The Creative Process Interview Series

Eric Hanke, Singer-Songwriter

 


Eric Hanke is a singer-songwriter – and Southwestern University alumnus – based in the Austin, Texas area. Originally from Dallas, he's become quite the traveler since releasing Autumn Blues, his debut CD, on Ten Foot Texan Records. As reviewer Leo McKinney describes it, Autumn Blues "sees Hanke trying to put himself in the shoes of a broad array of people ... and making nary a misstep doing it." Hailed as a rising star of Americana music, he is keeping busy carving out a niche for himself by gigging regularly in support of the CD, collaborating with some of Austin's finest, and steadily writing more songs.

Eric tells us here about his beginnings, his audience, his influences, his songwriting, working with other players and some of what goes on behind the scenes to develop as an artist. To learn more and soak up the rootsy sounds of the Eric Hanke Band, visit http://www.erichankeband.com/.

 
Eric Scott. Day 013 "Ghosts & Masks"

Autumn Blues,

Eric's debut CD

   

1/2 | >2/2

Aaron Prevots: In terms of your beginnings as a singer-songwriter, when did you start performing your own tunes regularly?

Eric Hanke : I was playing my own songs regularly in college, but privately. I really did not perform too much until I was a Junior. Oddly enough, my first paying performance was in Germany where I rented a PA and played for tips.

 



Photography by
Brad Leese

Since the release of Autumn Blues, does it feel like you've been playing live even more than usual? What's your schedule usually like?

I have performed quite a bit since releasing the record, but being a booking agent is a full time job in itself. Sometimes gigs come to you, but that is not the norm. you have to create your own opportunities and get out there and sell yourself. My schedule varies from day to day depending on what I have to do. Working a day job is a priority only in the sense that it pays your bills, as an artist, you spend the rest of your time trying to get out of it.

 



 

 

 

What are some of your favorite venues? Is there anything that makes audiences seem more receptive at one place or another, or from one city to the next?

I like attentive audiences... you can spend the rest of your life playing beer joints in Austin and fighting a cheese burger for attention. I try to focus on venues that treat artists well (artists do deserve to be paid) and places that are conducive to a listening audience. If Monday night football is on and there is a beer chugging contest during your set, you wont be the focus of attention. Austin is a great place to hone your craft, but you've gotta tour because there is life outside of town and some places are starved for good music. Your response is many times based on supply and demand and the venue itself.

Anderson Fair in Houston is a great listening venue that has been really good to me. The Cactus in Austin, The Livery in my hometown of Benton Harbor, MI, various house concerts. The Bugle Boy in La Grange, the Red Room in San Antonio, Camp Street Cafe in Crockett, TX.

 



With Doug Hudson at

the Cactus

 

 

Can you explain a bit what Americana music is? I'm sure you're not keen on labels, but could you describe all the same for the uninitiated what it is and how to recognize it?

Americana music is country music that doesn't make much money, I think Marty Stuart said that. There is not a huge market for it, although this year they announced that there would be an "Americana Grammy" available. Many of the artists and stations that embrace the Americana label are independents. It's sort of a miscellaneous roots genre that combines folk, bluegrass, country, singer-songwriter, etc. Many artists in this genre have shunned what's happened to Country Music thanks to the Nashville way of making music and marketing artists. "Country Music" has come to be about black stetsons, sexy tractors, and dancing midgets. I think its a crime considering the rich history and amazing music that came before. If I want to see that sh**, I would go to the circus.

 







Who are some of your own strongest influences? Can you say a bit about how a few of them are discernable in your own work, what elements seep in and from where?

I love Johnny Cash, Townes Van Zandt is my favorite songwriter, Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, The Beatles, John Prine. There is a ton of great music out there and I am finding more all the time. The reviews I got from Autumn Blues compared my sound to Bruce Robison (written songs for the Dixie Chicks, George Strait, Tim McGraw) Slaid Cleaves, Jackson Browne, as well as John Prine and I am flattered to be mentioned in that company. I consider that a huge compliment, I really try just to be myself because no one can do that better than me.

 






How about your iPod? What artists are in rotation at the moment?

The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, Robert Earl Keen, Muddy Waters, Lightnin' Hopkins, Dylan, Townes, Steve Earle.

 



How did the Eric Hanke Band come together as a group, and how do you influence each other in terms of working up songs?

The Band, like most bands, has gone through a number of different players. That's just the nature of the beast. Now, I write the song and we rehearse for gigs whenever there are new songs and go do the gig.

 



Was being in the studio with the band to record Autumn Blues a new experience? Was there anything in particular that you learned, that really stuck with you?

Yes, it was my first record and I learned a ton. I had been in the studio before, but making a record is for real, lots of time and money, energy, etc. Learning how to co-produce meant learning when to let players play and when/if to give the players suggestions and directions. Who am I to tell Cindy Cashdollar what to play? Chances are it's going to be great, the thing you must decide is does the performance accomplish what you want, and if it doesn't are you ok with that? Also it's important not to "chase" someone else's sound. Too many lessons which can only be learned while doing it.

 





INTERVIEW CONTINUES | Pt 1 / 2 | >> Pt 2 / 2