The Catalyst


Live in the Atrium


NBDY, Matte Sounds

Mon, May 13, 2019

Doors: 8:30 pm / Show: 9:00 pm

The Catalyst

Santa Cruz, CA

$18 in advance / $20 at the door

This event is 16 and over

Storytelling and R&B go hand-in-hand.

However, ELHAE blows up his story on the biggest canvas possible, magnifying the scope of the genre in cinematic fashion. The North Dakota-born and Georgia-raised singer, artist, and visionary incorporates show-stopping vocals, dynamic range, and vivid lyrics into ambitious soundscapes that blur the lines between blockbuster-worthy narratives and sonic intimacy. As a result, he approaches R&B like a film director would, choosing every element carefully and ensuring an intricate level of cohesion.

“This is a new, fresh look for me,” he exclaims. “I’m trying to connect with my audience on more than just the surface level. I like to tap into emotion and things we all deal with on a daily basis. We’ve all been through relationships. I’m taking what happened in my past relationships and telling stories. Anyone can put a track together; I want to welcome everyone into a world.”

Since catching fire in 2015 on the independent Aura EP, he worked towards eventually architecting such a world. The follow-up All Have Fallen yielded fan favorites such as “Doesn’t Matter” [feat Kehlani] and “Needs,” which clocked 10 million-plus Spotify streams. In between, he garnered glowing praise from the likes of The Fader, Billboard, Vibe, The Source, and more as Sprite named him among its P.O.U.R. (Purveyors of Urban Reality) program. The 2017 sequel to Aura—Aura II EP—boasted “Drama,” “Something,” and the popular “Bang Your Line” [feat. Ty Dolla $ign]. The latter ignited 10.5 million Spotify streams and counting. Meanwhile, he lent his voice to high-profile collaborations with Lecrae, Eric Bellinger, and many others in addition to supporting blackbear on tour. 2018 saw him grace the stage of Coachella for the first time in front of 40,000 fans as he diligently worked on new tunes in Los Angeles, Miami, and Atlanta.

Inspired by childhood favorite albums such as Kid Cudi’s Man on the Moon: The End of Day, Childish Gambino’s Because the Internet, and Kendrick Lamar’s Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City, he developed an airtight vision with a detailed plotline for his next release.

In 2019, the vision unfolds over the course of his twelve-track conceptual project, Trouble In Paradise [Atlantic Records].

“As a kid, I grew up on a lot of hip-hop,” he recalls. “I’d just be fascinated by the stories my favorite artists told. A lot of them became legends by being storytellers first and foremost. Similarly, I wanted to build something audiences could implement into their lives. Building moments was a top priority. I wanted people to embrace the idea of being the character in the story and being enveloped in the world I created. You don’t hear anything like this in R&B. I tried to bring that side to it.”

In terms of the plot, the songs follow an anonymous kid on an island paradise. Even with the sun and fun, happiness eludes him in the aftermath of a breakup. Amidst a midnight ride, he receives concerned calls from his mom and friends as he ponders calling his ex back.

“It’s a tale of a late-night drive,” he elaborates. “By the end of it, you see whether or not he makes the decision to make amends with the girl he’s been battling mentally. Will he try to make it work? He makes the call at the end, but it’s up to you to decide what really happens. Of course, the kid could be me, but from the listeners’ perspectives, I want them to feel like it’s theirs.”

He introduces Trouble In Paradise with the irresistible and intoxicating hooks of first single “Hennessy.” Venturing into “new territory,” island-inflected Latin guitar and reggaeton rhythms brush up against his powerhouse delivery as he croons the hook, “Hennessy...all in my system.”

“It’s the beginning,” he goes. “The kid is just going through it. When we go through things, we tend to drink. So, he’s asking all of these questions as he’s throwing them back. It happens when anybody goes through turmoil in a relationship. It feels like all hope is lost in the beginning. ‘Hennessy’ captures that.”

On the other end of the spectrum, “Sanctuary” takes the grooves to church with a simmering sense of soul and his steeple-size vocal range on full display.

“On the drive, the kid’s mother calls,” he says. “At first, he ignores it, because she’s telling him to get back to church. In real life, my mom is a pastor and does a lot of preaching. Simultaneously, it’s also about the idea of a woman’s body being a temple. Many of the songs have two meanings like this one does.”

Elsewhere, everything culminates on the emotionally charged duet “Moments” [feat. Sevyn Streeter]. Over a dreamy piano, he locks into a heartfelt call-and-response with Streeter as their voices both reach heavenly heights.

“It’s a really powerful moment,” he smiles. “It’s where the whole thing comes together.”

In the end, ELHAE expands the boundaries of R&B and delivers his own blockbuster in the process. “With Trouble In Paradise, I wanted to convey the most universal and relatable story I could,” he leaves off. “I went as deep as I could go. I hope everyone feels that.”
Venue Information:
The Catalyst
1011 Pacific Avenue
Santa Cruz, CA, 95060