The US singer and pianist talks to Saeed Saeed about song-writing and his ongoing residency at Qs Bar and Lounge in Dubai.
Eli Teplin is taking a classic approach to pop music
UAE music goers should savour the intimate sets presently performed by Eli Teplin.
While the US pianist is presently beguiling audiences as part of a residency at Qs Bar and Lounge at Palazzo Versace Dubai, the 26-year-old is generating a buzz in the music industry back home courtesy of his new single Could It Be Over.
Released last month, it is a beautiful lovelorn ballad which has Teplin’s warm croon soaring over delicate keyboards and minimal electronic beats.
With track steadily clocking up numbers on streaming services and Teplin hailed as Rising Star of the Week on the US based music platform Tidal (owned by rapper and music mogul Jay Z), the young singer-songwriter views his Dubai shows as a way to build momentum for what will be a busy 2018.
“I am working on my debut album which Could It Be Over will be part off and that should be out as soon as its done,” he says.
“But it is strange in that I actually released this song while I was here in Dubai and to see this traction happening in the states from a distance kind of makes me feel that this is a launch pad for something great.”
Hence, the five nights a week performance schedule at Qs Bar and Grill has taken an extra significance. With a few weeks to go in a three-month residency, Teplin says these extended stays are invigorating as it provides him and his trio opportunities to refine their performances.
“I tend to tackle these things on a week by week basis as the band and I like to add in new material. So we ask ourselves how can we make this week just a little bit different? That way when people comeback they can hear new stuff,” he says.
“I also play my own material within the shows and it is great to see how the people are responding to some of these more personal songs.”
Teplin’s songs are mostly autobiographical affairs focusing on the struggles of relationships.
In Could It Be Over, he reflects on the fallout from a particularly heated argument and wonders if he pushed her too far.
While in another ruminative ballad, Santorini, he recalls a long distance relationship with a former flame and their promise to holiday together in the Greek Island.
While the tracks are presented in a relatively ornate fashion, there is no denying the musicianship with the songs full of surprising chord changes and interesting arrangements.
Born and raised in Boston, Teplin began playing the instrument since the age of six and credits his classical music training for expanding his song-writing approach.
“I feel thankful that I started writing songs later because when you play a lot of classical music it can allow you to take a piano part from 80 percent to a 100 percent,” he says
“If you listen to someone like (pianist and singer) Bruce Hornsby and his work on Bonnie Raitt's classic song I Can't Make You Love Me or Love Me Still by Chaka Khan, it is his piano parts that take that song from being great to the stratosphere.”
With the likes of singer-songwriters Ed Sheeran, Adele and Sam Smith ruling the charts, Teplin agrees there is a hunger out there for stripped back and introspect songs.
“That has always been bubbling under the surface in the indie-scene but now you are seeing all these big artists going that way,” he says.
“If you look at some of the big songs of today, like Kygo’s Star Gazing and Praying by Kesha, they are really written on the piano. When you take away all that production what is left is this really vulnerable song. Now it is tough to leave it as it without all that extra production, but once you get the right song and present it in that stripped down way then I think that’s the coolest thing you can do as a songwriter.”
Teplin’s encounter with the power of song-writing arrived when writing his first song decade ago – once again, it was inspired by relationship.
“I was sixteen and I wrote it after I was dumped for the first time,” he recalls.
“It was called Crater and Comet, and the lyric was: ‘I was the crater and you were the comet burning me into the ground.’ I remember putting that online on (the social media website) Myspace. I eventually learned from my freinds that she heard the song and knowing that she knew what I felt was a really addicting feeling to me.”
Elie Teplin performs at Q’s Bar and Lounge at Palazzo Versace Dubai, Tuesdays to Saturdays, until January 6. Doors are open from 7pm. For reservations, call 04 556 8888 or email email@example.com