If you're a current viewer of WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) programming, you ought to be familiar with Elias, WWE's resident singer/songwriter. Beyond being a top in-ring competitor, Elias is known to perform a new original song each week on Monday Night Raw, showcasing his acoustic guitar skills to a large audience. No matter the city, Elias always gets a major reaction, as WWE audiences are known to “walk with Elias.”
When speaking with Elias by phone for Guitar World, I inquired about the WWE superstar’s guitar background and how that plays into Wrestlemania 34, which will be taking place April 8 at New Orleans’ Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Elias can be followed on Twitter and Instagram.
When did you first start playing guitar?
When I was 15, I got super into Eric Clapton. My father took notice of this and got me a guitar for Christmas.
What was that first guitar?
I'm going to say the brand was a [Yamaha] Pacifica electric kit for learning guitar. Once I had enough knowledge of guitar, that's when I branched out to Fender, which is a favorite brand of mine, and so on.
You play acoustic when you are on-air. Are you more of an electric guitar player when you play at home?
No, I've been acoustic exclusively for years. I'm always in hotel rooms, I'm always traveling, even at home I'm not much of an electric guy anymore. I played [electric] for a few years when I started, but I've transitioned more to acoustic.
Were you in any garage bands growing up?
I was never in any band, technically. I had a good friend of mine, Gene, who used to play piano and keyboards, and we would get together and collaborate and make songs. But we never went anywhere with it, aside from our own imaginations.
I remember a couple of months ago during one of your promos on Raw, you played a song that sounded like "Nutshell" by Alice in Chains. Were they one of your favorite bands or guitar influences?
Yeah, it just so happens that I was in a specific mood that day. I love "Nutshell," I love Alice in Chains. That whole genre of music is something I love, but I'm not really exclusive to anything. I love the blues, I love rock, I love classic rock, I love country. All types of music I can appreciate.
Every week on-air, you perform a different original song. Do you feel pressure to come up with new material all the time?
No, it's not pressure because it's fun to me. I love music, I love creating, so I just get inspired with whatever mood I'm in. Whatever the story dictates, that's where my mind goes. I really enjoy it, it's fun coming up with different songs every week.
Do you feel any pressure to be entirely original with your compositions? For example, somebody noticing that one song sounds like "Nutshell?"
Pressure to be original? I was born an original, I am an original, and I can respect other artists, so if people hear that in my mind, I'm just doing some justice to them, an honor to them. As far as creating my own sound and my own music, I do that every single week, every single day. Every time I speak it's original words.
Do you have any plans under the WWE umbrella to record any of your songs besides them just being played live one time?
Absolutely, I believe WWE—which, if you are not aware, stands for "Walk with Elias"—the company is taking notice of what I'm doing every week and there's absolutely plans in the works to record music, release music, put it out there and give them the sound of Elias that they can take with them. They can have it on their phone, they can have it wherever on whatever music format they have.
A couple of weeks ago you played piano on air. Did you take piano lessons as a kid?
I never took lessons for any instrument at any time. Guitar was always my first passion when it came to music. Just through experimenting, you see that there's relatability between the instruments. The drums is rhythm, you've gotta have rhythm when you play guitar. It wasn't too much of a physical transition once I got guitar down to be able to mess around on the piano.
You mentioned Fender. Do you have any guitar endorsements that are active at the moment?
No, I am well open to any company. I don't really put myself out there. I love Fender, I love Martin, Gibson, these are all great brands. If any of them want to customize and create an Elias guitar, we've got Wrestlemania on the horizon. That's going to be a huge show with tons of eyes on us. I'm open to anything, you know?
Speaking of Wrestlemania, any idea if you'll be playing guitar at that show?
Yes, it would be an injustice if Elias was at Wrestlemania and not performing in front of millions of people around the world, nearly 70,000 in attendance, it would be an absolute injustice. I will be performing, it will be an amazing memorable performance, unlike anything you've seen Elias do in the past.
An interesting thing about you performing live is that when you started out with WWE, you started performing in front of 10,000 or 20,000 of people in an area. Have you ever performed in a club setting?
It's interesting that you say 10,000 or 20,000. The truth is, when I was in NXT—the WWE developmental brand—I would play in front of 20 people outside the venues before they came in. I used to set up a stool outside the venues, these local shows in Florida, and I would play for whoever walked up. So I've been through the whole spectrum, from 10 people to 10,000 people. It's quite the spectrum.
Backstage, does anyone else on the WWE roster play guitar?
There is nobody that stands out to me right now. I know a few people dabble with instruments, but as far as guitar, I believe I'm the only one. I'm certainly the best one, there's no doubting about that. I don't believe anyone else plays guitar.
People know of you as being one of the best wrestlers, a great guitarist and a prolific singer/songwriter, but is there something you wish more people knew about you?
So people do realize that I'm a great wrestler. They realize I'm great at singing and creating music and art. They don't realize how great I really am. What they've seen so far is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Elias. I've got so much more to offer. I believe one day I will do all three hours of Monday Night Raw and it will be the best episode anyone has ever seen.
Do you find that the "Walk with Elias" concept is getting the response you hoped it would?
Yeah, absolutely. It's a simple concept: walk with me. The way I see it, the WWE Universe and the world, there are people that walk and people that do not walk yet. It's only a matter of time before the entire world is walking with Elias.
Going back to your influences, what's the last concert that you went to for fun?
I got to see one of my favorites just a few months ago, Chris Stapleton, live in Tampa. Everything that guy puts out I absolutely love. He's got a great sound. He's got true soul. He's got blues, he's got country, he's got rock and roll, all mixed in one. He's got a great gritty voice that you feel when he opens up.
Chris Stapleton, before making it big as a solo artist, wrote for other artists. Is that something you hope to do one day?
I've been a solo act my entire career. If there were artists that approached me and wanted me to write for them, depending on who the artist was, I would absolutely get involved with big-time collaborations. But it would have to be big-time. If Chris Stapleton were to come to me, or Steven Tyler from Aerosmith, if those guys want to work with me, I will work with them.
In closing, Elias, any last words for the kids?
The only thing the kids need to know is what "WWE" stands for—"Walk with Elias." Once they understand that, everything else is going to fall into place for them. Go understand what I bring to the table and then they can go to achieve in their own lives.