There By You: Free Expression with Elliott Skinner


On a warm, and slightly muggy, Thursday night about 40-50 music lovers gathered at Rockwood Music Hall to immerse themselves in “intent listening” as Elliott Skinner led us through a well-organized, but entirely improvised jam session. With help from friends like Zach Mullings, Ben Hixon, and Grace Kelly up on stage, the musicians would play and create ideas from scratch and audience members would join in after writing their names on a sign-up list.

PHOTO: Elliott Skinner /  Instagram

PHOTO: Elliott Skinner / Instagram

Performers ranged from soft spoken, powerhouse vocalists, to self-proclaimed “karaoke singers,” to Lohai’s Devon and Alita. Grace Kelly, the lead saxophonist of the night, shared her excitement about the event’s turnout, “When you have nothing planned sometimes the best things come out. Elliott is an incredible curator in that way, he creates the perfect space. But it did blow my mind that we had some people in the crowd who aren’t even professional singers, they’re ‘karaoke singers,’ they said that on stage and then came out and did something amazing.”

As the night progressed to its final minutes, mics were passed down to inspired members in the audience, musicians hopped on and off stage, and switched instruments. Eventually, Darius Scott reached for the microphone and listeners were, again, treated to organically developed musical musings from some of NYC’s most talented creators. Scott had already hopped on the drums and the keyboard earlier in the night, showing off his versatility as he sang and free-styled a verse over vocal improvisations. “Does anybody know Chance the Rapper?...Well...if anyone knows him, Darius sang with him on his new album. Alongside Nicki the Minaj.” Skinner let us all know as Scott casually concocted a vocal masterpiece.

It became clear with every individual’s contributions that we were enclosed in an incredibly free and safe space where the only goal was to create and enjoy music.

Skinner spoke to Blended about how his hopes for the night were both met and exceeded. “We’re just experimenting with the regular setup of a show, where you’re on a stage and people are listening. We want to get the audience more involved like they were tonight, bring people up on stage that usually wouldn’t sing and have them sing. It becomes this sort of thing where everyone is involved. We’re just trying to have fun and explore. It was so fun.”

Skinner is a Texas-raised creator and musician currently residing in Brooklyn. He is one-third of Brooklyn trio Thirdstory (currently on hiatus), who have opened for Tori Kelly and also worked with Chance the Rapper, Peter Cottontale, Brasstracks and many other notable artists. He has been performing solo original songs around Brooklyn venues like C’mon Everybody and Bowery Ballroom for the past couple of years.

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I sing unto the stars

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Already having captured the hearts of many with his soulful, folk-like music and emotion riddled vocal arrangements, Skinner’s adding a whole new dimension to the art of the love song as he interacts with his audience in any way he can. Along with an expansive community of Brooklyn-based singers and artists that infuse this city with a new wave of talent and music, Skinner seems to perfectly represent the soul of NYC. 

This jam session was the second installment in a three-part series entitled Home For You. Catch the third and final part, “There For You” on September 12 at Rockwood Music Hall. Skinner will be performing original music with special guests and continuing his quest to bridge any and all gaps between music and music lovers.

Lead Image Credit: Elliott Skinner