YouTube videos of cute gay boys singing are a dime a dozen, but when Eli Lieb’s videos rack up more than seven millions views, you suspect he may be something beyond cute. Yes, he is pretty on the outside, but his voice is what draws you inside to a heart and soul that set this hot young indie singer/songwriter apart from similar musicians on the road to fame. When Lieb says he doesn’t care about fame, he does not sound insincere. He cares about his personal happiness, and he says if seeing him naked and underwater is something that makes his viewers happy, he’s okay with that.
He is referring to the instantly successful video of his new electro pop ballad, Place of Paradise, in which he appears to be singing submerged. Lieb describes the making of that video as a combination of personal inspiration and physical challenges.
“I had this image of being peacefully underwater. I got the effect I was after but it wasn’t easy. To stay under in the pool, I had to be weighted down with barbells,” he explains. “Then there are the bubbles that kept getting in the way of my face when I was mouthing the words. We managed to do the whole thing in one very long day. It was physically exhausting. Because of the cold, I got hives that appeared all over my skin while I was in the water.”
Ordinarily, Lieb’s music is a personal and solitary effort, but he sought out a good friend, Geoff Boothby, to direct that video and willingly received his collaborative ideas. Lieb may be calling the shots in his music career, but he does not act the diva. The source of his easy-going personality is his serious practice of TM – transcendental meditation.
Lieb left New York City after a decade of putting up with what he calls the chaos and distractions of the city. He returned to the great plains of the American Midwest where his parents had raised him in a rural Iowa town of less than ten thousand people. Fairfield, Iowa is also the home of the world’s largest TM training facility, which had attracted his parents to that community. They taught their sons the art and value of meditation.
“My practice of TM is the main thing in my life. My parents started TM in the 70s. They wanted to raise me and my brother in a community of the like-minded,” Lieb says. “ In high school, we meditated twice a day. As I got older and became my own person, I sought out and embraced meditation on my own.”
I have a very deep desire to evolve and to become the most I can be. My sexuality is just one part of me. Personally, I have never had to struggle with my sexuality.
Lieb says he does not correlate his sexual identity with the practice of TM.
“I have a very deep desire to evolve and to become the most I can be. My sexuality is just one part of me. Personally, I have never had to struggle with my sexuality,” He says. “My parents were loving and accepting. They were not freaked out when I came out to them. Of course, there were moments of adjustment. Coming out is a process for other people as well as for you. Meditation probably helped us through it on some level.”
Lieb repeatedly stresses the importance of finding personal happiness. He left New York City because it made him unhappy. He makes music and meditates because that makes him happy. Even in concert, when he is about to perform a song that is angry or sad, he will preface it by saying, “I want you all to know I am really happy.”
When pressed for aspects of his life that were less than happy, he says, “I’ve had some bad boyfriends, but I view everything in a positive way. All that happened to me had a reason and it made me what I am. Even in a bad relationship, I found myself after I lost myself.”
Is Lieb, whose live performances have a huge gay following but whose YouTube fans are fairly evenly split between gay and straight, in search of a bigger audience?
“Look, the fact that I am not making music videos to become famous may make me different from other indie musicians like me. Maybe this will work to my advantage. I create without a filter. As long as I do that, good will come out of it. You can’t control where your life goes, but you can control your happiness. Have I mentioned that I just want to be happy?”
Even without the hunger for fame, Eli Lieb is receiving much attention. Last year, he was invited to perform at a fundraiser held by The David Lynch Foundation, and hosted by Ellen DeGeneres and Russell Brand. He sang alongside James McCartney, the son of the legendary Paul McCartney, to a crowd of celebrities including Katy Perry. His covers of Lady GaGa, Adele, Lana del Rey and Rihanna songs have millions of views.
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