UNDERLYING WORLDVIEW by Shannon Rae Gentry. Encore Magazine.

Mar 13 • ARTSY SMARTSY

UNDERLYING WORLDVIEW: Elonzo Wesley’s Jeremy Davis talks hard conversations and ar

Nowadays it feels like we’re in a constant state of waiting for the other shoe to drop: another breaking-news cycle made up of a sea of bullets. When it comes to mass shootings, it’s no longer a matter of if it will happen again, but when and where the next one will be.

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FOLKSTER: Elonzo Wesley band, including lead singer Jeremy Davis, performs two shows this week at Wrightsville Beach and downtown Wilmington. Courtesy photo.

A school? A concert? A church?

The Elonzo Wesley band’s “Emanuel” is a pretty self-explanatory song reflecting upon one of the most infamous mass shootings in recent U.S. history. Frontman Jeremy Davis (guitar, vocals) penned the ballad right after 21-year-old white supremacist Dylann Roof left nine people dead in 2015 at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC. Davis was on the road at the time, staying in a Tennessee Motel 6 when he woke up to hear the news.

“I grew up right outside of Charleston, so that event hit home for me and a lot of folks from the area,” Davis recalls. “It made me really angry that, even in modern times, old ideas and hatred still exist, and sometimes people use that to do horrible things. Being from the South is such a blessing, but a curse in that way, too. I think it is why I wrote that song—because I don’t know how to talk about some of these things as a Southerner, but I think it’s so important.”

Davis sat on “Emanuel” until the time of its release because of his mixed feelings and potential public perception. He didn’t want it to look like he was attempting a career move out of a tragedy.

“I eventually realized, with the help of the rest of the band, I should release it,” he continues. “It’s important to talk about these things and to remind ourselves of our own mistakes as a culture, and that art is supposed to deal with these things.”

Nevertheless, Davis—with Dennis Contreras (string bass, vocals), Alicia Driver (violin, vocals) and Taylor Winchester (mandolin, vocals)—felt they would be remiss to simply put it on their 2017 “Spec” album. So they released it as a single for charity on their Bandcamp page (elonzowesley.bandcamp.com) as well. It will remain there indefinitely and all proceeds will continue to go directly to Emanuel AME.

“Hopefully, we can raise some money for a good cause, and keep reminding folks of what happened and continue the conversation,” Davis adds.

It’s been a few months since the release of “Spec” in November 2017; while Elonzo Wesley played the songs live throughout the year leading up to and throughout recording them, Davis insists the band continues to find new and interesting ways to tap into the “perfect arc for the listener.” Davis and his troupe will bring their set of poignant songs and folk nuances to Jimmy’s at Red Dogs in Wrightsville Beach and Edward Teach Brewing in downtown this week.

While Elonzo Wesley has evolved over the years, with new members and evolution in sound, the band’s moniker has remained the same for a reason. Named for his late father who passed away when Davis was 11, he describes Elonzo Wesley as a hardcore blue-collar guy, a farmer and an amateur musician.

“I think it’s just my weird way of remembering and staying in touch,” Davis muses. “I think he’d like the music I make. [Plus,] I chose the name because good band names are hard to come up with, and ‘Elonzo Wesley’ is such a cool name. It’s even spelled in an unusual way—which is perfect for an indie band (laughs).”

The first version of Davis’ band, simply dubbed “Elonzo,” was more of a rock project he started with his sister and her husband. Now as Elonzo Wesley, which he started as a solo act after Elonzo dispersed, new players and folk-string sounds accompany his songwriting.

“I was still writing songs and performing,” Davis details. “I always wanted to have an acoustic band because I felt the music would fit the songs I write really well. I didn’t know if it would work.”

Without drums or electric instruments, Elonzo Wesley may be a far cry from rock, but certainly it is not without a groove. “It’s more earthy,” Davis offers. “We like to really explore parts of songs and let them take us where they want to go.”

“Spec” is an appropriate title track for the album because it’s about the underlying connection of all people, things and ideas. Though the songs do not share a specific theme, Davis says they share an underlying worldview. “Plastic Memories” is a complicated song about a character living in a dark place, asking, “What are we doing here?”

“At its core it’s about trying to make a relationship work,” Davis says. “For two people to stay together, it’s a lot of work, and sometimes I think it (the relationship) can be more about keeping something going and trying to honor your commitment to someone, [rather] than [being] about actual love or happiness. I think you can be so obsessed with those things that sometimes you can actually miss the other person and forget to see them for who they are.”

“Dreams (Re: Texas)” sounds like Davis might not particularly enjoy his travels or being on the road: “Don’t wanna go to Texas/riding with the wind/Don’t wanna go to Detroit/rebuild it from within …”

“Traveling and touring is hard on your home life, and home life is hard on your traveling/tour life,” he says. “So I think this song is about the give and take, and the insanity it creates for the person or people caught in the middle.”

DETAILS:
Elonzo Wesley
March 14, 10 p.m.
Jimmy’s at Red Dogs • 5 N. Lumina Ave., Wrightsville Beach
Cover TBD
March 15, 7 p.m.

Edward Teach Brewing
604 N. 4th St.
Free
www.elonzowesley.com

 

4 Charlotte Songs We Can’t Stop Playing: November 2017

Published: 

Elonzo Wesley, “Dreams (Re: Texas)”
Spec is the new record from this Charlotte-based folk act. The opening, title track sets a delicate tone for the LP, but “Dream (Re: Texas)” stands out in how it captures the genuine spirit of band’s sound with a charging tempo. The tune is also a showcase of both the frank songwriting of singer Jeremy Davis and the strengths of his band, string/bassist Dennis Contreras, violinist Alicia Driver, and mandolinist Taylor Winchester—all sharing vocal credits on the record.


Blame the Youth, “P.O.T.K. / ABACA”
Blame the Youth is one of the most exciting young acts out of Charlotte right now. The group’s blend of punk, jazz, funk, and blues is on display in this fantastic music video, filmed at Camp North End. Pay attention to this band.


Harvey Cummings, “Chicken Day”
Charlotte native and award-winning multi-instrumentalist Harvey Cummings is back with a new EP, Chicken Day, blending hip-hop and jazz in a tight collection of tracks.”Chicken Day,” with its changing tempos and seamless shifts in vibes, show a seasoned composer at his best. The entire EP is a warm, dynamic, soulful addition from a man who’s worked with Anthony Hamilton, King Mez, Angie Stone, and other collaborators of differing genres.


Temperance League, “Darrin’s Song”
Charlotte rock act Temperance League is back with new LP Space Aquarium. The new record is packed with solid, anthemic tunes, but we’re suggesting opener “Darrin’s Song” as the right place to start. You may remember the band from our survey of the Charlotte music scene from a couple years back.

http://www.charlottemagazine.com/Charlotte-Magazine/November-2017/4-Charlotte-Songs-We-Cant-Stop-Playing-November-2017/

Jeremy Davis Honors Charleston Church Shooting Victims on New Elonzo Wesley Album

In memory of

The horrific shooting of nine parishioners by a white supremacist in Charleston’s Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church on June 17, 2015, left the entire country stunned, forcing us to confront ghosts that many preferred to leave alone.

For Jeremy Davis, a native of Summerville, South Carolina, and the leader of the Charlotte band Elonzo Wesley, it put him in a place so personal and so raw that he had no choice but to write his way out. The result was “Emanuel,” one of the best songs on Elonzo Wesley’s newest album Spec, released in November on the Concord-based Silent Uproar label, the home of Sinners & Saints and the Avett Brothers’ early rock incarnation, Nemo.

“Emanuel” merges the dirge-like brooding of John Lennon’s “Working Class Hero” with the lyrical immediacy of Neil Young’s “Ohio,” about the Kent State shootings of 1970. With his weary gentle vocals, Davis, 36, manages to evoke a detached, almost beatific aura of the tragedy while hammering home the emotional damage and the tragic cycle of violence. He ties in the shooting with the tragic fate of the church’s founder, the former slave-turned-activist Denmark Vessey. While every song on Spec is a gem, in “Emanuel,” Davis displays a deep knowledge of history, a mastery of songcraft and a rare ability to tie it all together into powerful storytelling.

Spec is not so much a departure as an evolution for Davis and his band. It’s indie rock with Appalachian colors. It’s bluegrass instruments telling modern tales. The reaction has been overwhelmingly positive, and Elonzo Wesley will be taking the songs on the road, starting with a show at the Evening Muse on February 16, where the band will share the bill with Yes Ma’am.

Jeremy Davis. (Photo by Brian Twitty)

  • Jeremy Davis. (Photo by Brian Twitty)

We recently sat down with Davis and talked to him about the song, the album, his feelings on Southern racism and religion, and his evolving creative process.

Creative Loafing:“Emanuel” is one of the standout tracks on the new album. Can you talk a little bit about it?

Jeremy Davis: It’s hard, of course, because it was such a horrible event. I wrote the song a few weeks after the shooting. I was traveling and staying at a Motel 6 in Tennessee. I just woke up suddenly and that song came in a few minutes. I think I had fallen asleep with the news on and the shooting was all over everything at that time, but it was one of those songs that just comes to you.

I sat on it until this record, because I felt weird about releasing it [then]. The whole thing, especially being from the Charleston area, made me so upset. As a South Carolinian, the shooting raised a conversation in South Carolina about the [Confederate] flag, and brought up a lot of stuff that, for me, is very close to home, growing up in South Carolina and being around certain viewpoints. The whole dichotomy of the South, slavery, the church where the shooting happened and the history of that place and the irony of Christianity and how it’s completely a part of the whole mess.

The new album,Spec,is indie rock, but it uses traditional Appalachian instrumentation. How did you arrive at this approach?

Well my first group [Elonzo], I wrote all the songs for. You could have called it Americana, but it had drums and electric guitars, keyboards. A typical rock set-up. I loved playing with that band but I felt that some of the more subtle things about the music and the songs that I was writing just didn’t come across in the live setting.

The natural instinct of a rock band is to rock, right? (laughs) You wanna get up there and be kind of aggressive with it. So that band broke up and I was playing solo for awhile, and that’s when I started Elonzo Wesley. It was initially a solo project. I always had this idea that my songs were indie in the style of experimentation with the melodies, so I’m not trying to sound traditional, but I am coming from an Americana point of view, if that makes sense.

Elonzo Wesley (with Jeremy Davis, second from right) gets serious on ‘Spec.’ (Photo by Brian Twitty)

  • Elonzo Wesley (with Jeremy Davis, second from right) gets serious on ‘Spec.’ (Photo by Brian Twitty)

I’m not seeing any other bands taking bluegrass instrumentation and playing these kind of songs. Usually acoustic bands like this are playing more traditional songs. I like that music, but I want to do something different with it. We can be a high-energy band, but in a different way.

The style of the writing is more personal than traditional. It feels more influenced by the classic songwriters of the late 20th Century, starting with Bob Dylan. Are you an autobiographical kind of writer?

I grew up with my mom showing me a lot of music: Beatles, Dylan, Paul Simon, Neil Young. I heard Bob Dylan just as I was learning how to play guitar, and that approach was just burned into my head.

These are my stories, in musical form, definitely. Not always 100-percent autobiography or whatever, but I wouldn’t want it to be. I think when you, as the listener, can feel that personal attachment, even if you don’t understand the story, it gives you the opportunity to make it personal for yourself. At least it does in my case, when I listen to other peoples music.

Do you find it hard to stay creative in today’s climate, with the speed and the ugliness of the public discourse online? How do you keep going?

It does affect me for sure — my everyday outlook on things — and probably for the negative a lot of the time. On the flip side of that, playing music and being creative is one of the only things that really brings me joy. So it makes me want to push harder to be more creative.

Jesse Stockton, a guy we played music with in Wilmington, said, “Music is medicine for people,” which sounds like it belongs on a poster somewhere; but without being cliché, it’s still true. People go to shows because they want to escape from whatever it is they’re dealing with. I like that idea, and music is definitely a place where I can get a release from whatever else is happening.

How’s the reception forSpecbeen so far, and what are your plans for the band?

I think it’s been really good. We’ve just kind of grown naturally to where we are now, and people are always asking us to do other things, so we’re getting busier and busier. We’re playing the Whitewater Center in April; I think [the Charleston indie-rock band] Susto is playing that night. We’re looking to book shows further west and farther up north this year.

Every time I tried to gear up for a tour in the past, the logistics didn’t make sense, but I’m thinking now’s the time. This is the band I’ve wanted for like, forever, and with this new record, it’s time to get out there.

https://clclt.com/charlotte/jeremy-davis-honors-charleston-church-shooting-victims-on-new-elonzo-wesley-album/Content?oid=8304592

 

Tuck Fest ’18 Announced!

We couldn’t be more excited to announce that we will be playing Tuckfest ’18 this year with so many amazing acts. Can’t wait! Find more information out below if you haven’t ever been. Such a cool event.

Tuckfest

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Album review from @CLTure!

Check out our first album review for Spec from our friends over at clture.org.

New album ‘Spec’ from Elonzo Wesley displays heartbreak, love, despair, and hope in a warm way

Emanuel (for charity)

We’re releasing a new song today and donating all proceeds to charity.

Sometimes as artists we get the chance to answer a call. To be bigger than ourselves. To tap into something that is overwhelming and connects us to our own humanity. This is our own small way of giving back. We are very proud to bring to you Emanuel.

This song is dedicated to the memory of Denmark Vesey, Cynthia Marie Graham Hurd, Susie Jackson, Ethel Lee Lance, Depayne Middleton-Doctor, Clementa C. Pinckney, Tywanza Sanders, Daniel Simmons, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, and Myra Thompson.

We ask that you honor the memory of the people lost on June 17, 2015 by donating to this cause, or any cause that is aiming towards harmony and peace in these trying times.

All sales of this song (on this Bandcamp page) will be forwarded directly to the Mother Emanuel Hope Fund.

Other places you may consider donating to:
csgv.org
charlestonpeace.net
palmettoproject.org

Elonzo Wesley brightens up the U.S. National Whitewater Center

Elonzo Wesley brightens up the U.S. National Whitewater Center
Posted By Jeff Hahne on Sun, Jul 16, 2017 at 10:13 PM
Elonzo Wesley
U.S. National Whitewater Center
July 15, 2017

While a passing thunderstorm might have scared some people away, those who showed up for Elonzo Wesley’s Saturday night River Jam session were in for a treat. While it was plenty humid, the rain was gone and the weather was cooler by the time the band took the stage. Not only that, the Charlotte band sounded fantastic. What started out as an indie-rock band called Elonzo some years ago has developed into more of a solo project by that band’s singer/guitarist, Jeremy Davis. Davis still performs solo, but there’s gorgeous musical and lyrical depth when the string band is present. A stand-up bass, fiddle and mandolin create solid sonic layers, while four-part harmonies only enhance Davis’ personal and emotional lyrics. Cover songs blended in seamlessly with the band’s originals providing an outstanding backdrop for the outdoor, riverside setting.

Creative Loafing Charlotte

Spec of a Spec

Another previously unreleased song. We did this one live at Petra’s Bar back in December. Keep an eye out for a few more of them we did at the same time. Enjoy.

New Music @WSBF Clemson

We went down to Clemson, SC a few weeks ago to play a house show put on by some good folks. WSBF came out and did a live session with us earlier that evening. This song will be on our upcoming record and is until now unreleased except for this video. Enjoy!

NC Brewers and Music Fest

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#ncbrewersandmusicfestival #mipso #infamousstringdusters #mandolinorgange #thebroadcast #sinnersandsaints #elonzowesley #ghostofpaulrevere #tonyeltoraband #ballroomtheives #empirestrikesbrass #upstaterubdown