In case you haven’t noticed, music is experiencing a queer revolution. Not that it hasn’t been for years. But lately, decades of groundwork laid by balls out queer artists has seemingly opened the floodgates for a new generation of unapologetically out – and downright talented – queer musicians. And if I were to write about our queer music revolutionaries of the past, present and future, that would itself be an entire book. (Hmmm…) But that’s not what I’m doing today. Today I focus on one brave and folksy transguy: Eli Conley.
I met Eli a few years ago by way of his fellow folk hero, StormMiguel Florez. And you, OP readers, may have been introduced to Eli about this time last year when I sat down and interviewed both him and Storm for an OP blog. In a couple short months, Eli heads into the studio to record his first solo album. It’ll be recorded at Empty Sea Studios, produced by Michael Connolly (Coyote Grace), and feature some of my personal favorites, “Siren Song” (about a siren who longs to be a rock star) and “When God Sets His Sights on You” (about a Southern queer kid who finds compassion for her parents). Every time I hear Eli play these tunes live, I’m struck by not only his musicianship, but the power of his narrative.
And as if making this heart-opening, mind changing music weren’t enough, Eli spends the remaining hours in his day teaching other queers how to use their voices. He literally gives voice lessons. And he’s so busy with it that more and more he teaches in classes and small groups in order to reach as many people as he can, as quickly as he can. And he does it not just so our community knows how to sing, but so that our community knows they have a voice – a beautiful voice and one that deserves to know that it has a place and a right to be heard.
By this time next year, Eli will be on the road, touring, reaching into corners of this country (and perhaps this world) that might never have heard the word transgender, let alone how that evolved in a quiet Virginia spot nestled in Appalachia. But by the time Eli finishes his last song, those listening will never be the same. And they won’t just have learned, and opened, and maybe felt home for the first time, they’ll never go back to where they were. It’s inevitable my friends. This queer revolution of music. Through guys like Eli Conley.
I recently produced a show featuring two of my favorite trans-artists: Kit Yan and Joe Stevens. I didn’t ask for a cover, and I didn’t ask for donations. But what I did ask for was contributions so that these guys could make the work – and the change and the difference – that they make in the world. I also said that if anyone couldn’t make a monetary contribution, then make an oral contribution and tell Kit and Joe how the art they make has changed a life. And if they were too shy to make an oral contribution, then write it down and put it in the bucket, because even these guys – as brave and tireless as they are – need to hear it once in a while. They are appreciated, they make a difference, and they are loved.
To that end, I’m making a pitch for Eli, too. He’s got an IndieGoGo campaign happening right now. He’s close. It ends soon. And I’ve watched him personally thank people – profusely – for contributions that equal the price of two lattes. Here’s the link and an opportunity to contribute to our queer music revolution.
Give him a go, or a shout out, or quiet notes of appreciation. Eli is the kind of guy who gives more than he receives, who listens more than he talks, who reads teenager fantasy novels and engages in thoughtful political dialogue in the same coffeehouse sitting. And then, when you least expect it, creates beautiful music with meaning and care. I’m down with that. You?