Elliott Yamin: Exclusive Interview!

I got a chance to speak with Elliott Yamin by phone on Monday about his new album and more, as he gets ready to join 14 fellow Idol alums in a pre-final concert bash, Tuesday May 24 at the Nokia Theater in Los Angeles,  sponsored by AT&T.

It’s been two years since the release of Elliott Yamin’s last album, Fight For Love and he vows not to let so much time pass between albums.  He spent the early part of this year in Japan promoting an album, Gather Round that was produced especially for the Japanese market. Now he’s hard at work on a version of his album to be released in the United States and he could not be more excited.

Don’t expect a lot of studio tricks or auto-tune. Elliott is co-writing, co-producing and co-arranging his next album, getting even deeper into the process of album making.  And he’s doing it his way, working with collaborators to make an album of “organic… gritty, raw soul.”

Elliott hopes to get out on a short tour at the end of this summer.

About Elliott’s collaborators,  “Aaron Goldstein , is my co-writer and co-producer  and has been in my band since I’ve been off the show.  Brett Nolan owns the studio [they recorded in] is an engineer, but also co-produced and co-wrote the entire album with us. Brett’s Dad is Kenny Nolan. He’s the gentleman who wrote “Lady Marmalade”  [by Labelle]  and “My Eyes Adore You” by Frankie Vallie. He wrote “Masterpiece” by Atlantic Starr.  Brett and Kenny own their own studio in Van Nuys. I met Brett through Aaron. It’s just this amazing relationship [that began] almost a year ago.  Ever since that time we’ve just been writing song after song, really challenging ourselves as far as writing great material and involving as many live instruments as we can.  I’ve never really had the experience up until this point and I just have to say it’s been eye opening–it’s been amazing. The three of us together, collectively did this whole project together.  When I say together, we went into our own pockets and brought in horn players and we did it ourselves, our own way, which is really cool.”

How did the new album come together? “We did the entire Japanese album together. The only difference between the two—on the Japanese album, there are 4 songs that lean more towards the contemporary, mainstream vibe. I’ve had success in Japan with those types of songs on the radio. We were in the middle of making this album that was really just going to be an organic, live soul record. The Japanese—they weren’t really feeling the direction that I was going in, so I had to stop with the soul record, and bring up some of these contemporary records to include on the album, so we could have some success with it (chuckle).  After we promoted and toured over there back in February I had enough time to come back here and bring up those other songs that fit more in the lane of the album I wanted to release here—a more cohesive group of songs that all sounded like they belong together.

On the vibe of the American release:  “I guess you can call it “old school soul”. It’s just really soulful, it’s really organic. I feel it represents who I am and where I’m going. The songs are great because they all come from personal experience. It’s gritty, raw soul.”

When will the album come out? “Originally, I wanted to release at the beginning of the summer, but it’s taking us a little longer than I anticipated for us to get the final mix ready for mastering.  I’d say, over the next 10 days we’re going to have a finished, mastered album to be released here in the US.  I have a couple of small modest independent deals on the table right now. We’re just kind of sifting those deals, to figure out the best way to release it and I’m excited, because there are a couple of labels who are really interested and we’re just kind of weighing those out right now, figuring out the best way possible to release this album.”

Does he have a single picked out? “I don’t. That’s the big difference between this release and the last couple of releases –we’ve always had a single to kind of go off with. [The single] is still something we’re trying to figure out. Once we have a label, it will be easier. It’s one step at a time. The thing about this album, is that I wasn’t really catering to the radio sound. That’s obviously going to be our biggest challenge.  Also,  I’ve been blessed to have singles and songs on the radio. That’s something I’d love to continue, moving forward of course. But this time around, I haven’t been on a label–I haven’t had those kind of pressures. It enabled me to really hone in on the sound I wanted for this album  and worry more about the quality as opposed to the quantity— [rather than ] making sounds that everybody is trying to make. I’m just really happy that this product and this material personifies me and who I am and where I’m going as an artist. I want to have longevity in this career. And I think the music that we’ve made for this release is timeless and classic. At the end of the day, that’s all I can hope for. If things catch on and something works in the public, that’s an added bonus.

Upcoming plans, “As we speak, we’re trying to put together maybe a 3 or 4 week run at the end of August–try to get out and tour, play small clubs and get the word out about this album– get to perform some of this new material which I’m really excited about.”

Elliott is ready for his next album! “I hit a great stride with this album, and we’ve got so many ideas on the backburner right now that we kind of had to set aside.  Needless to say, there’s a whole litany of ideas that we had that we can’t wait to get back to and start writing and creating again. I don’t want as much time to lapse between albums anymore. Nowadays it’s easier than ever to get music out to the public and what I’ve been able to do over this past year in the studio is really build up my catalog and my cache of songs. It’s important as an artist—not to overdo it– but to keep that fan base engaged. That’s something I’ve really been trying to work on. “

Thoughts about this season of Idol, “Where do I start! I thought this season was amazing. I really loved the way the show focused on developing the artist. That’s something I think it got away from up until this season. I think they’ve giving the contestants a lot more to juggle than they ever have on the show and it was just a lot of fun to watch. It’s kind of strange that the two finalists are these young, country acts.  I’m not necessarily a fan of their voices per se, but for them to be as young as they are, and handle all the pressures that come along with being on the show, I think they’ve done a spectacular job. I wish them both the best of luck.”

Elliott has met them both, “I’ve had the pleasure of meeting both kids. They are both just really well-raised kids, really respectful. It’s been a fun season.”

  • hoodathunk

    Glad to see Elliott still going full steam with his music and I can’t wait to hear the new album.

    I do think he meant the last two seasons paled in comparison to this season, he just got it backwards. Nice interview & thanks!

  • ladymadonna

    Great interview MJ! Elliott sounds, as ever, focused and happy with his musical direction. He’s always been so smart about who his audience is and how best to reach them within the constraints of the current industry. He’s a savvy guy.

    I love that you got the chance to interview some of the Idols in the run up to the finale – really looking forward to reading what Castro, Michael Johns, and others have to say about their current projects and their post-Idol careers. Good stuff.

  • tinawina

    An old school soul record from Elliot would be PERFECT. I can’t wait to hear it.

  • Kris

    Love the interview, thanks. It was interesting how he said that the Japanese market was more interested in the contemporary songs while I thought the more soulful classic songs were better on his Japanese album. I’m glad that those songs are the focus of the U.S. album. I can’t wait to hear it and be able to buy it. I’m also happy that he is using live instruments.

  • http://www.myspace.com/rjveritas MrRJ

    I have my wallet out just waiting to buy this album when available.

  • HarleyWoman

    Great interview! Thanks MJ. Just love that boy.

  • weese

    This sounds like the album I have been waiting for from Elliott. Very excited! Thanks for the great interview MJ.

  • Pam

    Great interview mj. I can’t wait to hear new music from him! :)

  • jaimej40

    Thank you for interviewing him. He will always be a favorite.

  • idolfan92

    Great interview! I’m super excited for his new album now!

  • vincent

    Thank you for the wonderful interview! Elliott has a great voice and is a great person to match–an unbeatable combination!

  • jpfan

    This is a cool interview. Lots of excellent info. I’m enjoying the interviews you’ve done with all the Idol so far.

  • lucy

    Thanks, mj. …. Great interview.

    I actually prefer the old-school songs on the Japanese album — am less thrilled with the ones that he apparently had to include to make them happy! So — glad to hear that he’s going to have more old-school stuff on the U.S. release … Also glad to hear that he’s got some possible deals on the table!

    I keep hoping that Adele’s success means that there actually is a shot today to get on the radio and sell your music without computerizing the heck out of it. If there were, there would be better chances for Elliott and other Idols who have such great *voices* and love acoustic stuff….. Well, I guess I can dream.

  • Allison

    I have my wallet out just waiting to buy this album when available.

    Me too. I have both his others and his Xmas one too. Seems they missed the ball on “Fight For Love”. There was some single potential there that was overlooked.

  • LillEofVA

    Thank you for the great interview with Elliott. He is sounding more business oriented now and focused on his style of music. He can sing just about anything and make my ears feel good. Love him to pieces!!!!

  • http://www.myspace.com/nanassetta Nancy

    Thanks for such an in depth interview. Elliott really seems to know what direction he wants to go in. I’m happy for him. I know that he was knocked to his knees when he lost his mother. Now he’s ready to take off!