INTERVIEW: LANDON ELLIOTT
Landon Elliott is an indie singer-songwriter from Richmond, VA. He decided to spend four weeks in a place he became very familiar with in his childhood, and returned once more to record an intimate and special batch of songs titled 'Live at Poe's Pub'.
These performances were more than just a return to his roots; they were a profound reintroduction. Post the tumultuous era of the COVID-19 shutdown, Landon's life saw significant changes – coming out as gay later in life, navigating through the complexities of marital separation, and even undergoing a significant haircut. These shows were a canvas on which he painted his newfound colors and shared his evolving story. We sat down with Landon to learn more about this unique story, what the songs mean to him and much, much more, exclusively for FLEX.
Hey Landon, welcome to FLEX! How are you doing today?
Hello hello! I’m doing very well. So happy to be here!
Your latest release, "Live at Poe's Pub," was recorded during a four-week residency at this venue that means so much to you. Can you share some of the most memorable moments or performances from those evenings, and how did it feel to return to a place that played a significant role in your early career?
Oh wow, there’s a treasure trove of memories from those nights. On night 3 we did a killer cover of ‘Dreams’ by Fleetwood Mac and ‘Dancing in the Dark’ by Bruce Springsteen with my buddy Jon Russell from the Head and the Heart guest singing. On night 4, I had saxophonist extraordinaire Charles Owens, sitting in and he took some of my original songs to places I didn’t know they could go. Oh, and I remember one of the nights I was in the middle of performing a softer acoustic song and right in the middle of the song, one of the bartender comes in and starts yelling “Would the owner of the Toyota RAV4 please move your vehicle, you are blocking someone in!!!” and the room just erupted with laughter and I was just beside myself. Stuff like that happened every week and the unpredictability made it all the more exciting.
Too much fun. But really, it was so incredible getting to have this residency in Poe’s. It’s such a great room with so many memories, so to host an event like this back where it all started really meant the world. Felt very full-circle.
This album seems to be a reintroduction of yourself as an artist, particularly after significant life changes like coming out as gay, a marital separation, and a significant haircut. How did these personal experiences influence your music, and what can listeners expect to hear in terms of your growth and evolution as an artist?
It is a reintroduction. Life has been wild these past few years; good, all be it hard, changes with some new waters to travel. My music had to be put on the back burner there for a bit while I navigated everything, but when the time came to start looking at performing again, I was looking for an opportunity for people to see that I am both the same and, at the same time, am also very different. maybe not ‘different,’ but an even more honest and maybe new representation of myself. The haircut in the ‘aftermath’ music video was the first step in showing this, using a physical transformation that alluded to an even deeper change. But yeah, these performances were a way for me to show up as I am now, with songs both familiar, old, and new, to try to bridge listeners into this new era.
"Live at Poe's Pub" captures the intimacy of live performances. How do you approach translating the energy and connection of a live show into a recorded album?
I think I went into the residency and the recording process with hopes that the recordings sounded real. Like you can hear the vibe of the room and the humanity of the instrumentation and vocals. came through. I can be a bit neurotic when I’m in the studio, especially when it comes to vocal performance; but this live album, one-take approach means what happens that night is what happens in the recording. A little nerve-racking, I kinda tried to put it out of my mind that it was happening honestly. Don’t get me wrong, myself and the band rehearsed obsessively to make sure that we were all on the same page and locked in for each show, but at the end of the night the performance we got was the performance we got. I also was adamant about capturing the noise of the room. You can hear conversations, glasses clinking, and cheers in the recordings, and I was hopeful that the contextual sounds would transport people into the room as they listen.
Stream 'Live at Poe's Pub' in full here:
You recently released the single "aftermath" along with a one-take music video. Can you tell us more about the inspiration behind the song and the creative process behind the video?
“Aftermath” is a song about making a change for yourself, even when your perception tells you - you will devastate everyone and everything around you. For me, that was coming out as gay, and this song is about the hard parts, and difficult circumstances, of sharing that so that I could get to a place of wholeness.
And I’ve honestly had an idea for a haircut music video for as long as I had long hair haha. This song and a buzzcut just seemed to go hand in hand, though. I was pretty fixed on doing a one take music video for it as well. Thank God I had the team at ‘The Sunroom’ here in RVA to help me dream up the process. For me, I think I used my hair as a cloaking device almost; something to hide behind. Cutting it was so liberating, but I wanted people to see how the hair hid me, how I let others shape me (cue the crazy chop by my masked friends), and that I was taking it into my own hands to start fresh.
You mentioned your early days at Poe's Pub for open mic nights. How did those experiences shape you as an artist, and what advice would you give to aspiring musicians who are just starting out and trying to find their voice in the music industry?
Those days were just so inspired. It’s such an honest room that harbor’s the scene’s songwriters. Whether it was your first time in front of people or you were a veteran of the space, everybody was advocating for one another. There was just this kind of magic in the air that made each night special. I always loved that there was just a tinge of competitiveness to, where regulars were trying to up our performances. Not in a harsh way, but just like we all wanted each other to just continue growing and improving. To me its music community in its purest form.
I’d tell someone starting out to not let others change their voice. Being yourself as an artist is the greatest gift you can give to the world. People don’t want a diluted version of you or a carbon copy of someone else. So be you and people will listen.
And lastly, what’s next for Landon Elliott?
A new album is finished and should be coming out next year! Keep your eyes peeled!