Strong and Tender

by Eli Conley

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1.
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...
2.
02:22
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?
3.
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
4.
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
5.
03:47
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
6.
02:52
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
7.
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
8.
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)
9.
04:09
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
10.
03:09
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

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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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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