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portrait of an artist: eli lieb
an enlightened musician sharing his inner vision
by tracey l. kelley (@TraceyLKelley)
1.30.12
music

Singer/songwriter Eli Lieb uses the ancient power of meditation to create fresh, modern music. With more than two million views on YouTube and a self-produced eponymous release, Lieb’s philosophy of total wellness helps him mine his instincts to perform with his whole self. His soaring ballads and club beat rhythms touch on everything from love and loss to the hidden potential within each of us.

Currently on his North American tour, Lieb hopes people not only relate to and embrace his music, but also appreciate its inspiration.

It's a cinematic tale: boy from a small town leaves for the bright lights of the big city to pursue fame and fortune. The twist: he comes back! Why did you believe returning home to Fairfield, Iowa, would be more conducive for your creativity?

I knew that being home was where I was the happiest, and I had reached a point in my life where that was my main priority: to be happy. I didn't have too much of a plan after that but luckily, I started to experience that when you go toward happiness, everything in your life expands. My creativity skyrocketed and I started creating the best stuff of my career so far. And nature really started heavily supporting me. It's ironic to me that the second I go home, to Iowa, nonetheless, is when my career takes off. It's pretty funny if I stop and think about it.

I think many people are surprised when they hear just what a vibrant artistic community Fairfield really is.

Fairfield, Iowa, really is amazing. Some of the most creative people I have ever known live there. And it’s definitely my favorite place to be. It's where the home of Transcendental Meditation is and I have to say, it’s incredible being in such a supportive, positive, and life-nourishing place. And when I'm there, I don't feel creatively suppressed either. Actually, it's where I feel I have the most creativity. The more rested and nourished I am, the more productive I am. And Fairfield is a wonderful place for nourishment.

As you designed the sound of this debut, what was most important?

Just that I was 100% true to what I wanted. There can potentially be so many different voices of influence in your life telling you this or that, and it can be very easy to get off track from your vision. So this record was about letting all of that go and just creating what fully made me happy and what I wanted to create. Every second of my debut album is 100% me.

A few tracks on your release are perfect club mixes, but some people think of club music as being only accessible to a particular audience or demographic. How do you think your music on this collection transcends that attitude?

I think that when you listen to my album you can feel its emotional intensity. And when you have an emotional connection to something, it could be in any form, as long as there is that connection. While yes, you can certainly dance to some of the songs on the album, there is still the same emotional intensity in those songs as there is in a slower piano ballad. It allows the listener to go on whatever journey you bring them on.

What inspires your lyrics?

Quite simply, my life. Some songs might be based off of a feeling or emotion I only felt for a minute, but it's easy for me to go back to that space and recall all the details of that time, no matter how brief. I'm a really happy person but there are definitely songs that deal with heartbreak, deception, longings, etc.... This doesn't mean those themes dominate my life; they were just something I felt I needed to get out on paper. It's almost like an exorcism. The second I get it out of my system in the form of a song, it's pretty much as if I just let it go, like a release. It's quite freeing, actually.

Do you have a particular creative process, or does everything happen more organically?

My creative process is to allow for anything. Sometimes I’ll sit down wanting to create something and it's like pulling teeth: absolutely nothing comes out. And then other times, quite randomly, something will just come out of me and all of a sudden and I’ll have this new song that I'm really excited about. When that happens, I usually can't even remember writing it. It's actually quite bizarre! But that's when I know I've struck something.

You self-produced the release--did you also play most of the instruments? And why the decision to self-release?

Yeah, I produced my record and I actually played all of the instruments as well. It’s quite a freeing thing when you are totally self-contained. I think that's the reason I've been going down this road so far. It’s really not overrated being completely in charge of yourself.

There's a common belief that to be a talented artist, you need to be struggling, wrought with misery, or riddled with vices. But you are a yoga enthusiast, a practitioner of Transcendental Meditation and, according to your Twitter bio, a kale eater. (All hail kale!) How do these touchstones in your lifestyle influence your work?

They just make me happy. I believe the opposite of what so many people believe. I believe that the happier you are, the more creative you are. You can still tap into those moments that were more difficult in your life if you want, but you can do that from a place of overall happiness. I think it's a myth that you need to be tortured to be an artist. I think if you are happy and strong, you can be absolutely anything you want to be, and be it to your full potential.

While some people may be vaguely aware of Transcendental Meditation (TM), how do you explain the practice to a curious person?

It's a very simple and effortless mantra based meditation: 20 minutes twice a day. When you learn TM, you’re given a very specific mantra and are instructed on how to use it. But it's an easy practice. It helps you dive within yourself and go deep into places that you might not have contacted before. And tapping into those places is when you really start to see and feel the effects, which are pretty immediate. Most feel that level of transcendence on their first meditation.

Finally, what are five things people would be surprised to know about you?

*I think fresh greens are so beautiful. I tend to take pictures of really impressive chard and kale that I see in the grocery store.

*I am an avid tea drinker--British style. I start every day with a pot of tea.

*I am obsessed with “30 Rock”. I watch it every night in bed before I go to sleep.

*My happiest moments in my life are when I'm simply taking a walk in nature, especially when I'm with my family.

*I never put on an act. What you see is what you get.



**********************************************************
*Download Eli Lieb’s debut album
from his website.

*Watch his hit video, "Place of Paradise".
*Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.


ABOUT TRACEY L. KELLEY

Tracey likes to shake things up and then take the lid off. She also likes to keep the peace, especially in a safe, fuzzy place. Writer, editor, producer, yogini, ('cause yoger or yogor simply doesn't work) by day, rabid WordsWithFriends and DrawSomething! player by night. You can follow her on Twitter: @traceylkelley or @tkyogaforyou

more about tracey l. kelley

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