POSTED ON OCTOBER 31, 2012:
Dress It Up
Underrated songwriter prepares to make the next step with new album
Although Eric Himan has been performing for roughly a dozen years, has released seven albums and toured nationally, and his career is still evolving. Since settling down it Tulsa, he has transitioned from solo artist to band member with Eric & the Adams, then ventured out to reestablish himself as a solo artist again with his last album, Supposed Unknown. And although he tours nationally and has a strong following on the East Coast, he still seems to simmer just below the surface on the local scene as one of Tulsa's most underrated and overlooked songwriters.
Since the release of Supposed Unknown, Himan has gone back on the road as a solo acoustic act, yet he has also formed a tight backing band that brings even more out of his performances. Drummer Erin Nelson and bassist Todd Shaver come together to form an incredibly tight rhythm section and Himan has transitioned to piano as guitar duties are handled by Ted Scott.
In reality, this band is an offshoot of the short-lived side project Good Villains, which only played one official show, opening for Fair to Midland before dissolving. The chemistry was such, however, that Himan wanted to continue working with this core of musicians and they eventually became his official backing band.
Now, with a fresh batch of songs in hand and one of the most talented sets of musicians that he has worked with over the years, Himan feels the time is right to take this group into the studio and start work on a new album. Instead of being yet another Eric Himan album, however, he's got his eye set on creating something special.
As I sat down with Himan a few weeks ago for an initial glimpse of what was to come he explained to me that his focus has shifted with this album.
"I've always wanted to do something bigger," he said, "but I was kind of waiting on landing a record deal and doing it then. The record industry has changed, though, and after doing this for over 10 years, I just feel like the time is now -- I need to step up and do it myself or it may not happen."
With that in mind, Himan has his eye set on creating the biggest record of his career to date. If you're already aware of his work, you know that he's an incredibly strong songwriter. That songwriting has always been highlighted by more intimate recordings that revolve around Himan's vocals, even when recorded with a strong cast of studio musicians. This time, however, he is focused on expanding his sound and is set on recording with his current band.
As Himan explained his vision to me, he shared "What I'm really doing is dressing up the songs with larger, more complete arrangements, so the album will be titled Formal! to reflect that."
"Dressing up" the songs is where the band comes into play. These are still Himan's songs, but by incorporating his band into the creative process, they are taking on a different life and more expansive sound. Recent additions to the band, Tylisha Oliver and Tina Phillips, add a new layer to the mix with their background vocals and fit perfectly into Himan's latest batch of songs which lean in a more soulful, R&B direction. Initial recordings have even taken the sound a step further with the addition of a horn section and arrangements written and charted by Ryan Tedder.
Taking on a bigger project means taking on a bigger budget, however, so Himan has gotten proactive in his thinking and plans to create the full album. Kickstarter campaigns are nothing new, but as Himan considered his options and started looking more seriously into funding the new project in such a manner, he wanted to do something different. As a result, he went ahead and launched a pledge campaign to fund the new album (and subsequent, full band tour), but did it in his own manner, adding something more to the mix.
"A lot of people have done Kickstarter campaigns like this to fund an album or project, but it may be a year or more later and the people who pledged money still haven't seen anything come of it. They may get a copy of the new album or something when it comes out, but there's this long waiting period. I wanted to do something where the people who believe in me and believe in this project see something more immediately."
As a result, Himan has already gone into thC Ae studio with his band and recorded tracks for five of the songs that will be appearing on Formal! Anyone who pledges gets immediate access to the music with weekly releases to give donors an idea of what's to come.
As Himan explained it "I'm giving exclusive releases of the songs, one per week, so if you donate, you're getting the music now. To me, it only seems fair, so people have an idea what they're contributing to and are a part of, plus it bides a little time for us to move forward and finish the album.
Instead of using Kickstarter, however, Himan has opted to us PledgeMusic.com, a site that is geared specifically toward music and has seen artists like Ben Folds, Rachel Yamagata and Brand New Heavies successfully finance their own projects.
Himan launched the pledge campaign on October 16 in an effort to raise $15,000 to both finish the new CD and tour with the band to support the record. In the first two weeks, Himan has already reached 25 percent of his goal, but he still has a long way to go.
With the pledge music campaign, the fundraising is an all or nothing effort. If he doesn't receive enough pledges to reach his goal, donors get their money back and he'll receive nothing. Those who supported him will get the new songs sent to them regardless, however.
Of course, there are more incentives involved with different packages available, ranging from a full album download and online updates for $10 up through T-shirts and signed CDs and DVDs. Himan even ups the ante for the larger donations with packages that include personalized house concerts and even the guitar he used to write and record his album Dark Horse. Full details on the new album project and the pledge campaign can be found online at erichiman.com.
Before the pledge campaign is even half way through, however, Himan wanted to make sure and do something to keep people interested and draw more attention to the project. As a result, Himan will be performing with his full band at The Shrine this Friday night, Nov. 2, with "Formal!" preview of the new material and what is yet to come. Tickets are $8 in advance or $12 at the door and the evening will include and opening set by Olivia Duhon as well as a headline set by Eric Himan Band which will preview six tracks from the forthcoming album, Formal!, a selection of tracks from Himan's catalog and even a few select covers, including Amy Winehouse's "Me & Mr. Jones" and Elvis Costello's "Every Day I Write the Book."
Himan only continues to get better as a songwriter and the previews of the new tracks that I've been privileged to hear prove that he's barely scratched the surface of what his career will continue to yield. If you want to get a great preview of what's to come and help support Himan as he prepares his new album, you won't want to miss this show.
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