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Ocie Elliott finds harmony on the road

Ocie Elliott has two sold-out shows at the Royal Theatre on Friday and Saturday.
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Jon Middleton and Sierra Lundy of Ocie Elliott will perform at the Royal Theatre on Friday and Saturday. KELLY LOVETT

OCIE ELLIOTT

Where: Royal Theatre, 805 Broughton St.
When: Friday and Saturday, 8 p.m.
Tickets: Sold out

Jon Middleton and Sierra Lundy of Ocie Elliott have managed to keep the size of their operation modest and manageable, despite their growing popularity.

The real-life couple has performed almost exclusively as a duo during their seven years of performing together, but the Victoria indie folk act may have to expand the size of their travelling crew in the weeks and months to come. Ocie Elliott, which was nominated for breakthrough group of the year at the Juno Awards in 2022, has taken off in a big way during the past year.

The pair’s upcoming tour of Europe will see them visit venues with capacities of up to 1,500 people overseas; this comes on the heels of a recent U.S. tour, which took them through the southern United States to cities in Texas, Florida, and North Carolina for the first time ever.

“We were pleasantly surprised,” Middleton said of their reception south of the border. “You hear so many stories about the place, but we saw none of the political stuff. It was not in your face at all.”

Ocie Elliott’s momentum from a substantial 2023 — which saw them surpass four million monthly listeners on Spotify and draw raves for their Know the Night EP — has carried over into 2024.

Every one of the 2,800 tickets available for Ocie Elliott’s two shows at the Royal Theatre this weekend sold-out well in advance, and when combined with their sold-out show at Vancouver’s 2,700-seat Orpheum Theatre in December, an argument could be made that Lundy and Middleton are one of the hottest live acts in Western Canada at the moment.

“That was the biggest show we’ve ever done,” Middleton said of the Orpheum performance, for which the band brought in Toronto’s Mark Vreeken, who has worked with Leonard Cohen and the Tragically Hip, to run sound.

“And we could feel it. The whole thing was humbling and mindblowing. Every time we looked at each other, it felt like we were on cloud nine.”

The concert in December was a career highlight for Middleton, who said he often travelled from Victoria to Vancouver years ago to attend concerts at the very same venue. Career benchmarks of this nature (he also performed at another iconic Vancouver venue, the Commodore Ballroom, years ago with his other band, Jon and Roy) remind Middleton of the hard work it took to get this far in his career.

He never loses sight of that. “I remember to going to concerts at the Commodore with [bandmate Roy Vizer] and thinking, ‘I think one day we’ll play here,’ but it still felt like kind of a pipe dream. When we did it, it was an experience for sure.”

Ocie Elliott and Jon and Roy, which formed in 2003, happily co-exist, which gives Middleton the opportunity to experiment in a variety of sonic settings. The rhythmically diverse Jon and Roy are spending three weeks in Europe next month, and will play some festivals this summer. Vizer and Middleton and their bandmates also have a new album due next month.

“Surprisingly, given how busy Ocie Elliott is, we’ve kept things almost exactly the same with both bands,” he said. “Somehow it’s all working in tandem. There’s no conflicts.”

Though Ocie Elliott won’t be off the road until 2025, with a summer itinerary that includes high-profile festival appearances at Bonnaroo in Manchester, Tennessee and the Telluride Bluegrass Festival in Colorado, Middleton said he’s looking forward to a reduced pace at some point.

He expects that will lead to more songwriting sessions with Lundy. “It’s one of those things where you want strike while the iron is hot, so to speak. We like doing it, but we need to make more time for working on music.”

Middleton is lucky in that that he gets to tour with his off-stage partner, with whom he shares on-stage success. “I’ve always enjoyed touring with Jon and Roy, but it was always a bit of a struggle. Not only was I leaving a partner behind, I was leaving home behind. Whereas when I travel with Sierra, we’re always kind of on vacation. It still can be hard being away for long periods of time, but it makes it a lot easier.

“We love to sing together. When we’re up there on stage, we’re both grateful for the opportunity, so when we look over at each other, it’s amazing. It’s so cool that we get to do this. I think that translates to people.”

mdevlin@timescolonist.com