Featured Artist: Elissa Janelle Velveteen

Age: 30

Hometown/ Current town: Philadelphia

Job description: Musician/songwriter/artist

Bio:  I’ve been singing and writing songs for as long as I can remember and slowly adding instruments to my arsenal.

Upcoming projects:  I just released my first solo album One Sunken Ship and am looking forward to releasing two new videos and playing aaaallll of the shows.

Select links:

Www.Elissajanellevelveteen.band camp.com

@elissajanellevelveteen

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Describe your work.

I didn’t know how to start fixing everything wrong with the world so I just started listening and making art and friends and music. I create and write for the sake of creation but what keeps me playing out and socially active is a deep desire to help and inspire others.

What are you currently working on?

Now that I’ve recorded an album full of my best and oldest songs, I am completely sick of them. Haha I feel pretty liberated and have been writing like crazy. My newest tune is called The Ghosts of Girard Avenue and is about a methadone clinic in my neighborhood.

What materials do you work with?

Music is my first love (I sing and play guitar, piano, drums, bass, ukulele, mandolin, harmonica, autoharp, melodica and most recently accordian) but I love changing mediums to get my brain train moving on a different track. I love to act, draw, paint and sculpt.

What kind of creative patterns, routines or rituals do you have?

Proper inspiration is vital. If I’m going to be demanding attention and climbing onto soap boxes then I’d better have something to say or something to give. I like to watch documentaries about social issues and also spend time in the world meeting all kinds of people and in nature forming my own perspectives.

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What’s your art background? Music background?

My father plays piano and guitar and sings so I’m very fortunate to have grown up in an artistically nurturing environment. Chicago, Billy Joel, America, the Eagles, Led Zeplin and Pink Floyd were some of his favorites. As I grew I dove into heavier and more complex sounds and even older music. My tastes are pretty varied and I think my tunes are pretty eclectic on account.  I love Between the Buried and Me, Billie Holiday, The Violent Femmes, At the Drive In, Django Rheinhardt,  The Buena Vista Social Club and Bad Religion. . . .among many many others.

What’s been happening in your life?

I’m also in a band called Molly Rhythm (a 7 piece eclectic flower metal, funk rock band with a horn section and dueling lead vocals).  We are actually currently sitting in line to endure American customs on our way home from Canada. It’s usually easier to get back into America than Canada, we’ve been stopped two out of three times but always worth the distress. We LOVE Canada and have made many good friends. I’m ecstatic to be débuting my solo project in Montreal Dec 16 at the Katacombes for a festival.

What’s next for you?

Now that I have an album out I’m trying to play as many shows as humanly possible. I’ve been playing 2-4 a week for most of the summer just trying to network with other musicians and get the gospel of the album out.

Describe your current state of mind.

I’m watching the most beautiful leaves fly by the window in a bus with my favorite people on earth (yes we made it over the border!). It was a weekend full of generosity, laughter, music and kindness. I’m feeling so fortunate to be doing what I love the most with the people that I love the most and relieved to know that hope and goodness are alive in the world regardless of how dark it may get.

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What’s inspiring you?

I can’t believe how many of our fantastic Canadian musician friends came to our shows and even drove long distances to do so. We’ve been listening to their music non stop! Not only are they inspiring masters of their respective crafts and excellent songwriters but just superb human beings. Cirrhose et Cendrier, Homa Snare, Lost Love, Bucky Harris, we love you!!

Do you have any shows coming up/ past shows you’d like to mention?

Dec 3 Phoenixville Firebird Festival

Are any of your lyrics political?

Oh yes! It’s really important to me to utilize music as a vehicle to change and new ideas.

What are you trying to communicate with your music? With your art?

I want people to feel that they are not alone in their pain or sadness, to feel loved, and to feel empowered and inspired to bestow that upon others.

What is one of the biggest challenges you face as a performer?

The largest source of frustration is not having more arms and hands. I hear so much in my head but can only play one or two instruments at once. I recently was gifted a looping pedal though and am looking forward to creating a bigger sound live. It’s always funny arriving to a gig with 3 or more instruments to a solo set but variety is very important to me.

How has the meaning of your work changed over time?

I guess if you would have given 12 year old me a rundown of her life at 30, she would have been pretty surprised to find it husband and childless, devoid of any picket fences or conventional routines. But, she could probably also tell you already that music makes her more happy than anything on earth so I guess that there’s not too many dots to connect to arrive at the sacrifices required to live the life of a perpetually active artist.  I think my work has become much more of a priority over time and I would honestly tell 12 year old me to stop worrying about her romantic plight and the opinions of her peers to make more time for music and art.  My love for music has definitely shifted in that I care more about the process of creation and the relationship with an audience and less about an end result.

What do you dislike about your work?

I don’t much enjoy the sound of my own voice to be quite frank  but I do love the act of singing and writing above all. It’s frustrating to record sometimes because once a song is wrapped it feels rather final. I prefer to think of songs as living, evolving things or oil paintings, meant to undergo changes and renovations for quite some time. I often think of better lyrics later on as a song reveals itself and takes on new meaning. I also have many songs that I have written but will never play out because I disliked them immediately.

It’s also difficult to accept the inherent narcissism the comes with dedicating your entire life to your own ideas and feelings and the “look at me! look at me!” attitude required to climb on stage and hold the attention of a group of strangers for long periods of time but I try to keep that snake in the basket.

Which creative medium would you love to pursue but haven’t yet?

Dancing!! I absolutely LOVE to dance and do it often but have never taken any lessons or studied it intimately.

14686419_10211416339993893_2054064872_nAre you involved with any organizations?

I’m part of an Art Collective called Deviant Philly which is essentially a super group of creative types (poets, photographers, musicians, dancers, poets, tattooists) dedicated to supporting each other and the integrity and growth of our work. I can’t say enough about these people, they have been so helpful and are responsible for my new album and videos.

Do you regularly collaborate with other artists? Musicians?

Yes! I love singing hip hop hooks in particular and have recently made songs with Kuff Knotz and EDubble.

What are a few favorite spots in your area?

I work an Open Mic on Mondays at the Fire and have for over two years.  I affectionately have named it the Greatest Shit Show On Earth and it really is. There is such a beautiful community of brilliant weirdos there.

Also anywhere abandoned; buildings, trestles, piers. There’s a cemetery in my neighborhood with beautiful trees that I frequent late night to collect my thoughts.

 

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What are you reading?

I have a bad habit of starting too many books at once but I just finished one called All the Light We Cannot See which I thoroughly enjoyed. I’m also halfway through Katharine Hepburn’s autobiography and Hemingway’s short stories.

I really enjoy Chuck Palahniuk, Frank Miller, Alan Moore.

Favorite comic strips/ comic books/ graphic novels?

The Watchman, Surrogates, Sin City.

What are you listening to these days?

Lately I’ve been enjoying a lot of local music; it’s just as good as more popular stuff but so much more accessible and in need of our support. Some of my favorites are. . .

  • Air is Human
  • Starter Jacket
  • Minka
  • Something Like A Monument
  • Rachael Andy
  • Lauren Scott
  • Teef
  • Yikes the Zero
  • Vessna Schaeff
  • Joshua Adair and Matt Kelly

What was the last show you attended?

Minka.

What was the last exhibit you attended?

Deviant throws some really swell art events; some of my favorite artists are Steve Mont, Arizona Perron, Stampy Goblyn, Craig Horky, Bayron Calderon and Roy Haines.

Your website:

http://www.elissajanellevelveteen.bandcamp.com

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