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Eli Tellor

Singer-songwriter Eli Tellor's new single, 'Strangers Again,' will be released Friday.

Cutting-edge country vocalist Eli Tellor has released his first new music in five years.

The 29-year-old Marion singer said the inspiration for single “Strangers Again” came from an improbable source.

“Gordon Holden has been a friend of mine for 10 years. As a songwriter, he reminds me of Cletus T. Judd because most of the things he writes are hilarious parodies. He gets way out there,” Tellor says. “He sent me a text one night wanting to co-write a song called ‘Strangers Again.’ The title just sent chills down my spine.

“I never expected such a serious topic to come from Gordon. We pretty much put it together by texting back-and-forth. I love the story it tells. I had to get into a studio and record it.”

Holden is a longtime fixture on the Southern Illinois entertainment scene.

Tellor gave Mount Vernon radio station WMIX 94.1 FM exclusive rights to start playing the song Monday.

“The folks at WMIX are good friends of mine. They play my music religiously and have been playing the new song all week. They are one of the few stations that have the leeway to play independent artists any time they want and as much as they want. They give the little guys a fighting chance.”

Tellor says the new single will be released nationally Friday to online stores and various media platforms.

Within the next two weeks, Tellor says he will be making a music video to accompany the tune. It will be posted on his YouTube, Facebook and Instagram pages. His wife will have the featured female role.

“She has been in the background of others videos I’ve made, but her acting skills will really be on display for this one,” he says. “The song is about maybe doing things different, if you could go back in time. The lyrics lean towards a couple breaking up, but the video will leave you guessing.”

Tellor will be playing an acoustic show starting at 6:30 p.m. tonight at the Pin Oak Pub in Carterville and from 4 to 7 p.m. Saturday at StarView Vineyards in Cobden.

A native of Makanda, Tellor grew up dirt poor and sometimes homeless. The tough times made him a fighter, forging resiliency to overcome obstacles that would have stymied others dead in their tracks.

With a rickety amplifier and cheap guitar, he started performing at age 15 for very small audiences, often numbering in the low single digits. He was a nervous skinny kid on the outside. Inside, he was tougher than leather, a Merle Haggard wannabe kicking out the footlights of a dreamland major venue.

But the fairy tale came true for Tellor.

In 2014, he made it all the way to the national finals of the popular talent search Country Showdown, held at the historic Ryman Auditorium, well-known as “The Mother Church of Country Music.” Standing on the same sacred stage where Hank Williams and Patsy Cline performed, Tellor competed against four others for the $100,000 grand prize.

He didn’t win, but he cemented his reputation as a powerhouse Southern Illinois talent. Music is a way of life for him, his only occupation. He manages to carve out a living at a job he loves, currently finding himself somewhere between starving musician and chart-topping superstar.

“If you sign a major record deal, the first thing you are is in debt. Luke Bryan and Carrie Underwood are the exceptions to the rule. A vast majority of people that sign a deal, put out music that radio doesn’t play and they get dropped,” Tellor says. “It is better for me to be independent. If I sell a CD for $10, most of the profit is mine, not the record company’s. The internet levels the playing field. I have fans literally all over the world. There is a slice of the pie for everyone.”

Tellor is in the early stages of planning a solo tour that will take him to New York and Florida, performing on the home turf of friends he made while a Country Showdown contestant.

After struggling through a long period of perpetual writer’s block, Tellor has been a songwriting machine in recent months. He is in the process of recording tracks for a new EP, working in the studios of two area standout producers, Steve Hornbeak in Anna and John DeNosky in Royalton.

“I am going to have ‘Strangers Again’ on the market for about a month, then follow up with another new song, ‘It’s Mind Control.’ One of those two songs will be the title cut on the EP coming out this summer,” he says.

Tellor is also in the process of building his own personal studio, with the goal of creating an independent record label. He also wants to serve in some type of career-management position that allows him to pass on the knowledge he has gained through experience and pass it on to aspiring performers.

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Vince Hoffard can be reached at vincehoffard@gmail.com or 618-658-9095.

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