Eliot Sumner Dishes On Her Recent Tour & Mesmerizing Debut EP
It’s a Thursday night in New York City, and the energy at Bowery Ballroom is infectious. Which probably has something to do with the fact that Eliot Sumner is performing. As soon as she glides on stage, she begins strumming her guitar like a loaded weapon and instantly, quietly, draws you in.
For her set, she opens with “Dead Arms & Dead Legs,” the first track from her debut EP, Information, which she spent the last few years writing and recording after abandoning her former stage name, I Blame Coco. At once chaotic, personal, and explosive, the song tells the story of escaping a dangerous love, and has the same captivating effect when played live as it does on the studio version.
“I think for me, this was always the album that I wanted to put out,” she told me. “I felt a lot of pressure when I was younger…I just wanted to distance myself a lot from that world.” Which isn’t so easy to do when you’re trying to make it as a young musician—let alone one whose parents happen to be Sting and Trudie Styler.
Sumner first went on tour in 2014 with Lykke Li, which had a profound influence on her debut EP. “That was actually our first tour as a band,” she said. “It was a very important tour for us because we hadn’t recorded the album yet, and it was a really good rehearsal [for] going into the studio when we back. Just all of those little nuances and the magical moments when you’re playing live.”
Since releasing Information, Sumner has headlined a U.S. tour, played Austin City Limits Festival and Governors Ball, and performed on Jimmy Kimmel and The Late Late Show with James Corden. In other words, she’s on a swift and steady come-up. Luckily, amidst all the gigs, we were able to snag a couple minutes on the phone with her for a quick Q&A.
Why did you choose to start your album with “Dead Arms & Dead Legs”?
I think when I wrote that, I always wanted it to be the opening track on the album. I think it kind of sets a vibe and an atmosphere. It’s my favorite song on the album too.
Yeah, me too. How was it performing on Jimmy Kimmel?
It was terrifying. We’ve never done a late-night show before, or anything live [like that], so we were a bit scared. Every time I get stressed out I make myself sick. So I got super sick before, and took myself to a throat doctor, because I was convinced I had some sort of cancer. The doctor just gave me an Advil and said, “Go home, you’re fine.”
And it went well I think. All that fuss for nothing.
How was it working with the composer Clint Mansell on the soundtrack for the film Filth?
Well when I heard that Clint was going to be doing the music I freaked out because I’m a huge, huge fan. I wanted to get involved desperately and then the director Jon Baird called me up and said, “How would you feel about doing a cover of ‘Creep’ with Clint?” and I thought that would be amazing. We did that, and then me and Clint actually [started] making a record together, but both of us got a little bit busy and we had to park it. Maybe one day we can finish it.
What do you feel is the hardest part about making music and being in the spotlight?
The crazy process can get quite difficult, if you feel like you’re uninspired or not completely motivated. [Also] the more physical part of it, like touring; if you get sick, which I do a lot because I’m just a hypochondriac, that can get really hard.
It sounds super exhausting—emotionally and physically.
It’s quite an excessive lifestyle and you don’t really get much sleep because you’re driving all the way through the night. I’m too scared to sleep in the car because I think that we’re going to crash all the time. This tour has been particularly tough on everyone I think.
Well the hard work is obviously paying off!
All images taken exclusively for Milk by Jenna Putnam.
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