Former punk artist turns to pop music

The summer before Advancement Associate Eli Goldsmith’s senior year in college, he crashed at his sister’s place in San Diego to relax and do a little work. His sister had a small Casio Keyboard, which she kept under a futon. Goldsmith would take it out and play it when he was bored.

After writing a couple of songs, Goldsmith called up and pleaded with a friend who had a recording studio in his house. At the end of the summer Goldsmith’s pleading finally paid off, and he recorded two songs.

“One of the songs I wrote was terrible,” he said. “It was like a really sappy love song, just over the top, bad. But the other song I wrote was called ‘A Casual Thing.’”

When Goldsmith got back to Princeton that year, he shared the song with some friends, who shared the song with some friends, who shared the song with some friends at other colleges.

The Princeton administration even found out about the song and invited Goldsmith to open “This is Princeton,” a showcase in front of approximately 1000 people.

Goldsmith, 25, has now played multiple concerts at the House of Blues on the Sunset Strip, has an EP on iTunes and is playing at the Hotel Cafe on Friday.

Before this foray into songwriting, Goldsmith, class president for all four years of college at Princeton, was, according to his promotional Web site eligoldsmith.com, the youngest musician in the history of the Vans Warped Tour. His father is a musician, and Goldsmith started out playing piano. When Goldsmith was 16, Goldsmith started drumming in a punk band with friends from Santa Barbara High.

“It was called Slimer,” he said, looking anything but punk in a dress shirt and khakis. “We were young.”

Slimer started informally, recording songs in a guitar teacher’s garage, then producing a full length CD in a studio, Goldsmith said.

After sending out copies of the CD to magazines, they started to get reviewed.

“All the reviews were really positive because people started to understand that we were really young,” he said. “People were sort of charmed by it. We had a song called ‘Rollerblades Suck.’ You know it was pretty juvenile, but we were juvenile, so it made sense.”

In June 1999, they signed with Cargo Records. They were invited to play in three cities on the Vans Warped Tour, but after the band Cyprus Hill dropped off and Eminem came on, they were invited to do the whole North American leg.

Once they returned home, Goldsmith was accepted to Princeton early, and the band started to fall apart. Goldsmith, who didn’t write any of the music for Slimer, did not feel much remorse.

“If I was going to do music, it was going to be my own creative vision,” Goldsmith said.

Until “A Casual Thing,” Goldsmith did not play much at Princeton. He immersed himself in student government. After graduating in 2004, he worked for the San Diego Chargers. While with the Chargers, he recorded some songs with a record producer who had worked with Slimer. He then moved to Los Angeles, briefly working as assistant to the marketing director of music at Creative Artists Agency.

After searching for jobs in politics, the subject he majored in, Goldsmith found a spot open at Harvard-Westlake. Before taking the job, he called up his friend from Princeton, Mike Brownstein ’99,  who died in an accident in China this summer.

“I called him up and said, ‘Should I work at Harvard-Westlake, what’s the deal,’ and he’s like, ‘Eli, you would be a fool not to work there, it’s such a great place,’” Goldsmith said.

Brownstein was also the reason why Goldsmith had his first concert in Los Angeles. Once Goldsmith began working at Harvard-Westlake, his music career began to flourish again, Goldsmith said.
“Even though I wasn’t working in the music industry, I was in such a better mood all the time that I could sit down and write music,” he said.

Goldsmith and his friend Eric Robinson began playing together. Their first show was in January 2006 at the Key Club on the Sunset Strip where Brownstein was a bartender.

Now Goldsmith plays solo with a band backing him and has released an EP, now available on iTunes. He uses the opportunities Harvard-Westlake gives him to travel, booking concerts while organizing receptions in different locations on the college tour. He has played a show in New York in October while there for an alumni event he organized at the Broadway musical “Spring Awakening.”
Word has gotten out around campus about Goldsmith’s concerts.

Bruno Seros-Ulloa ’10 said he became friends with Goldsmith last year. He went to Goldsmith’s all-ages concert at Aura on Ventura Boulevard.

“It was just funny because he still made his pathetic jokes,” Seros-Ulloa said.

Goldsmith said he has mixed feelings about students coming to his concerts.

 “It’s a little weird because sometimes I’m singing songs about relationships, and it’s a little awkward that ‘Mr. Goldsmith’ is thinking about these issues,” he said. “It’s also fun because [students] are very supportive.”

His music is now more akin to Elton John, Billy Joel and Coldplay, Goldsmith said, but he still uses what he learned from listening to punk music.

“There’s an economy to punk music, if that makes sense,” he said. “The songs get to the point quickly and they give you want you want and leave.”

Goldsmith, who became embarrassed when he realized that his co-workers might hear him being interviewed about his music career, said he would ideally like to be a full-time musician. He is in talks with music supervisors trying to get his songs onto television shows and into movies. He said he is also considering getting a doctorate in education.

“A Casual Thing” also keeps coming back into his life.

“I was just at a party a few weeks ago and a girl who went to Harvard was there and said, ‘you’re Eli Goldsmith? Did you write this song called ‘A Casual Thing?’” he said. “And I was like ‘yeah,’ and she was like ‘me and my roommates used to play that song in our dorm room.’”

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