When Eric Himan released his latest album, Gracefully, earlier this year, it easily marked a new high point in his career. Continuing his progression from a solo acoustic artist to playing with a band, he also followed his blue-eyed soul in a more funky direction to great effect. Laced with horns, female background vocals, and Himan's ever-growing piano skills, the album marked a distinct shift in his songwriting.
"Red Hot Tears" immediately drew attention with its sultry, '70s soul inspiration. Perhaps a bit of his background at Penn State bled through as well, as tracks like "How Can You Sleep" oozed a distinct "Philly Soul" while keeping Himan's gift for huge, melodic pop hooks firmly intact. The album even boasted one of Himan's most powerful lyrically messages in "Waiting for Thunder" (written for Malala Yousafzai, the 14-year old Pakistani girl who was shot for promoting female education), as well as his most stirring and heartfelt with "Gracefully," written in homage to his late grandmother, a lifelong supporter.
As Himan moves into the latter part of the year, he is starting to reap the fruits of his labor. Reviews of his latest album have been resoundingly positive. And although he still tours nationally playing clubs, he is also branching out to the larger stages, opening for artists Kristy Lee, Patty Griffin, and Edwin McCain, all in the month of October.
When reflecting on how all of the pieces seem to finally be coming together, he stated "I'm finally starting to play rooms I've wanted to play for years. It's taken me twelve or thirteen years, and I'm grateful, but I don't think you can get an ego or full of yourself. There's always something that makes you feel like you're starting over."
Of course, Himan's show at Cain's Ballroom this Friday night opening for Patty Griffin is probably his highest profile gig in the minds of most of his Tulsa fans. For him, however, it's not just one of his biggest shows of the month or year, but one of his biggest of his career.
"Playing with Patty is definitely a career highlight," he said. "I've never opened for someone at Cain's Ballroom, ever, and to not only get to play there, but to get to open for someone you've looked up to since high school? It's just an amazing experience."
Friday night's show promises to be not only a great opportunity and showcase for Himan, but a true highlight for Griffin fans, as well, as she'll have a small vault of recently released material to draw form.
"The cool thing," Himan said, "is that she just came out with American Kid -- I saw her in Norman last year, and she played a lot of those songs before it came out. She's also got an album that was supposed to come out over 10 years ago, Silver Bell, that got shelved. I think the Dixie Chicks have played a few of the songs -- it was never released, but people have heard a few of the songs, and it's become something of legend. It was supposed to come out between Flaming Red and 1000 Kisses, but it's finally being released in October."
Indeed, Silver Bell is being released on October 8, just three days before Griffin's stop in Tulsa, giving fans an opportunity to hear the material in a whole new light.
This summer and fall marked a series of career highlights for Himan as he has gotten opportunity to open for a number of influential artists.
"My first concert was Edwin McCain at Harbor Docks in Destin, Florida," he shared. "I've always been a fan, but I finally get to open for him at the end of October."
This following a date opening for Leon Russell at the end of the summer, a show that Himan admitted was a little bit of an odd fit, but that the audience seemed to connect with and enjoy his set nonetheless.
"For me, people like Patty Griffin, Edwin McCain, Ani DiFranco and Tracy Chapman have probably been the most influential artists of my career. Getting to open for two of them in the same month is like a dream," he said.
Even as he is riding the success of his latest album (including having his current single, "Everything to You," picked up on playlists in Hollister stores nationally), Himan is already considering his next move as an artist.
"I've been listening to a lot of European pop artists and even some Peter Gabriel lately, and it's really drawing me back to the fact that the song is about your craft, not marketing," he shared. "That's never left me, and I've never felt like I've compromised, but I'm starting to get back to the folk side of how I've done things."
"A lot of things changed with this album (Gracefully), because I was writing on piano. The keys and chord structures were different," he explained. "The same thing with the tempo: with piano, it forced me out my normal comfort zone, partially because I'm just not as fast on piano. Guitar was always very natural for me, but on piano, I had to work at it."
The shift in instruments helped in other ways, too.
"As much as I've enjoyed the piano over the last couple of years, I'm writing on guitar again and it's new and fresh again and I'm really enjoying it," he said.
Although Himan is openly appreciative of how far he's come and the fact that he has had the opportunity to perform as an independent artist for over a decade now, he's still striving for more.
"I want to take this all to the next level, but to a degree, it feels like I'm starting over again," he shared. "It's kind of like starting a new job: any time you start a new job, it feels like you're starting everything all over again."
Whether it's writing a new album or moving up to larger venues and higher profile shows, Himan's grounded nature and natural talent all but guarantee he'll see success with each new step. You can see him start that next chapter as he opens for Patty Griffin at Cain's Ballroom this Friday night, October 11. Tickets are still available for $15 in advance or $19 at the door.
All Things New
Walk the Moon returns to Tulsa for a show Thursday night at Cain's Ballroom with The Mowgli's. Walk the Moon actually played Bob's (Cain's second stage) in early June last summer, just as its debut album was being released and has been touring nonstop ever since. The success of tracks like "Anna Sun" and "Tightrope," paired with an eclectic sound and electric live show, have continued to build the band's reputation to the point where there was a fresh buzz as soon as the Cain's Ballroom date was announced.
When discussing the band's success and unique sound, which combines a variety of '80s influences with an indie-rock approach, bassist Kevin Ray was quite open about the band's approach to writing.
"We're not afraid to reference our influences quite a bit," he stated. "We draw a lot from the '70s, '80s, and early '90s and maybe stuff that a lot of our listeners don't necessarily think about or recognize.
"First and foremost, our influences are Talking Heads and then earlier Police and Prince," he explained. "We like kooky, alternative sounds that grab your attention and become instant classics. Maybe that's what draws us to those bands and what we try and emulate, but still have some mainstream appeal. We want to create something that's timeless and fun to listen to."
With over a year on the road, Walk the Moon is ready to begin work on a new album this winter, and the band has already started preparations, taking six weeks off over the summer to write together for eight hours a day.
When asked how the new material and writing process differs from the last album, Ray shared that "The songs on the first album were all written at different times and places and in different headspaces. With this one, we've all been touring together for almost two and a half years straight, so there's a different chemistry and we've all learned how to write together. We're definitely all learning our roles in the process.
"We've never been so excited about our music," he shared. "It all feels so fresh and the fans have really responded well. Even with the music we've written before, we would go out and play it and see how people react. We're not afraid to infuse that energy into the songs."
Walk the Moon arrives this Thursday night with The Mowgli's (who have already started winning over Tulsa) and it's guaranteed to be a fun night of music. Tickets are still available for $18 in advance or $22 at the door.
Time to Explode
One more show you've got to know about: Jon Spencer Blues Explosion finally returns to Tulsa with a show at Unit D on Thursday night, October 10.
When catching up with Spencer quickly last week, he started out by jumping right to the point: "It should be a really good night of music. We're playing with Jack Oblivion, from the legendary punk band The Oblivions, who's made a lot of great records on his own. We're very happy to be sharing the stage and doing shows with him -- and it's been over ten years since the Blues Explosion played Tulsa.
The band finally released a new album, Meat & Bone, in the fall of 2012 after a long recording hiatus. The band's last studio album had previously been Damage, released in 2004, after which the band took a number of years off before starting to write and play together again in 2008.
The band's catalog was remastered and reissued in 2010, which seemed to really reinvigorate and kick start the band. When asked if those reissues affected the new record at all, Spencer shared that "I think it did influence us some, just reviewing all that history. That was definitely an influence on us going back to the studio, but the main reason was just that we enjoy the work. It still feels good to play -- that's the reason we do it."
Thursday night's show promises to be an explosive one that blues and garage rock fans won't want to miss. Capacity is limited, so you'll want to grab your tickets for $20 in advance at Cheap Thrills or take your chances at the door. The show starts at 8pm.
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Halleluiah, October is here, the fair is gone, football is in full swing, and the evenings are finally starting to cool off. If this all puts you in a good mood, then you need to get out a celebrate with some music and the stuff we've got coming this week is great, so check out these highlights before you head out the door
Thursday, October 10
Start you day off right by previewing some new music. That's right: Hank Hanewinkle III rolls out a track from his new project, Nuns, Thursday morning and you can get a peak at what's been brewing behind the scenes. Check it out at nunsnun.com or Facebook.com/nunssss to send you into the weekend in a good mood.
Once the evening hits, you can enjoy the night and dance a little at Cain's Ballroom with Walk The Moon and The Mowgli's (guaranteed fun). If you're in the mood for something different, you can chill with Dirtfoot and Mike Dillon Band at The Shrine, or if you're looking for a little Celtic raucousness, stop in at Vanguard for The Tossers with Larkin. And if you really want to get down and dirty, you can't miss Jon Spencer Blues Explosion at Unit D.
Friday, October 11
Classic country fans will flock to The Joint for Alabama, but the evening's real highlight is Patty Griffin with Eric Himan at Cain's Ballroom. There's also the "Fall Pop-Punk Marathon" at Vanguard with Aria, Strangers to Wolves, Veara, On My Honor, Stonecrow, and Paper Planets for the all-ages crowd while Villains and Reigns play at The Yeti. Meanwhile, Mercury Lounge welcomes Charlie Shafter for your roots rock fix.
Saturday, October 12
Electric Rag Band returns to action at The Shrine while Mercury Lounge welcomes Thieving Birds and J. Charles & the Train Robbers at 18th and Boston. Brad James Band spreads the love at The Colony and The Yeti rocks with Pez for Breakfast and Frank Zito & the Mannequins.
The night's big event, however, is the Scissortail Street Competition Battle of the Bands at 3rd and Greenwood. Looking for Yesterday, Kids in the Street, Motortrain, Triple Seven, Spank, Dead End Drive, Grass Crack, Absence of Ink, Benny's Little Weasel, and Zeroed Out will be playing the Rock 103.3 stage for a chance to win studio time, paid gigs and more. The fun starts at 7pm, so come check them out.
Sunday, October 13
Full Flava Kings play the Guthrie Green starting at 2pm to help you enjoy the afternoon. Afterwards, you should move to the Jazz Hall of Fame to catch Olivia Duhon with an early evening show at 5pm. Then you can either cap off your night with Sarah Brightman at BOK Center or Gregory Alan Isakov with Sanders Bohlke and Parker Millsap at The Vanguard.
Monday, October 14
Cain's Ballroom will be bouncing with an 18 and over show that features Krewella, Seven Lions, Candyland, and Drumaddic.
Tuesday, October 15
Cain's is the place to be again, but this time Portugal. The Man will be rocking the house with Crystal Fighters.
Wednesday, October 16
Wrap up the cycle with a mid-week show at Mercury Lounge with Desert Noises.
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