Ernie Halter | 2008 | Interview |
TT- Thanks for taking the time to speak to us, Ernie! When I heard your album, I was struck by how many different styles are evident in different songs, how do you do it and do it so well?
EH- Why thank you! Actually I’ve always had a difficult time committing to a narrow style, but am influenced by so many. I think what helps me get away with it, is that the vocal delivery is fairly consistent and leans it in a particular direction since my vocal style doesn’t change much, even if everything else does.
TT- Would you say your main instrument is the guitar? And how to you approach your playing- is it more or a rhythm/ percussion piece?
EH- The vocal is always the focus for me. So I consider myself a singer first and foremost. My guitar playing is really a means of backing my vocal. I definitely play more percussively and rhythmically then most because I’m used to touring with a guitar a mic and nothing else.
Pure rhythm, pocket rhythm, is undeniable, and really draws people in, regardless of the style, tempo or anything else. Play in the pocket, make people want to shake there ass, nod their head… and you’ve got em..
TT- So you try to with that vocal consistency, do you find you have to write songs with an instrument around or do you split the lyrical and the musical composition?
EH- ahh the old chicken/egg, lyric/music question. a burning mystery for the ages, but an extremely valid question. for me its mixed. sometimes I start with lyrics first, or entire song structure melody/chords first. most of the time i start with a concept (figure out what i really want to say)… then I think of a lyric vehicle that expresses that idea,… then a title… then structure and execution of the idea or story… then I start messing around with the music… then rewriting and rewriting…..
I tend to be somewhat mathematical in how I write in the 2nd half… but the 1st half, the initial ideas, concepts, and raw feelings are from the heart and have to be strong enough to fuel the analytical songwriter in me that finishes the tune.
TT- Do you think it’s harder to connect with your fans over the space of a record? I know of some great live performers who for some reason can’t capture that same connection on record….
EH- yes. I think its extremely challenging to capture what I do, live, every night, onto a CD. When I play live. I interact. I tell stories. I take cues and respond to what the audience is doing as they’re watching. you cant get that on a piece of round plastic. but I try nonetheless.
I recorded the vocals on “starting over” live and in the mixing room (as opposed to the vocal booth). no headphones, no editing. much more raw. The basic tracks (drums, bass, and guitar) were tracked together giving a more live feel. We also webcast the entire studio process for a more interactive feel within the studio. I think the results show in the new record. its not the same as a live show… but its getting closer.
TT- Ernie, I first heard your music through myspace, by a friend’s recommendation…. clearly the internet is a very powerful tool- but how do think the playing field has changed for better or worse?
EH- Myspace (and other social networking sites) have been very good to me. Its no different than traditional word of mouth that’s except that it can spread much much faster now. Its made things for independent musicians better and worse, better for the fact that no longer does a musician need a record label or a single on the radio to have widespread exposure. Worse for the fact that every cheesedick with a guitar and computer thinks that they’re a recording artist, and the industry (especially from an online point of view) is totally oversaturated. (No disrespect intended toward any cheesedicks that may be reading this…)
TT- Okay finally, do you any advice for aspiring singer/songwriters out there?
EH- People ask me a lot about how to get started in the business. Its hard to break down 10 years of personal experience into a few sentences but I’ll try.
– Play a lot of shows
– Write a lot of songs
– Figure out who your key fans are, how old are they, what are they into, etc
– Play the places that they might be
– Think outside the box when it comes to “creating” your own opportunities
– Take care of your audience, they’re the source of all things in your music career
– Pass out your mailing list at every show and chance you can.
– Blog, video journal, stream, interact, and create content for your fans to have a reason to come back to your website or myspace page.
– Start a street team (mine is on reverbnation.com/erniehaltermusic).
– Take an honest look at your music, and if its connecting with fans or not. Sometimes peoples who don’t make it assume that its bad luck, or the music industry not letting them in, or whatever… but most of the time, people don’t make it because they suck. Get feedback from people who you don’t know… who won’t be afraid to tell you how it is. Learn from it.
Ernie Halter http://www.rockridgemusic.com/artists/erniehalter/
©2008 Terence Tan.
Pictures & MP3s courtesy of Ernie & Management- ©2008 respectively.
Special thanks for Krista @ Skye Media & Ryan @ Rock Ridge Music.