Chad Elliott bought his first guitar at an Omaha pawn shop, a dreadnought next to the used guns and knives. He took it home, slowly taught himself to fingerpick and began transposing his poetry into original songs.
Elliott always believed he'd be an artist. He spent his youthful years drawing, painting and sculpting, but the more he picked on those six strings, the more he found familiar ground with his words and the imagery he strived to achieve on canvas. Songwriting became painting with his words, and performing on stage became his new exhibition.
Now averaging 150 shows per year, Elliott has been on the road for more than a decade performing a blend of Americana, roots and country music.
He'll share that music with local fans when he headlines a concert April 23 at the Kingsport Renaissance Center. Opening the 8 p.m. show, presented by Skyflight Productions and the City of Kingsport Office of Cultural Arts, will be The Dead Truth from Asheville, N.C.
Along the way, Elliott has collected more than a few interesting stories, many of which end up crafted into lyrics. Perhaps the most surreal moment in his career happened in 2009 while he was portraying Buddy Holly for the Surf Ballroom on the 50th anniversary of the fateful plane crash that took the rock legend's life. He was asked to sing "Oh Boy" with Holly's widow, Maria Elena Holly. She whispered in Elliott's ear after the song faded, "You're my Buddy."
He has also shared the stage with greats such as Eric Church, Lonestar, Counting Crows, Brantley Gilbert, R.L. Burnside, Odetta, Tom Paxton and Loudon Wainwright III, among others.
Elliott has released 19 full-length albums since he began his songwriting career, including 2009's "Redemption Man." Elliott worked with producer and guitarist Bo Ramsey (Lucinda Williams, Greg Brown) on the album to achieve its distinctive electrified roots sound. The project also features Pieta Brown on the song "Same, Old Way," which was the 2009 Woody Guthrie Festival song contest winner as well as a third-place winner in the 2009 International Songwriting Contest for the Americana category.
Two other songs on the album, "Redemption Man" and "Illinois," won Elliott a new folk finalist spot in the 2008 Grassy Hill Kerrville Folk Festival.
Elliott released "So Sang the Crow" in March 2013. He visited Basecamp Recording Studio in Montana to lay the tracks. Basecamp Recording is run by Chris Cunningham of the folk-duo Storyhill. Cunningham produced the adding his meticulous attention to detail to the well-crafted project. "So Sang the Crow" speaks to the souls of those "fighting the good fight" in a life of challenge.
Currently, Elliott is working on his 20th original album. He has been traveling to Nashville to record the new album with producer/drummer Ken Coomer of Wilco and Uncle Tupelo. He expects to release the album sometime this year.
Tickets are $12 and are available online at www.engagekingsport.com.