Elli Perry knew she needed a break.


A break for sanity and reprieve against a life and schedule that saw the Georgia-born nomad playing 200 shows a year for the close to the past decade.


The break would re-spark her creativity and “Little Thieves” was brought into being. “Little Thieves” marks Perry’s first album in four years since the release of 2013’s “The Salt & The Sea.”


The Swerve Magazine recently talked with Perry about needing a break, the making of “Little Thieves,” playing clubs at age 12 and what it takes to live full-time in an RV.



The Swerve Magazine: Your new album, “Little Thieves,” came out at the end of March. You took some time off to write and work on this album and to recharge and refocus. How did that change this album?

Elli Perry: It allowed me to continue creating and, frankly, to continue living. I was at a point of critical mass where what I was doing was not sustainable. I was doing 200 dates a year, on self-booked tours. I was living out of my car. I was going through a divorce at the time. It was hard, and I was burnt out from what I was doing. I was not inspired. I had to step back to hit the reset button and to get to a point where I could even consider starting to write new material. It took a long time to get that passion back.

Then, to find my confidence again, because even if you are burnt out, and you are tired of what you are doing, if you are still going on stage night after night, you are still showing up. You are still selling records, and you are still getting paid. You have empirical evidence that you can do this. If you step away from that for long enough and get out of that habit, you have to ask yourself, “Can I do it anymore, or do I have the energy to?” That time away was necessary; for me, for my creative, physical and mental health.

Once I found my start, feeling that urge to be creative again, I wanted to write. I wanted to do it fully. I had already taken so much time away, any urge or professional pressure I felt to deliver a new product to my audience, I had already waited so long at that point. If I waited this long, I might as well wait a little longer and do it right.

It was a long journey, and I moved around a lot during that process. I was living abroad. I was all over the states. I got to do a lot of traveling. I got to live slowly and work very slowly. After that all came to a culmination when it was time to do the record, we were in the studio and finished it in nine working days.

It was quick once all the elements were in place. I couldn’t rush the process of getting there (to the studio). It was a great lesson for me. I learned more about how I create at this particular juncture in my life. I’ve been doing this for over half of my lifetime now. My relationship to being creative and my creative processes has changed over time. In this current iteration of how I work, I do my best work if I don’t rush it if I move slowly.

If you have enough faith in what you are doing to let the process take the time that it needs and to give it room to breathe, then I think it can come together very, very quickly. It is like building a house. You laying the right foundation takes so much more time than putting up the walls.

SM: Speaking of houses, you live in an RV.
EP: I live in an RV. So my bike is my vehicle. When we are in cities, I try not to drive it around. It is usually more of a headache than it is worth, so we just bike everywhere.

SM: Living in an RV, how is that? Is that a lifestyle you can get used to?

SM: It is now (laughs). I’m now used to it, so I now love it.

There is a huge learning curve to that lifestyle. It was pretty dicey in the beginning. I’ve been living in it for five months now, my fiancé and I have. Now we love it. I am truly in the thick of adoring it and being very happy. I’m glad we stuck it out through the hard part.

The first couple months were pretty rough. I had a couple of interviews where a couple of people asked, and my answer, “Ask me again in a few more months.” This is the first time I think someone has asked me in an interview how it is and I’ve been able to earnestly say it is wonderful.

SM: I’ve seen those tiny houses shows on TV, where people have to pare down to get to live in their new, smaller houses. Did you have to do that?

EP: Not really. I’m a traveler, to begin with, and always have been. I don’t think I’ve lived in one dwelling for more than a year straight in the last decade. I’m used to keeping it pretty spare. Touring full time and being on the road, I’ve toured since I was a teenager. I’m used to having to simplify things.

A few years ago, when I first started writing and working on this new record, I was living in an off-the-grid house on a mesa in Northern New Mexico. I feel like that prepared me better for RV life than anything else. Space really isn’t a problem for me, having not a lot of stuff. Learning how to live with limited resources, living off the grid, was a great way to prep for that.


We have a little monitor panel on our wall (of the RV) that shows us how much fresh water we have. How much battery life we have. There is the one that runs all the electricity in the house and one attached to the engine. Are you going to have enough electricity to power your refrigerator? How much propane we have. So, that was more of a learning curve on the front-end of doing this, but trimming down and not having a lot of stuff was not problematic.

SM: It sounds like an adventure all in of itself.

EP: It is. It definitely is. It is not boring. Sometimes I wish that it was a little more boring, depending on the day, but it is a great adventure.

SM: Speaking of adventure, you mentioned that you have been touring since you were a teenager. You first started playing in bars when you were 12, how did that happen?

EP: I did. My dad would come with me. He would get my checks and make sure I wasn’t trying to drink. He would send off bar patrons who were flirting with his over-developed adolescent child.

My dad was an editor, and my mom was a novelist, so for them, it wasn’t a huge reach to think that their kid wanted to be an artist. They supported that. They weren’t stage parents by any stretch of the imagination. I was always musically inclined, and they were very supportive.

A young mentor of mine talked to my father and I. He wanted to produce my first EP and said that he thought that I should start playing. He was a professional musician. He started trying to get me some gigs. And that was the caveat, I couldn’t obviously go in alone (to the bars), but if there is an adult, sure. People got a kick out of it at the time I think.

SM: So your dad was like your manager and bouncer?

EP: Inadvertently yes. He saw a lot of overlap between his industry and the industry I was choosing. He was a publisher. He worked at newspapers; then he owned a publishing house. When I was an adolescent, Napster had just come out, and music streaming was just beginning, and he saw where that was going. He could see the decline of the record industry, closely mirroring the decline of publishing. I think he felt for me and was like, “Alright kid, if you want to do this, it is going to probably grow to be miserable. You are probably going to struggle with it forever. If it is worth the fight, and it is what you want to do, I’ll help you with it any way I can.”


SM: That is awesome.

EP: It was a gift.

SM: A lot of people don’t get that kind of support.

EP: It is not lost on me how rare that is. It played no small part in my ability to pursue this. If somebody else was convinced I could do this, it was easy for me to believe that I could do it, no matter how challenging. And it is always challenging. I’m sure it will be a challenge for the rest of my career. This is a tough time to be alive and try to figure out how to make a living off of making art. And making art that you believe in, without having to make sacrifices and compromise that art and compromise your ethics. Having that support at a young age helped prepare me for that.

It has been a challenge for the 15 years I’ve done it professionally, and I expect it to be a challenge for the next 15 years.