Arts & EntertainmentMusic

Out Singer Eli Lieb on Allstate Campaign, Transitions, and Being Authentic to Yourself

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By Barrett White

A scroll down Tumblr, a quick break on YouTube, or a click over to Allstate’s LGBT page, and you’ve undoubtedly seen Allstate’s pro-LGBT “Out Holding Hands” campaign, first released last year. The campaign is paired with an animated video set to “Safe in My Hands” by singer/songwriter Eli Lieb, brunette heartthrob originally from the Midwest. Lieb, a member of the LGBT community himself, shared with us his life, his goals, and his excitement for his current projects.

Barrett White: So to break the ice, how did you get started originally? Where did you find your beginning with singing and songwriting?

Eli Lieb: I’ve been writing songs since I was 16 years old, I moved to New York when I was 20, and wrote music all throughout my 20s. Then, in my later 20s, I started making YouTube videos, and I started making covers. That’s kind of how you get seen, and that kind of started to generate a lot and take off. Going from covers, I sort of transitioned into my own music, because I’ve always been a songwriter. But for YouTube, to start out, you need to be related to peoples’ searches, so you need to cover songs.

Yes, and you had a lot of success with your “Wrecking Ball” cover.

Yeah, that one was definitely successful!

Yeah, that one really took off. Would you consider that your first “big breakout,” or would you go back to “Young Love” for that?

No…it was “Young Love.” “Wrecking Ball” happened a couple months after that. I think right now, there’s a view count on there, and they’re actually totally neck-and-neck. They’re both, I think, close to four million views each.

Wow.

Yeah, “Wrecking Ball” was like an instant, really quick hit. Like in a day, it got like half a million views, and it landed me on TV, and all this stuff. But “Young Love,” I really have a sort of softer spot for, because it’s an original song of mine.

Of course.

And, you know, the message is there and the fact that it has the same amount of views is pretty great.

That’s pretty cool!

Yeah, and “Young Love” was actually a large part of my collaboration with Allstate.

Yes! And so then, was it Leo Burnett who contacted you? How did that transpire?

Allstate's pro-LGBT "Safe In My Hands" campaign, which features one of Lieb's songs, was launched earlier this year.
Allstate’s pro-LGBT “Safe In My Hands” campaign, which features one of Lieb’s songs, was launched last year.

Well, now I’ve become friends with them. They had this concept for Allstate for a little while that I think stemmed from the simple act of holding hands is so terrifying to some people, but it shouldn’t be, because it’s so simple and so many people get to walk around and hold each other’s hands and not even have to think about it. So I think that the point that they wanted to get across is that [holding hands] is such a basic human right that everybody should be able to do that without fear.

I think that while they were developing that whole campaign, they had stumbled upon my “Young Love” video and saw that the way that I shot that video was kind of message that they wanted to achieve.

Like, for me, I’m an out singer and songwriter, but I don’t make that part of my “agenda.” I write songs based off of my experiences, and if you heard the song without seeing the video, you wouldn’t know what my sexuality was. And even the video itself, when I had the first meeting with the director, I said that we only really need to talk about this once—I don’t want this to be shot any differently than if it was a guy and a girl. And I think that that really came across, because I think that when you watch it, you don’t feel like you just watched “a gay video.” You feel like you just watched a video of two people who were in love.

And I think that ultimately, that’s what it’s all about, and that’s what Allstate wants to let people know, that this is just about love, it’s not about the stereotypes. The more people who are sending that message across, the more that it just becomes the way that people perceive it.

Yes, and that’s very good. I think that approach is pretty important for showing people who aren’t in the community, who may not necessarily be as comfortable with this community, that it’s really no different.

Oh, and you know, I’m very, very open with who I am, and very publicly out, and I’ve had relationships, but even still, walking around and holding hands, it still has some stigma to it. You still feel a little like you’re being looked at, and that’s what needs to change. And I think that over the years, it’s creeping more and more towards that. It’s great that Allstate wants to recognize that, because a lot of people want to look at the big issues, which are all important, like marriage equality and all of that, but even the little things can sometimes be the biggest things.

Yes, and it’s not something that everyone gets to think about unless you’re dealing with it. It’s kind of interesting to get that viewpoint out there where people can see it.

Of course.

With all of this coverage with Allstate happening, what would you say your next step would be? More original works, or more collaborations maybe?

I mean, yeah! Everything is kind of an exciting journey. As cliché as that sounds, I mean, from one day to the next, I never know what’s going to pop up, but I know that things will, and that they do, and I know that things are in the works. I’m always excited to see what’s coming next, especially with collaborations, like with Allstate. I mean, for me personally, I’ve been doing a lot of writing for other artists and other bands, and that’s been really fun. Aside from the Allstate thing, that’s been another main focus of mine.

That’s great; of course you’ve done other collaborations with the talents of Cheyenne Jackson, Crystal Bowersox, Adam Lambert, and then to have your pair-up with Allstate on top of that, so we can see that you’re keeping busy.

Yeah! It’s been a good move to LA.

I can imagine that opens you up to more people in the business!

Oh, for sure.

Let’s play something kind of fun real quick—do you ever have a situation where you’re thinking about an upcoming interview and you’re dreading the questions, or you have this one question that you wish would be asked of you? Like for example, being caught with a question that’s too invasive?

I’m such an open person, generally, that I don’t think I have those moments where I think about that, to be honest.

I think that says a lot about you. Very open, very connected, and very honest with your connections about who you are and what you stand for as a person.

Yes, and I’m like that in my personal and professional life, in such a way that people don’t necessarily buy it at first, I guess? [Laughs] But I don’t find any point in holding any part of you back—in any setting. Because eventually, that stuff is going to come out. Not that it’s bad stuff, but, be who you are, own everything that you think, believe, and want, and don’t adjust to what you think people are going to want from you. When you live this way, which I do, you really don’t hold anything in, what you want to get out. You’re just like, “This is who I am.”

Well said. I think there are many celebrities who could learn from that.

I think people could learn from that.

You can catch Eli’s covers and original works on his YouTube page, youtube.com/user/elilieb. His music is also available for download on iTunes, Amazon, and other trusted digital download sites.

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Barrett White

Barrett White is a regular contributor to OutSmart Magazine.

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