Get Smart: Q&A with Eli Smart

Post Author: Myles Hunt

Hawaii-born, Liverpool-based musician brings the tropical, soulful heat on debut EP Boonie Town

Bring the summer heat! The same can be said about the musical climate these days and one musician, Eli Smart, seems to be riding that wave well. In May, his debut EP Boonie Town gave the Hawaiian-born-and-raised, Liverpool-based artist another quality addition to his growing discography. His music has been self described as “tropicalia-influenced blue-eyed soul,” and it’s hard not to enjoy.

Poppy funk emits from key track “Cruella Deville.” The vocals honor a venerable folk sway, yet Eli makes it purely his own creation. Listeners can feel both hip and sophisticated at the same time while driving down the summer streets with this blasting from their car stereo. On Boonie Town, Eli captures a relaxed energy that is paired into a realm of curious expansion. He is not solidified to the ground, but rather rolling in the deep, and he encourages listeners to do the same. Smart checks all the boxes for music fans eager for a journey to vast unknown territories, and a rabbit hole of well-deserved sounds for the seasons beyond.

Via his Hawaiian roots and Liverpudlian influences, his breadth of skill is apparent in his work to date. Music is strong in Eli’s heritage. His grandmother opened for Jimi Hendrix as part of the ’60s all-girl psych-rock group, Ace of Cups. In addition, his grandfather and father are both jazz guitarists, the former having shared a bill with Duke Ellington. It also helped to have his largest influence, his mother, a jazz singer and writer, to guide the way. His insight into his process for “Boonie Town” unveiled the immense efforts he has committed as an artist from start to finish.

What was the hardest part of working on ‘Boonie Town’?

I had a really hard time deciding what to call it!…The name “Boonie Town” finally occurred to me when I was driving around back home taking in the atmosphere of my town. I remember it hitting me how far out in the middle of the Pacific we are…and that feeling being such a juxtaposition of comfort and isolation, “Boonie Town” is something that everyone said growing up and in this context refers to being way out in the middle of nowhere. There’s a particular kind of charm in a small town. 

Was there a rewarding moment while completing this endeavor?

It was absolutely rewarding to commit to a name for the EP, it helped tie all the songs together for me. The ultimate moment was receiving my first pressing of the EP on 10″ vinyl, having a seat on my couch and giving it a proper listen from start to finish. [That’s a] trippy feeling.

How has your craft evolved since your past releases? Are there new elements that you attempted to explore in this EP?

I’ve had the time and space to really dig into the production more than ever on this EP and that has been extremely satisfying for me. I recorded most of the tunes in my little home studio on Kauai where I have a drum kit, a few mics and a few guitar amps set up. It was really groovy to work within the limitations of my stripped back set up. I think working with some technical constraints brings out a different feel in my playing, it’s cool to observe. 

Are you excited to play this EP live soon? What venue are you dreaming of performing at?

Oh I cannot wait!!! [I’m] so excited to play the EP as well as a whole new sea of tunes I’ve been working on since the release. I want to play a proper gig and at our family’s ukulele shop of course (home venue). I would love to go back up to Liverpool where I studied and do the gig circuit up there as well as head over to Manchester, Leeds and Sheffield. I can’t wait to reconnect with all my friends.

What are your plans for the summer?

I’m spending the rest of the summer back home where I’ll be writing and recording tunes for my record. Stoked and grateful to be spending time with my family, my friends and my cats.