It’s a “Crazy World” and Eleyet McConnell are a Happy Couple (Exclusive Interview)
In a world filled with cookie-cutter music and formulaic lyrics, Eleyet McConnell stands out as a refreshing, genre-defying force. Comprising two distinct talents and creative minds, this dynamic duo is rewriting the rules of music expression with their unique fusion of raw emotion, introspection, and unapologetic originality. And now, they are back with their highly-anticipated new single, "Surrender," the second release from their debut album,"Crazy World." Angie and Chris took some time out to answer a few questions about their career, their album and their latest single, “Surrender.”
How did you two meet and what made you decide to start a music career together as a duo?
Angie: I met Chris playing music. We ended up in the same cover band in 2013 or somewhere around there, and that lasted for a few years. Over time, the group evolved and then the pandemic showed its face. Things got strange all over in general. Venues weren’t paying for live music like they once were, folks in our band were getting different jobs or losing their job, some were torn with the whole shelter-in-place concept, and everyone was busy deciding what was best for their family. Getting the group together became more difficult mainly because of schedules.
Chris: It was easiest for Angie and me to play because we lived in the same house. We don’t have a traditional “living room/family room”; we have a music room. We can play anytime we want. Well, that point in time gave us a lot of free time for just the two of us to work on material. When the mandates started lifting, we’d go to open mics (they welcomed original music) to just get out there and play our material in front of real people. Then as luck would have it, those places started asking us to play as a duo. It seemed like out of nowhere there was this huge demand for smaller acts. That’s how the whole duo thing started.
Can you describe your songwriting process and where you find inspiration for your music?
Chris: Angie writes some really strong stuff when she’s upset. I guess you could say I kept her very inspired at times (laughing). She’s a storyteller for sure. Everything we write comes from our real experiences. Sometimes the song is just about one of us but most often, they’re about what we went through together. I have a lot of ideas for lyrics, but she says they come out too “Shakespearean” (I write in quatrains, lol) so she takes the concept and puts it into lyrics that people can relate to in a better way than I can. You could say she stitches my lines together.
Angie: (laughing) Yeah, some of his stuff will sound like it’s straight out of an Elizabethen Tragedy. I’m usually like, “What???” haha! He’s got a great story to tell-- I just soften it a little and bring it to a place that people can relate to in all sorts of ways. Now Chris’s superpower is melody. If he was sitting here with a bass guitar right now, he could crap out limitless riffs and melodies with little to no effort. I can’t do that. Overall, though, we don’t have a rigid way to write our songs. They come how they come. Sometimes it’s me by myself working up a chunk of it, sometimes it’s him and sometimes we are together. Lord help us if the iPhones get lost or the data gets corrupted. We have so much stuff stored there, and we’ve often gone back and pulled from those snippets and make songs out of those.
What would you say sets your sound apart from other artists and genres in the music industry?
Angie: I like that we don’t really conform to the “norms” if that makes sense. When you look at our body of work, you can easily find something for everyone. We like so many types of music and I think you can hear that in our songs. There is an honest, organic kind of chemistry that people can feel when they see us live—we’ve even been approached about that. I think people find it refreshing. We aren’t trying to be a certain thing, sound a certain way or look a certain way. It’s just us. Chris and I have always been honest about our journey. Things weren’t easy for us in the beginning. We tell the story with all the grit and grime. People feel that. They identify with it.
Chris: Her voice. I still tear up sometimes and I hear her sing all the time. I can’t describe it. There is just something about when she starts singing that just grabs on to your soul and doesn’t let go. I’ve watched people come in off the street at shows that are outside on a patio…just to see who it is or if it’s a person singing live. She’s had people write her notes and leave them on her keyboard at shows telling them how moved they were and how connected they felt. Once on a sound check I saw a whole bar of bikers just sitting and drinking. When she started singing the place went silent. They turned around in their seats with the look on their face like, “Who the heck is this?” They were captivated. That’s a gift.
Your debut album "Crazy World" has been highly anticipated, can you tell us a little bit about the themes and messages that are present in the songs on the album?
Chris: Well, I’ll tell ya, we’ve got so much material that deciding what to put on Crazy World was really hard for us. On the one hand, we could line up a compilation of songs and you could hear the whole story of Angie and me in the sequence in which our relationship developed. It’s dramatic. But what we wanted to do on our first album was give people a good taste of all that we are as artists.
Angie: Yeah, we aren’t short on material. I guess it’s a good problem to have but man, sometimes it’s tough choosing. Each song is personal to us, and Chris and I each have strong feelings toward each one. Whenever I’m asked about which is my favorite I literally can’t answer. What ended up happening here is that we tried to give the best sample of us as we could. We joked about it almost being like an interview—the listeners are getting to know us and figuring out how we fit into their world. Some of the songs are from when we first started writing and some are much more recent. Each one has a real-life story behind it though.
What has been the biggest challenge you have faced so far in your music career and how did you overcome it?
Angie: In one word, I’d say guilt, and on a couple fronts. I think we will both say the same things here. Oh boy. First, our relationship was rocky in the beginning. We took each other on the most bumpy, hilly, jerky roller coaster known to man. Both of us were dealing with a lot of big life changes and then trying to find our way in a serious relationship. That was really hard. We both earned some scars from all that, but we learned so much about ourselves, each other and I’d say we are stronger right now than I ever imagined we would ever be. Never once did I doubt his feeling for me or vice versa but sometimes timing can really screw things up big time.
The other side of the guilt coin for me was taking the steps to play predominantly as a duo and not as the group that we had been for so long. All those folks are to this day, like family to both of us and some are actually on the album as musicians, co-writers, or both. It was all timing. Chris and I were in a position professionally and financially and had the motivation to go in a direction that others just couldn’t. It still made us both sad and depressed at first. Looking back, I think it’s worked out for the best because we still get to work with all of them as their work/family schedules will allow. We are just taking things as they come and doing what we feel is best for Eleyet McConnell.
Chris: I don’t think we’ve ever put a word on it like that, but I have to admit it fits. We both struggled to get where we are now. Difficult decisions are part of this process, even when you know in your soul the decision is the right one for you, or in this case, Angie and me. We did lots of soul searching and had to learn to bring a good level of objectivity to the table. I suppose there is always a bit of collateral damage when you are trying to please or do right by everyone in your life. That just doesn’t always happen.
"Surrender" is the second release from your album, can you talk about the inspiration behind the song and what it means to you personally?
Chris: Giving this one to Ang. It’s all her as far as the lyrics go anyway.
Angie: So we just talked a little about some of the hard times both Chris and I went through at the beginning of our relationship. When I mentioned we each had some personal things we were going through, I wasn’t kidding. The year 2018 was to date the most difficult year of my life. So many things. HARD things. Life-changing things. I was a complete mess, and I will be honest about the fact that I wasn’t sure if I’d make it. I was worried about me. My friends and family were worried about me. I’ve never experienced a low like that. I believe to this day the universe was pushing me in a direction that I had resisted for most of my life. It was time for me to take the path intended for me. I had to dig deep though and reach for a higher power. I knew this was more than I could do alone. I needed to mend myself spiritually. People kept telling me, “God won’t give you what you can’t handle” and if I’m being totally honest, I dreamt about throat punching every one of them (laughing hard). That was the last thing I wanted to hear because I was very busy feeling very sorry for myself. (more laughing).
I started singing on stage in church when I was 4 years old. I joke with people about how I was “released for time served” (laughing) because my mother would take us to church twice on Sunday, on Wednesday, and sometimes Saturday if there was a social event or something…and then there was revival and conference. We didn’t know each other then, but Chris was raised in a Pentecostal church just as I was and adhered to a similar schedule for years. It was a big part of my life for a very long time and his. My mom still lives and breathes it. I grew up hearing and learning about laying down your troubles. “Give it to God; he will carry it”. And that’s what I did.
I remember the very day. I felt something in me say, “Get UP!”, and I remember saying out loud, “I can’t do this myself”. I felt calm that I can’t really describe fully. I knew at that moment that I was going to be OK. I started dealing with my life in a very different way from that point on, and I have to say, I felt an instant change for the better. I still had plenty to work through and things weren’t easy by any means, but the despair that had been weighing on me was no longer there.
That is what this song is for me. It’s my “Give-it-to-God” song. I’m not the first one to carry a cross and I won’t be the last. None of us has to carry anything alone. It was my acceptance of that truth. This song is all about healing and acceptance that there is something much greater than all of us in control.
How does it feel to have your first single, "Gettin' By," reach the top 30 on the UK iTunes Rock songs chart?
Angie: It feels like, “WWWHHHAAAT???” ha! It’s so surreal but I’m loving it.
Chris: It’s a dream. Music has been my dream since I was 10 years old. Anyone that knows me will tell you the same thing. I’ve never given up. It’s been a long time but I’m with the very person I’m meant to be doing all this with and I wouldn’t change any of it. As a husband and wife duo, how do you balance your personal and professional lives while working together?
Chris: We have learned over the last 2 years that we have to make time for ourselves as a couple and also as individuals. I need “me” time and so does she. It’s very easy to get lost in being a duo 24/7 and neither of us wants that. Having said all that, I am guilty of having my alone time and calling her saying, “Hey babe whatcha doin?” (laughing). We really do enjoy being around each other. I tell her all the time, “Every day is new”.
Angie: 100% agree. We try to give each other space once in a while but honestly, he’s my favorite person to hang out with too. We will fuss at each other once in a great while like everyone else, but we usually are laughing at ourselves by the end of the night, and we do not go to bed angry. No need for that!
What can fans expect from your live performances and what do you hope they take away from your music?
Chris: When it’s just the duo it’s a very low-key, intimate, very personal kind of atmosphere. For me it gives me the opportunity to weave in and out with her vocals and really lock that groove we get into when it’s just the two of us. We have a lot of space to fill without the band so when it’s just the Bass and Keys I feel like I have a lot more freedom to get creative. We love to interact with the crowd and just get personal with people. That’s a blast. If we have a show with a full band, it’s just a fun jam. The music is top-notch, the gang loves playing together, and you can sense that. I want people to go on a journey with us when they come to see us live. It’s all about the journey.
Angie: Yeah, we have been very blessed with the quality of musicians that play on stage with us. In either scenario we are very interactive with the crowd. People can expect that kind of engagement with us. As far as takeaways from the music? We said before that we write about our life. Our songs are about things we’ve actually experienced, and we talk about those things with little to no filter. We know that there are so many folks going through things like this every day and if they can connect….yay!! That’s what we want!
Finally, what do you hope to achieve with your music and what are your plans for the future as a duo?
Angie: For me, I’m on the train and ready to go wherever this takes us. Chris and I are in a different stage of our lives than most people getting to this level in the music industry. I got my ride-or-die beside me and I’m ready for whatever happens. Listen, I never dreamed that music that I wrote or helped write would ever go ANYWHERE. Top 30 in the UK? WHHAAAT???? I’m already over the moon!
Chris: I’ve let go of the reins on this beast I’ve been riding for going on 54 years. Wherever it takes us I’m all in for the ride. I always say, if it never gets out of Urbana Ohio, I’m fine with that because more than the music is our relationship together. Our life is full and we are so blessed. More than anything I want to keep on recording in the studio to capture all that we have written because there is enough for several albums. The musicians we have at our disposal to use are a gift from God.