Elliot Lee is an electronic pop singer based in Brooklyn. They started streaming music on Spotify in 2018. It was then that they released many singles that would ultimately help launch their music career. Songs such as ‘Cruel’, ‘SRY ILY’, ‘Earthworms’, ‘Sleepwalking’ and ‘TV Head’ were considered relevant to listeners, especially young adults, as each dipped into feelings of loneliness and existentialism. Since then, Lee has gained a steady following, with 222,496 monthly Spotify listeners.
The singer stands out from the crowd as an artist open to discussing his autism diagnosis, as well as his struggles, and being a voice for those like him. As I sat down to talk with Lee, they provided insightful thoughts on what it means to be autistic and a musician, as well as their following and musical themes.
The Post: How did being constantly on the move as a child influence your career as a musician?
Li: I’ve lived all over the United States, which in itself was a cool experience because I moved around a lot as a kid. I have experienced many cultures. I went to high school in Florida, was born in Washington State, then lived in Hawaii and Michigan. I think the nomadic lifestyle helped me a lot to find a connection with music because it helped me stay connected to something during all the tumultuous travels.
TP: As an artist who has spoken a lot about your autism diagnosis and the challenges that come with it, why do you think it’s important to raise awareness among autistic musicians?
Li: I think it’s important because people often have a stereotype about what autism is. It can be harmful for every autistic person because it puts us all in that little box of what we’re supposed to look and act like, and it also makes people [unable to] getting diagnoses and preventing people from getting the help they need when they have autism and have these different special needs that we have. I think it’s important to have role models who are like you, and I know a lot of autistic people who don’t really have someone to look up to in the industry who is openly autistic. I’m sure there are autistic musicians out there, I’m sure there are, but few are open to talking about it. I think for me it’s a call to be there and to be the voice for some of us who can’t even speak and I think to be a spokesperson for all of us.
TP: Your fan base is called the “chewing gum army”, how did this come about?
Li: I wanted to give them a name because they deserved it. I don’t necessarily like to call them my fans because it’s a little too self-aggrandizing to call them fans. There are people who like my music, so I want to give them a nice name. At first I was called ‘the voice of the voiceless, the soldier of the different’ so I was like we can all be soldiers together and this movement towards the voice of the voices and be the spokespersons for one another of others and also get our stories out there. I think it’s just important to think about it that way, and I think we have a movement as gum soldiers.
TP: How important are your listeners to you?
Li: I think they’re the only reason I’m even here honestly, and the reason I keep doing what I do. Sometimes it’s hard to balance what people expect of you in the industry versus what you think is right, and they’ve helped me stay on track because I only think about what that they need. For me, that’s what’s important. If the label pushes me to write a love song or whatever, I’m like, ‘Well, that’s not really what I’m here for.’ They helped me stay on track and understand where I needed to go in the future. It can be hard to stay on track when all the sides are pushing in different directions, so I feel like they’re my anchor that way.
TP: From what I’ve read, a lot of your music centers around feelings of loneliness and young adult experiences. Why do you like to write on these themes?
Li: For me, I think it’s especially important to write about the feelings you have as a teenager, because when I was a kid, I had no one for me. I kind of always felt lonely and I was always an outcast, and I had no one to turn to, to talk about my feelings, and so I think it’s important to give those people like me to give them someone to turn to “Oh, I’m not alone in these things I feel and it’s okay to have all these worries about the world.” For some of us, it’s normal to think about death and all that and that’s okay and you’re not alone. It’s part of life. You have nothing to be ashamed of because we are here for each other, which is why it is important for me to talk about it.
TP: Do you have any current music that you are working on?
Li: “I have a song coming out on June 24th. It’s a new song called ‘5,4,3,2,1’. I started promoting it on TikTok and it’s really It’s about being lied to and putting your foot down and saying “I know you’re lying to me, I won’t take it anymore.”