By DJ Dave Hoffenberg
In this pandemic world, you don’t get to see new music that often so I highly suggest going to see Sami Eldebs this weekend. You have four opportunities starting Thursday 6-10 p.m. at Jax, Friday and Saturday 6-10 p.m. at the Pickle Barrel and Sunday 5-9 p.m. at The Foundry.
I saw Sami Eldebs last month at Jax and his range of music is amazing. There’s definitely something for everyone. His guitar is a hybrid acoustic and electric. He described his show and said, “I play all the popular cover songs but what’s special about what I do is I play the kick drum and cymbals with my feet simultaneously.” What’s special for me is he does all this standing while other musicians will sit down to play all of that. He loops his music too and although it seems like everybody is looping these days, he added many elements to make his show stand out. He added, “I have a bunch of effects pedals. My hybrid guitar gives me a wide range of sound so everything I do live is something not many people have seen before.”
When I saw him at Jax, there wasn’t a shouted out request he didn’t play. He even dug deep and sang “Walk Like a Man” by the Four Seasons even though he didn’t really know it. Eldebs said, “One thing I do is I make sure there’s nothing that I don’t do.” He plays songs from the ‘50s to today’s radio hits. He added, “I always look at the beauty in every music art form, whatever genre, whatever decade, no matter how old it is. I just like music so I’ll learn everything from back then to today.” He has about 1000 songs in his repertoire and doesn’t use a tablet to read from or “cheat” as I call it. So many people do that and they don’t connect with the audience. Not Eldebs — he connects with everyone. He writes his own music but knows he’s a cover artist and he loves that. He said, “You really have to go outside of your comfort zone sometimes. You’re there for the people.”
This is Eldebs’ 10th year in the music business. He said, “Wow, this is my 10th year professionally. I’ve always done it but just music and just literally paying my bills with just my hands, and I guess my feet, has been 10 years now which is incredible. I’m really grateful for the opportunities I’ve had.” Sami gets many return gigs because he pleases the crowd and has built a little following down in New Jersey. He said, “You get done with the night and you know you made it memorable for the people. They want to come back and see you.”
Eldebs has always liked music but got hooked when he saw Michael J. Fox playing the guitar in “Back to the Future.” He saw Oasis and that got him into the drums. He said, “Oasis is what got me into music really hardcore. Really learning the guitar, the bass, the drums and writing songs. That one band really did it for me.” He’s taught himself everything and has never had any professional training on any instrument or his voice. He grew up in Wisconsin, he’s a cheesehead. In high school, he won the talent show in three categories and won a battle of the bands. After he graduated, he packed up his stuff and moved to New Jersey. He didn’t know anybody but knew there was a market there that would pay him for being a musician. He said, “What people don’t understand about me is I wanted to make it as a musician. I didn’t go out there to be the biggest star. I just want to do this as a living, day in and day out and get paid for it.”
He didn’t know anyone so he worked in restaurants as a bus boy, waiter, eventually a bartender and made connections. People recommended him different places but it took a while. He was living out of his car the first few years he was there. He did make a few original records in those early days but playing music live took some time. He had one gig a week and later got to two gigs and eventually three. It was then he told his boss at Chili’s he was quitting to pursue music full-time. Eldebs said, “He asked me to stay but I figured it was all or nothing. I came a long way. I was really happy playing these cover shows.”
He auditioned for “American Idol” and made it a few rounds but it just wasn’t for him. People told him he should take his originals to Los Angeles but he didn’t care to. He is doing what he wants to do. He said, “I’ve always been doing covers since I knew how to play so this comes naturally to me.” He may be playing other people’s music but his show is original.
Music is therapy to Eldebs. He said, “I love connecting with people. I like busting out a song. Different genres helps so much. I like making people’s night, as corny as that sounds. I just love what I do, I love playing. I can’t stress how much fun it is.
Please check out his website: samieldebs.com. From there you can connect to all his online music, Facebook, YouTube, etc.