One of my favorite musicians, Anthony Wellington, once said, “I believe in every human there’s a great song, there’s a great novel and a great movie. You either have to learn to tell it yourself or someone else will tell it for you.”
Local drummer and producer Anthony Elijah is learning to tell it himself. A musician with roots in the Antelope Valley Gospel and R&B scene, he has since graduated from the Musician’s Institute and is working on his own music. Recently, he performed a live-stream with the Museum of Art and History and his latest single “Do U” is out today on all steaming platforms.
I recently caught up with him to talk about his past and future.
Jesse Davidson: How did you start playing drums?
Anthony Elijah: I come from a family of musicians. I kind of just gravitated toward it because of that. My grandfather is also a pastor, so I was always around musicians at church.
One day, when I was less than two years old, I just started messing around with drums and stuck with it.
My mom and grandparents saw that I was really into it and they bought me a drum set. Around 10 years old, I was allowed to play in church. I would come home from school and practice for three or four hours. If I missed a day, I’d be panicking and have anxiety because I was so focused on trying to get better.
My mom was also in a choir in the LA area. Basically, this choir had some of the greatest musicians in Gospel community. This was around 2006-2010. I was always watching these guys and was so inspired. Around 14 or 15, I started studying other styles of music.
The first band I really started studying was Snarky Puppy. That changed my life. At this time, I was in high school and was playing football but I ended up quitting because I wanted to dig deeper. Now, I was looking up to the guys in Jazz, Gospel, R&B, Fusion, Rock and I thought, “If I want to be as good as them, I need to read music.” I started teaching myself to read and didn’t get really good at it until my last year of 12th Grade.
Then, I graduated and spent that whole summer trying to get into Berklee College of Music. It was the worst. Trying to come up with money, doing different fundraisers and things like that. Then, my mom suggested, “Why don’t you go to the Musician’s Institute and try them out?” I auditioned for them and got in the same day. It was the first time I was playing with musicians my age. Before that, I was playing with musicians 20-30 years older than me.
JD: I can really relate to that. Two things that really shaped my musicianship was going to school and playing with older musicians that knew their stuff.
AE: That’s another thing, being in that Gospel and R&B community, it set me up for progress because they’ll be super honest about how you play and sound. If you don’t sound good, they’ll let you know and don’t care how young you are. Not that they’re mean, but they’re straightforward.
JD: Absolutely. Transitioning from high school to M.I. is a huge leap. What was that like for you?
AE: It will always be a life-changing moment for me. Growing up, people would tell me things like, “You’re the best drummer out here. You’re the best drummer in our circle.” I never let that get to my head because I always wanted to get better, regardless.
When you go out there, you’re in a whole other league of musicians. At first, it was definitely overwhelming and discouraging. You’ve worked your whole life to do one thing and you’re still not as good as your peers. So I dug deeper. I didn’t have a car when I went to M.I.
My mom, she worked in Commerce. Basically, I’d have to get up at like 3 a.m., she would drop me off at Union Station on her way to work around 5 a.m. I would take the subway to M.I. and get there about 6 a.m. I didn’t start school until 11 a.m. So I just practiced from 6-11 a.m. everyday.
At that time, I wasn’t used to socializing with other musicians my age. For the longest time, I didn’t connect with a lot of the guys. I realized that nobody is perfect and we’re all here to get better.
When I started to embrace myself and learn from the other guys, things got way better. That’s when I really got into writing music. I bought a laptop, started using Logic and my peers started helping me learn how to produce, arrange and play keys.
To hear Anthony Elijah’s music, visit
MOAH live performance: