Singled Out: Eli Lev's Long Way Back To Shonto

Eli Lev

Indie folk artist Eli Lev tells us about his newest single "Long Way Back to Shonto," which comes from his debut album 'All Roads East'. Here is the story:

Before I started playing music fulltime, I was an eighth-grade language arts teacher on the Navajo Reservation, in northern Arizona.

I lived in a small town called Shonto, next to the Utah border, which was about 45 minutes from the nearest grocery store and surrounded by beautiful canyon country.

On weeks off from school, I would take my mountain bike, load up with supplies, and head out on these solo-bike trips into the surrounding wilderness.

I was young and a little wild-eyed, so thought I could get through any challenge that would come up. Those were the days before smartphones, so I took an old school map and printouts of the national parks with me and went out on a solo two-week bike trip through Zion, Bryce, Canyonlands, and Grand Escalante National Parks.

One day I messed up. I feel asleep in the sun after a long ride and got burned pretty bad all over my body. In a daze of pain and discomfort, I miscalculated the next day's journey, and found myself out of water, out of food, and out of luck half way through the next day's bike ride.

It was 60 miles either way to the nearest town and the sun was beating down so hard I had to stop and find shade. There wasn't any shade around for miles (this being the desert and the middle of the day), so I had to climb down into a water drainage pipe under the road and wait for… well I wasn't sure for what exactly.

I must have languished in that drainage pipe for hours and somewhere along the line I started singing this tune, 'It's a long way back to Shonto…but I'm ready to ride…' hearing it echo off the walls. It was a haunting melody, but gave me solace that somehow, I'd find a way home.

All of a sudden, I heard a low rumbling, so I poked my head out of the pipe and saw in the distance a huge boat sailing through the desert towards me. I thought I must have totally lost my mind, but it got bigger and bigger as it approached.

Then I saw a tiny truck in front of it, so I realized this truck was towing this huge boat down the highway (probably from nearby Lake Powell) right towards me.

I got in the middle of the road and started waving my hands wildly so it had to stop. There was a middle-aged couple who gave me a wild look and said, "You need a ride don't you?" I nodded and they said they would love to take me to town, but their truck was full. We all looked up to the boat at the same time.

We loaded my bike and all my stuff on the back of the boat, and I climbed up there to find a cooler full of… Mike's Hard Lemonade. They had drank all the water from their day out on the lake already!

I didn't mind, and downed about four of those things while sitting in the back of the boat, going 80 MPH down a desert highway in the middle of canyon county Arizona, wind in my hair, and feeling lucky to be alive.

It was a 'Long Way Back to Shonto,' but I was ready to ride.

Hearing is believing. Now that you know the story behind the song, listen for yourself right here!

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Singled Out: Eli Lev's Long Way Back To Shonto