"It felt right. That's all you need." (Eli Winter on "Woodlawn Waltz" & Grazioso)


Eli Winter is a guitarist and songwriter attending the University of Chicago. A rising star in Houston's experimental music scene, fans and musicians alike have long noted both his musicianship and the improvisational nature of his live performances, especially for someone twenty years old. But his move to Chicago has seen him write an accompanying burst of new songs—one, “Take No Notice,” was just released on Impossible Colors in the spring—with compositional chops to match his skill on the guitar. He has recently released a live album, appeared on the compilation album Down with the Trumps benefiting the Chicago Community Bond Fund, and performed with Daniel Bachman, Will Csorba and Tom Carter. In addition, he has received praise from Bachman, Jaime Fennelly, Cory Rayborn and Jana Hunter, among others.

His song "Woodlawn Waltz" features in Half Mystic Journal’s fourth issuegrazioso. Here is how it came to life...


The defining moment of "Woodlawn Waltz" was the moment it popped into my head. Woodlawn is one of Chicago's community areas. It's in the far southeast side of the city, bordered by Lake Michigan. I live there. Waltzes are in 3/4 time. I think of this song as being in 6/8 time, but it could feel like 3/4 as well. As for their combination: It felt right. That's all you need.

This song came unusually quickly; it took about five minutes to write—such little time that I hesitate to say I even wrote it; it felt more like it swelled up from within. I hear melancholy in it as well as contentment, but different listeners will hear different things. If you hear grazioso throughout the song, that's okay. If you don't hear any at all, that's also okay. If you hear something different than I do, I can't stop you. I just hope you like the song.

One of the reasons I'm drawn to instrumental music is that its meaning is open-ended in that way, and so a song can be very meaningful under strikingly different circumstances, and in a way that doesn't reflect its composition. I do remember feeling happy about this song when I finished it because I felt it reflected my songwriting voice more than previous songs. But it arose so quickly, and I've forgotten how I was feeling as I wrote it.

In a sense I suppose it's "dream-bright."


Eli Winter's “Woodlawn Waltz”, along with twenty other pieces by contributors and three columns by the Half Mystic team, are compiled in Half Mystic Journal’s Issue IV: GRAZIOSO, a volume of work full of the rare kind of light that never drowned anything, the kind of light that knows only song.It is available for preorder now.