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Straight from her heart

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Posted: Wednesday, December 31, 2008 12:00 am

Malibu native Cleo Elliott throws her hat into the Malibu musical ring.

By Melonie Magruder / Special to the Malibu Times

For aspiring singer/songwriter Cleo Elliott, it's not too far a stretch from Puccini to Marilyn Manson. The Malibu native has trained in classical Italian opera, but said she feels a greater kinship with rocker Joan Jett or Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails.

Elliott, 24, will be releasing her first solo CD at the end of January, influenced by her polar-opposite musical training and preferences.

Entitled "No More Lies," Elliott said, "The sound is very pop rock, but I'm really into heavy hard rock."

She lists Guns 'n' Roses, Pink Floyd and Jimi Hendrix alongside such musicians as Fiona Apple and Sheryl Crow as guiding her musical zeitgeist.

An only child, Elliott learned to play flute and some guitar in school, but always thought of herself primarily as a singer. She said her parents, actors Sam Elliott and Katharine Ross, always encouraged her musical goals.

"I got all their old vinyl," Elliott said. "So some of my favorite albums are Led Zeppelin, The Cars' 'Heartbeat City,' the Allman Brothers' 'Eat a Peach' and maybe some old Madonna."

However, by the time she graduated from Colin McEwan High School (after three years at Malibu High), she found herself training as a classical singer with teacher Charity Chapman.

"Classical opera is the best way to warm up your voice for singing rock," Elliott said. "You don't want to lose your voice rocking out."

Elliott wrote all but one song on her album ( "all the songs are really personal") and was ready to produce when Chapman introduced her to producer Bobby Harbry. They went into the studio in May and she finished recording last week. They are deep into mixing and plan to release the album at the end of January.

"I was really lucky to hook up with such professionals as Charity and Bobby," Elliott said. "This is all so new to me … I'm becoming a member of ASCAP and we're figuring out how to distribute it. It was great working with them because we have such chemistry together."

Elliott has been singing since she was a young child, encouraged by her grandmother, and prefers live performance to recording. But writing an album was a new challenge she embraced willingly.

"The only way I know to write is straight from my heart," the blonde, doe-eyed singer said. "The songs on 'No More Lies' are about love, of course. Finding love and losing it. But it's not about one specific person."

Elliott represents a rich source of new, young music coming out of Malibu, with bands like 2 Cents and Tin Horn, and artists like Shwayze receiving industry notice.

John Thomas, a drummer who plays with Tin Horn and who has known Elliott since high school, said he expects her to see similar successes.

"She has her own sound, her own thing," Thomas said. "She mixes it up. I've heard a couple of rough cuts and they're just great."

Now that she's completed her first album, Elliott is taking a breather, spending time with her animals-cats, dogs, rabbits and horses-before she takes on the next project.

"I'm working on selling this one and working on some more songs," she said. "My parents are totally supportive of this. They're just happy I don't want to be an actor."

More information on the release of "No More Lies" can be obtained at the website: www.myspace.com/cleoelliott

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