Tony Kanal of No Doubt hit it big when he introduced us to Los Angeles native Elan, a reggae artist whom many would consider a newcomer. Although Elan went on tour with Bob Marleys band, The Wailers, for three years, meeting Kanal backstage at a show launched his career as a solo artist.
Elan, now 30, has proven himself to fans through his authentic, familiar sound of old school reggae and soul. His Interscope debut album, appropriately titled Together As One, incorporates socioeconomic sentiments, political issues and fun. As an Orthodox Jew – a rarity on the reggae scene – Elan wants everyone to know that this hasnt crippled his musical delivery. He just wants everyone to enjoy his Island rhythms and come together as one.
AllHipHop.com Alternatives: What was it like for you growing up? Were you involved in a lot of music during school?
Elan: I was involved in sports during school. I was 19 when I first got on stage with The Wailers. I never had a soundtrack, never had a rehearsal. I just went off the memory of Bob Marley and The Wailers. I just sang. I wasnt afraid of the crowd. I just wanted to make sure I got all the lyrics right. [laughs]
AHHA: What was it like to tour with the Wailers?
Elan: It was amazing. I got the opportunity to tour with a band I grew up, inspired by these people. I was able to go all around the world for three years, touring and getting the foundation in with the best of the best, the founding fathers of reggae music.
AHHA: Where are you living now?
Elan: Im still in Los Angeles.
AHHA: With reggae being so popular on the East Coast, particularly New York, have you ever considered relocating?
Elan: No. I lived in New York before, and its not that I didnt like it. I have all my family in L.A. And the world has the Internet and all the technology now, so you can do everything everywhere now. I have a full studio on tour with me in my car wherever I go. I set it up in the hotel or wherever. Its unbelievable.
AHHA: What made you develop such a love for reggae music?
Elan: I love the reggae music, always. Growing up, listening to music, I always loved new wave and different styles. So, my music is really just a mixture of all those things.
AHHA: I wouldnt label your album as the dancehall or conscious type. It sounds rather inspirational with catchy beats. Was that your intention?
Elan: Im trying to do everything I love and just be myself. I love conscious lyrics and love lyrics, not necessarily romantic, but love of the slackness as they call it in Jamaica. There are a couple songs of slackness on the album. If Im in the club, I dont wanna hear conscious music so much, theres a time and place for everything.
AHHA: You and Gwen Stefani did a song called All Nighter on your album. What was it like working with her?
Elan: Shes amazing, very down to earth. Shes a really cool girl, as big a superstar as she is all around the world shes just like the girl next door.
AHHA: Who would you like to work with next?
Elan: I like to work with upcoming artists as well as established people. Bono would be amazing, Beenie Man, Sizzla.
AHHA: Whats a typical day like for you being on tour?
Elan: We either have to wake up super early in the morning or we wont sleep at all. We drive to the venue sometimes two or three in the morning right after the show, and go right to the next venue. Its such a long drive, like 13 hours. Well go to the hotel and check in, we go to the venue, do the show, stay there all night, or Ill go back to the hotel room. We leave either right after or go to the next venue, depending on how far away it is. We also did the radio tour, killing two birds with one stone.
AHHA: How does your family feel about your music?
Elan: They love it! Theyre very supportive. At an early age I went with my family to Jamaica. My dad is Northern African, Moroccan, and my mom is American Indian. I got a couple albums, one of them being a Bob Marley and The Wailers album.
AHHA: Are you hoping to blow up on the level of, lets say, Cham?
Elan: I would like to blow up on the level of Sean Paul or Damian Marley. And even more out of the reggae spectrum, because a lot of my music is not just straight reggae. Its very pop-ish, new wave style.
AHHA: Some artists complain about not having enough creative freedom on their label. Do you feel that youre able to express your creativity?
Elan: They let me do whatever I want. Its been great. I mean Tony is one of the executives I work with, and hes an artist himself. Interscope is the best label, hands down.
AHHA: Are you shooting any music videos?
Elan: Theres a video for Girl featuring Assassin. Its on MTVU, Hype TV, Tempo.
AHHA: Do you write your own music?
Elan: I write lyrics, melody, the producers actually co-write with me on the actual music itself.
AHHA: Whats your favorite song on the album?
Elan: Theyre all my favorites! I had 60-something songs and I chose 11. Its like if you have 60-something kids and youre told to choose a favorite, you cant choose. I have enough material for four albums already.
AHHA: Where do you see yourself in the next year?
Elan: I see myself on tour, spreading the love, spreading the music.