John Elliott: Taking the road less traveled

by Jared Curtis

Musicians hit the open road 365 days a year and unless you have big hits or big financial backing, the life on a luxury tour bus can be few and far between. But singer songwriter John Elliott doesn’t need a big bus when he tours all over the U.S. Rather, he hits the road by any means necessary including the train and his new favorite mode of transportation: his bike.

“Since May I have been touring with my bike, which is less about a statement and more about how I am of sick of driving everywhere,” he laughed. “I started it as an experiment and now I’m fully in love with it. Biking has become a revelation. You can cover some serious mileage in a small amount of time; I just have to figure out how to bring more merchandise with me on tour.”

One would think it would be tough to ride your bike with a guitar strapped to your back, which is why Elliott has figured out a way to tour without instruments, thanks to a little help from his friends.

“The backpack guitar cases are a pain in the ass and I was trying to figure out another way to go about it when my Bellingham friend, Robert Sarazin Blake, gave me a great idea, why not borrow guitars everywhere I go,” Elliott revealed. “It was a total game changer and now I’m getting to play these amazing and beautiful guitars in every city. It definitely makes the trips a lot smoother when you don’t have to lug a guitar case around everywhere.”

Along with riding his bike to shows, Elliott has also become a fan of using the train to tour. He recently completed the “California Train Tour,” which had Elliott riding the rails for almost a month playing throughout the state.

“As long as you’re not in a hurry, the train is an amazing way to tour,” he said. “You can read a book, grab a bite or a drink and get off every now and again for some fresh air. I’m also able to roll my bike on the train with me and then hit the open road once we make our destination.”

When he’s not riding through the countryside, Elliott stays busy with his newly created Audiodes, a unique style of podcast featuring music, interviews and live performances. Two Audiodes are currently on Elliott’s website (www.thehereafterishere.com) with a third out this month. Elliott plans on releasing 11 episodes for the first season, with hopefully many more seasons to come.

“I know, there are thousands and thousands of podcasts out there but I like theater and weird things and I wanted people to know there is more to me than just showing up and playing some tunes,” he said. “You work so hard to write songs and then when you put an album out and if it’s not received well, it’s like blue balls. Singer songwriters take themselves so seriously, so I wanted to create something a little more light hearted and fun.”

Fans can purchase single Audiodes or buy the entire season for a discounted rate.

“The idea of doing something episodic came about, and after getting such a great response to the first episode, I decided to keep going. I have no idea where it’s going, but I’m having fun doing it and it keeps me on a regular working schedule, which is always nice,” he laughed. “Being a musician is my job, so I had to come up with some creative ways to get income when I wasn’t touring and the Audiodes have helped.”

When Elliott isn’t recording or riding his bike or the train, he is putting together holiday inspired variety shows, like the First Annual Holiday Extravaganza Tour, which makes a stop at The Green Frog on Sunday, Dec. 21. The show features Elliott, singer songwriter Amy Sue Berlin and spoken word artist Chris Chandler, as well as guest appearances from local musicians.

“It seems like people always get depressed at the end of the year, whether it be the cold weather or family, it’s just a stressful time. So I thought I would combat those feelings with a show about togetherness, where we could get together with some friends, cozy up and tell some stories and sing some songs,” Elliott said. “There is a Danish term — Hygge — which means being together and cozy, and that’s really what I wanted this show to be about. I’m really looking forward to combating the holiday blues.”

Expect some Christmas cheer along with plenty creative chaos when the First Annual Holiday Extravaganza Tour hits Bellingham.

“I’ve been playing in Bellingham since 2006 and I really love it. There is a great community of musicians working together and supporting this beautiful reality. It’s going to be a great show and I’m excited for the people who haven’t heard Chris or Amy Sue before to experience them live,” Elliott said.

“The first time I saw Chris, he emerged through the fog and performed this beautiful story. He offers something different than just another guy with a beard and a guitar. Plus, he has some really on-point pieces about the holidays. Amy Sue’s songs are so beautiful and amazing, so it should really be a neat night of performances. We’ll even play are own version of ‘O Holy Night,’ with some Christmas lights for ambiance.”

LIVE SHOW: See John Elliott at The Green Frog on Sunday, Dec. 21, for the First Annual Holiday Extravaganza Tour, including singer songwriter Amy Sue Berlin and spoken word artist Chris Chandler. For more about Elliott, see thehereafterishere.com.

Published in the December 2014 issue of What’s Up! Magazine