Music In 2020 Interview Series: Producer/Songwriter Elliot Jacobson Talks Indie Music, Working On Music For Ingrid Michaelson, Vérité, Elle King and Taylor Swift
Elliot Jacobson is a music producer, drummer, songwriter and manager. He’s worked extensively with established artists like Ingrid Michaelson, Elle King, and Vérité and manages new artists Illicit Ghost, Julia Bhatt and Stefan Alexander. He’s worked in just about every part of the music industry so we’re excited to hear what he has to say. Read on as Elliot talks about his experience in the industry, the future of Indie music, his Top 10 favorite new songs and much more!
When it comes to music you’re certainly multi-dimensional. From producing to songwriting to touring and recording as a drummer and being a manager, it must be a hectic life. What drives you to stay involved in all those aspects of music instead of choosing the one you’re most passionate about or successful in? Which one gives you the biggest rush?
It can be hectic at times, and other times it is surprisingly quiet. There is rarely a middle ground and I have come to embrace that. “When it rains it pours”, sort of mentality. The rush and the drive comes from wanting to serve artists and serve songs and feeling a deep personal reward when it seems I’ve accomplished that purpose. Sometimes that calls for me to hit drums, and sometimes that calls for me to develop a marketing strategy for an EP (and everything in between).
You have a long list of collaborators within music and seem to find a way of working one opportunity into another. What advice would you give aspiring music professionals looking to expand in the industry?
There’s a lot of advice I could give but I think the main thing is to put effort into knowing yourself, understanding your strengths, passions and what motivates you, so that you can make decisions and create opportunities where you will thrive and be a contributor, not a detractor. This is a lifelong pursuit, because we all grow and evolve. Second, this industry is truly all about relationships but it’s not about trying to reach up to the highest contact you can make. Cultivate strong creative relationships within your community that benefit you and your collaborators.
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Feb/March/April/May 2012, I toured back to back with Jenny Owen Youngs, supporting her Unwavering Band of Light album (that I drummed on) & Ingrid supporting her Human Again album (that I also drummed on). Before these tours, Ingrid asked me if I would run live tracks for the tour and I said, “yes definitely”. But I definitely had no idea how to do that. I figured out what I needed, got the gear and hit the road with Jenny in a 12 passenger van for 4-6wks. After shows, in hotel rooms, I tried to learn. I was a wreck. It wasn’t coming easily to me and time was running out. The tour ended &things finally clicked. Production rehearsals with Ingrid began. Still, I was so afraid that I would fail in front of thousands of people &let down Ingrid. The first time I ran tracks “professionally” was the first show. Going on stage and hitting play on “Fire”, I was numb. But as soon as we were rocking, I never looked back. Eventually, on that tour, I got creative with the software. I started writing on the bus. After the tour, I reached out to a lot of artists in my circle asking if they wanted to “collaborate” bc I was excited to make things with this nightmare turned dream machine (being dramatic). Most people didn’t respond or take me seriously. But it didn’t matter at all bc I was having fun. This began the next chapter for my creative career, without even planning it. I’m sharing this bc it’s so important to not let our own insecurities and fears stop us from rising to the occasion and growing into something new. Your true potential will only be realized by how you deal with the fear of new challenges. At least for me that’s been the case. If you’re still with me, 1) having fun in Portland on Ingrid tour 2) trying on Jenny’s glasses 3) evry day between the tours 4) my set up with jenny 5) Ingrid tour schedule 6) my Ingrid rig on the first night of tour 7) something I saw in a coffee shop with jenny #tbt
It seems like every artist associated with Kobalt has nothing but good things to say about the company. Talk about your experience with Kobalt and the unique opportunities they bring through AWAL. What should new artists focus on when searching for opportunities to release their music?
Kobalt’s business model allows them to create creator-friendly deals that many of their competitors cannot. For me, Kobalt was among the first to the table when I had my first wave of success as a writer. That was important, because a crowd attracts a crowd and soon I was meeting with everyone. I’ve been with them ever since and they have supported me and given me many opportunities that I couldn’t get on my own. I’m very grateful. AWAL, though under the same umbrella, is almost an entirely separate operation now. There’s not a lot of cross over anymore. But they do good things for many releases I’ve been a part of.
New artists need to focus on finding either a team who genuinely wants to understand and support the artist’s goals, or waiting to find that team until they have built up a platform themselves so that it makes sense for a team to want to invest their time, resources and energy in the artist’s career. (Really, it’s both at the same time.) Maybe an AWAL-type company isn’t right for them initially. Maybe they need to get some momentum until Kobalt will take them seriously. And that’s ok.
From working on music in various forms with artists like Ingrid Michaelson and Vérité it’s safe to say you you’ve found success within Indie Pop. Where do you see the Indie Pop sound trending? Are there artists out there now pushing the sound in a new direction that you’re on board with?
I don’t think genre is an easy topic. I think mood and “vibe” are more applicable to modern pop music because we have already cross-pollinated every genre with every other genre in the pop/rock/blues/jazz realm. To me, “indie” in terms of sonics or production, means a little or a lot “rough”, “edgy”, maybe “lofi”, but just generally speaking. And there are polished records that have “indie” elements and there are “indie” records with polished vocals, etc. As far as artists really pushing things forward, there are so many but FKA Twigs is most important to me because she has a big audience/platform and is making music and performance art that sounds/feels like she’s picking up where, maybe, Kate Bush left off. Pushing her own limits as well as the genre, but also making genuinely “good” art, not just being different to be different, IMO.
Taking on such an active role with artists you probably find yourself in a studio more than your home. What’s the most interesting studio session you ever had?
Mostly, my home is my studio these days. There are too many to mention, but here are some: Tracking drums for Taylor Swift songs when I was called just the night before, tracking with Elle King and the band at the legendary Magic Shop Studios, working with Ingrid Michaelson and the band on Time Machine and Afterlife at Blackbird Studios. Pulling all nighters for the early Vérité songs. Most of that stuff was recorded between 12-5am, except for the vocals.
Elliot Jacobson’s Top 10 Favorite New Songs
My top songs are usually the songs in my playlist, POP IS DEAD. I try to update it on a regular basis. Current favorites are:
1. “All Mirrors” by Angel Olsen
2. “Laughter from the Beach” by Casual Male
3. “Around Here” by Hawksley Workman
4. “Follow God” by Kanye West
5. “Narcisc0” by Rina Mushonga
6. “Wreath” by Perfume Genius
7. “Always Blue” by Foreign/National
8. “Mirrored Heart” by FKA Twigs
9. “Rabbit Hole” by Illicit Ghost
10. “On + Off” by Maggie Rogers
What can we expect from Elliot Jacobson in 2020?
Changes, new music, new artists and pictures of Bear.
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