Strong and Tender

by Eli Conley

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about

Eli Conley titled his sophomore album Strong and Tender, but he might well have been describing himself. On stage he’s an earnest yet funny storyteller. His songs address big themes like love, aging, and death through the concrete and immediate details of daily life: a stolen truck, a flopping fish, a dime in the pocket.

Since releasing his debut album At The Seams in 2013, Eli has been featured in the Huffington Post and the Advocate. He’s opened for Grammy-winner Kimya Dawson and the Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band, and founded Queer Country West Coast, a regular series featuring LGBTQ country artists in the Bay Area.

Eli’s music is grounded in folk tradition, and he comes by it honestly. He grew up in a small town in central Virginia, and got his musical education listening to his parents’ collection of hundreds of albums by singer-songwriters and roots musicians. He also spent years studying classical singing and picking out Broadway hits of the 40’s and 50’s on the piano. By the time he picked up a guitar at 15, he already had a working knowledge of song structure and music theory – tools that helped him grow into the careful craftsman he is today.

For Strong and Tender, Eli brought his touring band into the studio for the first time. Cellist Conrad Sisk (Blue Line Highway, Rattlemouth) and multi-instrumentalist Joel Price (ellipsis, Open Hand) joined him at Tiny Telephone, an all-analog studio that has hosted such notables as Mirah, tUnE-yArDs, Jolie Holland, and The Magnetic Fields.

Strong and Tender tells rich stories ranging from the highs and lows of love to fierce political anthems. “Maybe the ozone will open up and we’ll all go to our graves/Maybe we’ll end this mess we’re in, I believe we can still be saved,” he sings on the humorous yet pointed “All That Ends.” “What I’m Worth” is told in the voice of a transgender man dreaming of escape from his hometown, yet demanding in the here and now “don’t try to tell me what I’m worth.” On “Get In My Own Way,” Eli laughs at himself for procrastinating on songwriting yet again. “Strong” is a tribute to the Movement for Black Lives that also reflects on losses Eli has faced in his personal life.

At heart, Eli is a clear-eyed songwriter with high hopes for the human race. His songs urge us to love ourselves even when it feels like the world does not. You can’t help but sing along.

credits

released April 26, 2017

Eli Conley – Guitar, Vocals
Conrad Sisk – Cello
Alex Bice – Upright Bass, Percussion
Joel Price – Mandolin, Violin, Viola, Harmony Vocals
Maia Wiitala – Upright Bass on “Strong and Tender”
Willa Mamet – Harmony Vocals

All Songs Written by Eli Conley © 2017 (BMI)
Produced, Recorded and Mixed by Jacob Winik at Tiny Telephone Studios, Oakland, CA
Mastered by Jeff Lipton at Peerless Mastering, Boston, MA
Assistant Mastering Engineer: Maria Rice
Vocal Arrangements by Joel Price
Artwork & Design by Nicole Melville
Photography by Brooke Porter

A Big Thank You To: Conrad, Joel, Alex, Willa, Maia & Jacob for all the love and intention you brought to this album, Mom & Dad for always supporting me, Jeanie LoVetri for helping me sing, Tobie Klibansky for showing me what’s possible, and everyone who gave to make this album happen, including: Catherine Janis, Nell Conley, Michelle & Julian Kaye, Kenric Taylor, Carol Hastings, Lela Patrik, Crash Redémarré, Ben Doyle, Jeff Frasca, Justin Brodgen, Laurie Silverman, Christine Feaster, Cecilia & Hanno Kaiser, India Harville, Shae Bousquet, Teresa Van Roey, Irene Carney, Eric Estes, Gary & Lanette Lee Price, Christine Ho, Luke & Catherine Fleischman, Amy Butcher, Mayra Ferreira, Gary Patrik, Alana Price, Christine Williams, Gary Macbeth, Kim McGaughey, Natalie Morris, Robin McLeod, Ed Isaacs, and Cole Rowan

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about

Eli Conley Berkeley, California

Eli Conley titled his sophomore album Strong and Tender, but he might well have been describing himself. On stage he’s an earnest yet funny storyteller. His songs urge us to love ourselves even when it feels like the world does not. You can’t help but sing along. ... more

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Track Name: How Do We Know
How Do We Know
Eli Conley

Every morning you wake up
You make the toast and brew the tea
You pet the cat and keep her quiet
So she will not wake me

How do we know when it’s time to seal the deal?
How do we know when it’s time to take all the things we feel and make it real? How do we know? Oh...

At night we go out on the roof
And watch the stars as they appear
And I’ll admit I’ve looked for proof
That love can still work out, I’ve had to let go doubt and fear

How do we know when it’s time to seal the deal?
How do we know when it’s time to take all the things we feel and make it real? How do we know? Oh...

Four years ago you drew some diamonds
Geometric, pen and ink, you gave them to me
And then this spring you made a ring, a little silver thing
And we told ourselves it meant nothing, oh no

In truth, I’ve never cared for marriage
But I hoped we’d settle down
I’ll take the roses and the carriage
But not the paperwork, we don’t need no clerk downtown

I think I know that it’s time to seal the deal
I think I know that it’s time to take all the things I feel and kneel
I think I know, Oh...
Track Name: Lucky Star
We were walking on a hillside, we had just met in the bar
When you pointed at Orion and said that one would be ours
And I gazed at you in wonder as you pulled me to your car
So I made a wish upon our lucky star

When I woke up that next morning you had left a note for me
In the middle of your pillow, where your head was supposed to be
It said “Billy, oh I love you, but I’m married, I ain’t free
So remember me beneath our lucky star”

Now every night I go back to that goddamn bar
Now every night people laugh cause no one there knows who you are
So I go back up on that hill and ask the stars

I am out in east Kentucky chopping trees as thick as men
On a ridge that’s eighty miles from Abingdon where we first met
I am building us a cabin just in case we meet again
Cause I made that wish upon our lucky star
Do you ever wish upon our lucky star?
Track Name: All That Ends
Maybe we’ll die of cancer
Or we’ll die of old age
Maybe we’ll go like a wrecking ball
We’ll drop dead in a rage
Maybe we’ll hold each other
till the sweet and solemn end
Maybe we’ll just give in

I don’t know ‘bout you, but I would love to see 85
I hope I can still drive but it’s all right if I can’t
I don’t know what you see
when you look at me that way
Are you looking at today or at tomorrow?
There’s always tomorrow

Maybe we’ll die of alcohol
Or World War III
Maybe the revolution’ll come
But they’ll put poison in our tea
The only thing I know for sure
Is when we go it’s not for good
Look for me out in the woods

I don’t know bout you, but I would love to see 75
Go out for a drive along the ocean
There’s always the ocean

Maybe the ozone’ll open up
and we’ll all go to our graves
Maybe we’ll end this mess we’re in
I believe we can still be saved
I’m not afraid of death anymore
Like I was when I was three
Cause all that ends with death is me

I don’t know ‘bout you, but I would love to see 65
I hope I have the drive to keep singing these songs
I don’t know what you see
when you look at me that way
Are you looking at today or at tomorrow?
There’s always tomorrow
Until we fade
Track Name: What I'm Worth
I bus the tables at Sam’s Pizza Place
Sometimes your kids ask when they see my face
Are you a girl, are you a boy?
I wish that I could say “Why yes I am”
“Matter of fact, I am a happy man”
But I don’t know what my boss would say if he found out

Don’t think you’ve met another man like me
Maybe you’ve seen a couple on TV
We all have to fight
For you to take us seriously

I got a name, it’s not the one they gave at birth
I got a name, don’t try to tell me what I’m worth

Stay in my room sometimes on Saturdays
And lie alone behind the lowered shades
Just read my novels, smoke cigarettes and stare out into space
I got a little dream I’ll chase someday
Drive out to Houston, someplace far away
And nobody there will know who I used to be

Chorus

Each day I wake up and I’m still right here
Using the same damn license to buy beer
Cause it’s nine hundred dollars to change your name in Doylestown
But I am the man that I was meant to be
I think it’s time that you caught up to me
I won’t change myself because you dislike what you see

Chorus
Track Name: Broke Song
Maybe you get to a certain age and you get nice furniture
(What age is that?)
I haven’t got there yet, but I’ll let you know
My things are used or they’re particle board
From a place I’m loathe to name
And I’m damn ready for something steady
Wish money would call my name

It ain’t no joke being broke all the time
There’s no romance or hope
In the unemployment line
I’ve got five bucks the bank and
In my pocket just a dime
Hallelujah, what’s it to ya?
Back to the grind

Baby we’ve got a lotta love but our love won’t pay the rent
Our story’s old as mud and fresh as dew
It wasn’t us who made this bed
It was bankers, it was suits
But here we lay and we’ve got bills to pay And the straps broke off our boots

It ain’t no joke being broke all the time
There’s no romance or hope
In the unemployment line
I’ve got five bucks in the bank and
In my pocket just a dime
Hallelujah, what’s it to ya?
Lord I think it’s by design
Hallelujah, what’s it to ya?

You know that I once dreamed it would be easy
That I’d grow up and the money it would flow
I wish that I’d get used to having little
But it ain’t so

I watch the birds as they fly along with no need for bank accounts
I know that humans too could do without that mess
Just think if we all raised the kids, grew the food and built our homes And there weren’t no bosses
No more gains and losses
We would all feel less alone

It ain’t no joke being broke all the time
There’s no romance or hope
In the unemployment line
I’ve got five bucks in the bank and
In my pocket just a dime
Hallelujah, what’s it to ya?
Lord I think it’s by design
Hallelujah, what’s it to ya?
Back to the grind
Track Name: Give It Up
Leave a note, make the call, walk on over, don’t stall
Say it’s over, that’s all, give it up
Dear you said it your yourself, he is hurting your health
All of us want to help, give it up

When you leave you’ll be lonely
But that is the only
Way out of this mess that you’re in
You’re not bad, you’re not good
You have chopped all the wood
But your fire will not be rebuilt

When it’s done, you must leave, try your best not to weep
Till you’re home in a heap, give it up

When you leave you’ll be lonely
But that is the only
Way out of this mess that you’re in
You’re not bad, you’re not good
You have chopped all the wood
But your fire will not be rebuilt

Take a break, take a pill, take a bath if you will
There are times when you must give it up
Track Name: Strong and Tender
Sometimes people say things about you
That are so damn far from true
There will be those who’ll believe them
But those folks lose out on you

And it’s so hard to remember
Yes it’s so hard to follow through
You must love yourself strong and tender
Let the people that you love hold tight to you

I take a walk by the cathedral
My belly’s empty as my mind
I hardly think of him at all now
Except when people are unkind

And it’s so hard to remember
Yes it’s so hard to follow through
You must love yourself strong and tender
Let the people that you love hold tight to you
Let the people that you love hold tight…

I know I hurt him and I’m sorry
But goddamn, he cut me to the bone
He tells his friends a different story
Than when we were alone

The cannon sounds on the horizon
The cannonball falls where I lay
He’s left no space for me to walk on
No way that I can have my say

And it’s so hard to remember
Yes it’s so hard to follow through
You must love yourself strong and tender
Let the people that you love hold tight to you
Let the people that you love hold tight to you
Track Name: Get In My Own Way
I wrote it down — From 10 to noon
I’d sit at home and I’d write a tune
At 10 am I was checking e-mail
At 12 noon I was still derailed

So many ways that I get in my own way
So many ways that I get in my own way
So many ways that I get in my own way
So many ways that I get in my own way

At 1 o’clock I waited on a call
At 2 pm I’d heard nothing at all
At 3 o’clock my friend finally phoned
Cause he was in the Mountain Time Zone

Chorus

At 4 pm I needed a late lunch
At 4:30 well I got hunch
At 5 pm my baby would come home
And I can’t write when I’m not alone
No I can’t write when I’m not alone
I just can’t write when I’m not alone
No I can’t write when I’m not alone

Chorus

Well now it’s midnight and my love’s asleep
It’s seven hours till the cell phone goes beep beep, beep beep beep beep, beep beep
Crawl in the closet with the coats and shoes
Get an idea
But I start to snooze

Chorus (2x)
Track Name: Strong
I dressed myself in black today
Without thinking why
Too many people who I love
Are watching people they love die
And every step they take
It feels so wrong wrong wrong
They’re almost gone

Everybody get together and we’re strong
Everybody get together and we’re strong
Everybody get together
We will always do it better
When we’re moving all together
Pushing on
Everybody we are strong


Every day in this America
Another Black life is wiped out
At the hands of a policeman
Who thinks he knows without a doubt
That every breath they took
Well it was wrong, wrong, wrong
And now they’re gone

Everybody get together and we’re strong
Everybody get together and we’re strong
Everybody get together
We will always do it better
When we’re moving all together
Pushing on
Everybody we are strong

Oh the dead, make no noises
Yes, the dead they make no sound
But the living left behind them
Rend and thrash the air around
For all the cries we make
Oh death is long long long
And they’re still gone

Everybody get together and we’re strong
Everybody get together and we’re strong
Everybody get together
We will always do it better
When we’re moving all together
Pushing on
Everybody we are strong
Track Name: The End
I know you’re angry, I know you’re sad
I know I’ve never lost my dad
I hope it’s a long time before I got through what you’re going through
The year you started seventh grade
He made you watch the pride parade
He said no boy of his would prance, you never did let yourself dance

But you tried to stand beside him while he faced it
There was nothing you could change or fix or plan
In the end you held his hand

He wrote his memoir that last year
And all the nurses came to hear
He didn’t mention you at all, you left to stand out in the hall

But you tried to stand beside him while he faced it
There was nothing you could change or fix or plan
In the end you held his hand

He never liked you much
I wouldn’t blame you if you’d left him there without your touch

So feel the wind upon your face
And know you’re in the only place
That it is possible to be, you’ve gotta let your body grieve

Cause you tried to stand beside him while he faced it
There was nothing you could change or fix or plan
In the end you held his hand