Artist Interviews
June 25th, 2001

This is from a 25 minute phone interview that I had with eLi. The bold text is my questions/comments to him, and everything else is his replies.

The text that is in italics is available to downloaded as a .wav file. The link to the wav file can be found immediately after the italic text.

Some unnecessary text has been removed, and some sentences have been tweaked to make them more readable.

Here's the interview:


Of course, the biggest question, and you can probably see this coming, is about your name. I sort of got the story about it from looking around. I had one guy that said “Ask him about this guy named Paul Falzone, what’s his story” after seeing the special offer on your site and several other people asked about it as well. So, if you could explain a little bit more about that, it would be cool.

My name is Elijah Stone Williams. (clip - 103k - 5 sec) It’s my real and legal, but adopted, name. It’s not my birth name, my birthday name was Paul. My father’s name is Paul as well and due to some problems he was having, I was going to get adopted a long, long time ago and that is like a private family issue. So I went to using my adopted name and we finally made the adoption legal and finally had the money to do it, because it is quite expensive, a couple of years ago. I had already been using Eli for quite a long time. Actually, going from Paul to Eli was a bit of, you know, a concern for me because I didn’t want anyone to be confused. I didn’t realize that nobody really knew or cared who I was anyway, so it really wasn’t going to matter. [Laughs] Nobody missed me. Except for, I’ve had a lot of funny things happen since then...the last time I was in Denmark, the promoter who brings me over there (and I) were talking and I mentioned “Hey, I just got a hold of a bunch of this Paul Falzone stuff” and I’m telling this story and he’s driving and he’s looking at me with this totally weird look on his face and I said “What?” and he said “Are you serious” and I said “Who would lie about something like that?” and he goes “I was just about to contact this Paul Falzone guy because I have had his album for a few years and I loved him and since you guys sounded so much alike, I was going to call him and see if he would come over and do a concert.”, so I said “Dude, I’ve got a phone number of his and I will call him and set up a two-for-one deal!”... It’s a family thing, um, you know, I was adopted by my step-dad and I use that name. That’s all. Elijah Stone Williams is the name that is on my birth certificate, it’s on my driver’s license, it’s on everything. So, there’s the scoop.

A lot of them wanted to know that.

Well, the thing with using Eli is that I just thought using my first name and using it the way you would call me or someone else would talk to me would be really personal and really, um not rock star. You know what I mean? (clip - 297k - 14 sec)

Yea, it is kinda.

It’s just like “Yea, this is Eli.” Now, you know, I didn’t think about Cher and Carmen and Madonna and all that until my first interview and I was horrified and I thought “...that’s not at all what I had in mind”, so I was a little bit horrified with that, but that’s the scoop.

Another question, that you probably wouldn’t expect, because it’s sort of a non-music one, it’s about your hair. Some people want to know why you cut it off?

Because it’s just hair. You know, I get that question everytime. Because it’s the same reason a guy shaves, or scratches his butt, or does anything he does. Because it’s just hair and it was meant to be cut so that it could grow and get dyed and get full of gel and get grown long and, you know, just because...no special reason.

Yea, that’s sort of what I expected, but I didn’t know if something was hiding back there.

Nah, I’m glad to know that I’ve still got hair. When I cut it, I wasn’t going too bald or anything.

Yea, that is a good thing. Someone from Atlanta sent in a question after hearing you on The Fish [104.7 FM - Atlanta] and wondered if you ever thought about doing broadcasting part time along with your music just because you are so good at it?

Oh, I thought about, um, actually a couple things. I mean, I would like to have an interactive radio show like once a month or once a week where we would do what we do and songs and conversations and inputs and basically invite people to host these parties at their house where people can get around the...what’s it called? [Laughs]

Computer?

[Laughs] Yea, computer...and watch it an interact with it like a TV that you can talk to and stream audio. I don’t have the money or the time, but if someone ever sets something like that up, I think it would be great. Broadcasting would be cool, but radio, especially Christian radio, is so dysfunctional, I can’t imagine a radio station giving me [a program], you know, it’s like I’m too Christian for the secular market and I’m not, you know, spiritual enough or I’m too gruff for Christian music, I am stuck in this abyss somewhere.

Well, you are doing pretty well in it.

I don’t know. I hope so. I don’t know.

What was your first guitar?

It was an Alvarez Region.

How did you get it? Did you buy it for yourself?

Yea, I bought it. A lady had given me one to use and it was a Yahama nylon string and when it was time for me to get my own, you know, I was like scrimping and stuff. It was a great guitar, but I got in the habit of giving guitars away like everything else and I gave it to a lady who had been playing guitar for years, she is my aunt. She had been in a really crappy marriage and her husband had walked out on her. They had a lot of money, but he never did anything nice for her and she was a sweet sweet lady. She had been playing guitar since she was a teenager, you know, a little hippy chick and she had the most horrid piece of junk guitar. So, one day at church, I had come across this jumbo-body 70 Takamine and I got this thing and I traded it with her. It obviously wasn’t much of a trade, but the Alvarez was a really nice guitar and it was nice to see her get something cool. Since then, it’s continued on and I haven’t owned the same guitar for very long for any given time, I end up giving them away, but God gives them back, somehow.

How many do you have right now?

I only have three. I’ve got one that’s in a consignment shop, it’s the one I have had the longest, it’s a black Gibson J200, it’s just a monster, it rocks. But, I’ve only got three now, I have given the rest away and sold a couple. You can’t play more than one guitar at a time, so...[laughs].

It doesn’t matter too much as long as you’ve got one you like.

I could talk Gibson guitars all day. I worked in a custom shop for awhile. (clip - 97k - 5 sec)

Musical influences or inspirations, I guess that’s sort of two different questions almost, but who did you listen to a lot growing up and who, I guess you don’t really model yourself after anyone, but who you sort of take after or what inspires you to keep playing or write your music?

Up until a long time ago, I mean, my who life was Cat Stevens, Keith Green, Jim Croce, Simon & Garfunkel, you know, John Denver. Then, when my parents got divorced, my mom was always listening to Helen Reddy...”I am Woman”...that’s great. [Laughs] I grew up listening to everything, I mean, I still think Jose Feliciano is the bomb! And, I love Patty Griffin. I love Third Day. There are very few Christian artists that I can actually stand to listen to, um, Third Day is one of them. I love their attitude and I love their heart and I love their music. (clip - 141k - 7 sec) I didn’t grow up in a church or anything...[christian music] wasn’t a part of my life, but growing up I used to love the Sex Pistols and The Black Crowes and, totally, whatever was good, whatever did it for me, did it. Now, it’s one of those things where I don’t listen to a whole lot of music, I listen to talk radio, NPR is, like, the bomb. I want to hear what’s going on in the world and I want to listen to maybe the soundtrack from “Schlinder’s List” or “The Mission.”

That’s quite a variety. Alright, a lot of people also asked questions about a whole bunch of individual songs, but “Things I Prayed For” got a lot. I guess to summarize those questions, basically, did you write it about yourself or did you write it just to write it or where did it come from?

I wrote it about myself. I think the coolest thing about living the kind of life I have to live and do from time to time still is the fact that God has given me material. I just looked at my life and wrote about it. (clip - 377k - 18 sec) This is who I am, the good, the bad, the ugly and God is the one who makes the difference. I think that’s what people grasp a hold of, "I am a Christian artist, I don’t fart" mentatlity. We want that, we say that we want people like me because I represent the norm, but yet I think we live vicariously through the image of the perfect Christian artist, we adore those people and worship them and I don’t want to be worshipped or adored, I want to be appreciated and loved, but, um, I don’t want to be a rock star. Of course, there is the other side of me that totally does, you know, that’s the fight that goes on, but, you know, it’s like everybody that writes me or comes to the concert to hear “Things I Prayed For”, they’re like “That’s my song” because that’s everybody’s song and that just shows you how relatable [it is]. If we will write honest songs, people will grab a hold of them if radio will just allow them to be heard and luckily there were some radio stations that allowed that one to be heard. I heard it and I was blessed by it and I was just glad that some of the radio stations really fed their listeners because I think it’s an important song. I don’t mean this to sound the wrong way, but I think most of the songs I put on the album are [important], that’s why I put them out there. You know, I am not intending to entertain anybody or impress anybody, I want to talk about life and God and how it relates together and talk about experience that real people go through, not this holier than thou thing because I just never lived that life, I still don’t, I struggle.

Yea, I think that’s a thing that people really like about your music too is that it shines right through that you're not perfect and they can relate to it a lot better. I have heard the same about your live shows, although I haven’t been to one yet.

Ooh, not yet, lucky you. [laughs] Did I tell you I have laser lights and dancers? It’s cool, man. [laughs]

Being a guitar based site for Christians, a lot of the people would like to do something similar to what you are doing at some point down the road. They are wondering how you knew this was what you wanted to do, how you felt God calling you to do it?

Dude, I still don't know. Well, you know, just because you have an album out there, you can have the #1 song in the country and sell a ton of albums and that still doesn't mean that God has spoken that this is what He wants for you. The hardest question that people never, myself included, are willing to ask is and that is “God, what do you want me to do with this ability?” Everybody wants to be a rock star. I’m sick of it. The only reason why I’ve come (to concerts) is to say “Okay, God has appointed me for the here and now” or I believe He has, the door is open and I’ll just walk through it. I am here to give you my heart and soul and to serve...is what Christ has taught us to do, not to be served. We live in a Christian culture that says “Dude, servanthood sucks, it’s not as cool as being famous, it’s not as cool as being recognized. It's in complete contridiction to the Word of God, and to our Savior, Lord Jesus Christ who we say we serve. Now what He did, He became nothing for us, He became a worm for us, He washed His disciples feet, even Judas’ feet, and yet we don’t see that as an example that we should follow. He said that a servant is no greater than his master and yet we keep wanting to be greater. (clip - 700k - 33 sec) The fact is, when I tell someone this, I ask them this hard question (and I hope you are able to poignantly put this to your listeners because this is priceless right here) is this: Ask yourself if you feel called to this, then are you willing if God says that this is what you will do, and no more, for the rest of your life, are you still feeling so called now or are you feeling called in lieu of (yea, I feel called so that one day I will be this...), if that’s the case then you are not hearing from God, you are hearing from yourself. (clip - 528k - 25 sec) When you are hearing from God, you are saying “Lord, here I am today, what do you have for me today?” and God beckons to us and says “Yes, I have the cross for you today, are you willing? Are you excited about it? No. But, are you are you willing?” Every day you get up you have a choice, you either commit artistic and career suicide and follow Christ or you look out for your own selfishness. And the fact is that you could be doing a bunch of great things, but that doesn’t mean that God is pleased with it, it could just be a bunch of clanging symbols and gongs. And the point of that is this, dude, when you ask someone who says “I just want to serve God and just serve people”; okay then, so what if I told you that you are just going to play up in front of a half-dozen unappreciative people once a month for the rest of your life, now how called do you feel? We lie to ourselves and we lie to everyone around us. We say “Listen, if just one person...” - that is a bunch of garbage, dude. Just one person, huh? Well, what happens when just that one person shows up? They sit there and they get berated these artists, the artists get all upset and they get all in a huff and all discouraged. Why? You said you cared about just that one person, God brings them and that’s not good enough all of a sudden. So, you know, talk is cheap, dude, blah-blah-blah-blah-blah. I want to see you do it, I want to see myself do it. I am constantly finding the hypocrisy in my life and it amazes me that after this much of blessing that I can still be as much of an idiot as I am, but I am. And, as somebody who is, quote/unquote, making it, whatever that is, I just look at other people and I say dude, my advice, this and that, is to stay available and to empty yourself and that means to die. It has nothing to do with music. The thing is, God may call you when you say “Lord, here am I, send me”, He may send you to get slaughtered, but we don’t see it that way. You know Paul, Paul was a great apostle...God called Paul to die. God called Peter to die. God called Matthew to die. You know, we don’t see that, man, we don’t see [that God calls people] to die, we just see that God called Peter, God called Paul, God’s going to call me. Yea, to the cross. To the electric chair, man. He doesn’t want you in His way, man, He wants Him glorified. He wants you to be a vessel or not, get out of the way then, whatever. You want to serve yourself, that’s your choice. If I want to serve Eli, I pay the consequences of that. You know, it has nothing to do with God’s love for me and it has everything to do with the fact that God is not as schizophrenic as I am and He hasn’t forgotten His purpose even though I do, He is still completely aware of what His purpose is. And, you know, He says to me “You are either for me or against me, Eli”, you know “You are either along for the ride or you’re in my way.” So, when people [ask] “How can I do this? How can I do that?” How can I tell you that? Go ask Jesus. If you really care, you will find out everything you can about what He has to say to you, but that is going to be a painful, humiliating, agonizing process and it’s one that I don’t see a lot of people being willing to go through, for understandable reasons. So, if they will think it through, at least use their minds to think it through, they will realize that they don’t have a choice. Dude, you don’t have a choice, I don’t have a choice. By being believers, you already know too much. How will you ever serve yourself really from now on? If you are a believer, the conviction of the Holy Spirit is going to still weigh heavy on you and He’s still going to be there pestering you saying “Dude, not your will, but mine...not your will but mine.” You understand what I mean?

Umm-hmm...

So, you know what? It’s like the practicalities of it are this, I’m a guy who wasn’t connected, still am not. I’m a guy who didn’t send out demos. I’m a guy who, I mean, everything that everything that everybody says you have to do, I didn’t do and I’m sitting here. I’m a complete example of God’s mercy from start to finish. (clip - 141k - 7 sec) It really is a beautiful feeling, dude, because I know this, I know I am prideful, I know I am cocky and all these other things, but, dude, when it comes to to this, there is no doubt in my mind or in anybody else’s mind around me who knows me that I don’t have a leg to stand on here. It’s either God’s going to continue to do something or He’s not, but I really don’t have a whole lot to do with it and I really am not going to be able to take any credit for it. If they tried to hand me an award, I’d have to bow out and say “Dude, you know, I’m sorry I don’t want to sound spiritual, but I had nothing to do with it. He’s been letting me use all this, I’m just a fraud, man, He’s the one pulling all the strings, bro, I’m just going along for the ride.” (clip - 324k - 15 sec)


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