Andy Elwell has spent the last twelve years establishing his reputation as a true and gifted singer-songwriter. His knack for crafting memorable moments with strong hooks has been clear throughout the course of his career spanning the release of six albums, countless tours, and an array press accolades.
But Elwell doesn’t care about any of that bullshit.
His new album, Elwell, is a complete reboot of whatever image the public already perceives of him. Although this sonic departure will come as a shock to some, in fact, this modern pop record makes more sense than anything he’s ever released before and it has been a long-time coming.
It’s expansive, dramatic, and sexy. It’s also cool as fuck.
“I feel like this record is a significantly more accurate representation of me as a person,” Elwell said. “I had always been weary of trying to make a record like this – and I didn't really know how I was going to do it. But, it needed to be made.”
That’s where Minneapolis-based producer Brett Bullion came in. Elwell and Bullion worked on a “Brave Soul” together in 2013, which now looks to be the clear line in the sand in Elwell’s creative trajectory.
“He doesn't even listen to folk music,” Bullion said. “All he does is listen to is modern pop records. So, I thought, ‘why don't we do that?’”
The decision to embark on this journey was the evolution of numerous conversations and late-night text messages between Elwell and Bullion, and inspired Elwell to put a ProTools rig together and start making field recordings. Those samples – taken on his phone in the middle of nowhere or of a choir rehearsing in Belgium – all functioned as the base for what was to come.
“I do feel like this is a wild departure for those who don't know me,” Elwell said. “But, to my inner circle of friends, this all makes perfect sense.”
Elwell is a deep connoisseur of pop, R&B, and hip-hop musicology and this record is a melting pot testament to that background. He used that knowledge base as his inspiration and decided to remove any creative barriers that may have held him back in the past.
“I've been playing guitar for 20 years and I'm just bored of guitar music,” Elwell said. “When we were making the record, we decided to write songs with the idea that there were no rules. There was no sense of what we could and could not do.”
And this is where the heart of the new album comes from. After Elwell toured Ireland in 2014, he returned to the studio with a fresh perspective that Bullion decided to encourage. Simply put, the duo set out to make a record the Elwell would love, not only as the creator, but also as a fan. This meant breaking the mold (and the rules) that Elwell had been following for years – and the experience was creatively freeing. Beyond abandoning guitars for synths and organic percussion for drum machines, the new approach opened up a whole realm of lyrical possibilities for Elwell. Unlike his previous efforts, the content in his new album is far less veiled.
“When it’s just you and a guitar, you can’t be too upfront lyrically,” Elwell said. “You have to hide everything in metaphors. In this, i just say the thing. Whether it’s obvious or not, I just said it.”
Elwell is a clean slate. It’s the manifestation of breaking the rules – of finding the middle ground between two creative forces and coming up with something even better because of the collaboration.
“In the end, it wasn’t a grind – it was really fun,” said Bullion. “It was about staying up late with a friend, ordering pizzas, and making music that we liked. It was like a sleepover.”