Story by Eli Rushing
When asked how long music has been a part of his life, Dustin Elijah Maynard hesitates. After a long pause, he concedes that, “I’ve basically been doing music since birth”.
The R&B vocalist and songwriter, who is now known as Elijah Dax, was raised in the church where he honed his God-given talents among tattered hymnals and pious worshippers, but it wasn’t until his freshman year of high school that he truly found his passion.
“I joined the choir and I realized that I was good at hearing harmonies and even better at arranging them. Before I cared about writing a great verse or perfecting a main vocal, I wanted to show people their parts,” said Elijah. “My ability to do layers was what got me into music initially. Hearing artists like JT and Beyonce and the way that they layer their harmonies made me realize that I could do that for the rest of my life. Easy!”
On the eve of his first day of senior year, the musician was asked by a friend to help sing the hook on his rap song. Though he now looks back on the track with embarrassment, Maynard cites the bedroom recording session as the first time that he could remember laying down vocals for a song that he helped create.
The young vocalist never truly stopped working on music since that day in his friend’s bedroom, but he lacked the knowledge and the confidence to build his career as an artist and to morph the soundscapes from his head into actual recordings.
Maynard was reared in Cleveland, Tennessee, but moved in with a girlfriend on McCallie Avenue in the early months of 2016. Though creating art was still his passion, Elijah found himself waiting tables and working other odd jobs just to stay afloat.
“I went through normal artist stuff, wanting to drop off… finding passion again, but not really believing in myself. But when, out of twenty songs, one of them has Isaiah Rashaad like “oh my god!”, it makes you rethink your feelings about yourself and about the stuff you’ve been working on,” emphasized Elijah.
Through a friend of his girlfriend, he was introduced to TheHouse. This creative collective was based out of the area and founded by artists like Isaiah Rashaad and YGTUT. It was viewed as a “rap collective” by many, but it included a host of producers, singers, and multi-instrumentalists who did far more than just write rhymes. They helped to ignite his creative spark and to teach him tricks of the trade, all while he was in a period of self doubt.
By hanging with TheHouse crew, the young artist caught the attention of Eric Cromartie who managed his own Chattanooga music collective called the Flock House and co owned the residential where the group lived. Cromartie, also known as EC, extended an invitation for Maynard to move in with the collective and the musician quickly obliged.
“Flock is where a lot of beautiful things happened,” says Elijah.
This was also a time of struggle for the young man trying to break into the industry. “In the midst of this, I went through phases where I was homeless. From 2016 to now I’ve definitely had phases where I stayed with my dad, I stayed with my grandparents, I couch surfed around a bit, but I always made it back to Chattanooga”.
When he could afford to live at the house, Maynard was recording as much as he could in the studio space. He connected with instrumentalists and producers that were in and out the door as they helped him work on his songs. It was during this time that he began to release singles and EPs under his stage name Elijah Dax.
In 2019, conflicts within the collective proved toxic for Elijah and he moved out of the Flock House, severing ties with EC as his manager.
When it seemed like Maynard’s luck might have run out, the biggest break of his career fell into his lap. A melody that he had recorded during a hazy nightcap in a friend’s home studio was discovered by Canadian rapper and R&B artist Drake. He used Elijah’s melody for his double platinum single titled “Greece” and credited the Chattanooga artist as a writer.
Though the royalty checks that Maynard cashes every three months are not life changing amounts of money, the platform that Drake brought him as a songwriter has already paid dividends. Elijah has shopped some of his songs around to several prominent R&B acts like Kehlani and Usher, but is content, paying his dues as a writer before his time in the limelight arrives.
“I want to be my own artist, but a lot of the time you’ve got to write for other people first. I can write my own music, but it’s not gonna have nearly the same impact as me writing for other artists at this point in my career,” Maynard ponders. “I’ve got to be ok with giving away my baby to keep the lights on. When you actually do music you’re gonna make another baby that’s yours. And what’s meant to be is meant to be.”
Eli Rushing is a Senior studying communications at UTC. He is a jack of all trades thanks to skills in writing, broadcasting, and audio editing. Eli has worked as a Sports Contributor at the Sparta Expositor and is currently covering prep and college football for The Chattanoogan. He hopes to continue in that field after graduation. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
One thought on “Essential For Now”
Eli a cultured mind fr. documenting the future 🙏