The Creative Process Interview Series
Eric Hanke, Singer-Songwriter
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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.
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.
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
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
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
INTERVIEW CONTINUES | Pt 1 / 2 | >> Pt 2 / 2