Triumph over adversity isn’t something you expect to see in one so young, but that’s exactly what you get with Eli Tellor, a nineteen-year-old country music singer from Anna, Illinois. “I was around nine years old when I realized I sounded pretty good to myself singing in the shower," Eli says. "My uncle on my mom’s side taught me a little bit of guitar. My mom plays too and so does my grandma. Isn’t that cool? My grandma plays the guitar,” he says with a laugh. “They all taught me a little bit. Whenever I felt like I wanted to learn more than what they knew I got into books and watching videos and watching people on stage and that’s how I got to playing guitar. My mom and my grandmother liked Loretta Lynn so I grew up around ‘Coal Miner’s Daughter’”
“We moved around a lot, my parents didn’t really get along so my dad would always find a new house, move into it, my mom would follow right behind us and move back in. I had to go to foster care when I was about fourteen or fifteen. My family had some alcoholics but I broke free of that. At the time music wasn’t really something I was thinking about too much. It was just a possibility for the future. After all that happened it seemed like a hopeless dream to me.”
“There was drinking and a little bit of neglect going on but I’m proud to say that both of my parents have been through rehab. They’re not together any more, they live in two different houses and two different cities and I’m out doing my own thing.”
After foster care, a napkin passed from one person to the next changed Eli’s life, “Someone wrote on a napkin that they had somebody who wanted to manage me.” It turned out that the father of a girl Eli had been in a high school musical with had seen Eli and wanted to put him in touch with a manager, “I went over to their house after the play for a cast party and I sang for him and he was really impressed with my music, he’s a big country fan too. He told his friend, Scott Winn, about me. We set up a little meeting at his house and we signed the contract. Now, he’s my manager and we’re working toward it,” says Eli enthusiastically. “We’ve been working together four years now.”
“I sing a lot about heartbreak because I’ve had a lot of that.” Eli explains, “I try to cover ground that a lot of people don’t really cover. I also like to write upbeat and fun stuff but I often find myself sitting and thinking what haven’t I heard people writing about. I try to find that picture that nobody has really used, make it different and put it in there.. When you are writing a song you get certain phrases that’s got to make sense 100% and certain words and phrases that are going to catch people. I like to rhyme phrases and words that you don’t really hear in songs. It really just has to come to me, if I sit down and think about it it’s not going to come out that great.”
“Country is something that I felt I could pride myself in being able to do if I could pull it off. You have to be able to bring something to the table because it’s raw; it’s you and a guitar. If you can bring something with just your voice and your guitar and make people like it there’s talent there. It’s the most challenging because it’s the most clean, clear sounding music. You have to use your voice in it. I just wanted to be able to say I can sing country music. Most people my age want to be a pop band or a rock band or rap. People would ask me what I wanted to sing and I’d say country and they’d say, ‘Isn’t that a little beyond your years?’”
“I had to experience things for myself to be able to write. If you’re writing about something that you don’t totally understand then it’s going to sound stupid. You really just have to go through it or see somebody go through it to be a great writer.”
Eli’s music video for his song ‘Doctor’ has been featured on GAC. Eli and producer Steve Hornbeak just completed Eli’s first demo and are working on other recording projects. Eli has performed at Tootsie’s in Nashville as well as opening for several major artists.
One cause that is close to his heart is helping others, especially children. He performs at various charity events and benefits, including singing at St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital.
“I’m big on helping children out who didn’t have a choice about having to go through what they are going through. It doesn’t matter if it’s exactly what I went through or not.”
The trials of Eli’s past give him strength to draw on for his future. “I’ve learned from my life that you’ve got to make things happen for yourself. If you’re really going to go somewhere in your life you really have to get out there and do it. You have to make time for it and really push for what you want.”