Iowa singer-songwriter and children’s book author, Chad Elliott, independently releases Rest Heavy: The Sun Studio Sessions on August 10, 2018. Elliott’s writing weaves love, loss and forgiveness into well-worn lyrics with timeless melodies.
With Rest Heavy, Elliott shows his love of roots-rock, soul, and blues music with a rocking band behind his artfully crafted songs and gravelly delivery. The self-produced album was recorded at the famed Sun Studio in Memphis by Ples Hampton. Hampton says, “It was honestly one of the best sessions I’ve ever had up here. This is gold.”
Elliott, performing on acoustic guitar and harmonica, is joined by his full band, The Redemptions, which includes Tommy Lewis, Travis McFarlane, Kevin Boehnke, Joseph Cafaro, and Jim Van Dorn.
ASOULFULSOUND: Right out of the gates with the title track, “Rest Heavy,” the listener knows they are about to take a journey with you. What was the inspiration for that song and the decision to make it the album title?
CE: I like songs that can be considered a cross between a love song and a gospel song. Otis Redding sounds like that to me. “Rest Heavy” wrote itself on an Easter Sunday a couple years ago. When we brought it to Sun Studio, the performance went so smoothly, just one take, in the studio I felt like it captured the essence of the sessions.
A SOULFUL SOUND: While making this record it certainly sounds like you were channeling the right folk at Sun Studio. What was that experience like?
CE: We recorded at night, all live in that historic space. We only tracked over the B3 organ and a couple harmony tracks after the initial sessions. We had a few butterflies, but I was surprised at how well the room was aligned with what we do. The folks down there dialed us in perfectly so all we had to do was give our best performance while those legends were looking down on us from the studio walls. I could feel the music melding with that room… it was magical.
A SOULFUL SOUND: We just love the song “Shining Stars”; can you tell us the inspiration for that song?
CE: Thank you. “Shining Stars” is about that secret place we all go to in our minds for peace through hard times. I wrote it years ago and it has changed several times. The band really nailed it on this track. We weren’t finding the right vibe in the studio and we had a little discussion about how important this song was to me and went back to recording. They each delivered beautifully on the next take.
A SOULFUL SOUND: In addition to songwriting you are also a children’s book author. Can you describe how those processes differ? How are they similar?
CE: In many ways they are similar. Writing is writing. I write what comes naturally and I try to consider my audience no matter who it is. I have little ones at home. So it feels like I can float between those worlds fairly easily.
I am often humbled by the work I do with kids in a live setting. In good and bad ways. An audience of very vocal 5 year olds can sometimes be more critical than a bar full of drunks. In that respect it’s different.
But, all in all, it keeps me from taking myself too seriously.
A SOULFUL SOUND: You have a record release party in Des Moines on August 11th. You also have several dates in and around the Iowa area throughout the summer… any plans to take the tour nationally? (We’d love to see you on the east coast)
CE: Absolutely! We are setting up a short East Coast run in early October. Still lining up dates… but I love playing the East Coast. I will also be heading out West in November.
A SOULFUL SOUND: Do you have a dream venue you’d like to play? A favorite city?
CE: I want to play Ryman Auditorium someday. That stage is a bucket list venue for me. As far as favorite cities… I love so many… but New Orleans, baby. The food, music, the people….love it!
A SOULFUL SOUND: Do you have any guilty pleasures, musically speaking?
CE: I am obsessed with Chet Baker’s version of “Almost Blue”. So much so that I get cravings for it. I can’t count how many times I have listened to it. It is my drug of choice now.
A SOULFUL SOUND: Who are some musicians that have influenced you?
CE: Singer-songwriters primarily. Tom Waits, Townes Van Zandt, Bob Dylan, Lyle Lovett…the typical favorites among writers. Most of my career I have really dug into our Iowa writers like Greg Brown and Dave Moore. I also listen to a lot of country-blues and soul.
A SOULFUL SOUND: Who is on your fantasy music festival line up?
CE: Aretha Franklin, Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, Jerry Lee Lewis, Bonnie Raitt, Lyle Lovett, John Prine, Dwight Yoakum. etc.
A SOULFUL SOUND: Chad, thanks so much for your time. We wish you all the best with the new record and look forward to seeing you in the fall.