Rising singer-songwriter and global citizen Eli Lev is making the world a smaller place, one song at a time. Eli pens lyrics and melodies for everyday enlightenment—songs that resonate because they’re heartfelt, earthy, and offer the wisdom he’s gained through lifelong travel and self-discovery.
The Silver-Spring, Maryland-based artist just released Deep South, the third album in a four-part directional series that was inspired by indigenous traditions he learned while teaching on the Navajo Nation in Northern Arizona. Just as each cardinal direction holds unique characteristics in the Navajo tradition, so do each of the albums in Eli’s ‘Four Directions Project.’ Together, the series imaginatively and intrepidly connects spheres and generations within a body of work that is irresistibly uplifting, emotionally resonant, and down-to-earth authentic.
Eli explains, “We are surrounded by four directions, and each has distinctive attributes, powers, and teachings according to Navajo traditions. For example, because the sun rises in the east, it is the first direction and source of new ideas and inspiration. With that in mind, I started my EP series in 2017 with All Roads East, echoing the sounds of my youth and upbringing (altcountry/Americana). A year later I released Way Out West, where I experimented with the frontiers of folk tropes and melodies (indie folk). For my latest album Deep South, I’ve gone back to my southern roots with a truly modern and powerful sound (folk rock and pop). I’ll round out the project in 2020 by releasing a more introspective True North (acoustic singer songwriter).”
Eli’s releases have earned critical praise from Paste Magazine, Buzzfeed, CBS Radio, AXS, and The Bluegrass Situation, and have received national folk radio support and placement on prominent Spotify playlists. In 2019, Eli Lev won multiple industry awards for his work: his second album Way Out West won a Washington Area Music Award (WAMMIE) for best Country/Americana album, while his single “Chasing Daylight” won a grand prize in the SAW Mid-Atlantic Songwriting Competition.
In 2018, his music video for the swampy, funky blues of “Go Down” was applauded for its “lush instrumentation and crooning vocals” by Paste Magazine. The song is a snapshot of a series of baptisms Eli witnessed on the Jordan River and is rife with intriguing metaphors and impressionistic lyrics. “Go Down” has been called “downright infectious” by Skope and lauded by Modern Mystery as a “breath of fresh air in the current music scene.” Dancing About Architecture goes even further, saying: “He appears to write songs which, without intentionally aiming for the commercial market, are as addictive, groovesome and rug-cuttingly contagious as anything deliberately trying to play that game.”
To understand these albums, one must understand Eli’s path in creating them. There is a lot of living in these songs. For two decades, Eli has traveled and lived abroad, soaking up cultures, regional music, and meaningful interactions with strangers who became friends. His songs are his stories, his impressions of the world, and his hopes for the future.
Eli’s global passport includes cross-country bike tours in Spain and the southwestern US, formative trips to France, Ireland, Morocco, Israel, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Mexico, and even the small country of Andorra in the Pyrenees Mountains. Along the way, Eli absorbed the majestic flamenco chord progressions of Andalusia, Spain, the Middle East’s touch for sublime minor key melodicism, and the southern United States’ tradition of heartfelt, soulful melodies.
Interestingly, it wouldn’t be until many years into being a globetrotting troubadour that Eli decided to pursue music full time. In 2015, he was solo camping on a beach in Mexico when he made the fateful choice to trust his instinct and become a full-time musician.
In just four years honing his craft, Eli has built a robust profile by wowing audiences each time he picks up a guitar. He has opened for national acts including Shooter Jennings at The Fillmore, in Silver Spring, Maryland, Ellis Paul at Jammin Java in Vienna, Virginia, and American Idol Winner Lee DeWyze on a series of Tennessee tour dates. Eli has also appeared on The Kennedy Center Millennium Stage in Washington, DC, at Burning Man in Black Rock City, Nevada, and in live music venues around the world, most recently at Hard Rock Cafe in Andorra La Vella, Andorra.
Eli’s year-long touring schedule boasts an impressive series of appearances at hundreds of locales. His shows include festivals, house concerts, traditional live music venues, wineries and farmers markets, as well as special events, such as a performance at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, at the invitation of Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton. He is also a staple of the Sofar Sounds community, having connected with new fans in intimate settings at 20+ Sofar Sounds shows in the US and abroad.
A full touring regimen has also provided Eli with an unprecedented opportunity to get to know his worldwide community of supporters on a much more personal level. This has been vital to the sustainability of his music career, as many of his creative projects have been accomplished completely through crowdfunding efforts. For example, his latest album was funded entirely by a successful Kickstarter campaign, where his project reached 110% of its goal in just 30 days. Additionally, Eli is supported by his community on a monthly basis through Patreon where he shares exclusive songs and videos each month, creates personal song-request videos, and offers monthly one-on-one virtual sessions.
“I would say that all the energy and attention I put into my craft and into my community comes back ten-fold. It makes me want to share more of my creative process and bring them along on the adventure,” says Eli. “It’s an exciting exchange, and I truly feel blessed to be supported by such a strong group of kind-hearted people from around the world.”
With entrepreneurial savvy and hard work, Eli has been able to build his music career into a sustainable source of income, allowing him to be a full-time musician on his own terms and connect directly to his supporters. “For me, there should be no barriers between my music and my community. I think of music as a means to an end in order to connect to people, and everything I do with my craft I try and make as accessible as possible,” he says. Eli stays actively engaged with his supporters through his Levitators Street Team, Inner Circle Community on Patreon, and a “Folk Friday” YouTube series, where he performs an original tune and shares his songwriting process.
In performance, Eli embraces various musical combinations: as a solo artist with acoustic guitar, wooden flute, and loop pedal; as a male-female duo with songstress Megan Leigh on harmonies and percussion, or with his full band, The Eli Lev Collective. To date, the band has performed at premier DC venues such as the 9:30 Club, Pearl Street Warehouse, Songbyrd Music House, DC9, and the Rock and Roll Hotel. With marquee performances at DC Music Rocks Festival, The 202 Music Festival, and Takoma Park Folk Festival in Maryland, the band is quickly becoming a regional sensation as they mix country, rock, folk, and soul on stage.
As the current worldwide pandemic changes the landscape of live performances and the music community as a whole, Eli has kept up with a robust livestreaming schedule to stay in touch with his community and provide some hope and positivity amid universally difficult circumstances. He has also found a developing role as a mentor and coach for other rising artists through the Modern Musician program.
“Working with musicians and watching them succeed is a source of great joy for me. Empowering other creatives so that they can earn a living by doing what they love is becomingone of my favorite aspects of being both an artist and entrepreneur.”
Whether it’s an in-person performance or an online livestream show, Eli captivates the audience with a storyteller approach to stage banter through tales of his travel, witty asides, and engaging commentary. His infectious musicality, commitment to deep grooves, and playful charisma foster an immersive experience for the audience that moves bodies and opens hearts. It’s not unusual to see his listeners smile while clapping along to a final chorus, sway to melodies he plays on the wooden flute, sing a refrain, or just snap to the beat to one of their favorite songs.
“The most meaningful thing for me is being able to express through my music what I’ve always felt about humanity. I want to bring people in, make them feel special, and break down the walls that keep us apart.”