I anxiously walked through the Humboldt rain to meet up with Eli-Mac (real name Camile) Wednesday before her show in Arcata, supporting Rebel Souljahz. She has been on my radar for while; I saw her play the Belly Up Tavern almost two years ago and immediately became enamored with her sultry voice, edgy street style and love for lipstick. As she led me in through the venue’s back door and embraced me in a warm, essential oil infused hug, my nerves vanished. Rebel Souljahz sound-checked in the background and the two of us made silly faces on her Instagram story and danced in our bar stools like we were old friends.
AA: Thanks for taking the time to talk with me. Where are you from?
EM: I’m from Makati in the Philippines, it’s in Manila. When I was two years old we moved to Hawaii and I lived there until I was 18. Then I moved to California and was there for some time.
AA: Where do you consider home?
EM: Hawaii. Maui.
AA: Is that where you started singing and playing music?
EM: Yeah, I started singing when I was really little, but it was just a thing I did at home. My mom sings, my sister who is three years younger than me, her name is Tuesday, she sings. She’s amazing. We grew up singing together. I was probably ten years old when I started taking it seriously. I mean, how serious can you be at ten, but that was when I really took a liking to it. My radio was my everything. I was into Brandi and Aaliyah and Salt-N-Pepa, TLC. This is like in ’95… right before the technology ting happened.
AA: What other musicians inspire you? I know you’ve talked about Lauryn Hill a lot in the past.
EM: I would say Lauryn Hill is my biggest inspiration. Growing up, her voice was really powerful to me. Her lyrics and her delivery, how she carried herself. I copied her a lot vocally. I grew up on the islands in Hawaii and we love reggae and we love roots and I just blended the two.
AA: So what projects do you have going on right now? Do you want to talk about Joyride a little bit?
EM: Yeah, I’m working on my second album, it’s my first-full length. My first album, The Dubstop EP, was five songs. I’m working on eleven new songs with my boy JP from The Green and my brother Leslie from Hot Rain Band. That’s coming out in about two months and we’re super excited about it. I also teamed up with Ray Jr. from Mayjah Rayjah and I’m just excited about this year coming up!
AA: And rightfully so. Did you ever doubt your success as a musician? Like fuck this I cannot do it anymore?
EM: Yeah, there were a lot of times; too many times that I questioned it. I would always ask myself, “How?”
“How do I do it?”
“What do I do?”
“When will I get there and make it and when will I know”
It’s not the most promising thing, but other than waiting tables, music is the only thing I know how to do. It makes me happy and I just have to keep going with it. I can’t give up. I’m super thankful.
AA: How will you know you’ve made it?
EM: I don’t know… I used to always ask myself that question and I kinda just stopped. I don’t know what happened, but I released my first album and stopped. I’m having so much fun and I’m so grateful, just being a part of this, I feel like I’ve made it. And being able to do this full time for a living, it’s amazing to me. Having fans reach out and people tell me my music positively affects them, it’s really humbling.
AA: I bet that makes it all worth it
EM: It does! I’m gonna cry, nooo! I’m a crybaby. Forrest Gump? I cried five times for sure. I think I get it from my mom. I imagine I’ll probably be the same way.
AA: It only gets worse when you have kids! Do you have any advice for youngsters trying to make it in the music game?
EM: Just learn as much as you can about the industry and about music and at the same time work on your craft, writing and working with a team. And be yourself, when you’re natural it shines and radiates more than anything money can buy. Be cool. Be cool to everyone in the industry because the people you meet on the way up are the same people you see on the way down. Lord knows we all go up and down. Be yourself and be cool to everybody.
AA: You seem pretty cool with Rebel Souljahz. How many times have you toured with them in the past?
EM: This is my third or fourth time on the road with them. This is my family back home so they always give me love and take me out on the road.
AA: They’re good guys to tour with?
EM: They are super solid guys. They get along really well with each other. And I get along really well with them. It’s nothing but comedy with them, all the time. We’re a good bunch. They’re good people to travel with.
AA: Would you rather be on the road than at home?
EM: I love being in the studio, but I really love being on the road and traveling. I love connecting with people and visiting other states and other cities. It’s a lot of fun and there’s that camaraderie with everyone and you forge these bonds and lifetime friendships.
AA: Last year when you were on the road, you stopped in Monterey at Cali Roots to perform and also filmed the Official Cali Roots Song 2016 with THRIVE!
EM: Yeah that was fun!
AA: What was your favorite part about filming that?
EM: It was so cool to be there on the fairgrounds and be a part of Cali Roots and the whole thing, it felt like a dream. The Green was onstage while we were filming and it was freaking badass. It was a good dream world.
AA: Who do you think should do it this year?
EM: Who do I think should do it this year? Rebel Souljahz! Or my boys, The Late Ones.
AA: They’re on my list of bands to check out! So where can we listen you your music?
EM: Spotify, Pandora, iTunes, Amazon Music… all major outlets!
Click HERE for Eli-Mac’s Instagram
[This interview has been edited for length and clarity]