Elijah Ford: Revved up and ready to work
A few seconds into “Try As You Might,” the lead track off Elijah Ford & The Bloom’s forthcoming album, As You Were, and it’s one of those songs that gets embedded in your brain and refuses to leave.
That’s a good thing.
How good? Good enough that you can see the Austin singer-songwriter having a busy rest of 2016 and 2017, both on the road and on the charts. And he’s okay with that.
“I’ve been touring for ten years with my dad (Marc Ford) and with (Ryan) Bingham and various other Austin weekend warrior guys,” he said. “I know what I’m doing on stage and I’d love to get the opportunity to stay out on tour for a while and have it, at the end, be sustainable and make sense. I’m ready to work, for sure.”
“Dad” is Marc Ford, one of the premier guitarists of his era and one most notable for his work with the Black Crowes and Burning Tree. The younger member of the musical family, laughs when asked if he thought of an option other than music when he was growing up.
“No, I don’t think there really was another option; I was doomed,” he said. “My mom (Kirsten) is an amazing singer too, and that’s how they met, playing in bands on the strip in LA. I don’t think music really grabbed a hold of me past just being submerged in it from my family doing it until I became a teenager. Then I realized the power in it. And then there wasn’t another option.”
But this isn’t a story of a kid grabbing on to his parents’ coattails and riding them. Sure, Marc Ford brought his son out on tour with him and put him in touch with Ryan Bingham, but Elijah is his own man, as evidenced by the music he makes. And if you listen to it with a label of Elijah Smith or Elijah Jones on it, you will enjoy it without knowing who his father is. Ford appreciates such comments, but he also knows that he only has a small window to equally impress fans of his dad who are showing up to see Marc Ford 2.0.
“Crowes fans that come out to the show have to make that decision within the first five minutes,” he said. “It’s ‘Oh, that doesn’t sound like the Crowes,’ or ‘He’s not playing guitar like his dad.’ And I can’t think that way, because I don’t write music like that, and I can’t play guitar like my dad.’ I have to do my own thing; otherwise it would have just felt contrived. It would have been impossible to live up to any sort of expectation that someone might have, knowing who my dad is. But to have some of those people be my biggest fans and come to every show in the Texas area is such an honor. It’s still rock and roll with guitars in it.”
Along with those guitars are plenty of hooks that allow Ford to break from the pack and have crossover potential. And there’s never been more potential than with As You Were, which Ford has been champing at the bit to put out to the world on September 16.
“It’s been almost done for a while, so it feels great to be able to share it and see people digging it,” he said. “It’s also allowed me to clear my head and write new things differently instead of sitting down and going like, ‘Why the hell isn’t that record done?’ So it’s been awesome to watch all the response so far.”
The way he talks about it, you might think his next record is already done. And you would be almost right.
“It’s looking that way. Chris (Konte) and I have been writing a bunch and trying to get on to the next thing. So that would be the goal.”
Pretty impressive, but you heard the man, he likes to work. Yet that doesn’t mean it’s just head down, full speed ahead. Ford is open to new ways of doing things that add nuance to his songwriting and recording.
“Each record is like going to rock school,” he said. “You figure something new out by just pure experience and working with different producers and players. I would say writing this one was easier because I bounced ideas off of Chris and Z (Lynch), who have been in my band for a few years now, and including them in the writing process was pretty revelatory. It allowed me to get different perspectives and not get so caught up in my own head. So there was more of a workmanlike approach to writing this record.”
There’s that “W” word again, but working hard is part of his DNA, and while having talent is nice, in a crowded music city like Austin, it’s often the ones who are willing to devote 24/7 to their craft that set themselves apart. That could produce a toxic scene, but Ford doesn’t see it like that in his adopted hometown.
“It’s more of the community aspect, for sure,” he said. “There’s such a high level of musician here because so many people flock from not only all over the country, like Chris and I, but all over the world. You can find an amazing band any night of the week, and it raises the bar. As far as breaking (a band), that’s also a concept in the industry that’s difficult to wrap my head around. Stories that are more inspiring for me are like Gary Clark Jr., who, up until a few years ago, was just playing a residency and all of a sudden the right person got a hold of him. That’s more inspiring to me than a band just suddenly turning over out of nowhere and taking over the world.”
But what of Elijah Ford & The Bloom? Could they be the next big thing? Ford can accept that if it happens, but he’s got no issue with a slow burn either.
“It’s more sustainable when you slowly build an audience and a body of work,” he said. “I respect that more. If one of the songs were to take off and take over the world, that would be fantastic, but I also worry about it a little bit.”