For one weekend, central Indiana will be the epicenter of the indie-rock scene.
The Fountain Square Music Festival will bring an eclectic mix of national and regional musicians to Indianapolis, as critical darlings come together with up-and-coming artists. People will dance to the turbo-charged electro-rock of Phantogram, groove to the lo-fi guitar rock of Dr. Dog and sway to the more mellow melodies of Real Estate.
For southside native J. Elliott, getting to perform among that lineup is an unreal opportunity.
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“It’s very much an honor for me to be on the same bill as a lot of these artists. There are a lot of national artists, but there are a lot of local ones that I have a whole lot of respect for,” he said.
Elliott will perform on the Oct. 7 bill during the two-day festival, joining acts such as Phantogram, Bishop Briggs, Mike Adams at His Honest Weight and Richard Edwards on five stages.
Elliott has deep roots in the central Indiana music scene. A longtime member of the popular rock band Stereo Deluxe, he played in front of packed clubs and opened for acts such as Robert Randolph & The Family Band, Kings of Leon and Bret Michaels.
While Stereo Deluxe was more known for its power-pop sound, Elliott has cultivated a different style in his solo work. He has released a four-song EP, “With the Lord in Her Heart,” which features a more stripped-down sound than his previous music.
As he prepares for the start of the Fountain Square Music Festival, Elliott took time to talk about his career and being part of an expansive music festival in his hometown.
What’s it like being part of this festival, which will be a big event for the region?
It’s really exciting seeing a lot of these local bands, who are more in their first run through this whole thing — starting a band in their early 20s and going all out for that, making headway. I just consider myself like a wily veteran at this point. Most of the bands on this bill are very much in the create-create-create vein.
What does being part of this festival mean for you?
This festival is an opportunity to me to play some original songs to people who are looking for that. I’m playing 15 or so shows a month in the Indianapolis area, playing two or three hours at a place doing mostly cover music. It will be nice to know that audience is hungry for new, original music.
What really solidified your love for music?
I remember liking music on the radio as a young kid. In 1994, I saw the video for “Basket Case” by Green Day. It just blew me away, the way it looked and sounded — this heavy-ish pop music. That was a really important moment for me connecting with music.
When did that transition into playing music?
At that time, I didn’t really have any aspirations to play music. I just liked listening to it. A couple of years later, my grandmother bought me a guitar for Christmas off of QVC. I hadn’t asked for it, and when I saw it, didn’t really know what to do with it. But I picked it up, and sure enough, started messing around, it became my main hobby. Not too long after that, I formed a basement band with some friends, and that band turned into Stereo Deluxe.
How did your solo music develop?
Even throughout the whole era of Stereo Deluxe, from the time I was 15 or 16 years old, I would play these little acoustic shows as a solo act, at places that didn’t really fit where Stereo Deluxe would play. There was a coffee shop at (State Road 135) and County Line Road, near where I grew up, that I would play little shows at. It was something I could do to hone my chops.
Why was that something you wanted to pursue?
It offers a different environment for performance and creation of music. My whole life has been performing music. Stereo Deluxe kind of went dormant in 2013. Several of the other band members have serious careers, families, all of that. There’s no bad blood, but it became clear to me that I needed to figure something else out if I wanted to continue creating music.
How does your solo music differ from what you did with Stereo Deluxe?
I started working on things I had kicking around — unfinished songs, or songs I had written but didn’t really fit with what Stereo Deluxe did. A lot of that was more in the folk-rock, Americana or alt-country vein. So it became that I’d make a record of this.
What was the idea behind having a more roots-heavy sound?
It wasn’t that I was just itching to make country music or anything like that. But I could steer these songs where they could fit into a cohesive theme.
After the release of “With the Lord in Her Heart,” are you working on any more new music?
I’d like to at some point put together an “album,” in terms of something that has a very focused feel to it as a larger work. I don’t think I’ve been able to do that. At this point, I’ve been performing so much, I’ve been trying to find that bigger inspiration where I can really throw myself into a new project.
Where: Fountain Square Music Festival at the Square Cat Vinyl Stage
When: 3:50 to 4:30 p.m. Oct. 7