BY SANDRA SPEROUNES
Spaghetti westerns, Memphis honky tonks and the open road course through the veins of El Niven & The Alibi. Forged on the cold Canadian prairies, the Edmonton duo’s mix of southern twang, tender melodies, and stompin’ rhythms is turning heads, stomping feet, and stirring souls on both sides of the 49th parallel.
“I got into music because I wasn’t the happiest kid growing up,” says singer/guitarist Elliot Niven. “I was a troubled teenage alcoholic who was always kicked out of school and out of my parents’ house. I was constantly in trouble with the law. I was completely disconnected. Music was always what I ended up gravitating to, and at the right times, it made me feel connected.
“After I finally, on some level, sobered up and learned how to play and started writing and performing, I felt like I could connect with others and hopefully give back a piece of the magic that music gave me.”
El Niven & The Alibi’s latest dose of wizardry, Next To Me, was nominated for Country Song of the Year and Adult Contemporary Recording of the Year at the Edmonton Music Awards in 2018.
In the same year, El Niven & The Alibi played more than 250 shows across western Canada, the U.S. and South America — including a one-week residency in Taganga, Colombia; a one-month residency in Memphis, TN; and an “Amerika Or Busk” summer tour with filmmaker Travis Nesbitt. They covered more than 10,000 kilometres, throwing impromptu street parties in New York, New Orleans, Los Angeles and cities along the way.
A series of films about the tour — along with two new singles — will be released in 2019. “We busked in the streets live and amplified all along the way in every city and documented how music unites everyone,” says Niven. “We made connections and chased the vibes all the way down and back.”
Another new tune, a co-write with Clayton Bellamy (The Road Hammers), will appear on his upcoming album. El Niven & The Alibi also penned songs with the likes of rising country star Dan Davidson, Jay Sparrow, Travis Nesbitt (Social Code), and James Murdoch (The Dungarees).
El Niven & The Alibi, also starring drummer Jeff Burwash, released their first self-titled EP, produced by Brian Moncarz (Our Lady Peace, The Tea Party, The Rival Sons), in 2017. But Niven and Burwash are no strangers to Canada’s music scene. Their former project was signed to Cadence Music, winning Indie Week 2014, and toured extensively through the U.S. and UK.