An Interview With The Alabama-Based Musician, ERIC ERDMAN!
Posted On 27 Apr 2018
Eric Erdman is an acoustic/pop singer/songwriter based in Mobile, Alabama. During the past two years Erdman has been a prolific songwriter & artist, recording his latest album It’s Not Like You Don’t Know Me. It was just released on April 13th!
In addition to writing & recording, Erdman has toured steadily as a solo artist, playing shows in Australia, Belgium, Germany, Italy and France.
Erdman started writing songs when he was 8, and later began playing in bands. Erdman was inspired by listening to such favorite artists as James Taylor, Jim Croce, Mac McAnally and David Wilcox. Following high school, he attended the University of South Alabama and subsequently graduated with B.S. Degree in Statistics. After college, Erdman decided to pursue a career in music, and formed a funk rock band called The Ugli Stick. The group recorded four albums and toured for years (with Erdman as the lead singer), including three tours overseas. The Ugli Stick had a long, successful run, but eventually Erdman decided to become a solo artist.
It’s Not Like You Don’t Know Me, compared to the multilayered, instrumental grandeur of his previous albums, Erdman has taken some of his most personal songs and documented them in a relatively raw and minimalist context. This release features Erdman on his acoustic guitar, with drummer John Milham and bassist Tommy Sciple, and a guest spot from percussionist Bill Summers (Herbie Hancock). The end result is a smooth, raw studio interpretation of some of Erdman’s most personal and emotionally powerful songs. Erdman’s trademark lyrical poetry slides across his warm, friendly acoustic guitar, which is embraced by Milham’s cool, suave brushes and sticks and Sciple’s deep baritone upright bass. Some of Erdman’s longtime fans might consider this album some of his best studio material to date.
In the past, Erdman traveled to Muscle Shoals for studio work, and has no problem professing his deep love for Alabama’s studio hub. But for this album, he chose to lay down tracks at Dauphin Street Sound with Trina Shoemaker and Keylan Laxton. Erdman’s decision to stay in Mobile was one of civic pride. He considers Dauphin Street Sound to be on the same level as a studio in “Nashville or any of the other big cities.” He hopes this album will make musicians far and wide recognize Dauphin Street Sound can provide the same quality recordings as any studio in Muscle Shoals.
Learn more about Eric Erdman in the following All Access interview:
-So where does this interview find you? What’s on tap for the rest of your day?
I am in New Orleans. I played at Chickie WahWah last night. Today is a day off , so if I had to guess, I’d say there is Coop’s fried chicken, a Sazerac and music ahead.
-Overall, how do you think 2017 was for you and your career?
2017 was a year of both excitement and devastation. I had many fulfilling gigs in and out of the country, and I had more creative output than I ever had previously , but also it was the year I lost my dad. As he would have insisted, I will try to focus on the positive and forget the rest, so I will remember it as a year of building perspective.
I also feel, though 2017 knocked me for loop, it then gave me time to return to balance and prepare myself for 2018 , which proves to be the best to date.
-What are you most excited about for this year? What is one big goal you have for 2018?
I can’t say enough about how pleased I am with the new recording, “It’s Not Like You Don’t Know Me”. So my solitary goal for 2018 is to spread this collection of songs as far as I can. I will say that this 2018 push is different for me. Even though I have previously done many albums and tours over 23 years (both in my former band, The Ugli Stick, and now as a solo artist), this is the first time I have a true team behind the release.
Up until this release , I’ve always been the one wearing all the hats (manager, booking agent, videographer, promoter , etc). With the release of “It’s Not Like You Don’t Know Me” I have a team, a great team who share my vision. I can’t wait to see what we can accomplish together.
-Growing up, did you ever think that this would be the kind of life that you would have? Has music always been a big part of your life? Can you recall your first ever musical experience?
It’s strange to think about my life without music. When I was 3 years old I was the ring bearer in my cousin’s wedding. I went missing during the reception. Then someone realized that during the band’s set break I had crawled onto the stage and was attempting to grab the mic. Seeing this, the band quickly took advantage of the situation and backed me up. My repertoire wasn’t vast, I knew “Zippity Do Dah” and “The Theme to the Dukes of Hazzard”. But the crowd must have enjoyed it because their response left a lasting need to repeat that, forever.
Only a few years after that, my older brother , our 3 next door neighbors, and I began writing and recording songs. This era definitely started me down the path of song craft. I would study songs that I consider great and then try to carve out some of my own.
And I’ve been doing that ever since.
So music has always been a passion, but to answer your first question, I was not sure it would be my main source of income until about half way through college. That is when I realized that , even if music only provided a modest income, it would still be an income I could survive on. And no other career would fuel my soul like music. So the rest is history
-How do you think that your hometown has influenced the kind of artist that you today?
I could write a book about my love for Mobile, Alabama. It’s a magical, beautiful gem and it is an endless source of inspiration for me. It is just dripping with culture and history and music and cuisine.
And during recent years the music scene in Mobile has really exploded. Many of my favorite songwriters and artists are based in Mobile. So for me the fact that we not only have a rich musical heritage in Mobile but we have a current living breathing music community , pushes me to create and stay a part of what’s going on.
-How would you say that your songwriting skills have developed over the years? Are you constantly writing?
I write all the time. There are days I don’t write but I’d say those are fewer than days where I do write.
And “It’s Not Like You Don’t Know Me” pushed me into exploring a more emotional part of myself, and that’s not something I’d have been comfortable doing even as recent as a few years ago.
Though I had previously written songs about all variety of topics, including emotional ones, before this album I typically tended to hide behind metaphor or third person point of view when things got too personal. There is a lot of “I” in the writing of these songs.
-Can you remember what the very first song you wrote was about at 8 years old?
We had a group: my older brother and the three next door neighbors and myself. We would record our songs into one of those old school black tape records where ya push the red record button and black play button at the same time.
Although my brother and my older next door neighbor surely wrote 99.99% of the songs back then , they were kind enough to make us feel like contributors.
We had so many songs back then but if I had to guess I’d say that first one was called “The Girl With Magic Touch”. We were a bit young for romance, but we knew that it was a subject we were supposed to write about. Haha
-Let’s talk about your forthcoming full album, “It’s Not Like You Don’t Know Me.” What was it like putting this collection together? Did anything surprise you about the overall process? Were there any unexpected challenges?
Even though I am so proud of all the albums I’ve done previously, I feel like they were getting me ready to make “It’s Not Like You Don’t Know Me”. This collection of songs is the most personal , raw look at my heart at mind I’ve ever captured, hence the name. If you soak these songs in you will surely know me.
The recording process was wonderful. I co-produced it with one of my closest friends and mentors , Rick Hirsch. His genius contribution and guidance was invaluable. We tracked it at Dauphin Street Sound in Mobile, Alabama. And I had Tommy Sciple on bass, John Milham on drums , Bill Summers on percussion and BJ Scott, Kristy Lee , Ryan Balthrop, and Hannah McFarland on backing vocals. That’s an all star team right there.
I wanted to be sure to keep it sparse musically because the songs are so personal. But being so open and spacious could have potentially left us with something that feels weak or neutered.
What surprised me was that we were able to get MORE impact , more fire from less pieces. What I would have previously tried to do with horn section and layers upon layers of guitar and keyboards, etc, this time we got with what amounts to a three piece acoustic combo. And for me it actually has more power than anything I’ve done before.
-How differently did you approach recording this album compared to your previous ones?
I may have gotten ahead of myself and answered this one partially with the last answer , but I believe the most important difference in this album is how it captures more with less.
-While it may be difficult, can you out a few of your favorite songs on this album and discuss how they were written and got to be on “It’s Not Like You Don’t Know Me”?
As the old saying goes , it feels as though these songs are my children, so it’s tough to pick favorites. But the title track “It’s Not Like You Don’t Know Me” is one I definitely love. I wrote this song with Tim Jackson and Lindsey Thompson. We were discussing how ,as performers, we have all played less than optimal venues at times. You know the ones? 18 different football games on along the wall, the din of sonic clutter more than any PA could possibly overtake. These are places where it feels more like a obstacle than an opportunity to get heartfelt songs to land.
Well , Lindsey , Tim and I all noted how having even one solitary person in the audience who is fighting the good fight to hear the message from the stage despite all the distractions can feel like salvation. The bond that is formed between the performer and those select audience members can be so powerful and deep that it feels like they are lifelong friends even if they are there for the first time.
So “It’s Not Like You Don’t Know Me” is a song about that connection with the audience.
Another song that tend to lean toward on the album is “the Pond”. It is another one penned with my friend, Tim Jackson. In “The Pond” we talk about the more mature way to treat seeing an ex. A lesser mature me would likely have written the song as a “look how she broke my heart” or “wish I had her back” kind of thing. This song isn’t that. “The Pond” delicately handles how former significant others can have mutual nostalgia , while still respecting the other’s current situation.
-What you learned from all of your steady touring over the past few years? I am curious to know how the audiences differed in all the different countries?
What I’ve learned from all my touring is that despite differing languages and styles and cultures, we are all more similar than I would’ve ever imagined. And Music is a way we all can communicate.
-What were some of your favorite venues and cities to play in?
That’s a tough one. There are so many great places. I love playing The Frog Pong (Silverhill, Alabama), The Listening Room (Mobile Alabama), Capitan Dulche (Isla Mujeres, Mexico), Elgin Hall (NSW, Australia), Rockwood (NYC), Klausenbauernhof (Wolfach, Germany)
-We are living through a very trying and politically charged time right now so I am curious how you think being a musician gives you the most joy in life today?
These are very challenging times indeed. But challenges are meant to be faced down. And the way to face down that challenge is to actively choose to communicate rather than lash out against anyone with opposing views. And has there ever been a better communication tool than songs? If there is, I am unaware of it. So it brings me joy to be even the tiniest part of that communication.
-How do you think that music is going to reflect these challenging times?
In these polarized times , where we all feel forced into a mindset of “us” or “them” , a discussion is the only thing that will bring us back together in the middle. That starts with focusing on things we have in common as opposed to things that make us enemies. And songs have a unique universal ability to make us feel connected to something more than ourselves. So my hope is that Music continues sparking or at least facilitating the communication that brings us all back together.
-Who are some of your favorite artists or rather, what musicians have continued to inspire you and your music?
It’s hard to ever talk about folks who inspire me without mentioning James Taylor, David Wilcox, Mac McAnally, Rodney Crowell But I also find inspiration from a lot of the artists that may be lesser known, but are phenomenal in their own right. Kristy Lee , The Mulligan Brothers, Ryan Balthrop, Molly Thomas, Harrison McInnis, Jenn Bostic, Adam Hood , Jason Eady, Courtney Patton, Abe Partridge, ….. I could really go on and on and on. There are just so many incredible artists out there.
-What musicians would you absolutely still love to work with in the future?
I’ve been fortunate enough to work with so many incredible musicians over the years, I feel almost greedy asking for more. But since you asked…..hahaha
I’ve played a good bit with Victor Wooten but hadn’t recorded with him. That’d be fun. I’ve always wanted to record with JR Robinson on drums. Let’s see, I’d also love to work with David Wilcox, Mac McAnally, James Taylor, Gretchen Peters, Rodney Crowell.
-At the end of the day, what do you hope your fans take away from your music?
I guess I would hope that someone listening to my songs would find a piece of their story in mine. I hope they feel connected and in a perfect world , a little less alone because they know someone else shares their thoughts and feelings.
-Would you like to share anything else about yourself or your music with our readers?
Just that I appreciate them taking the time to read this interview, or listen to my songs. I have many more projects in the works and I hope they’ll give those a chance when the time comes. It’ll all be announced on ericerdmanmusic.com