Musician plays with pride

Eli Conley performs at Little Theatre

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Musician plays with pride

Hillary Hetrick, @hillarymhetrick

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Los Medanos College hosted one of its Equity Speaker Series events in the Little Theatre Friday, Nov. 8 at 6 p.m. The free concert featured Eli Conley, an indie singer-songwriter and out gay transgender man. Conley showcased his talents by playing guitar and singing songs about issues currently facing those in the LGBTQI+ community.

Before introducing Conley, LMC English instructor Liz Green welcomed the approximately 40 students who attended the concert. After some applause from the audience, Green continued the introduction.

“Thank you so much for showing up at this event. Eli Conley is a friend of mine,” said Green.

Green explained that she’d seen Conley perform almost a decade ago and was amazed by his talent.

“I just really enjoyed seeing his artistry develop over the years. At this point, he has two albums out and he has 45 minutes of a set to share with you.”

As Conley took center stage, the audience’s applause grew even louder.

“Thank you so much. It’s such a pleasure to be here with you all tonight,” said Conley. 

He performed nine songs in total and told a few stories of his life throughout the set.

“I’ve been looking forward to this for quite a while and here we are,” said Conley, “It’s a pleasure to be part of the Equity speaker series.”

“It’s a huge privilege to be able to say that and live as an out [transgender] person in the world and people are constantly all the time figuring out who they are and figuring out what they want to share with the world about that,” said Conley. 

During his third song of the night, Conley asked the audience for a favor.

“I’m going to ask you to sing with me, will you be down for that?” He taught the audience one line that was to be sung after he sang a phrase, “So many ways that I get in my own way.”

Before prompting the audience to sing, Conley said encouragingly, “I feel there are a lot of artists in this room. Whether or not you self-identify as an artist, feel your artist energy in this moment.” As he began strumming, he explained the song’s words. “This is a song about the struggle I think almost all artists go through.”

Growing up in a small town in Virginia, Conley explained some of his first-hand struggles when initially coming out as transgender. He has since founded “Queer Country West Coast,” a series featuring LGBTQIA+ country artists in the Bay Area. 

He’s opened for Grammy-winner Kimya Dawson and been featured in publications such as the Huffington Post and the Advocate. He hopes that his songs urge people to love themselves even when the world doesn’t.

“I think we’re living in a time when it’s really easy to feel hopeless and helpless,” said Conley, “People want us to feel like we can never stop what they’re doing in this moment. I think it’s actually really strategic to make us all feel like that’s not something that is possible to change.”

Eli Conley’s music is available on most streaming platforms including YouTube, Spotify, Apple Music and Pandora.

Those wanting to learn more about his background, purchase his songs, find his upcoming shows and more can visit Eliconley.com or contact him directly at eli@eliconley.com

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