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A chat with Eli Smart

“Aloha Soul” crusader Eli Smart is rapidly gaining traction and turning heads in the music scene. The Hawaiian-born artist is currently on the road supporting Declan McKenna and has also just gifted us with a wavy new single “Fiesta 99.9FM.” Eli is truly one of a kind and is offering up songs that feel like a breath of fresh air. We had the pleasure of chatting with Eli about all things music, so read more below and be sure to follow Eli along on his journey! 

Hi Eli! Thank you so much for taking the time to answer our questions. I’ve heard that you were raised by a family of musicians, so would you say that your upbringing ignited your passion for music? What were your earliest memories of music?

Hi! Thank you for taking the time to ask me some questions. My family definitely helped inspire my musical journey. It was a very nurturing creative environment to grow up in and I am very grateful for that. I remember that there would always be really great records playing and a few instruments around, music just always seems very accessible.

How would you say that growing up on Kauai and being submerged within the community there has influenced the music that you make?

Music and community are very much intertwined on Kaua’i. Growing up playing music within my own family helped us connect with the larger community and was always something that helped me find my way growing up on Kaua’i. The visual environment as well has always been such a source of inspiration for me too, it’s such an evocative landscape that has surely helped guide the music I make.

I’ve been following along your journey for a while and was so stoked when I saw that you were joining Declan Mckenna on tour, I bought my ticket for the Cleveland show so fast! How has tour life been treating you so far? Do you have a favorite part of being on the road? 

Ahh no way! That’s so cool, thank you! Tour was epic, it was my first time being sort of a tour of this scale and it was such an amazing adventure. Declan and his whole team were the absolute best vibe to be with. I’ve really enjoyed getting to try Waffle House, that was a hit for me. 

Your grandmother has joined you on the road to play bass, which is so badass and special! What’s it been like having her up on stage with you? Has she played a big part in your musical journey? 

Yea it’s been amazing. It was totally unplanned but then just worked out this way, so happy it did. It’s been an amazing experience getting to play my songs with her and just share these moments together. I never would have imagined getting the opportunity to be able to do something like this in this way. She has always been a musical and life inspiration for me, I’ve grown up knowing stories about her with her band she’s been in all her life called the Ace Of Cups, proper rock and roll! She’s also showed me her love of the ocean was a big part of my life too. 

Your sound throws a Hawaiian twist into your own genre of surf-rock that you’ve named "aloha soul." How did you go about finding your sound, and who are some of your biggest musical influences that have helped form your musical identity?

Calling my music Aloha Soul is simply my way of paying homage to the mixture of environments, cultures and sounds that I’ve found inspiration in growing up. I love listening to music from lots of different places and finding the bits that make sense to me and then trying to create something out of that. Some of my biggest musical inspirations are the Beatles, Brazilian music, Motown and loads more. 

Your newest single “Fiesta 99.9FM” is such a great track, congratulations! What did your creative process look like for this one?

Thank you very much! My best mate James Kerr and I were in London and started working on this one together, we left it for a while and I wrote most of the words and got the last bits of ideas for the teach back home on Kaua’i then we finished it together back in London. I really enjoy being able to use the two locations and creative foils to one another, it's fun to start something somewhere and finish it somewhere else. I’m very fortunate to be able to do this. 

We were given your first official release back in 2018, what have you learned about yourself as an artist since then? 

I think I'm just forever learning to embrace the whole music career journey as a process and try to find joy wherever it may find you. Just trying to find peace and contentment in little moments along the way, because it's so clear that life is only ever the process, never really “arriving” anywhere. 

Thank you so much for your time, Eli! I absolutely cannot wait to see what’s next for you and it has been such a joy to follow along on your journey so far! Your 2023 has already been jam-packed with exciting things, but what’s next for Eli Smart? Any goals or hopes for the future?

Thank you so much for your time and kind words! I'm so excited to be putting out on my first full length record next year, stay tuned!! More  shows hopefully too:)

Keep up with Eli!

Interview by Sara


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