The Colorado-hatched folk band Elephant Revival took an indefinite break following a performance at Red Rocks last spring, and since then, its members have pursued new directions. For singer-songwriter Daniel Rodriguez, the change has allowed for some welcome growth.
Rodriguez offers an arresting new batch of songs that meld his well-appreciated voice and lyrical prowess with his skilled musicianship. This comes as no surprise, following his more than a decade-long run as one of the founding members and lead songwriters of Elephant.
Shortly after Revival's announcement of a hiatus, Rodriguez rolled out on tour as a solo artist. He’s already been chosen to support acts including Fruition, Mandolin Orange and Josh Ritter, among others. While he often goes it alone on stage, he is sometimes accompanied by musicians including Tyler Thompson and Jeff Leonard of Fruition, Sam Trump of Sidewalk Chalk, Darren Garvey of Elephant Revival and Lewi Longmire.
With a batch of recently crafted ditties, Rodriguez returns to Colorado on Wednesday, February 13, when he'll be joined by a few of his musical associates at the Fox Theatre in Boulder just two days before his new EP, Your Heart, The Stars, The Milky Way drops on the 15th of the month.
Westword connected with Rodriguez for a brief chat about life after Elephant Revival and what he has planned for the near future.
Westword: Are you out on the road right now?
Daniel Rodriguez: I'm in Miami, where I just got off of Jam Cruise. I kind of feel like I'm still on the boat, but at the moment I'm riding in a tour vehicle with the group Fruition. I'm doing a tour with them — playing all the places that they last played with Jack Johnson, when they did a run with him.
Do you still live in Colorado?
Yeah, I live in Boulder. I lived in Ned[erland] for a long time and also in Lyons. But now I roam around in my van in Boulder. I'm kind of at the mercy of a nice person and a warm bed. It allows me to be mobile. I keep it parked at a friend's house when I'm on tour. It's a Ford Transit, which is a Sprinter-esque style of van. I built a couple beds in there with the intention of using it as a tour van.
So you can pretty much just cruise anywhere where you can find a legit spot to park?
Yeah. Sometimes I'll find a nice spot to park near a river or whatever.
So you're literally living in a van down by the river?
[Laughs] Exactly. Chris Farley would be proud of me.
Are you originally from Colorado?
No, I grew up in Connecticut. I moved out to Colorado about fourteen years ago. I went to Oklahoma first and then to Colorado shortly after that. I followed Bonnie Paine out to Oklahoma, where she was from. That was kind of the beginning of Elephant Revival. And then we moved to Colorado.
How did you meet Bonnie?
She came to a club where I was working in New London, and she sang at the open-mic night that I was running there. We were together for fourteen years before we broke up.
Is that part of why Elephant Revival stopped playing?
Yeah, Elephant Revival is off for now. We did our last show this past May, but there's been some talk of them doing some stuff again, which may or may not happen without me.
Did you and Bonnie write most of the band's material?
She and I did the majority of the singing and the writing for the band, but there were contributions from other members with instrumentals and some other songs in there. Toward the end, if someone else wrote a song, we would end up singing it.
How's the transition to being a solo performer going?
The solo thing is going great. I feel very strong about all the material that I put out there and the band that I had come in to play with me. We got some magic down on the recordings. We actually recorded two records. The EP is coming out first, and then we'll release the full-length, probably in the fall or early next year. It's a whole new sound, with electric bass and a full drum kit and some acoustic songs, but mostly it's like a rock-band sound with acoustic inspirations.
I really enjoyed your tune "Season Song," which I watched on video...
Thanks. "Season Song" is an old tune that I wrote for Elephant Revival. I've been performing it for a couple years. It's a good one.
Have you released anything from the upcoming EP yet?
There are some live videos out there from my recent performance at the Boulder Theater when I opened for Fruition at their [12/28-29] shows. And I have a video out for one of the songs, "Steal the Night Away."
What inspires your songs?
There are a lot of heartbreak songs in there, for sure. Following the breakup [with Bonnie], I wrote probably six new songs. And there are also songs about other things, so the songs are sort of all over the place, but, yeah — sometimes heartbreak can be great for songwriting.
How does it feel to play solo after being part of Elephant Revival?
It feels great. I've done a lot of solo opening. There's a lot of freedom being by myself. For this scenario [touring with Fruition], I'm on my own, but I'll have my full band at the Fox in Boulder. Some of the people in the band that will be with me in Boulder also played on the EP. And on all the tracks on the EP, the rhythm section from Fruition is backing me up.
Do you do any jamming as part of this sound, or is it mostly song-focused?
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There is definitely some jamming when I play with the band. Most of the songs were recorded live. And one of the songs has a minute-and-a-half jam outro on the end. So it's not just song-centered, though there are some great songs in there, too. Mostly I play with a band when I'm doing shows in Colorado.
Where can people get a taste of the upcoming release?
Two of the songs on the EP, "Steal the Night Away" and "Johnny," are on Spotify. Also people can pick up the album a couple days early [on February 13] at my show [at the Fox Theatre], where they can hear all the new songs. I also have a video out that was shot at the New York City apartment of my friend Adam Duritz from Counting Crows, for my song called "Growing Pains." The video is part of the Underwater Sunshine Fest if you search it.
Daniel Rodriguez will play music from his new five-song EP; Mimi Naja and Jay Cobb Anderson of Fruition will perform the music of Gillian Welch. 8 p.m. Wednesday, February 13, Fox Theatre, Boulder. $15.