Like so many young people before him, Eli Lieb left his home in a small town in the Midwest to go to the Big Apple with big dreams of making it as an entertainer. Funny, how that didn’t work out.
After a decade in New York, Lieb is back home in Fairfield, Iowa, where he has finally made it big as a YouTube star. His music videos routinely attract hundreds of thousands of fans, and several of them have had more than 1 million hits.
As an out musician, Lieb has a built-in fan base but he routinely finds he is embraced by a crossover audience. His debut album, “Eli Lieb,” was self-produced in 2011 and includes a collection of 10 original songs. Lieb is now working on a second album.
In November 2011, Lieb was featured by US Weekly in a piece titled YouTube Star Eli Lieb Says Meditating Helped His Career Take Off.
Eli Lieb speaks with San Diego Gay & Lesbian News about his music, his musical influences, how Social Media and YouTube have changed his life, and his future plans.
SDGLN: How would you describe your music?
Eli Lieb: Lyrical electro pop … with a sensitive singer songwriter flare.
SDGLN: Who are your inspirations, and why?
Eli Lieb: I’m really inspired by everything I hear. But my specific musical inspiration would be Bjork, Fiona Apple, Robyn, Joni Mitchell, Ani Defranco … and I just realized that they are all female artists!
SDGLN: Why did you choose to use YouTube to promote your music and what has the impact been on your career?
Eli Lieb: YouTube is such an amazing way to reach an extremely large number of people. It’s very easy to get lost in the mix on YouTube, but if you can manage to make yourself stand out, it is a wonderful platform to jump-start a career.
SDGLN: Who role does Social Media play for performers?
Eli Lieb: I think that in this day and age it is essential. It’s the connector between you and your fans.
SDGLN: A lot of your dozens of YouTube music videos feature famous covers by Adele, Rihanna, Britney Spears and Katy Perry. What attracts you to songs made famous by women, and does it have anything to do with the tone of your voice?
Eli Lieb: Funny that you are asking me this question as I just said that all my musical influences are women! You know, that has been brought to my attention before and I really can’t think of any real reason why I am more drawn to female singers. If it does have to do with the tone of my voice maybe it’s because their voices are more different than mine, allowing me to make a song more my own. If I sang a song by a man who had a similar voice to mine, I think it might just sound too, well, similar!
SDGLN: Talk about your original songs from your self-titled debut album. What is your creative process?
Eli Lieb: My creative process is to just allow anything to come out. I tend to not overwork anything because I feel like there is a magic element that can be squeezed out of a song if you work it too hard.
SDGLN: You spent a decade in New York City, and now you’ve returned home to Iowa? What triggered that life-altering decision, and can a musician find success living in the Midwest far from the musical centers of America?
Eli Lieb: What triggered me to want to move back to Iowa was, quite simply, that I reached a point in my life where I just want to be happy. Being in Iowa, close to my family, always has made me feel that way. Plus, I also like living a quieter, healthy lifestyle. As yes! You can have success from anywhere in the world! Ironically, my career didn’t take off until I moved away from New York City and back to Iowa. I think that is a testament that success can come to you from anywhere as long as you are operating from a place of happiness and joy. Now though, I do travel a lot and look at Iowa more as a home base. Now that’s I’ve created a career for myself, the need to be in other places more often is growing. But knowing I have Iowa to always go back to is really nice.
SDGLN: You practice Transcendental Meditation. What is that, and how does it impact your music?
Eli Lieb: Transcendental Meditation is a very simple technique that you practice for 20 minutes, twice a day. It enables you to quiet your mind and get more in tune with yourself. And the more and more you become in tune with yourself, the happier and easier your life becomes. Creatively, for me, I find that meditation allows music to come out more effortlessly. I think when you are operating from a place of being more self-aware what you are creating becomes even more powerful.
SDGLN: How important is the LGBT community to your climb to fame?
Eli Lieb: Having the support of the LGBT community is very important, but supporting them is even more important to me. I really want to show people that it’s totally OK to be exactly who you are. I think the more and more people start realizing this, the less and less our struggles will be.
SDGLN: Do you have plans to tour? What is in your future?
Eli Lieb: Well, right now my focus is finishing up my second album of original music. I’m deep in recording more right now. But once I release it, I’m show I will be playing shows and promoting.
SDGLN: Single or taken or any plans to get married in Iowa?
Eli Lieb: I am single. Marriage has always been important to me and I’m sure when the right person comes into my life and we are ready to take that step, Iowa would make total sense!
SDGLN: Speaking of marriage, are you an activist or do you support any causes?
Eli Lieb: I’m only an activist in the way that I feel very strongly about equality and will continue to speak publicly about it. I think everyone on this planet is created equal and that NO ONE should have anything less than anyone else. We all have the same capacity for joy and love, and should be giving the same opportunities to achieve it.
SDGLN: What’s playing on your MP3 player?
Eli Lieb: I actually just got the new Tegan and Sara album, “Heartthrob,” and it is fantastic! It’s been on repeat for a week.
SDGLN: If you could have the ultimate dinner party and invite three guests (living or dead), who would be there and why?
Eli Lieb: Honestly – and this is going to be super cheesy – there is no one I would rather share a dinner with than my close friends and family. BUT, if I had to choose people who I don’t personally know, I would have to say, Joni Mitchell, Gandhi and Bjork. Man, that would make an interesting dinner for sure.
Ken Williams is Editor in Chief of SDGLN. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, @KenSanDiego on Twitter, or by calling toll-free to 888-442-9639, ext. 713.