Eli Conley is an indie folk singer-songwriter, teaching artist, and activist based in Sacramento, California. He makes music for queer and trans folks, justice seekers, and anyone who doesn’t fit easily in a box. Eli's voice is tender and heartfelt, with melodies and that can leave you feeling teary-eyed yet hopeful. As a queer transgender man from the South, his songs tell stories that aren’t always reflected in roots music.
Eli founded Queer Country West Coast, a regular series featuring LGBTQ+ blues, folk, and country artists in California. He has opened for Carsie Blanton, Heather Mae, and Grammy-winner Kimya Dawson, and been featured in Newsweek, the Huffington Post and the Advocate.
Eli's third album Searching for What's True was released summer 2023. Themes of uncertainty, ache, and loss come up again and again on this record, yet light always shines just behind the clouds. The songs are drawn from the concrete and immediate details of daily life: a stuffed animal clutched in a child's arms, a colorful sunset after a forest fire, a confederate statue toppling to the ground.
Searching for What's True is Eli's first release since being diagnosed with a serious repetitive stress injury that forced him to stop playing music for many months. After wrist surgery and careful rehab, he came back to songwriting with a renewed sense of purpose. On the album's first single "Making Something New" he describes the work of an artist as "finding beauty in the wreckage / making meaning of the grief / when we tell our stories true we find release." His deep belief in the transformative power of creativity stems not only from his own experiences, but his many years leading singing and songwriting classes for queer and transgender people and allies.
Eli co-produced this album with Maryam Qudus (Tune-Yards, Thao & The Getdown Staydown, Alanis Morisette) at Tiny Telephone Studios in the Bay Area. He was joined by longtime collaborators Conrad Sisk on cello and Joel Price on mandolin, violin, and background vocal arrangements. Their muscular string parts are complemented by delicate percussion from Jesse Loren Strickman. Briget Boyle lends her voice to the lush vocal harmonies, and James Touzel holds down the low end on upright bass.
The resulting album is a testament to the power of the creative spirit. At times it's hushed and intimate, at others soaring and dramatic. At the heart of Searching for What's True is Eli's singular voice, urging us to stay open to our grief and our joy.