By Christopher Hislop
On Friday, March 17th (yes, St. Patty's Day), Eric Krasno comes to town for his debut Granite State performance as the Eric Krasno Band at 3S Artspace. Sure, he's spent all kinds of time in the area with the likes of Soulive and Lettuce, but this solo project is entirely different. It still incorporates some of the hard-driving funk and soul we've come accustomed to, but it's also very much a gritty, rockin' affair.
EDGE caught up with the omnipresent musician and producer to talk a bit about his career, his love of music, and the impending performance here in Portsmouth.
EDGE: Let's talk about "Blood From a Stone," your second solo record. What kind of goals did you put forth when you set out to make this record?
Krasno: Originally, I wanted to make kind of a rock record, I guess. I had been writing a lot of songs and I knew I wanted to incorporate lyrics into a record being that my first solo record was entirely instrumental. Initially, I wasn't totally sure I was going to sing lead on everything, but as we dove into it, I started to own and accept it a little more and more, and eventually it was clear that that was the type of record we were going to make.
The initial ideas that sort of set the groundwork for this record came out of my collaboration with Stu Mahan and Chris St. Hilaire from the London Souls. We got together and jammed on some riffs, which I recorded into my iPhone and then sent to Dave. I don't know that we used any of those "blueprints," but it definitely set a tone and when he and I finally got together in a room with guitars, the writing came together pretty easily as we developed tunes based on those initial ideas.
EDGE: To that, let's talk about the songwriting process a bit. You've written tunes for a number of folks over the years. Do you enjoy writing songs? Is it an easy or arduous task for you? Further, I understand you wrote some of the record with Dave Gutter, a regional legend in these parts, for sure. What was it like working with Dave? How'd you guys originally meet?
Krasno: Yeah, I do enjoy writing. It's definitely a challenge, but it's generally pretty fun. Yeah, when I pulled in Dave I knew that he would immediately add a different twist. He was great. We instantly caught a cool vibe and started writing songs that I think are pretty unique. That was the first big chapter in the making of this whole thing. I sent him some tracks, he wrote stuff to that, and then when we got together, we hit the ground running. He also played a strong hand in pushing me to accept the role of singing lead on the project. We've actually done a lot together. We wrote for Aaron Neville's record, we wrote for the Tedeschi Trucks band – a lot of different people.
I met him through (Ryan Zoidis) so long ago, I mean, back in high school (laughs). We met back then and somewhere down the line I worked with Rustic (Overtones) on their "Viva Nueva!" release that they made with Tony Visconti – they had David Bowie on it – it was a blast. I threw down some leads for that. So, yeah, we were friends for a long time. Soulive used to open for them.
EDGE: As mentioned, this is your first record showcasing your vocal capabilities. How'd that feel? Does that sort of play into the title at all?
Krasno: Yeah, and I guess part of the title had to do with what I had going on in my career at the time as well. I had different bands, I had been producing a bunch – I didn't really expect to do this, but I realized it was there and that I wanted to – there was a desire to do this. Eventually I formed a band around it and have been touring and doing it for a little bit now. It kind of blossomed as we kind of chipped away at making this record. This wasn't what I necessarily expected to happen, but I'm happy it did.
EDGE: Music. Why do you seek it? Why do you create it?
Krasno: Well, I mean, one thing, I'm a huge fan of music. It's one of those things where, I've always been kind of obsessed with it. So, if I wasn't playing it, I'd be a super fan. I guess I still am a super fan. That's part of it. I also love how it brings people together – not to sound cheesy – but it's true. Music brings people together more than anything.
EDGE: You've been in the game now for quite some time. Was there a moment or experience that led you to chase life as a professional musician?
Krasno: Seeing concerts. I remember my brother bringing me to a Grateful Dead concert when I was a kid – seeing all those people there, and the community that surrounded it – seeing this different reality from what I'd known growing up. That was a huge part of it. Also, my brother and dad used to have jam sessions at the house, and as a kid I kind of wanted to be a part of it. They'd tell me "Oh, you need to practice your instrument and then you can join in." So that was part of the motivation, too.
EDGE: Why guitar?
Krasno: Well, I started with bass first. That's sort of what the family jams needed (laughs). But I love the guitar and the expression you can get out of it. I was really into Jimi Hendrix and Jimmy Page – I love hearing those soaring leads – that singing through your instrument kind-of-thing.
EDGE: You walk on both sides of the line here as a performer and as a producer having worked with some big names (Norah Jones, Tedeschi Trucks, 50 Cent, Talib Kweli, Aaron Neville, Allen Stone) in the industry. What do you enjoy about both "worlds"? How does being a musician yourself help shape or inform your producing projects? And, well, vice versa?
Krasno: I guess producing is really interesting to me and I've always been really into it. One of the reasons is because you can sort of put yourself into different people's shoes and jump around into different genres. I've gotten to work with so many different musicians as a producer that it has really broadened my palette as a musician myself and just as a person in general. I've learned a lot. It's a really interesting job that calls on different skills for different projects. Certain projects I find myself very involved in the songwriting, and the arrangements; certain projects I'm involved more in the engineering and sound part of it, and in certain cases, I'm a psychologist (laughs). It's really broadened my palette, like I said. The more I learn as a producer, the more I bring to my own music. They kind of feed into each other. The biggest challenge is trying to schedule it all and fit it all in to what I get up to in a calendar year while considering my own sanity (laughs).
EDGE: Along those lines, is diversity important in achieving longevity in today's musical landscape? And/or does it help keep things interesting for you?
Krasno: That's a really good question and I don't know that I have the answer, but I will say this; yes, it's probably the key to longevity. Is it the key to success? I'm not sure. There's something to be said for people that are very much known for a sound or for one thing because they always get hired for that thing. I would say that my diverse taste has both helped me and hurt me. Over the years had I had one really obvious skill that I developed relentlessly, I might be more successful, but I think I'm happier doing a lot of different things because it does keep it fresh. I am really enjoying this solo band right now because it does bring an element of consistency for me currently as I've been jumping around a lot over the last few years. It's been really nice – working with the same people, developing a repertoire and creating a "vibe" with the band.
EDGE: What's Soulive up to these days? I haven't heard a ton about the band in a bit.
Krasno: We took a little time off. We're coming back together to do Bowlive, which is our Brooklyn Bowl residency, which is happening in June this year. Lots of special guests ... It's going to be a fun couple of weeks.
EDGE: You're headed to New Hampshire for a gig at 3S Artspace. You're no stranger to these parts. What excites you about the gig? What keeps you coming back to the Granite State?
Krasno: I'm excited. I haven't been to 3S yet. I love getting up there and playing music. The people in the Northeast have a strong appreciation for what my whole crew does. I'm excited to play people this new music. I hope people dig it.
EDGE: It'll be on St. Patty's Day ... could be a lot of fun, could be a sea of free flowing green beer. You into boiled dinners?
Krasno: (Laughs) Right!? You know, I wouldn't say that I'm the biggest St. Patty's guy, but I'll join in the festivities, for sure.
EDGE: What can folks expect this time around? Who all is in the band?
Krasno: It's a killer band including members of the Dap Kings – Danny Mayer on guitar, Mary Corso on backing vocals, Stu Mahan on bass, Deshawn Alexander on keys – it's a great crew, killer band, killer guitar and vocal harmonies. They all have crazy skills, and emit a great vibe. We'll be playing songs from the record, though perhaps not exactly how they exist on the record. We'll do a couple of older songs from my career, and songs I've written for other people. It's going to be a great night, man.
Go & Do
What: Eric Krasno Band with Johnny Trama and The B3 Kings
When: Friday, March 17, 8 p.m., doors open 7 p.m.
Where: 3S Artspace, 319 Vaughan St., Portsmouth
Tickets: $20, $18 for member, 21-plus show, standing, no chairs
More info: www.3Sarts.org