Bearded hat aficionado and itinerant country singer, Eric Erdman is on a grand tour, travelling up and down Australia, alongside long-time friends and feisty folkers, Hussy Hicks. Catch him next Wednesday, February 26, at Mojos (solo); then with Hussy Hicks at Nannup Music Festival on Saturday-Sunday, March 1-2; Clancy’s, Fremantle on Friday, March 7; the Astor Theatre on Saturday, March 8, and Clancy’s, Dunsborough on Sunday, March 9.
Catching Eric Erdman by phone on the east coast, he talks about the motivation behind his partnership with Hussy Hicks and the how he makes collaborations work halfway across the world.
“Julz and Leesa have a knack for understanding where the song is going,” he notes of the Hussy Hicks honchos. “So what I’m saying is they can build the song into something it wasn’t beforehand but it’s not like they’re putting their fingerprint on it – as if it sounds like the Hussy Hicks – they just elevate the songs. They’re the facilitators.”
The long-term partnership has seen both Erdman and Hussy Hicks collaborate for nearly half a decade with both artists performing and recording together in between regular tours. Erdman claims that this partnership was one of the reasons for the joint tour, though he laughingly admits to being pleasantly surprised with the strong crowd following he has begun to receive.
“I wasn’t sure how I was going to go over but they’ve been very, very nice; very fond of it. It’s been a lot easier – either they really like my music or they’re very convincing liars.”
Speaking of the tour, Erdman takes a conservative stance on the best way for musicians to market themselves, believing firmly in a grass roots approach to going out there and engaging with fans. “As far as I’m concerned it’s the only way. I think it’s essential to be in on the road and play as many gigs as you can. Get out there and actually see the people and interact with the people. Of course, in this day and age there’s a lot of downloads sold, but I’ve made more connections with fans and sold more by physically putting something in their hands.”
Despite this, Erdman admits to using social media and the internet extensively when sharing ideas with other musicians. “With Skype and Facetime and all that it’s gotten a lot easier to collaborate with anybody in the world.” Erdman explains that, as a songwriter, the technology has been invaluable to his vagabond lifestyle. “With other musicians it’s mainly to write. I do a lot of songwriting with other people in the States, so there’s a lot of times when I can’t be in LA, or Nashville or Chicago, or something, but I have people there that I’m writing with constantly.”
The battle of Erdman’s dual identity as both songwriter and performer is one that he negotiates frequently. To him, they are conflicting roles. “I’m an artist; I perform. That’s where I make the most of my living. But what I do most of the time is write songs. To me, as an artist, the idea is to hone in on a specific signature sound and never stray from it, but as a songwriter it’s the opposite of that thing.”
However, Erdman is jokingly self-aware of his own capricious songwriting habits. “I guess if I was a child these days they’d say I have Attention Deficit Disorder and give me drugs to try and fix my brain. I guess for my own writing I get bored, if I just stick in one vein too long.”
There’s no doubt that this restless spirit is the same driving force behind his mammoth Australian tour.