Flyer Profile: John Elliott

Just over a month ago, we found out that Bryan and Bernice Hembree of 3 Penny Acre were putting on the first ever Fayetteville Roots Festival on Aug. 29 at Greenhouse Grille, featuring 13 emerging acoustic roots, Americana and folk artists from all over the country.

On Sunday, the wait for the inaugural festival will be over.

We’ve been getting to know some of the musicians that will be in town over the past few weeks, and recently, we were able to track down L.A. musician John Elliott.

Elliott recently finished recording his seventh album, “Backyards,” scheduled to be released in March 2011. To date, he and his band The Hereafter have garnered an international following, and Elliott’s music has been featured on ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy, and the CW’s One Tree Hill.

He’s been called everything from “tear at your heartstrings, folksy” to “Post-Seinfeld, post 9/11 eyebrow rock” (huh?).

We got in touch with John recently, and he was nice enough to answer some questions for us.

Fayetteville Flyer: What have you been listening to lately?
John Elliott: My friends Cory Branan and Robby Hecht both have finished, unreleased albums that I have been listening to non-stop since I got them. Amazing and beautiful records. And I’ve been listening to various mixes of my new album consistently for months, trying to get it right. I think it’s almost there.

FF: Have you ever been to Fayetteville? What’s your impression of the place?
JE: A couple times. I have some great friends in town: the amazing people in 3 Penny Acre and Shannon Wurst. I was in Fayetteville the night of the 2008 election so it has a very special place in my heart. There was a big gathering to watch the returns somewhere in the middle of downtown, I don’t remember where. It was a rockin’ party that got better and better as the night went on. It’s amazing how quickly people have forgotten the feeling of that night.

FF: How much time do you spend on the road? Do you travel alone?
JE: I lived on the road and in my Honda Civic (named Glen) for 3 years, so that was a lot! Last year, I settled back in Los Angeles and spent most of the year writing, rehearsing with a new band and recording a new album. Been back on the road non-stop since June this year. I’d say 70% is alone and 30% is with other songwriters or the band.

FF: You’re living in Los Angeles right now, correct? How is that?
JE: Complicated. Paradise, then hell. It’s a tough place to play music, but there are some nice spots. I have a lot of friends there and the band is there. California is my home; Los Angeles is where I live in right now.

FF: What can you tell us about your songwriting process? Is there a pattern? Do they come all at once?
JE: I still don’t know exactly how it works. Some take a long time, some happen in 15 minutes. Basically, I turn on the recorder and start mumbling and playing until something happens. Then I listen back later and see if anything sounds like a song or the start of a song.

FF: What about your subject matter. How much comes from real life experience?
JE: Everything comes from some real life experience, whether it’s as straightforward as a girl thing or reading about the Civil War. I think you have to write from you experience or it ends up sounding pretty ridiculous.

FF: I have to ask you about your song on Grey’s Anatomy. First of all, have you watched the show?
JE: I have been fortunate enough to have two songs on the show and I’ve watched it twice. I don’t like TV.

FF: What’s next for you? Any new projects in the works?
JE: There’s a lot going on. I’m in the midst of finishing mixes for the next album, which is going to be called “Backyards” and will come out in March 2011. It’s very much a band album and I’m really excited for people to hear it. And there’s a band tour of the Pacific Northwest coming up in September with a good friend and great songwriter, Jack Wilson.