many that don’t. A few years ago I thought to myself: What if I could do this all the time? It was soon after that I began to work on an album.

3. Which instruments do you play?

I am a jack-of-all-trades and a master on none! I play a bit of everything, finding that playing different instruments inspires my creativity. My primary instruments are guitar and bass, but I have picked up piano and drums over the last few years.

4. What was the first song you ever sang? How did it make you feel?

The first song I ever sang was a tune I wrote for a girl in high school. It was pretty terrible but she seemed to like it…or at least, she acted like she enjoyed it. It was terrifying to be honest, especially since I was really shy back then. I was so nervous I could have exploded. All I can remember was being so happy when it was over.

5. Who are your favorite musicians? Groups? Albums?

Ahh…where do I start? The first band that really inspired me was Nirvana. When “Nevermind” came out, it didn’t leave my CD player for months. I also really love most Brit Rock. Radiohead is one of my favorite bands of all time. I saw them in a small club in Palo Alto the first time I heard them live. They totally blew me away. Seeing them give absolutely everything they had was inspiring. Their intricate parts and layered melodies hooked me big time.

After Radiohead, I went “backwards” and got into the Beatles and Pink Floyd. U2 became my addiction after that. Yeah…huge man crush on Bono. Pete Yorn is a big favorite of mine too. He has a simplistic, yet soulful way in his music. I never get tired of his stuff. I think Trent Reznor is an absolute genius. I love his stuff too. Lately I would have to say Arcade Fire is a favorite. They have such an authentic rawness to their music.

6. Do you get nervous before a performance?

Every time I play I get nervous. This thought runs through my mind: Don’t make a fool of yourself. However, after a song or two, I start to loosen up and enjoy the set.

7. What advice would you give to beginners who are nervous?

Be well-rehearsed before you get on stage. Live in the moment and have fun on stage. An audience tends to get into your music easier when you look like you are enjoying yourself.

8. How did you become involved in the type of music you play/sing now?

When I set out to make my latest record, I made a decision to write music that I would want to play. Something I would want to buy when it was all said and done. Most importantly, I wanted it to be honest and authentic, not just something I wanted to sell. After completing Can’t Stay for Long, I think I did just that.

9. What does your songwriting process look like?

My writing process can start from several places. I generally write the music first, and not to sound corny, listen to what the music is saying before any vocals and melodies are put down. Then I start to build the melodies and words around a theme I feel the music is saying. Sometimes I hear a melody or a line in my head and build a song around that. “Lost Souls” is a song where the chorus was dancing around in my head. After about a week of it at the front of my mind, I decided to finally get it out.

10. What are your songs about?

I write about everything. If I try to write about something specific, I tend to get writer’s block really fast. My songs are mostly centered around relationships, faith, stories from people, my inward journey, and my distaste for politics. Ha…that about covers everything imaginable except for math equations. Hmm…

Can’t Stay for Long is a bit different though. I was living in Africa for almost nine years. I went through a tremendous amount of culture shock when I moved back to the States a few years ago. Writing those songs were, in a way, therapeutic for me as I readjusted to life here. It was almost like a diary of what I was thinking about and experiencing through that period.

I wrote most of the album in the summer of 2010. My first studio session was in the beginning of 2011. I would fly up to Portland to work with my producer Jordan Richter every chance I had. We finished the record in the summer of 2011 and I released it shortly after.

11. What’s your favorite song off your latest album?

Ooh that is tough. They all have meaning to me. Each song is about something that reminds me of a certain event or experience. The title track “Can’t Stay for Long” sums it all up I suppose. That’s why I chose that song as the title track. The last two songs I wrote on the record were “Love Remains” and “Palace”. Sonically, that is the direction I’m going with my music. I really like them for that reason. I have a deep personal connection to “Lost Souls”; that song is about a friend of mine. “Can’t Stay for Long” was about the difficulty of leaving a country and some of the best people I’ve ever known. Yeah…it’s really tough to choose just one favorite.

12. What has been your biggest challenge thus far?

I would say working full-time as a high school teacher and trying to push my music work against each other often. I love to teach though; teenagers are amazing. My alarm goes off at 5:30 a.m. everyday. Getting out there and doing gigs become a challenge with that schedule. But I suppose that every artist in the beginning has similar challenges.

13. What do you attribute to your drive as an artist?

It’s a double-edged sword for me. If I don’t express myself through art in some way, something inside of me starts to die. If I stop writing, I will never get close to where I want to be.

14. What makes your sound unique from other artists?

This is a really difficult question…sigh (deep thinking)…most sounds and chord progressions out there have already been done over and over. So, I like music that takes you on twists and turns that you don’t expect, without sounding irritating. I have a gentle singing voice that is mixed with these musical twists and turns. I hope people find my music not only easy on the ear, but find themselves taken somewhere different with each song’s unique sonic quality.

15. Any current (new) projects you’re working on? What’s next?

I’ve already been laying the foundation for a new album. My scenery has changed so you can expect the music to change too. I’ve also been talking to a DJ friend of mine about working on a dance music side project. That one is still up in the air though.

16. What have you been listening to lately?

Friendly Fires and M83…absolutely in love with them.

17. What do you do when you’re not working your day job or playing music?

There is not much time beyond that. Hmm…Drinking good coffee, watching Sci-Fi, and going to church. Yeah, I’m dorky and boring….and I like it!

18. Any hidden talents or hobbies?

In a rare, very rare, moment of free time, I love to paint and read biographies.

19. Finally, what are your social media sites? Where can we find you and (most importantly) where can we buy your album?

Buy Can’t Stay for Long (album)

iTunes: Can’t Stay for Long

Amazon: Can’t Stay for Long

Social Media
Website: chriselymusic.com

Fanpage: facebook.com/chriselymusic

Twitter: twitter.com/chriselymusic

Jango: Chris Ely

Soundcloud: Chris Ely

I want to thank Chris for sharing on my blog. For further information, you can contact info@chriselymusic.com. I would like to encourage everyone to take a listen to his tunes and buy his album. Chris has easily become one of my favorite musicians and I’ll just bet he’ll become one of yours too. My favorite song on his album is “Love Remains”. By the way, Chris and I have been working on some stuff together as well, so stay on the lookout for some cool things coming your way soon. Until then, I hope everyone enjoys listening to Can’t Stay for Long.

Tattoos: What’s the BIG deal?

So today, I added a fifth tattoo to my “collection”. It’s on my right forearm and is rather large. The others I have are: a star on my left wrist, a bonsai tree with Greek lettering on my mid back, the sun/surf/palm trees of Alicante, Spain on my lower right shoulder blade, and stars with a quote on the top of my left foot.

Obviously, I enjoy tattoos and do not regret the choices I have made to place them on my body. I don’t care that someday I’m going to be old and wrinkly, still tatted. Like I’m gonna care at that point in my life or will even wear clothes that expose all my tats? Come on now. And besides, tattoo removal places are popping up in malls nowadays, so if I REALLY wanted to get them removed, I could go to the mall to have the procedure done and then shop at Macy’s for new shoes after. Our ever evolving technology is amazing.

Anyway, what is the big deal about tattoos for some people? Has it become just another way to be prejudiced? My family is not very thrilled about my new addition and I honestly am not phased by this. Though, this is the more rebellious and free-spirited side of me that comes out at these moments. My dad liked my tat in theory–until he saw where it was and how big. My mom said “whatever” and my middle sister shared the same sentiments (but she has one tattoo on her foot!). The only supporter is my youngest sister who simply said, “Oh, cool!” when I showed her. Can’t please everyone, right?

So again, I ask what’s the big deal? I’m not gonna lie…I do tend to lightweight judge those who get (what I think to be) just plain stupid tattoos or even slightly cool tattoos but put in dumb places. I’m sure most would know what I’m talking about. For me, all my tattoos have a very specific and special meaning to me and I’ve waited at least a year to get each one (with exception to the one I got done in Spain). I get that some people may be against tattoos in regards to their history but times have changed.

The first tattoo–and the most painful–I got is the one on my foot. It’s still one of my favorites and I’ve had it for almost six years. I continually get compliments on it, even from people that claim they “don’t like tattoos”. The colors have lasted this whole time too, giving it a very fun look. I have traditional, five-pointed stars and seven-pointed stars. I love stars because they remind me to shine bright in a dark world. The seven-points represent God since His number is seven. And the wording says, “They will shine like stars…”, paraphrased from Philippians 2:15 which basically says that Believers should shine like stars in the way they live their lives. I really love this visual reminder for my life. I was twenty-two when I had it done.

The second tat I got is the sun, surf and palms: the three symbols of the city of Alicante in Spain. I was blessed to study in this beautiful city during the summer of 2008 and fell in love with it so I decided to get a tattoo as a memoir. One of my roommates also got one–matching, in fact–and it was a really cool bonding experience for us to go through together. I really love this tattoo because it represents one of the best, most life-changing experiences of my life. And ironically, my name translated from Hebrew means “Queen of the Palm Trees”, so I think having some palm trees on me is quite appropriate.

The third and fourth tats I had done together: a star on my left wrist and a bonsai tree with Greek on my mid/lower back. I waited for eight years to get that tiny star; two years to get the bonsai tree.

The star was from a tattoo I had seen on a model, in my teens. I thought it was cute and small enough to not be overwhelming. That’s when my love for tattoos had begun. I always had wanted to get that star and I did! The bonsai tree is a symbol of patience, perseverance and endurance. The writing says: Luke 8:15-“Bear fruit with perseverance.” This is my reminder to persevere in order to reap great blessing and reward. It is one of the mantras for my life.

Lastly, the tat I got today is a treble and bass clef with a music staff and notes. There’s writing in Latin that says: facere sonitus laetitiae=make a joyful noise (from Psalm 98 and other chapters). It’s the largest one that I will have “on display” at all times. Not only is it a symbol of my love for and dedication to music; it’s a reminder for me to choose joy, despite hardships. The past few years have been pretty hard on me and finding out I have Fibromyalgia last month was difficult to swallow. But I am choosing joy–choosing to carry on and fight through chronic pain and live my life the best I can. Why would I ever want to remove something that reminds me of this season in my life?

So perhaps tattoos are just misunderstood by those that don’t have them or those who have never attached a meaning to their own tattoos. Just getting a tattoo to have one has never been cool in my book. I mean, why else would I have taken the time to really think about my decision to get a permanent marking in the first place and then painstakingly design each one that I have gotten? This is why it’s hard for me to swallow that some people will still judge me just for being a girl with a large, visible tattoo–and only because it’s that. They won’t take the time to get to know me or understand why I’ve chosen to place these symbols on my body. They won’t learn that I’ve been teaching for almost ten years and have been able to touch over 600 lives in my teaching career, or that on some days I am crippled by chronic pain. And sadly, I will never be able to sing them a song I’ve written. But that’s not going to let me down; it serves to make me stronger and just be like the stars on my foot and wrist, shining brightly in the darkness. Besides, when I meet God someday, He’ll remove my tattoos if he doesn’t like them.

Tamar’s Cinnamon Rolls

Tamar's Cinnamon RollsAs promised earlier today via FB, I am posting my paleo-style cinnamon roll recipe. I made these yummy things this morning. My sister sent me a few different recipes for the above creations but each one seemed to contain too many steps or ingredients that I didn’t have. Therefore, typical to my (lazy) cooking process, I decided to improvise with what I already knew and had. And voila! These little beauties popped out of my oven and satisfied my craving for something yummy, without the price tag of guilt to go along with it. Here’s the recipe for those who would like to try it:

Tamar’s Paleo Cinnamon Rolls

For the dough:

-1/3 cup coconut flour

-1/4 cup almond flour

-4 eggs

-1/2 tsp. xantham gum (used to make the dough a bit thicker)

-1/2 tsp. sea salt

-1/2 tsp. baking powder

-2 tbsp. raw honey (optional)

-5 tbsp. raw butter or coconut oil (softened but not melted)

For the filling:

-about 1/3 cup almond meal

-as much or as little cinnamon as you want

-about 2 tbsp. almond oil (add more as needed)

-4-6 drops of liquid stevia (tastes better than the powdered form)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Have a parchment paper lined baking tray ready to go. Mix all dough ingredients into a medium to large mixing bowl. Allow to sit for a few minutes so the dough can become thicker. In the meantime, make the filling by placing all ingredients into a small bowl. Allow filling to become the consistency with which you are happy. Then use a large spoon to plop a good amount of dough on your hand. With your fingers, smooth the dough into a 3″x1″ strip. Use a butter knife to spread some of the filling evenly onto the dough strip. Carefully roll up the strip into a cinnamon roll shape. Next, place the roll on the baking tray and slightly press it down with a spoon or the palm of your hand. Repeat until all dough is gone. Should make 8-9 rolls. Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes or until lightly browned and firm. Let cool on a cooling rack and serve with raw honey or raw coconut nectar drizzled on top. Enjoy!

This is the coconut syrup I use.

My breakfast from this morning: Over-medium eggs, lamb sausage, cinnamon roll. Yum!

So…give it a go and see how it turns out for you. I myself was very pleased with the result and my family loved them! By the way, I use Earth Balance soy-free spread instead of butter because I try to stay away from dairy as much as I can. (Which really means, as much as I can control myself from when it comes to cheese and butter. Everything else dairy makes me sick, so I don’t even try.) Note that you don’t even have to put anything on top of the roll but I wanted the “full” effect–as much of a full effect I could get. These little babies are definitely something I’d make again–AND they don’t break the budget. All in all, a win/win, especially considering the calorie count of a real, gluten-filled cinnamon roll compared to my creations. Happy Sunday and happy eating!

Welcome :)

Happy New Year and welcome to my blog extraordinaire! This is a little place that gives a lot. There’s some of “this” and some of “that” sprinkled about. As this space continues to evolve, I invite you to join my journey. Building an empire doesn’t happen in one day and every moment builds upon the next. So, sit back, relax, and enjoy my construction process.