Writing the Soundtrack of Your Life

Writing the Soundtrack of Your Life

— From the pages of FLL Issue #17 • Feature & Inset Photos by Will Marks • Feature Photo by Ben Reeder

[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]When you look at his resume you quickly realize that Eric Bazilian has truly been one of the most prolific individuals in music for the last twenty-five years.[/pullquote]

He is responsible for having written or co-written a plethora of songs that play in your mental jukebox so frequently that you know the words by heart anytime they come on the radio.

If you are old school, your first experience with Eric may have been at The Village Nightclub in the early 80s when he was onstage with the band he co-founded with fellow Philadelphian Rob Hyman and would eventually go forward to have massive commercial success with hit songs like “All You Zombies,” “And We Danced,” “Day By Day” and more. The Hooters made a massive cultural impact so great that they performed the first set for the Philadelphia portion of Live Aid in 1985.

My conversation with Eric was not focused on revisiting ground that has been covered numerous times in the past, it was to talk about how many amazing songs he has written or co-written. With a vast body of work, Eric Bazilian is in the soundtrack of your life. You just may not realize it yet.

My conversation with Eric took place before his show at the Ephrata Main Theatre, and just a few days after the episode of the hit Fox show “Glee” prominently featured his song “One of Us.” Eric wrote the song that became the biggest hit ever for Joan Osborne. In fact, he and fellow Hooter Rob Hyman had a hand in almost all of the songs on her breakthrough album Relish. Since it was just a few days after “One of Us” was featured on “Glee” and exposed to an allnew audience of millions of people, I thought it was a great place to start.

FINE LIVING LANCASTER (FLL): “One of Us” was just featured on “Glee.” How did that come about?

ERIC BAZILIAN (EB): That was really exciting. Adam Anders, who is a friend of mine, is the music producer for the show. He hinted to me over the summer that it could be happening.

FLL: You did not know for sure? Don’t they need permission to do a version of your song on a TV show?

EB: Well yes these things are negotiated up front but I have had many similar experiences where I thought that something was coming but it never materialized. I knew it was in the works for that song to be on “Glee.”

FLL: Were you pleased with their version of the song?

EB: Oh yeah. They did a great job on the song and I was really honored. I really like how they used the song in the plot line as well. The theme of the episode of the show was a debate on religion (faith versus denial) and I was not sure what side they were going to come down on with the song. Where I fit in that is a whole other issue but I was curious how the song would apply to either argument. And the fact that they introduced it as ‘we know that we are not supposed to sing any songs with God in them, but this is a song that we want to do,’ to me, that was it. Yeah they nailed it.

FLL: One of my favorite albums is Tuesday’s Child (by singer Amanda Marshall) that you were heavily involved in.

EB: We had the best time working together. Amanda is, I think, one of the best singers around. She is a joy to be around and I am sad that she has kind of disappeared from the music scene.

FLL: It actually took me some time to connect you to the record, but as soon as I realized it, I could hear your influence.

EB: We all have our fingerprints that we put on things.

FLL: How much time did you have, when the Hooters schedule was hectic, to work with other artists?

EB: The Hooters were really active between 1985 and 1995. During that time we (Eric and Rob Hyman) kept doing small projects. We did a track with Mick Jagger. We worked with Patty Smyth for a couple of months and I spent some time working on Sophie B. Hawkins’ record. And then in 1993 Relish happened.

FLL: What is currently on your plate?

EB: Well, the landscape has changed radically and I do what I do. But above all, I am a guitar player and a guy in a band. The Hooters is my band. We put out an EP in 2010, 5X5 with the definitive Hooters versions of our two biggest hits that we never recorded: “Time After Time” and “One of Us.” I have worked quite a lot with the Scorpions. I just wrote a song for Ricky Martin’s upcoming record and did a bunch of guitar work on it as well. The thing is, my main motivation is playing guitar—preferably live. Someone needs to sing the songs, and someone needs to write them. That someone has turned out to be me.

FLL: So you write, produce, sing but your favorite thing is to play guitar?

EB: My favorite thing to do is to perform; probably my least favorite thing is to produce.

FLL: Why?

EB: I enjoy doing the nuts and bolts. When I am by myself, in my studio, I can get an idea and ‘bada bing, bada boom’ put the stuff down (record the tracks for the song). But I much prefer being in the studio playing and having someone to bounce ideas off.

FLL: What are your thoughts on the digital revolution in music?

EB: There is either all analog (the process to create traditional albums) or digital (the current process of computer-based music production) so nothing sounds like vinyl. Digital is getting better. A few times I have pulled out my turntable and played albums for my children and I see an almost visceral reaction to it. When doing blind sound tests, they went to the vinyl every time. It is not that one (digital or vinyl) has a specific advantage, it just seems that the vinyl feels better. There’s no question that analog feels better.

FLL: What are your thoughts of the “pick and choose” options for songs presented with an iTunestype experience?

EB: You know? What is it? ‘Get out of the new one and if you can’t lend your hand, for the times they are a-Changin’ (quoting Bob Dylan). It is what it is. I still love listening to entire albums, but I have to tell you it is getting harder and harder to find an artist that makes an album that I can sit all the way through, let alone want to listen to repetitively.

EricBazilian_insetFLL: Do you think that the newer artists are writing with that in mind? That they may only sell say, three songs out of ten?

EB: I think that a lot of the pop artists are doing that. I think that real bands, people that are in it for the long haul are still making albums, collections of songs.

FLL: Who is a newer artist that you feel has some staying power?

EB: My favorite artists that I listen to now are The Bird and the Bee and Sigur Rós (an Icelandic band). I like the new Chrissie Hynde (of the Pretenders) project: JP and the Fairground Boys. The most exciting recent record for me, though, is definitely the collaboration between Ben Folds and Nick Hornby, Lonely Avenue. Having Nick Hornby’s lyrics to work from has forced Ben to up his game to yet another level of excellence.

FLL: Finally, what is happening for you in 2011?

EB: Of course more Hooters shows, probably in Germany and Scandinavia. I have a project that I am just launching right now in Sweden with a good friend of mine who is sort of a legend there. He sort of invented Swedish Folk Rock and he plays the Swedish key fiddle. We have been working on music together for over ten years and we finally decided to put it out and do some live shows. His name is Mats Wester. We tried to come up with an imaginative name for it so we called it Bazilian & Wester. Everything we are doing is in English; I am writing the lyrics and we are collaborating on all the music. It is a cool marriage between his folk thing and my guitar and lyrically I think it is some of the best work I have ever done. He pulls something out of me that is really twisted and beautiful.

FLL: You are really multi-national: America, Germany, Sweden and more.

EB: Northern Europe so far. I would like to get into Africa, South America, Antarctica if possible, though I’m not sure how many bands they have in Antarctica. Have you checked that lately?

FLL: No, not recently.

EB: And the solo shows… I love doing this (performing) and I have a great band. I love doing solo shows. I love doing shows with the Hooters. I just like making music wherever they will have me.

FLL: And you are certainly able to do so.

EB: So far, so good.

FLL: And with your body of work you are certainly leaving a legacy in the world.

EB: You know, whatever small way I can do that. I want it to keep getting better. I hear people saying they are going to retire. I say I am just getting started.