Elysabeth Grey interprets the world
Three words to describe Ashland artist and educator Elysabeth Grey might be compassionate, mystical and esoteric. A complex musician and social analyst, Grey brings a lot to the table in her spiritual performances. With a unique merger of Gaelic and Celtic-Coptic tunes and rock-a-blues purring, Grey puts on a good show, which she feels comes from her broad life experience.
The oldest of seven siblings, Grey is of Scottish/Cherokee descent and was raised as Army brat, mostly in Europe. Already painting with a broad cultural palette, Grey has moved 17 times in her 25 years. Now a mother and a college graduate in the process of pursuing her master's degree in social science, Grey credits her travels and experiences as her key inspiration in the art of life.
In Berlin, where she spent much of her childhood, Grey learned patience and tolerance as well as several languages, including Gaelic, which she still composes in.
As a local musician, Grey gets to stir those passions and odysseys together in the symphonies of her mind.
Grey taught herself to play the piano at 12. Though never learning to formally play music, she can effortlessly flow out roughly 150 songs. Her singing at 14 won her praise.
"I play by ear and have a perfect pitch," said Grey. "I can go from first soprano to first baritone."
A music instructor took note of this and began recording Grey in junior high. Coming from a long line of military officers and having experienced good and bad life experiences as a result, many of Grey's songs incorporate anti-war sentiments.
"I guess I'm going to say that most songs are about that, as well as my life and biography. My take on what it's like to grow up a zantine Catholic bisexual female in North America, Europe and being a parent."
For awhile, Grey worked as a counter military recruiter. She stresses that this doesn't inherently mean that she attempted to discourage prospective soldiers, rather she sought to better inform them.
"Counter recruiting is basically telling them certain truths which recruiters aren't allowed to, such as the dangers of being exposed to depleted uranium, realistic accounting of benefits, etc.," said Grey, pointing out that she has always, on a personal level, supported troops and is close to quite a few veterans.
"Still, I've found myself on a few government [watch] lists"&
166; I study and outwardly discuss things like anarchy, localism, terrorism, anti-capitalist interests and that's compromised my ability to do things like join the CIA, which I'd considered for a long time in the past. I did a lot of work, gaining my bachelor's, on analyzing the intimate workings of the military service structure, and JAMRS (Joint Advertising Marketing Research Survey) provides the military with dossiers on students with such pursuits."
Grey is a graceful and engaging musician who seeks to accompany other artists during their performances. She has found that raising her son, Isaac, has helped her prioritize as she focuses on becoming an anthropology professor.
"I've already started working on a theory five years ago; a binding theory about culture change," said Grey. "Unlike most anthropology theories, this one is also a method, and it's a great honor that they've let me teach it a bit at SOU (Southern Oregon University)."
"People asked me a bazillion times why I don't sell albums or book shows for money. I have two answers for this," said Grey. "The first is that I feel any degree of fame would make me a [difficult person] due to the fact that female musicians are sexually objectified to a greater extent than their male counterparts, and I know myself well enough to know what that would do to me. The other, more positive reason is that when I get up in front of a classroom (versus music audience) I have more power to control how people see me, which tends to be as an intellectual. Plus, I can learn more from an audience of students than fans due to discourse.
"I know myself," said Grey. "I may get an ego in front of a classroom, but it's a hard-earned ego."
Come see Grey perform musically at the Wild Goose open mike, Sundays at 9 p.m., and the Northwest Pizza open mike, Tuesdays at 7 p.m.