April 22, 2011

Interview with ELEW - Summit at Sea

Interview with ELEW (Eric Lewis), rockjazz pianist
Monday, April 11, 2011
Summit at Sea afterparty, Mondrian Hotel, Miami Beach, Florida
Conducted by Anneke Jong for the interview series "7 Leaders on the Rise"

With a thunderous roar, Eric Lewis (ELEW) has pioneered a new genre of rockjazz piano. His upbeat renditions of popular songs from bands like Coldplay, Nirvana, and The Killers have earned him top billing at events like the TED conference and the TechCrunch awards. After wowing the Summit Series community with an underground afterparty performance at DC10, the Summit Series 2010 event, ELEW was invited as a presenting attendee at Summit at Sea under the Summit Series banner of revelry. He opened the conference’s first plenary session, setting the stage for presentations from TOMS Shoes founder Black Mycoskie and Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson.

Jong: How did you get tapped into the Summit Series community?

Lewis: I was at my cousin’s graduation from the University of Maryland, and Dave Koretz, whom I knew from the TED conference, was attending Summit Series in Washington DC. I had no idea was Summit was, but he was in DC when I was in Maryland and he put it on his Facebook page. He says, “Hey buddy, I’m around. Come to DC.” So I come to DC, and we created our own little motley crew after party. A bunch of people came to it, and that’s when [Summit Series co-founder Elliott] Bisnow and these guys first met me. They started checking me out around the country when I would play in LA, and then they invited me over.

Jong: What was your experience like at Summit at Sea, getting to perform and being an attendee as well?

Lewis: I actually met an angel investor who’s going to provide the principal opening funding for my next project, which is pretty huge. Besides that, I rocked out, I partied hard, I played some good piano, I practiced a lot, and I met a lot of cool people. I was surprised that it was a business atmosphere, because it was so sexy and cool, and at the same time very business. It was odd.

Jong: You’ve been to several high-profile conferences in the past year. How is the Summit community different?

Lewis: It was strikingly different from the TED conference concept — these guys are like my peers or younger than me, and they’re rocking out. But they’re also entrepreneurs in the fullest and most complete sense of the word, so it’s a very startling thing. I’m looking at beautiful women, and I can’t believe it because at the same time they’re working bikinis, they’re also totally awesome business women. This whole meshing of gender and youth with hardcore dreams and business and providing the life force of the American economy makes for strange bedfellows. It was strange for me to experience that merging and to see it: beautiful men, beautiful women, all getting along together, partying, but at the same time, conducting business and being geniuses. It struck me as alien and beautiful. I’ve played a lot of places: I’ve played the TechCrunch awards, the TED conference, X-Prize events, and Summit Series was very unique in that regard.

Jong: You’re blowing up right now and having a great year. What’s next for you and what are you most excited about?

Lewis: Everyone’s so fit and active here, so I’m going to start losing weight and working out so I can impress everyone out by the pool next year [laughs]. Besides that, Josh Groban just called me to open for him in his arena tour, I got the funding for my new record, I’ve got some stuff in the works with America’s Got Talent, I’m doing a ballet for Complexions Contemporary Ballet in New York, I’m doing an Australian tour in the fall, I’m doing some hits in Japan this summer…but the main thing that I’m working on it getting my deltoids and abs properly conditioned.
You can check out ELEW's tour dates on his website or follow him on Twitter at @ELEWROCKJAZZ.

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