Artist Spotlight: Eric Stuart Band
Actor and musician Eric Stuart is an astronaut of pop culture, traveling between the distant planets of Millennials and Baby Boomers.
He is forever in the hearts of Millennials who grew up hearing his voice in their favorite cartoons: Pokemon & Yu-Gi-Oh!. On the other hand, his music has a direct lineage with the classic rockers that Baby Boomers love after having toured with Ringo Starr, Peter Frampton, and Lynyrd Skynyrd. Below Eric discusses how he turns this giant cultural leap into One Small Step.
Is my characterization of you as a cross-cultural diplomat at all accurate?
Hmmm. That is a very interesting title. I like it. It is true that my fan base has a pretty wide age range. I also try to introduce each group to the “other” thing I do. I play rock music for my Anime fans at conventions and I tell my rock fans what wacky voice acting I do for cartoons.
Most outrageous tour-story opening up for Ringo Starr All Starrs. Ready, go.
Easy. Day one. I had the honor of being hand-picked by Ringo himself to open his tour. I didn’t have a ton of time to prepare for it, either. What I did do was buy a huge encyclopedia of Rock book so that I would be familiar with many of the details of each of the All-Starrs. I just didn’t want to come across as disrespectful of those amazing icons by not knowing their story as best I could. Anyway, I fly out to the first show of the tour in Seattle. I arrive at the venue and head straight to my dressing room. From there, there is a little speaker on the wall so you can hear what is going on upstairs on the stage. I hear the All-Starr Band finishing up some sound checking and then a voice calls me over the PA system to come to the stage for my soundcheck. I head up the stairs, get on the stage, and my manager heads out into the empty theatre so he can let me know how everything sounds and I proceed to sing a song. When I am done this is the conversation that followed:
Me (speaking to my manager): “Hey, how does it sound in the house?”
Ringo (from stage right): “Sounds great, you have a good powerful voice.”
Me (walking towards Ringo and he walks towards me): “Hi, I’m Eric, it is great to meet you. Thank you so much for having me.”
Ringo: “It’s great to have you.”
With that, I playfully ‘punch’ Ringo in the arm and I walk off stage left and he walks off stage right. As I do this I say out loud to myself, “What the hell is wrong with you, you just punched a Beatle!”
Is the Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll philosophy still a thing? What is the 21st century version for you classic rockers?
Well, for me I am really about the Rock & Roll. I know that may sound non-rocker, but I never did drugs and I don’t like to drink before a show and very little after. I like to be in control and focus. Playing live, especially fronting a band, means that I must steer the ship. I flip songs, decide when to tell a story, when to just jump into the next song, etc. I try to read the audience and ebb and flow with their energy. If I were incapacitated and sloppy I wouldn’t be able to do that. That is what makes live performing both fun and scary; the moment-to-moment adjustments needed to keep the audience with you. All of the big tours I had been on were actually ‘dry’ (no alcohol back stage). Many of the guys had been through too much of that and wanted to stay clean and sober and focus on the music. That was also great to see. I have a saying in my band “If you think you sound/play better drunk, you are the only one who thinks so.”
Has your voice acting informed your songwriting or vice-versa?
My singing helps my voice acting since it is the same instrument and inflection is pitch. I also spent a lot of time as a kid imitating certain rock singers which helped me work on character voices. For instance, my Elvis singing is pretty dead on, so my Elvis is taking off now. I recently narrated an audiobook as Elvis. Funny story. Elvis has faked his death, had plastic surgery to hide his try identity, and is private eye trying to solve a kidnapping. “Elvis Has Not Left The Building.” That was fun to do. Voice acting and songwriting has made me aware of language, speech patterns, alliteration, cadence, and rhyme schemes.
Do you find yourself adopting characters voices in your songs, or is it all Eric Stuart?
Eric Stuart is a character (which is actually the name of our most recent 5 song EP). My persona on stage and on the albums is me, and I always try to come across as honest in all my music, but as an artist and performer I am me, but a little larger than life. There is definitely a thing that runs through me when I play live. The energy, the entertainer, always from a place of reality but exaggerated to be more engaging. It is funny to talk about it since I don’t really consciously turn on some switch and become something but I do recognize the transformation. As for funny voices and cartoon characters, no. I have sung songs on the shows in my character voices but never as part of my own music. I like to keep those two things separate.
I’m going to ask you a really silly question for all our PokeGo-addicted readers. Which Pokemon best embodies your music?
Wow. Ok, well, I am the voice of Squirtle and he wears cool sunglasses which is very rock and roll so I would say him. Oh and that is not such a silly question, trust me.
Your set up ranges from a 7-piece to solo acoustic. What will we see at Bear Music Fest?
Yes, the great thing about the Eric Stuart Band is, like the Mob, once you are in, you really can’t leave. There are players that have worked in the band for years, some live in New York, some live in Nashville. When we have an album to be made or the situation is right we become a full on E-street type band. For Bear Music Fest we are keeping it to a 4 piece rock and roll band. Chas Holland on lead guitar, John Fox on bass and vocals, PapaJo Palmaccio on Drums and me on guitar and lead vocals. Since Kevin Merritt is one of the organizers and one of those ESB members that can’t leave the band, he will join in on keys on a bunch of tunes too. We hope that this first year is such a big success that you have ESB back again in the future and we can bring the whole band including two of our NYC ESB members, Maria Conti our violinist and Phil Nix my long time lead guitar player. We are really looking forward to being a part of the festival.
Us too! We can’t wait to see The Eric Stuart Band– and you - at the festival!