Meet Jack + Eliza, The Underage Music Duo Who’s Pushing Past The Superficial

Jack Staffen and Eliza Callahan are undeniably charming, sensible beyond their 20 years and yes, they are very cute. This paired with the soaring harmonies of their debut record, Gentle Warnings, have made Jack + Eliza everyone’s new band crush. While they are genuinely humbled by all the kind words about their ‘cute’ music; Jack and Eliza want to push past the superficial infatuation.

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“We do try to take it as a compliment when people say our music is cute, but it also feels like they’re taking something away from us.”

Music has always been on the brain, since Eliza’s first song at age eight titled, ‘Costa Rica’ and Jack’s passionate love ballad, ‘Close My Eyes,’ written about the trials and tribulations of fourth grade romance. “I didn’t know Jack yet but I knew of him,” Eliza quipped about Jack’s playboy persona in elementary school. The two, still unsure of how they officially met, both grew up in Manhattan with mutual school friends; eventually collaborating after Eliza played drums in Jack’s middle school band. Now they are attending college, Eliza pursuing visual arts and Jack dabbling in political science and art history courses, while also juggling their spot as NYC’s buzziest new act.

Jack + Eliza, Photo Credit, Shannon Kurlander, The Standard East Village, Galore

“There are moments when you just freak out and curl into a ball but it’s worth it because it’s just a lot of fun,” Jack remarked about the chaos of balancing college coursework and the music dream. Take this week for instance; while their classmates are worrying about good ol’ midterms, Jack and Eliza are taking on CMJ music marathon, midterms and maintaining sanity. But neither seem truly phased by their daunting schedule, or at least didn’t let it show, because music is both their dream and way of life. “I’ve been surrounded by musicians and artists my whole life so it never even crossed my mind to not do something creative,” Eliza said.

Jack + Eliza, Photo Credit, Shannon Kurlander, The Standard East Village, Galore

Jack and Eliza, still too young for entry at many of the shows they are headlining, have been sneaking into NYC venues since they were 16. It was in the audiences of New York where their budding dreams of music stardom and pursuit of artful life began. Eliza recalled her annual tradition of seeing Patti Smith at St.Mark’s Church which inspired her to continue music and writing poetry. It was another group of legends that brought Jack dreams of music grandeur. Jack remembered seeing Radiohead at Madison Square Garden and said, “It was that moment I decided I wanted to put on shows that were that epic.” It’s the big city that made Jack + Eliza. “It’s definitely a huge part of our DNA, growing up in New York, and sometimes I feel like people are now on our turf” Eliza said.

Jack + Eliza, Photo Credit, Shannon Kurlander, The Standard East Village, Galore

The duo have come a long way since their first song together, “Mistakes” – one they are too embarrassed to even share. Their debut full-length, Gentle Warnings, launched Jack + Eliza on the media radar; mirroring an interesting reflection of the duo’s music and image. “It’s funny because when we’re writing our music and playing it we don’t imagine it as this sort of quiet thing which is how a lot of people take it and liken it to folk,” Eliza said. Both Jack and Eliza mentioned wanting to take their music to the next level and go louder, which may have something to do with constantly being labeled as just a ‘cute young duo’. “It’s definitely reactionary that we want to make our next project loud but we do try to take it as a compliment when people say our music is cute, but it also feels like they’re taking something away from us,” Eliza said. Perhaps when they are old and grey, Jack and Eliza will long for the title again but for now they would love for people to find a love for the music and not just the cute label.

All Photos by: Shannon Kurlander and taken at The Standard, East Village.


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