This guy smiles a lot. Whether he's talking about playing soccer in a pocket park with his kid, exploring the West Coast on an electric scooter or Cleveland sports, Landon Elliott remains positively radiant. When we caught up over coffee to discuss his forthcoming album, he was eager to share details about another project.
"You realize talking to people that so many lives are changed by different albums. Then you realize how little you've actually heard," he says. "I hadn't even gotten to the Beatles 'White Album'!"
Each week, he explores a record he's never heard, usually the greats, then picks a song to cover live on Instagram. Originally the goal was 52 songs, but he says his list is already around 80. "Have you heard Beyonce's 'Lemonade'? I can't make much progress these days because I keep going back to that," he says, laughing.
Elliott is a small town guy. He grew up on the Outer Banks and explains that not much happens in a place with one main road. Music was always a part of things, usually heartland tunes by storytellers like Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen. But live stuff was a tough find.
"You don't find music every night of the week and after a certain hour," he says.
After college in 2013, Elliott followed his girlfriend to Richmond and "kinda popped my little bubble," he says. "I fell in love with her and this city."
After putting down roots, growth was exponential over the next few years: marriage, kids and an expanded worldview thanks to the diversity of the River City.
The songwriter put together Landon Elliot and the Goods and released a homespun EP that quickly snagged attention, mostly for the from-the-guts vocal performance that hung on every Americana chord like the fading sun on a long summer›s night (comparisons to Chris Stapleton are on point).
The buzz intensified when local blog RVATrack featured a stunning video for "By Now" that racked up more than 40,000 views after going semiviral on the internet. One thing was apparent with that performance, Elliot had blossomed. His voice was more robust and his sound more diverse.
"A lot has changed since that first EP. Crazy things have happened in our world, I've got two kids, and I've been listening to music across genres," he explains. "I›m trying to break my tendencies to latch on to two or three things and that be all I listen to."
He hooked up with Scott Lane in 2017 to record his yet-to-be titled debut LP, which will be released this summer on American Paradox Records, a label that has put out stunners like Sid Kingsley's "Good Way Home" and Kenneka Cook's "Moonchild."
"This album has a lot of Peter Gabriel and Phil Collins influence, which might surprise people. Synths and electronic drums, it's all there." he says. "I have no less than 200 unfinished songs and audio clips here in my phone, so I'm excited to get these out in the wild and watch them grow."
Things are kicking up for Elliott, starting with his prime Friday Cheers opening gig for big shot, Lukas Nelson, son of the red-headed stranger.
"His self-titled record has been on repeat in my car. He›s a veteran and is so well respected. This last year has been tremendous for him, so it is definitely a pinch-me moment to get to share the stage with him."
With lots more shows planned and what›s sure to be plenty of attention once the record drops, Landon says he's committed to keeping things balanced. "I make sure my days start and end with my kids. Gotta be there for bedtime," he says.
Time is carefully carved off in half-hour blocks for writing, researching and playing music. "My calendar looks like a rainbow. Yes, it's color coded. It's really the only system that works for me."
Landon Elliott plays Friday Cheers on Brown's Island with Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real on May 3. 6:30-9:30 p.m., Tickets cost $10. venturerichmond.com.