Interview in 2012 with GRAMMY Award-Winning Guitarist, and Cheshire Studios Record Producer Eric Tingstad.
Eric Tingstad is a distinguished artist and record producer who over the course of his lengthy career has recorded many fine albums in a variety of genres.
Famous for his expertise as a songwriting guitarist in a variety of genres, the diverse range of influences include Americana, alternative country, ambient, blues, jazz, rock and new age music. Eric Tingstad’s new release Badlands is a vibrant follow-up to his GRAMMY® Nominated album Southwest.
New Age Music World site host John P. Olsen had an opportunity to interview New Age GRAMMY® Award recipient Eric Tingstad in October of 2012. This interview publication with a variety of topics follows the release of his new 2012 album titled Badlands. Today we are pleased to present their conversation to his fans and to all international site visitors.
John P. Olsen: I would like to thank you for accepting my invitation for this interview Eric. In addition to being a distinguished GRAMMY® Award-winning artist and guitarist, you are also a record producer, so I hope to cover many aspects of your life and career in music during our interview today.
Let me begin by saying your newest Americana album titled Badlands is a wonderfully unique release Eric! I found Badlands is miles apart in theme and style from the majority of new age, world and instrumental albums I have reviewed this year. Writing a Badlands review was a nice change of pace for me. I found it to be a beautifully picturesque album Eric.
Eric Tingstad: Thank you very much. I have to say that when Badlands was all done, I was very happy to hear how relaxed all the pieces were feeling. Even though there are more teeth and beef than on previously hailed “calming” recordings of mine, Badlands just has this laid back pocket and groove that I was very pleased to hear.
It’s like some really big guy giving you a massage or a powerful engine that’s just idling. A lot of headroom. And whereas Southwest was a bit more gentle, tender and soothing and that all is bliss in the desert, Badlands intentionally has more grit and attitude. Not so much about the spiritual ambiance of the Southwest, but more of the human element and how it resonates with the harshness of the environment.
John: Your new 2012 Americana album Badlands honors the traditions of American roots music and Western culture, and is unique from many previous albums like Acoustic Elegance: Ultimate Collection, Acoustic Garden, Paradise & American Acoustic. How did the idea or inspiration for Badlands originate?
Eric Tingstad: Badlands is the follow up CD to my 2007 release, Southwest and continues my adventures of combining ambient elements and vibe with American roots music. My early musical influences were what I heard on the TV as soundtracks for movies and shows. I watched a lot of western adventures and the Beverly Hillbillies, which was just rich in the roots music of Flatt and Scruggs.
Also one of my earliest mentors was a lap steel player and I was fascinated with that sound that he got by using a table knife! Growing up I had a real cross cultural group of friends and I was fortunate to have some Elders in my life as a child that taught me “the ways.” They had an effect on my beliefs and subsequent interests in Native American culture. Also on Badlands there is my crunchy telecaster underpinnings that contributes an edgy quality and brings me out of my rock n roll closet a bit. I would also have to say that the music of Angelo Badalamenti from Twin Peaks or Ennio Morricone resonates with me. It’s music that creates a sense of place.
John: Badlands features a number of great artist including Nancy Rumbel, Cindy Cashdollar, Byron Metcalf and other fine contributing instrumental artists. Would you like to tell us about some of the artists who perform on Badlands?
Eric Tingstad: On Badlands I intentionally set out to feature more Western elements and a bit less Native American. And so I pulled back on the native flutes and featured more of the dobro, (both slide and fingerstyle), which conjures up that American roots element and the pedal steel and lap steel that bring out the western sound. I also leaned pretty heavily on the fiddle which was played by Andrew Joslyn.
The one major component that is the foundation for both Southwest and Badlands is all that great shamanic hand drumming was done by Byron Metcalf. The frame drumming not only ties it all together, but brings that spirit of western landscape and depth of the Native American culture to the recording. I use these instruments because I love the way they sound. And the way they were played.
I did the fingerstyle playing on the dobro but Cindy Cashdollar did all the cool dobro slide work along with lap steel. I did a bit of the pedal steel but all the amazing stuff was done by Terry Lauber. Ben Smith from Heart supplied all the drum kit efforts. There is a large cast of players involved with Badlands. Counting the engineers, I think there were about a dozen.
John: I found Bandlands very picturesque, with ingrained cinematic qualities. Would you say the same, and do you knowingly make an effort to compose music with incorporated cinematic qualities?
Eric Tingstad: Thank you, but I do not set out to make music with cinematic qualities. What I do, is set out to make music that creates a sense of place. I suppose if I makes you see pictures in your head I have achieved that … partially. But, I also want you to see and feel the dryness, the warmth and smell the smells of my locations and themes. Maybe even make you thirsty or hungry.
John: Currently you also provide guitar instruction and offer consultation in the music business. Could you provide some specifics on the services you offer to artists wanting to improve their chances at succeeding in the music business, or artists who want to improve their individual performance goals?
Eric Tingstad: There are many misconceptions about how the music industry works. What I try to do is help with clearing those up and set a realistic course for each individual. It’s helping that I love to do and each client has been different with different needs and expectations. There are so many ways to be involved in the music industry these days and understanding the options is how I can add value to someone’s efforts.
John: Pedal steel guitar is prominently featured on Badlands, but is primarily thought of as a country music instrument. Is there a challenge with transition into your Americana style of music?
Eric Tingstad: I did not find that it was all that difficult. I luv country and roots music and the pedal steel is a big part of why I luv that music. But mostly I luv the steel for it’s beautiful sound. It has such a pure, full and magical tone. It also has the quality of being able to create long legato phrasing, which is something I am always hearing in head. All kinds of music are being played on the Pedal Steel these days, especially rock. And then there is the whole Sacred Steel style of the Campbell Brothers and Robert Randolf.
John: What made you decide to begin performing on a pedal steel guitar, and is the learning curve, or degree of difficulty, far apart from a traditional acoustic or electric guitar?
Eric Tingstad: I was actually recording and producing other players on the steel with my music before I decided to try my own hand at it. I find the pedal steel to be pretty easy to play and some of my favorite styling for it are the simple passages that demonstrate the warm tone of the instrument. The learning curve was not too bad. I am sure that it helped that I had a pretty good grip on guitar and music in general.
John: I read you perform in the Segovia tradition, but is this style is implemented on a steel strung classical guitar. Could you tell us about some of the finer points regarding this specific performance style?
Eric Tingstad: I was playing for about 10 years as a youngster before I become involved with studying the classic guitar. I was interested in developing a very fluent fingerstyle both for the right and left hand. I think my classical studies were about the smartest thing I ever did for my career. Apart from just learning the proper physical technique I learned a lot about making the guitar sing with a strong sense of phrasing. I also put a lot of stock in the tone I try and generate.
John: In addition to composing, recording and producing your own music, you are an established record producer who assists other artists including Tingstad and Rumbel, Narayan & Janet, The Halyards, The Road Trip Relief Squad and Louis Landon. Would you like to tell us about your role as a record producer, and provide some details about your music recording and production services at Cheshire Studios?
Eric Tingstad: I like to think of myself as sort of old school when it comes to production. I don’t try to commit the artist to “my sound” but act as a one member audience that gives feedback from that point of view. It’s valuable to remind the artist of the often simple and “taken for granted” things they do that resonates with the listener. I always try to focus on what is best for the song and what will support the lead vocal or instrument line. The goal is to help flush out the intent of the project and keep the artist focused on that original intent. Not always easy to do.
John: You have enjoyed a remarkable music career for over 35 years with many successes along the way Eric. What do you find most rewarding first, as a professional record producer, and secondly as a respected musician?
Eric Tingstad: I don’t really think of my part in this wonderful world of music in terms of rewards and respect. I just luv how the music I like makes me feel. I like to listen to music as much as I do to play it and if I can make others feel like I do, then that is all the more better. Helping others realize their musical vision with my production skills is a thrill though and brings me a lot of personal satisfaction. There are so many levels and reasons to enjoy music and I am fascinated by what other players have to offer.
John: I like to report on current music news when I can, so I would like to ask if you have any news announcements or information to pass along about new album projects or special events you plan to make public soon?
Eric Tingstad: I will be continuing in this Instrumental Americana style I have got going now for a couple more projects at least. I will be doing one that is a bit sparser on the production and one that actually will have more vocals. I do lots of songwriting as well with others that needs to be released at some point.
John: Thank you again for allowing me host your most current interview Eric. It’s an honor to meet you, and I wish you continued success. It has been a privilege to provide today’s news coverage about you and your newest release Badlands. It’s a great album and I look forward to your next new release.
Visit the main pages at EricTingstad.com. Purchase or sample albums and songs at Eric Tingstad’s music store or find the best songs and albums by Eric Tingstad at iTunes. Photos are courtesy erictingstad.com & cheshire-studios.com.