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Look Out Now!: Conversations With the Gaddabouts' Edie Brickell & Steve Gadd, Plus Eric Hutchinson

Posted: 04/18/2012 9:22 am

...BUT FIRST, A RANDOM EAGLE SIGHTING

After 40 years, the Eagles are touring in countries in which they never previously performed. Last year was mainland China and this year, it's the Middle East and South Africa. Here's proof...

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A Conversation With The Gaddabouts' Edie Brickell

Mike Ragogna: Hello, Edie Brickell! How are you?

Edie Brickell: I'm good, thank you, Mike. How are you?

MR: I'm pretty good. First off, you have a new album with The Gaddabouts titled Look Out, Now!, with Pino Palladino, Andy Fairweather-Low, and, of course, Steve Gadd. Is the song "The Mountain" referencing anything in particular, or was it just a creative jaunt?

EB: It references people coming on to somebody that I love, and just sort of witnessing a lot of, sometimes inappropriate, affection coming after my husband. Especially in my twenties, I really got hot and bothered by that. I just couldn't believe it was happening, that people could dismiss you as if you weren't there, and come on to your boyfriend.

MR: You know, it's funny, as morals adjust and culture changes, that seems to be okay in some complimentary way. It's almost like people just dismiss it as flattering.

EB: You know, I guess so. I never liked that. Also if you go out to dinner or something, when the opposite sexes would stare at each other when they were talking and not ever look at the same sex, I always noticed it, but really? This is what everybody's going to do? They're just going to stare at the other one like this is normal and okay? I guess it is normal and okay for everyone else, but I'm very sensitive to it. I just think it's strange because I know who I love, and I don't want to play those games.

MR: How about when you're with somebody--your wife or your girlfriend or fiancé or whoever--and your partner is checking out someone as they're walking by. That seems to be accepted in the culture too, where it's sort of like, "Oh, it's okay, he or she can look."

EB: Yeah, "looking." I think that's just sort of a reflex. I don't even think that's conscious. But I do have to tell you, when I was in my early twenties, that bothered me. That was something that I had to understand because, you know, I'll even do it. People like to look at beauty, and our eye will go to it, and it is just a reflex. I can see that it doesn't really mean anything, and if it does, what are you going to do? It's out of your control.

MR: There you go. Edie, before we talk about the album further, what have you been up to lately?

EB: Well, I've been learning a new style of finger picking on the guitar, and it's led to a lot of new songs. Paul (Simon) and I are making a little duets record together, and it features a lot of that finger style picking guitar, and that's been a real lot of fun. I mean, I can see how he really knows how to make a record, and it's fascinating to watch him throw something so simple together and make it grow into this sonic landscape that is gorgeous. So that's been exciting, and that's creatively what's going on. Otherwise, walking the dog, feeding the kids, learning how to cook a little bit better!

MR: I need to do all of that too. (laughs)

EB: Oh...I got an electric car! I got the Leaf, the Nissan Leaf. Plug it right into my garage. People come out and they check out your garage and see if you can take the surge of electricity, and they take one of the electric pumps in there, and that's pretty neat!

MR: I remember when I was living in California in the nineties, there was a period where we had electric cars, but you weren't allowed to own one, you were only allowed to rent them.

EB: How funny!

MR: You know Who Killed the Electric Car? The story is in that documentary. It's beautiful to see people finally owning getting electric cars now, you know?

EB: Yeah, I had to put my name on a list. It took me a year to get mine, and I just sort of ordered it blind. I couldn't sit in it, test drive it, or anything. I just had to cross my fingers and hope in good faith that it would be a good car, and it is.

MR: How many miles does it get?

EB: About a hundred.

MR: And then you have to plug her in else where. Do you find that there are enough electric stations yet?

EB: No, it makes me nervous. Like, I won't ride into New York yet, but there are parking garages that have it. I just haven't done that yet. I just drive it around locally.

MR: Now, the first Gaddabouts album was recorded in 2000 and it finally came out later last year, right?

EB: Right.

MR: And now you have the second album, Look Out Now! that's a double album. I guess you're making up for lost time.

EB: We are! We're trying to keep the momentum going and keep the project alive because we love the band, love playing in the band, and everybody has a great time. It's just a lot of fun, and we tried to express that on this record. I got the guys to sing all throughout and do little shoutouts here and there. There's even a spoken word section with Steve Gadd having a funny moment with Andy Fairweather-Low. And it opens with that improv track. We were recording a song called "Freddy" about my dog, and in between takes, Andy Fairweather-Low played this cool little guitar lick, and I started singing to it, and Steve Gadd said, "Keep playing it, keep playing it!" So we recorded this little song, "Meat on Your Bones," live and improv too. We liked the feel of it and the sound of it so much that Steve put it right at the top of the record.

MR: (sings) "Meat on your bones, meat on your bones," I love that. And I love the implication--"You're too skinny. You need some meat on your bones!"

EB: Yeah, I live in a neighborhood with a lot of skinny people. (laughs)

MR: (laughs) But that's good, right?

EB: I think thin and fit is good. I think skinny is a little scary.

MR: So we have to be grateful for one thing. On the other hand, you know, I live in a part of the country where the buffet is the big thing.

EB: Buffets are good! Don't diss the buffet, Mike!

MR: Oh no! Not dissing the buffet, but I think it's very funny that they do make room for some of the clientele by pushing the booths out so there's a lot of room at each table.

EB: Ouch!

MR: You know what I mean? You have to move into the table.

EB: That's one of those "Step away from the buffet" moments.

MR: (laughs) It sure is. Okay, can we go to "Devil's Story" for a second?

EB: Sure.

MR: The groove is great, but I wanted to ask you about the topic, which doesn't seem like it's from the Devil's perspective.

EB: No, you know the reason it's called "Devil's Story" is that the band called it that. That lyric caught their ear, and they referenced it always as "Devil's Story." You know, I guess normally, the song would have been called "Call On Me." But because the band kept calling it that, I thought, "Well it's not like it's going to be a single or anything, so let's just call it what the band calls it." Andy Fairweather-Low, in particular, liked the darkness of that lyric.

MR: Yeah. Edie, who writes the lyrics? Is it mainly you?

EB: Yes, it is.

MR: Cool. What is the creative dynamic when you guys get together?

EB: Well, I'll show them a song idea. I'll show those guys, and they just start playing it. And they take off. They give the song wings, and it just starts to fly through the atmosphere. It's really good. They make it just take off.

MR: Nice. Is there any song on the album that you're particularly close to, where you look at that song and you go, "We really cooked on that one..."?

EB: Well in terms of cooked, I think "House On Fire" is burning.

MR: Edie, can you give us a history lesson on how The Gaddabouts got together?

EB: Yeah, I ran into Steve Gadd in January 2000, and he asked me what I was up to, and I said, "You know, just playing with the New Bohemians a little bit, but mostly just raising my kids and writing songs." He said, "Are you going to record anything any time soon?" I said, "No, I really don't have time to do anything like that. I want to just hang out with the kids," and he said, "You need to record again." I said, "Well, I haven't really made a record that I love," and he said, "Well, make one with me. I can show you how easy it'll be." I said, "Yeah, okay," and I thought he was just being nice. I didn't really reach out to him. He reached out to me a couple of weeks later and said, "So are we going to go into the studio together? Send me your songs," and I sent him my demos and he said that he loved them. Next time he came to New York, we went in and we recorded--just the two of us--and it was amazing how fast he got those songs and how groovin' they were. Then he said, "I can put a great band together for you! This guy Pino Palladino, and Andy Fairweather-Low. We could have a really good time, and it'll be fun." Next thing you know, the next year, because things run slowly--he goes on tour with everybody. They all got together in New York. We recorded and it was just a gorgeous experience. They were so fun and so good, and I've been excited ever since.

MR: Now the project took a little while to get out. Was that because of the dynamics of the music business at the time, or what?

EB: No, it was because I had been recording and writing a lot of songs with New Bohemians, so I didn't want to let those guys down. If I was going to come back out and do something again, I still had overstock recordings with them and they're my buddies, you know, like my brothers. I had a lot of recordings and I wanted to clear the decks, essentially, and give everything a fair shot. And now I can focus on Gaddabouts.

MR: Nice. Can I ask--you brought it up slightly--are you doing anything more with the New Bohemians?

EB: I see them a couple of times a year, and I'll play for Brandon's daughter's high school band down in Blanco, Texas. They do a fundraiser, and we played that last summer. Then we played in an improv band together called Heavy Makeup. We'd meet at The Kessler Theater in Dallas to play gigs. But since New Bohemians proper lost their keyboard player and a dear friend, Carter Albrecht, I have not really been interested in recording again with New Bohemians. That really hurt too bad, and it just won't ever be the same.

MR: Sorry about that. You're thinking of also doing some solo material in your future, right?

EB: Yeah, I have a record that Charlie Sexton produced. I love that record too, so I'll likely put that out.

MR: Edie, how would you classify--I don't want to say "classify," really--but how would you define the music on the new album?

EB: I think it's very eclectic. I think it's a mix of all different genres and styles. It shifts around. It's just all the music that we love and have heard in our whole lives, and it goes back to jazz, pop, and a little bit of rock in there--even a little hint of soul. It's got so many different influences of all the artists and sound and grooves that we love.

MR: Can you give us one more story? Is there a particular one associated with any of these songs that we could pull out of you?

EB: Let me think. You know, "Blessed Day" is a really important song to me because it's one of those songs where, if I was going to die tomorrow, (it's) what song is straight from the heart. I thought that pretty much summed up the idea of the mystery of the influence and the absence of love in my life, just in terms of psychology and perspective.

MR: Interesting. Edie, please can you pull out a couple of the lyrics as a tiny example?

EB: Basically it just starts off, "There are moments in this life when my heart is open wide and everything seems wonderful. And I never really know what I did to make love grow or what I did to make it go away." Then it says, "Blessed days, free from my wild and wicked ways."

MR: I think we all hope that we can get there at some point, huh?

EB: Yeah, every day, I hope that I can move closer to love and further away from my wild and wicked ways. Any time I'm wicked or wild, I regret it almost immediately. (laughs)

MR: Isn't it funny? Me too, and you don't even know you're in it at the moment, right?

EB: Isn't that the truth? It just sort of slips out, and you think, "Oh man!" Even if I'm thinking something that I don't want to be thinking, it's just painful. It just doesn't serve me or anybody else, and I just want to grow out of it. It's a mystery!

MR: Yeah. For me, it's when I'm on automatic in personal relationships and I'm feeling like we've reached a level of trust with people.

EB: I feel like mine is more in regard to looking at the way life and the way I think it ought to be lived and, basically, judgments and why other people do some of the things they do in distant relationships in the world, and just accepting that things happen. Even in traffic! I turn into a beast behind the wheel of my car! And I regret it every time.

MR: Well that's a good point. What is it...oh right, road rage. We have road rage here in the Midwest too, you know?

EB: Oh heck yeah! You know, if somebody would just use the darn blinker, it would help me out a lot!

MR: (laughs) Edie, how about in California? You've driving in LA, in the second to right lane on a freeway, signaling for the next exit, and the driver in that lane speeds up to not let you in because, darn it, you're not going to get ahead of them in life or on the road!

EB: Oh man, that's a doozy! That is a doozy when you hit your blinker and people speed up and block you. I'm one of those people in my car--and my kid's will say, "Mom, they can't hear you!"--and I'll say, "Thanks! Thanks a lot! You're going to do that?"

MR: (laughs) Now, that brings us to "The Horse's Mouth"--or other end.

EB: Oh, "The Horse's Mouth!"

MR: Yup. Can you talk about that song?

EB: Yeah, years ago when I was playing with New Bohemians, there was a local paper, a free, bi-weekly paper called The Dallas Observer, and this guy wrote this falsehood about the band and it was kind of ugly. We had a great following, and a great crowd. We always had a good time, and it was just after we had been signed or something, and I read it, and I really didn't like it. And the band didn't like it. We were playing a show that night and people were asking about it. I said, "You know that article? Let me just tell you, if you don't hear it from the horse's mouth, you're hearing it from a horse's ass." It just came out. I surprised myself saying it and everybody had a very nice response. Then the band kind of started playing this little groove, and I started singing to it, and then the whole audience was chanting it. I sort of stowed that away in my thoughts and thought I'd like to use that one day. Then the Gaddabouts were playing this groove, and I started singing it, and they responded positively to it. They kind of chuckled. So we made that song in the studio that day and recorded it the same day it was written.

MR: By the way, I think Steve Gadd has to be one of the busiest drummers in the history of mankind.

EB: I think he is. I think that is the truth.

MR: And obviously it's because he's so great, and he's on everybody's projects as far as those who really want the tasty...well, I don't have to give a summary of his playing. Anybody who's heard him knows what it is. Edie, what is Steve Gadd like?

EB: Steve Gadd is the most laid back guy you'll ever know. And he makes everybody feel at ease. He's got a huge, loving heart, but he looks really tough. And you know, I just love the guy. He's my hero!

MR: Is there one more song that you have a story about that we can jump into?

EB: You know, I don't have the record in front of me. Let me think.

MR: How about "How I Love You"?

EB: Oh, that was a song for my kids. You know, I would stroll through Central Park with them all the time, and it's just a sweet little song that made me think--I don't know, I was just playing that song and doing that little riff--and I just thought, "I'll just sing a song for those guys."

MR: Nice. You know what's nice about your family is that you and Paul--Paul as in Paul Simon for anybody who's just tuning in--it's obvious how much you guys love your kids. And one of my favorite songs by Paul is "Fathers and Daughters."

EB: Right.

MR: It's just beautiful. Let's just put it out there, you guys extra-love your kids, don't you.

EB: Yeah, they mean everything, and they are everything. It's just a huge blessing to have kids, and then to be able to spend time with them, I know is a giant privilege.

MR: Yeah. Are you learning from them as much as they're learning from you?

EB: Probably more. Definitely more.

MR: And as you get older through the years with them, you're finding your relationships are changing, right?

EB: Oh yeah, they started ignoring me pretty good. Now they're teenagers, so now, you know, I'm really trying to keep the momentum alive in my career, so that I have a very healthy focus and I don't just drive them crazy.

MR: (laughs) Are you learning about what's happening as far as what's going on in pop culture? I'm imagining you're able to understand what the latest things are based on having teenage kids. Are there things that they're relating to that you find yourself also in a big way?

EB: You know, nothing specific that I can tell you. I just enjoy their sense of humor and the evolution of the sense of humor. There seems to be a cultural evolution in humor, and things get more and more relaxed, more open. That's something I notice about our culture.

MR: How many hours a day do you spend on Facebook?

EB: Oh, that's so funny! I don't spend hours a day on it, but when I do go on it, I find that I'm on there longer than I want to be. Like sometimes I'll look for people from high school, and I can't find them, and when I do I like to look at their pictures and stuff, and I feel voyeuristic. And I think, "Wow, I should have been in there practicing guitar."

MR: (laughs) You can get so sucked into that. I go on Facebook and I vacillate between "Oh, what's up? I wonder what my friends are up to?" and "Oh my God, I'm never going on Facebook again," because of a ridiculous newsfeed or post.

EB: Yeah, yeah.

MR: It also causes a little bit of anxiety sometimes.

MR: Edie, I have to ask you for like the third time, what advice do you have for new artists?

EB: Well, I don't know. Something that's helped me is to keep learning different styles of playing music, and that helps to inspire a lot of different new songs.

MR: And that's what you're going through right now, isn't it?

EB: Yeah, it is.

MR: Have you found that with your new style of picking, it's affected the way you're looking at creating songs now? Is it playing into how you're creating your songs?

EB: Yeah, definitely! I'm a lot more excited, and I hear far more personality in the songs because there's so much more personality in the musical piece that inspired the song. It has its own voice that's further developed than, say, just strumming the guitar.

MR: Beautiful. Will you be touring in the near future?

EB: You know what? We tried to get a tour together, but people are not familiar with the band. Some markets are really strong, and it made sense to tour through there and do shows, and some were just like nonexistent and weak, and we just couldn't make it work. So we're just going to keep recording and keep putting songs out there, and hope that we get something percolating so that we can do some healthy touring in the future.

MR: Edie, please come back again, I appreciate your visits very much.

EB: Thanks, Mike.

Transcribed by Kyle Pongan

A Conversation With The Gaddabouts' Steve Gadd

Mike Ragogna: Steve Gadd, how the heck are you?

Steve Gadd: I'm good! How about you?

MR: I'm doing pretty well. Steve, can you go into the origin of The Gaddabouts' song "Down"?

SG: Probably ten years ago, or nine years ago, Edie and I went into the studio because she was at a point where she was, "I don't know, maybe thinking about not doing music," or she was just frustrated, you know? So we went into the studio, and she had all of these great songs. "Down" was one of them. We did it, just her and I. It was one of the many songs she had written, and I'll never forget it. I had always wanted to do it again, and we were able to do it with The Gaddabouts. It's a special song to me because it's got some history there, you know?

MR: Yeah, we got a little history lesson from Edie earlier about how you guys came together. But, what's your version of The Gaddabouts coming together?

SG: Edie and I went in the studio and did a lot of her songs, just her and I. The way I remember it is she wanted to go in and get back into doing music. She had put a lot of her career on hold when she got married and had kids because she's a real devoted wife and mother. The kids were getting a little bit older, and so I called some of my friends that I loved to work with and put a group together that I thought I could share Edie with. These are guys that I respect and love musically, and Edie is that too. So if I can bring people like that together, it's nice.

MR: And of course, Pino Palladino is one of the folks that you brought into the fold.

SG: Pino Palladino, Andy Fairweather-Low, who I've worked with with Eric Clapton. Ronnie Cuber did some overdubs, and he and I have done things over the years together. On the first one was Joey DeFrancesco, and on this one, it's Larry Goldings, and Axel Tosca did some things. He's a young Cuban keyboard player in New York, who I think is great. And Pedrito Martinez put some percussion on there. He's another guy that's fantastic.

MR: Steve, you are one of the great studio musicians. But you also play live pretty constantly. Do you prefer playing live or do you prefer playing in the studio?

SG: I like both. I enjoy both. You get a chance to learn when you can hear things back. You can learn what works on a recording. Something that you played live that you thought was exciting a lot of times doesn't really work on a recording. It's both rewarding for me.

MR: Have you found over the years--and especially with all of the musicians that you've played with--that you continue to grow as a musician?

SG: I hope so, yeah. That's part of the enjoyment of the whole thing of doing this for me. It's not about thinking about what you did years ago, it's about just being inspired by what you're doing now.

MR: How did the name The Gaddabouts come about, Steve "Gadd"?

SG: That was Edie's idea. That was her idea.

MR: That was a very sweet nod to you.

SG: Yeah.

MR: Look Out Now! is a double diss, so there was a lot of playing and recording going on. What was the process like?

SG: Edie is so creative and fast with her lyrics, and it's like you just get a flow going, and I just try to hang on and keep up, you know? I'm trying to figure out the song we just finished, just trying to get an idea of what we're going to do on that, and Edie's off and can be writing something else. It's really creative and a lot of fun, and the people really work well together. We start out doing the tracks basically just with Edie, Pino, Andy, and me, and then we sort of add things as we go. I love the process.

MR: Steve, when you play with the new crop of musicians, are you noticing any who are impressive to you?

SG: I do some recording, but I don't live in LA, I don't live in New York. I live in Phoenix, so the recordings I do are like projects that are booked pretty much in advance. I end up working with people that I've worked with over the years. I'm not in the recording part of the business where I'm getting called for a lot of different things and getting a chance to meet a lot of new guys. But I know from talking to people that are in LA and in New York that there are some great new guys around. I've heard some of them, and I'm very impressed.

MR: Okay, let me ask you, what advice might you have for new artists?

SG: To just follow your heart, and just try to get out what you got inside, and have fun. It's not like you have fun after you get there. It's trying to enjoy the journey, you know?

MR: Nice. Is that something you would have told the young Steve Gadd?

SG: Probably, yeah. I tell my son that, so it is like telling a young Steve Gadd.

MR: (laughs) How's your son doing?

SG: He's doing good! He's in California now. He's a drummer, and he plays bass and a little bit of guitar, and some keyboard. He's writing some things, so yeah, he's doing okay.

MR: A chip off the old block?

SG: Yeah, he is! Now, did we meet back in New York?

MR: During the Cashman & West days, yeah. I rode in a limo with you when I was sixteen on the way to The Bottom Line or something.

SG: Say hi to those guys for me.

MR: You got it. Well, Steve, this has really been a pleasure for me, and it's great touching base again with somebody who I admired as a youngin' and who I admire to this day. You're a phenomenal drummer, I am still in awe.

SG: Oh, thank you, I appreciate that.

MR: One last thing. What is the immediate future for The Gaddabouts?

SG: Well the album is coming out this week, and we want to go out and play and keep recording. We just want to keep at it. I love the band, and I love Edie's writing, and it's an inspirational situation to be in. I just hope we can keep it going.

Tracks:

Disc 1
1. Meat On Your Bones
2. Look Out Now!
3. Wicked William
4. House On Fire
5. I'm a Van
6. River Rises
7. The Horse's Mouth
8. Blessed Days
9. Devil's Story
10. Down

Disc 2
1. Free
2. The Mountain
3. Don't Take All Day
4. How I Love You
5. Can You Feel It
6. Younger Woman
7. Corruption

Transcribed by Kyle Pongan


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A Conversation With Eric Hutchinson

Mike Ragogna: Hi Eric, how are you?

Eric Hutchinson: I'm good, how are you?

MR: I'm pretty well. So you were on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno performing "Rock 'n' Roll," a song from your new album, Moving Up Living Down.

EH: Yeah, I've done a couple of late night shows with Leno, Conan, Jimmy Kimmel and actually did one with David Letterman which was really cool because I'm a big fan of his. That's stuffs a lot of fun to do.

MR: "Rock 'n' Roll" also was in the movie Sisters of the Traveling Pants 2.

EH: That's true, yes. It was cool, I got a lot of good feedback from that.

MR: You're having a big career in Australia and New Zealand where that song was a big hit.

EH: Yeah, I got to go there a couple times and that was really cool. To go somewhere I've never been before and have a roomful of people singing my song is really, really cool and hearing people on the streets singing it was fun.

MR: In print, you have been called "...one of the most talented singer/songwriters." What do you think about that?

EH: Sounds good! Not sure where that came from, but it sounds like something somebody might say.

MR: (laughs) Yeah, it's one of the things that floated around the internet that you come across when doing research. Now, you've been on tour with all sorts of acts like Jack's Mannequin, Jason Mraz, G. Love, Joe Jackson, Matt Nathanson, Matt Hires, and Anya Marina. Will there be touring to support this project?

EH: Yep, tours starting April 17th and there's a full national tour. We'll be everywhere and I'm really excited. I'm going to be headlining and the album comes out right then too. That's my favorite part, when people finally get to learn the songs on their own and the songs start to take on another personality from when the fans discover them.

MR: Let's talk about your songwriting. You definitely lean to the pop side of things, so who are you influences?

EH: I definitely am pop, I don't think "pop" is a dirty word. I grew up loving people like The Beatles and Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Paul Simon, and Billy Joel. Pop music wasn't a bad thing, and I think I learned a lot about how to put a good melody into a song.

MR: "The Basement" seems to show off these influences a bit, as well as having a retro feel.

EH: Yeah, "The Basement" was cool. Did a show out of Boston and afterwards, the promoter invited me and the band out and it was this club that was playing all' 50s and '60s soul music, a personal favorite of mine. We went there and the DJ was playing all this music on 45 records and it was really, really cool. I wrote this song as an homage to that music and the club called The Basement.

MR: Some of the artists you namecheck in the song are spinning Stevie Wonder, James Brown, Michael Jackson...

EH: ...yeah, good stuff that everybody likes.

MR: Cool. "Watching You Watch Him," give us the story behind that.

EH: I think it's one of those songs, for me, about one of those relationships where you love somebody and they don't love you. They are in love with somebody else and that person doesn't care about either of you and it's a huge effed-up love triangle. But it's cool because when I play it, there are always people that come up to me and say, "You see my life right now, thank you!" We'll hug it out and so it's always cool to have a song connect with somebody.

MR: Love can be a tricky, effed-up thing.

EH: I was always interested in that in my songs because I think that a lot of songs are very cut and dry about a lot of things, and I always try to exploit that gray area that I think a lot of life has but doesn't show up in a lot of art. To me, it's not always just, "I love you," or "I don't love you." it's, "I love you but you drive me crazy," or "I can't stand your mother." Whatever it is, there's more to life, and relationships aren't always so easy.

MR: Right and that gets further explored with "The People I Know," right?

EH: Yeah, definitely. That song is exploring those relationships, which for whatever reason, you can't get close to somebody now. That's a pretty personal song on the album and again, it's really nice to have people come up to me and say that they really relate to it.

MR: Though your songs have universal themes, you personalize them. How much "thinking" goes into your writing?

EH: All thinking goes into my writing. When I finish touring, I go into my studio at home in New York and I just write every day from 9 till 8 at night. I'll just write and write and write, and even when I'll stop and go out to dinner, the lyrics are jumping around in my head. Or I'll go to the gym and let it work itself out. But I'm working on that song until I sing it on the record, pretty much. I like that attention to detail and I like other musicians that do that too.

MR: Another song on your new album is "Living In The Afterlife."

EH: That was the last song to go on the record, actually. That's about a couple things. One is that these days, you go to a show and everyone's watching their phone, watching the show through their phone. They have their show turned on, taking a picture, and I realized how much of my life I was living through my phone. I'm doing something but I'm just staring at my Twitter page or my iPhone or something. It's about the idea of what happens next when you get to a certain place.

MR: I wonder if there's Twittering in the afterlife. Another song I wanted to get into was the opening track, "Talk Is Cheap." All we do is talk, it's true, right? Like right now. (laughs)

EH: (laughs) That was coming from a time when I felt like I was having the same conversations over and over again. I was tired of hearing talking heads. I felt like my generation needs a little more action, I guess. It's partly a political song, it's the closest I'll ever be to being Bob Dylan I guess.

MR: Is there anything out there that has got your eye that's in the news, politically, right now?

EH: Yeah, but I don't really talk politics. I don't really think it gets anywhere for me. But I do follow all that stuff, and it is interesting to me.

MR: There's also "Best Days," as in these are the best days in our lives.

EH: That was a fun song to write and it's a fun song to sing. It's about that moment of getting to take a look around and see what's actually happening and just to be grateful for it. It's a real privilege to get to do what I do for a living and even when I'm challenged or struggled, that's just the ups and downs of life. That's what I say in the song, it's sort of a give and take.

MR: How it's presented here it seems like a neutral approach, it isn't like you're making an anthem out of it, you're not beating people up with that.

EH: Well, I don't think I'm any wiser than my fans. Usually, my songs are about questioning what is going on as opposed to answering. I'm usually looking for answers in the songs, so I'm not trying to preach to anybody.

MR: Then there's "I'm Not Cool," which, sir, I disagree with.

EH: That song is a little bit fictional, but it's about one trying to fit into a situation before and doesn't really feel like it's working right now. That was a fun one to write.

MR: Can I ask you who some of your favorite contemporaries that are out there right now are?

EH: I like The Shins, Empire Weekends...The Black Keys' new album is really cool. I also really like Kanye West, he's really imaginative and pushes the envelope a lot.

MR: Bruno Mars is another artist I thought you might like considering your sound.

EH: Yeah, he's cool for sure, I liked his performance at the Grammy's.

MR: It was great. I loved the split screen that showed the winner and his pretending to be all PO'd about it.

EH: Yeah, totally!

MR: Eric, what kind of advice would you have for new artists?

EH: For me, the stuff that's been most helpful is to just keep getting better, to keep writing as much as possible. I think if you're not a songwriter, you should start trying to be as soon as possible because that, to me, is always keeping one hand on the steering wheel. Even when things are out of my control, I can always go and it really helps to shape the kind of artist that I want to be and what I want to say.

MR: You have some stuff to back that up, you placed 2nd at the 2002 Los Angeles Songwriter's Grand Slam.

EH: That's true. That was about ten years ago, but I did come in 2nd. I lost to a girl that had an actor playing cello and they won 1st. I always felt like it was because he was playing the cello.

MR: (laughs) You've had another wonderful perk, your "Okay, It's Alright With Me" was featured on American Idol.

EH: Yeah, that was really cool. I was working on the new album in London and I got the word that this guy was going to sing my song on ...Idol and that was really, really cool. I couldn't watch it because I was in London, but the next morning, I got up and watched it on YouTube. People were emailing me and writing me and that was cool, they did a really good job with it. As a songwriter, I'm always really happy when someone else sings a song and see what they do with it and they think about what I've done to do it. Kelly Clarkson has one of my songs on her new album and that was a huge honor. She did a great job with it.

MR: Kelly Clarkson was someone you toured with, right?

EH: Yeah. Kelly and I toured about six months together all over America. We went to Australia together and I got to know her and her band and her crew really well. She's super fun and exactly the way you'd think she'd be like...laid back, easy going, and she'll invite you to do a duet with her every night on her show, which was really fun. We did Michael Jackson's "Rock With You," which was awesome. I didn't tell her that I'd won a karaoke contest with it one time, so I was sort of an old pro at that one.

MR: We also need to mention that you, sir, were in the 2010's Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

EH: Yeah, I was. That was one of the coolest things I've ever done, period. I live in New York and to get to ride through it, with so much of the city shutdown... I rolled through Times Square on a huge Turkey. All of Times Square was deserted, and it was one of those lasting images that I don't think I'll ever forget. It was really fun and people were in a great mood and my mom was happy, so there you go it's a win-win.

MR: I'm sure mom and dad loved that.

EH: Exactly.

MR: Wait, I forgot a song. How about "Watching You Watch Him," the single that was in Grey's Anatomy?

EH: That was really cool. They called because they wanted to put it in the show and I said absolutely. They wanted to put it as the opening to the season premier and I said absolutely. Again, my mother was very happy and it was a really cool way to premier the song, so that was fun.

MR: What other ways will you be pleasing mom in the near future?

EH: Well, I've got a hometown show in DC, and I think she's going to come out to that one, which will be fun. And, you know, just working hard and being busy.

MR: All the best with your hard work, Eric. Thank you very much for your time.

EH: Absolutely, thanks for having me. Hope to see you guys soon.

Tracks:
1. Talk Is Cheap
2. Best Days
3. I'm Not Cool
4. Watching You Watch Him
5. Breakdown More
6. Do Whatcha Want
7. The People I Know
8. In The First Place
9. The Basement
10. Not There Yet

Transcribed by Narayana Windenberger

 
 
 

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