Artist Interview: Elliott Ranney
Tell us about yourself and your music
I am a folk/jazz artist. I play finger style classical guitar focused on Bossa/Samba, Swing and The Cool School. I enjoy writing challenging music, songs with quirky melody and sometimes lyrics that fit the structure. I started writing jazz sort of late in life. I realized the only way forward was to be apart from what most singer/songwriters were doing. Jazz was the path and I am following my bliss. So I started playing guitar in high school and was totally consumed by the music of Simon and Garfunkle. I still play a few tunes by them at wineries. I stumbled onto to jazz in college and started adding vocabulary in my songs. The big leap came when I learned standards and used chord substitutions for the basic voicings in my writing. Now, I play almost entirely extended chords and have added short single note runs that complete melodic phrases. No improvisation, but getting there.
Talk to us more about your latest release
My latest release was in 2013, Bellevue Shuffle. This album features music inspired by Tom Jobim/Michael Franks, Walter & Donald, Tom Waits, Miles and Monk. Out of fifteen tracks, only five have lyrics, one being a spoken word. My first album had twelve tracks, three were instrumental. So I used up all my vocal tunes the first time around. I was able to get my middle son, Stephen, on upright bass and I had it made. This album has it all, bop chops and a variety of style.
What inspired you to write this release?
I still have music to be released that I’ve written when I was in high school. I am at present working on a third album approx. eleven songs, so really I am more interested in talking about that than Bellevue Shuffle. The title of the upcoming album is ‘Colors Of Autumn.’ Back to the shuffle. I had music left over from An Aging Sailor’s Dream (2001) and after ten years felt I was ready to make another. It took time to write some of the tunes and I’m glad I waited. the last song I finished was ‘My Time To Fly,’ a nod to Walter Becker & Donald Fagen. Check out the lyrics and discover the obscure references. I gathered what I felt were some interesting compositions, arranged and gathered the musicians, did the project and here it is.
Any plans to release a video?
I will be shooting video of a show February 25, celebrating my 64th birthday. We will see if any of it will be worth using to help towards an audition reel and on you tube. I have some less than satisfactory videos on you tube. My music is very note specific and I make glaring mistakes and will never be satisfied. I’m wired that way. I have a video on the front page of my web site and would be perfect if not for the crash of breaking dishes in the adjoining space of the coffee house. It was the last song of the evening and until the crash, the best performance. oh well.
Any plans to hit the road?
I have not started looking for shows this year. Will be soon. I have two shows this year so far on the books. One on my birthday, Feb 25 at Stone Spiral Coffee & Curios in Maplewood, MO, 8 – 10 pm and the ‘Let Them Eat Art Festival, also in Maplewood, MO, July 14 6 – 9 pm. Both shows will feature my close friend Patrick Rodriguez – Latin percussion. Together, we are Panacea. This year we are celebrating 35 years of playing music together professionally as a ‘tropical pop duo.’
As an indie artist, how do you brand yourself and your music to stand out from the rest of the artists out there?
My brand is: Music like an Island Breeze. I stand apart from so many other writers by my unique finger style of playing and melding folk and jazz into an original sound few are embracing.
Who have you been listening to lately?
Bill Evans, Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, David Grisman, Tom Waits, Paul Simon, James Taylor, Joni, Coltrane, Brubeck/Paul Desmond, Kenny Rankin, Michael Franks/Jobim, Steely Dan
Tell us about your passions
My day gig, not my passion, the means to following my bliss. I get to play music at work on breaks. I think about music most of the time and am happiest when I am writing. I am working on the new album and that helps with writing. I have gone back to old songs and tweaked them and have even brought them out of moth balls to be part of the set list, a very big deal
What else is happening next in your world?
I am two years from retirement and working on getting my web site and videos happening to sell myself for gigs. Trying to keep the anxiety of the crazed political/social upheaval going on. taking each day at a time, doing open mics and keeping my chops up, kundalini yoga once a week and staying fit and healthy, dropping wheat from the diet – a very wise move on my part. Listening to music. That’s what it’s all about, listening.
Thanks for an awesome interview, Elliott!