“Warm, smokey, laced with honey and rough around the edges like a piece of cedar siding”…well, sign me up! Elijah Ocean was born in a small house in the Hudson Valley. His parents later moved the family to the woods of midcoast Maine, where he grew up writing songs in a barn...well if that doesn’t scream good American roots music, I am not sure what does. Before moving to Brooklyn in 2009, Ocean hung his hat in Portland, where he recorded and released his folky solo debut, The Wind or the Wine. Ocean is currently performing regionally all over the country, and has begun work on what will be his third solo release. Honest and just plain good songwriting is what you get with this man, weary from the road but ready for the party anyway. I caught up with Elijah for a few questions about his music, touring, and his upcoming show right here in Cambridge at Club Passim on January 7th.
1) So, who are you, what do you do, why are you here? Give the fine readers the low down on Elijah Ocean, your current projects, etc....
EO: I am a songwriter, singer and guitar player with a touring band living in Brooklyn, New York. I released my first solo record in 2009 before moving down here from Maine, and then got to work putting a band together for my second one, which came out in 2012. Since then the lineup of the band has evolved into it's current formation, and we've been touring the country and getting ready to release the next record.
2) Your music definitely blurs the edges between a few genres (I've heard references to Dylan, the Band, Justin Townes Earle), but there is a keen focus on the songwriting that is obvious. As a performer and musician how important is the songwriting craft aspect of your music to you? That is, that people are really listening to and experiencing the songs rather than just dancing and swaying to some music?
EO: The song is really what I listen for in music. A good melody with believable lyrics sung over the right chords does something to me that nothing else can. So I guess that's what I try to do; express myself though song, and hope somebody listening connects. But it's also about the party.
EO: The road is great. You can really explore and feel everything getting better daily out there. That's not to say there aren't ups and downs. Sometimes I didn't know what day it was, but was totally alert in another way. This show at Passim will be different because it'll be solo acoustic, which I really love doing when I get the chance.
4) So you have a show coming up at the noted Club Passim with local duo Brian Carroll/Mark Whitaker and your pals, Portland based The Coloradas. As a NYC artist, do you enjoy coming through Boston/Cambridge? There is that sports rivalry between the two cities, but the music communities seem to embrace one another in passing. How has the local community received you in the past?
EO: Very much looking forward to the show. I grew up in New England, so I have a lot of friends up there and a deep connection to the area. Boston is not as different from the rest of the country as you may think. It's definitely unique, but people are people all over America. I've enjoyed many a night there.
5) Ok, so plug anything else you have coming up in the next few months/ what else
EO: The full band will be out on the road again at the end of January into February, doing a run around the Northeast and to Nashville and back. Then we'll be hitting it again in March when the new album comes out, going to Texas, California and back, keeping morale high and the van running. Hope to see you!
Get your chance to catch Elijah when he swings through Cambridge at Club Passim on January 7th. Also on the bill are Portland's premier songwriting, guitar/banjo duo The Coloradas and Boston's own Mark Whitaker and Brian Carroll playing as a duo for the first time.