Singer-songwriter Eric Engblade plays a special edition of “Songtellers” at Listening Room next week. Today, he reveals the albums that most shaped his own career as a musician.
TICKET GIVEAWAY: Eric Engblade, Patty PerShayla, Jordan Hamilton, Julio Gomez and Nicholas James Thomasma perform in a special Local Spins edition of “Songtellers” at Grand Rapids’ Listening Room on Tuesday, May 17. Email email@example.com with ‘SONGTELLERS’ in the message field and your name will be placed in a drawing for 2 tickets.
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EDITOR’S NOTE: All musicians can trace their inspiration to key recordings that captivated them and influenced their careers. Writer Ross Boissoneau today showcases recordings that changed the world for Grand Rapids singer-songwriter Eric Engblade. Scroll down for a Spotify playlist of his picks along with a couple of tracks of his own.
When the world went quiet in 2020, everything and everyone shifted, including Eric Engblade.
The singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist had taught at Ada Conservatory of Music and Joyful Sounds Music Studio, engaging children ages 0 to 4 and 4-7 with specific curriculum geared to their ages. Now he found himself moving the lessons online. As for his live performances – well, like every other musician, performing for live audiences just didn’t happen.
Now he’s stepped back a bit from teaching in favor of performing live once again. Oh, and being a family man as well: “I’m doing more Dad-ing,” he says. “I started performing more, getting back out on weekends when the world opened back up.”
He used some of that downtime to build his own home studio, where he recorded a new album all about home and family. Seems appropriate.
Engblade will join Patty PerShayla (Patty PerShayla & The Mayhaps), Jordan Hamilton (Last Gasp Collective), Julio Gomez (I Believe in Julio) and host Nicholas James Thomasma for a special and eclectic Local Spins edition of “Songtellers, Storytellers & Songs” at Grand Rapids’ Listening Room at 7:30 p.m. May 17. Tickets for this intimate songwriters-in-the-round session are $10 and available online here.
1. Paul Simon, “Graceland” (1986) – I heard it as a kid. It was a record my parents would put on. The iconic video with Chevy Chase (“You Can Call Me Al”) struck me as a kid. That took me back to Simon and Garfunkel, the start of folk rock. As a college student (Engblade studied music at DePaul University), it really opened my eyes to how good a songwriter Paul Simon is. He paints a picture. “The Mississippi delta shining like a National guitar” (from the album’s title track) – you want to hear the rest of the story. The way he chooses his words, and the palette of instruments, learning about the culture, the South African people. It influenced me to do different things, use different sounds as a songwriter.
Listen: “You Can Call Me Al”
2. Nick Drake, “Pink Moon” (1972) – I was probably 21 or so. The music is all at once melancholy, but there’s a sense of wonderment. It’s stripped down. He could speak through the song without words and evoke a feeling. It changed how I thought I could write. In high school I’d write songs, girlfriend-type things, simple four-chord and simple patterns. “Pink Moon” with its interesting guitar work and dropped, different tunings spoke to me. “Bryter Later” (Drake’s previous recording) too – “Northern Sky” (one of the best-loved songs on that album) is why my band was called Northern Skies. Those got me interested in Nick Drake and I did a deep dive.
Listen: “Pink Moon”
3. Brian Wilson, “Brian Wilson Presents Smile” (2004) – The biggest deep dive was “Smile.” The Beach Boys were competing with the Beatles. “Pet Sounds” was changing how pop music sounded and what it meant. Brian Wilson had a breakdown and “Smile” never came out. When he put his version out, it opened a world, how instrumentally I could be more complex, use different sounds. Vocally, Brian Wilson is a genius. His harmonies were a big influence. His influences included Bach, different doo wop (artists). The words on “Surf’s Up” are just amazing, they paint a picture.
Listen: “Our Prayer/Gee”
Currently Loving: Spoon, “Lucifer On The Sofa” (2022) – From Austin, Texas, the band is led by songwriter Britt Daniel. It has been around 25-plus years; I got into them in 2001 or so. They just released this in February. Spoon is a band that combines great songwriting with an indie-rock sound. Sonically, this album has more of a “rock band playing live together in a room” sound rather than the more produced albums of the past. Lyrically, this album is as great as some of their best, with my two favorites being “Astral Jacket” and the title track. I think the title plays with the idea that everyone of us have good and bad within us. Also, considering the pandemic of the last few years, a lot of us spent way more time on the couch just trying to ride this thing through. I know I have had to try harder these days to fight the temptation of staying inside and not rejoining society. Sometimes we are all “Lucifer on the sofa … staring at you.” I’ve had this album on repeat.
Listen: “Lucifer on the Sofa”
ALBUMS THAT CHANGED THE WORLD: Eric Engblade’s Playlist on Spotify
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