What the world needs now and forever is love, sweet love — and Grammy-nominated producer and songwriter Elderbrook does his part with his second studio album Little Love, released this past Friday (March 31) via Mine Recordings.
Divinely smooth and warm, the album washes over the listener like a joyful embrace, pushing upward with uplifting beats and lyrics that tell human stories of vulnerability and hope. It’s a bit of a love note to the U.K. producer’s children and a continuation of the signature sound he’s honed since breaking out with the 2017 viral house hit “Cola,” a collaboration with CamelPhat. Since Elderbrook began releasing music in 20115, his catalog has earned 152.48 million on-demand official U.S. streams, according to Luminate.
A little bit indie singer-songwriter, a little bit dancefloor daydream, we spoke to the artist born Alexander Kotz in the midst of his ongoing tour — which this week swings through Louisiana and Texas before hitting Coachella, then crosses over to Europe for an expansive summer run. Here, Kotz shares a bit on the music, musings and memories that make him the man he is today, and how all that comes together on Little Love.
1. Where in the world are you right now? Describe the scene.
I am in Charleston, South Carolina. Just got here. It’s suddenly sunny for the first time on this two-month tour. I’m in a little green room above the Music Farm, which is the venue that I’m playing at tonight. I actually played the same venue with RÜFÜS DU SOL back in 2018 when I was supporting them on that, so it’s come around in a nice way. It’s a two month long tour, and I’m just over the halfway point. The first half was in the snow. Second half is in the south, so sunshine until Coachella, where it will continue to be sunshine and warm for the rest of the year.
2. Where are you from, and how did that place shape who you are?
I am from just outside of London, obviously a huge music hub. There’s people coming in and out from all over the world, as you can imagine. I was able to see basically whoever I wanted to see whenever they came and toured through London. That shaped the fact that it got me going to live music really early on.
3. What did your parents do for a living when you were a kid? What do they think of your job now?
My father had a sports tourism company. So when football teams came over to the U.K., he would sort out their accommodation, travel and all of that stuff. It’s not too dissimilar to what a tour manager might be doing, so they’re always really interested whenever I tell them the logistics of my tours. They’re always looking out on the master tour app to make sure that my tour manager’s doing a good job.
4. What is the first album or piece of music you bought, and what was the medium?
It was a CD. I think it was The Darkness. I don’t know if The Darkness was a thing in the U.S.? That was my first ever CD that I consciously went out and wanted to buy for myself.
I believe in a thing called Little Love.
Oh there you go! I smell a cover coming along.
5. If you had to recommend one album for someone looking to get into dance or electronic music, what would you give them?
I would say The xx’s first proper album. I know it’s not like a big electronic album, but that’s what got me from indie music into electronic, just because of the samples and the different… I don’t know, it’s a good intro to electronic music.
I mean, once you hear “Intro,” you’re done for.
Hey yeah, that’s a good point. It starts with a song called “Intro.” That was clever of me.
6. What was the last song you listened to?
7. Do you usually let the city you’re in dictate the style of music you’re listening to?
Sometimes, it’s a fun way to feel more a part of it, I guess. But to be honest, I just love pop country.
8. I know you’re a bit of a multi-instrumentalist. How many instruments do you play?
I wouldn’t say I play any of them particularly well, but I can make some good sounds on maybe about four or five; keys, guitar, and then I’m going to add bass guitar to that just because it’s kind of the same but sonically different. And then drums as well.
The first instrument that I wanted to have lessons in was saxophone — but I had one lesson, and then I said, “That gave me a headache.” So I didn’t do that anymore. And I played guitar as well. I was young, must have been when I was like 10 or 11.
9. You started selling hip-hop beats while in college. How much did you get paid for your first one?
It was £250 per beat. It was good for me at the time, I liked it. That was when I was in college, so I would have been like 18, 19. It was nice extra income. I don’t know if I spent the money that well or that sensibly, but I got the extra money.
10. When your first 2020 album came out, Why Do We Shake in the Cold?’, you were firmly locked down in COVID. What did you learn about yourself with all that downtime?
Well, with regards to writing and recording and doing music, I learned that if you wake up at 9:00 a.m., and you just go and try and start working, you’ll eventually be able to do it, and you don’t have to wait for creativity. You can find it yourself by going and locking yourself away and just pressing buttons.
11. Is that how these hotel sessions and bus sessions came about — this newfound most creative routine?
Yeah, I just found myself in hotel rooms and on the bus with a couple of extra hours to spare during the day. It was just cool to be able to keep on writing new stuff, with no pressure about it being an Elderbrook release. It was a cover or something cool to do; another creative outlet. Some of them are even almost country-style. I could be a bit more free with what I could put out through that. I personally like doing covers, just so I can completely re-imagine them and make them completely different sounds, the challenge of doing that.
12. What songwriters influence or inspire you the most?
I would say Matt Berninger from The National. The lyrics of The National are really good, and the songwriting. That’s what really inspires me, especially at the beginning, to write in that way; kind of lyrically abstract rather than being on the nose; writing in a way that what I say can be interpreted however the listener might want to interpret it. It creates an energy that people can subscribe their own meaning to.
13. You recently got a tattoo that says “What Would Pooh Bear Do?” So, what would Pooh Bear do?
He would just be a really nice guy and just wander around, have a bit of honey. He would chill out. That is the most important thing to remember in life. That’s why I have that [phrase] tattooed on me. When you’re stressing out a bit, or things things aren’t going right, just have a think about what Pooh Bear would do, and it’s always whimsical and fun.
14. How has being a father changed you or your music?
Lyrically, more than anything. It’s made me want to focus more on the bigger picture stuff, the stuff that I’d want my children to get from my music almost as a lesson, or in a teaching kind of way.
15. Is that a big part of what’s on Little Love?
That is exactly what is a big part of Little Love. I started writing it almost as a message to my children and what I’d want them to get from my music, if they ever listen later down the line. I started writing, and it gave me a different perspective on my own stuff that I don’t know if I would have thought about quite so deeply before.
16. There’s an uplifting feeling to the whole album. The beat just drives throughout the whole thing. It doesn’t ever let you down, even if the lyrics feel a bit bittersweet. To what do you attribute that feeling?
I think that’s really in the music. I’ve been listening to a lot of people like Ben Böhmer and stuff like that. It’s just very gradual, uplifting, continuous. It’s really the chords that make it seem that way. I definitely wanted to keep that going throughout — and I guess the lyrics play into that a little bit, like you said. [They] kind of go against it, but in a bittersweet way.
17. The PR says all the voices on the album are yours. Is that true?
All of the voices are me, other than the song “Walk Away,” which has a folk singer called Ailbhe Reddy on it. She actually wrote the song, and I found it on Spotify and really liked it. Now I’m releasing it as my own with her. Other than that, it’s all me.
18. You’ve worked with so many incredible artists. I was so excited to see you work with Amtrac and Tourist on this album. Also Bob Moses, Kölsch. You were Grammy-nominated for your breakthrough collab. What makes a good collaboration work?
I think it’s different for everyone — but for me, a good collaboration is when you don’t worry about where you’re coming from or where the other person’s coming from. For example, when I worked with Tourist, I didn’t try to make a Tourist song, and he didn’t try to make an Elderbrook song. We just got together and saw what we could make. I think what makes a good collaboration is not having any expectations before going in, and sometimes it’s going to sound shit and sometimes it’s going to sound amazing.
19. Who has been your greatest mentor, and what was the best advice they gave you?
One piece of advice I always remember is… I worked with Rudimental quite a while ago, but I remember they said it it was okay to say no, like in the music industry — or in any industry, whatever — it’s OK just to not burn yourself out, it’s OK not to do that feature and it’s OK not to do that remix. Just do whatever you want, and it will be OK. That’s one piece of advice I definitely keep on falling back on. I’m still learning how to say it, which is maybe why I’m on a two-month long tour. No, I’m enjoying the two-month long tour. I’m good.
20. Finally, where do you want to share a little love?
On stage, every night with the lovely people that make the time and effort come and share these beautiful moments with me.