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Interview: Nathan West talks East of Eli, debut EP, and artistic expression

East of Eli (featuring Nathan West) will be releasing it's debut EP, 'Nothing Ordinary,' on March 30, 2014.
East of Eli (featuring Nathan West) will be releasing it's debut EP, 'Nothing Ordinary,' on March 30, 2014.
Dean Zulich Photography

Nathan West is best known for his acting and producing work, with films such as ‘Bring It On,’ Disney’s ‘Miracle,’ ‘Alleged,’ and IFC’s ‘Brake,’ under his belt. West is now breaking into music with his new singer/songwriter project, East of Eli.

East of Eli’s acoustic sound is both easy-going and catchy, and building off of West’s diverse influences, including Van Morrison, Bob Dylan, and Otis Redding.

East of Eli will be releasing its first EP, ‘Nothing Ordinary,’ on March 30. The EP is inspired by West’s new film ‘Into The Mystic.’ The first single, “Nothing Ordinary,” premiered on American Songwriter on February 20. A second single, “The Silent Kid,” premiered on Zimbio on March 6.

I had the opportunity to correspond with West via email to discuss getting into music, ‘Nothing Ordinary,’ ‘Into The Mystic,’ being an artist, and the power of artistic expression.

How did you first get into/start playing music?

I first took interest in playing music when I was about 13 years old but it wasn’t until I was 15 that I started really wanting to learn how to play. I had an uncle who was a great guitar player and he took the time to show me a few Beatles tunes. The first song he taught me was, “Blackbird” on an old nylon acoustic. I remember feeling pretty accomplished when I could finally play that song top to bottom. I’ve been playing ever since.

After 10 years in film, you are releasing your debut EP, ‘Nothing Ordinary.’ Could you tell me a little about the EP?

Nothing Ordinary is a compilation of songs I wrote as inspiration for an independent film my wife and I are producing and acting in together in early 2015. It’s been a long time coming. If you ask my wife, she would tell you I should have been releasing music over a decade ago but I had other aspirations, obligations and quite honestly, I wasn’t ready to share my music with the world until this project came along.

What was songwriting like for the EP?

It was an interesting journey. Some songs wrote themselves in less than 10 minutes and then there were others that were much more stubborn like the 5th track of the EP, entitled, “Start Again”. That’s a song I started writing about 10 years before the idea of this EP or film was ever conceived. I know that’s a long time, but I believe songs have a life of their own and need to be respected. Plus, it was worth the wait. “Start Again” has become one of my personal favorites because of the journey it takes the listener on.

You premiered the EP’s title track on American Songwriter. What was the inspiration for the track?

“Nothing Ordinary” was written from a place of compassion for anyone who is currently going through a difficult situation in life. We all need a little love and encouragement sometimes and that’s what this song is all about.

As people’s first taste of your music, how do you think the EP represents you as an artist?

Ya know… I’m very proud of what we have accomplished. This is a new side of my artistry that hasn’t been put on display before so I’m not sure how it will be received, but honestly, I’m not that concerned about it. I know who I am as an artist and I feel I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing, which is taking on new challenges and creating new art.

Having spent the majority of your career in film, why is this the right time to start releasing music?

Anyone who truly knows me would tell you that music has always been at the helm of my artistry from the very beginning. It’s nothing new in my world. I’ve always wanted to share my music beyond my close circle of friends. I’ve just been waiting patiently for the right opportunity to do so and this film project is the perfect vehicle.

What relationship does ‘Nothing Ordinary’ have to your upcoming film ‘Into the Mystic’?

This 5 song EP is, in essence, the story behind the film. From day one of the recording process, I knew I wanted to take these songs and create a story from them for a feature film. I just didn't really know what that story was until each song was brought to life. One by one, the pieces of the puzzle were put into place and then I worked closely with a dear (writer/director) friend of mine, Gabe Torres, to develop the story I wanted to tell.

Could you tell me a little about ‘Into the Mystic’?

Into The Mystic is about a musician who travels to Morocco to cleanse his soul of a very troubled past. On his journey he meets a young vibrant, French-Moroccan girl who reinvigorates his spirit and may possibly hold the key to helping him move beyond his personal struggles. Their journey together reveals not only how truly broken they really are, but the price they must pay to follow their hearts.

In a press release, you said "To me, there's no other artistic expression more powerful than when story and character take form in the shape of lyric and melody." Could you elaborate on this?

Gladly. First off, I’m not saying that every other art form pales in comparison to song writing or music. This quote is a direct reflection of my own personal creative experiences. And as an artist, I find it to be truly remarkable that I have the opportunity to be able to focus my passion for music, zeal for storytelling, and experience as an actor all within one project. Developing a story and character for a film, through song writing, is something I’ve always felt would be unique and interesting. I just didn’t realize on a personal level how deeply rewarding the creative process would be.

‘Nothing Ordinary’ comes out March 30. Check out the EP’s first two singles here (“Nothing Ordinary”) and here (“The Silent Kid”). For more information about Nathan West and East of Eli, and to find out when he will be playing live next, visit the East of Eli website