It was a cool fall evening in 2014. I was covering a benefit show featuring several local bands and soloists, some with whom I was not familiar. They were all performing Bruce Springsteen songs, and some were adding an original of their own.
Toward the later part of the evening, four young men came to the stage: three in white t-shirts, and one in a vest. They burst out through the sound system in a four-part a cappella harmony that stopped the room and brought my full attention to the stage. It was magical.
“Who are these guys?” I thought. This was my introduction to The Novelists and to Eric Henry Anderson.
A musician from the start
Eric was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in 1987, and shortly after that, the family moved about 40 miles away to Oconomowoc where he spent his youth. Both of his parents were avid music lovers. Music was playing in their home almost all the time.
Eric’s first opportunity to play music came during his fifth grade year when the music teachers from his school had an “introduction to music day.” Their mission was to see who was interested in playing in the orchestra, what instrument they were interested in playing, and who had talent. Wanting to be a little different, Eric went for the viola, which delighted the music teachers since viola players were hard to find.
All through high school Eric played viola in the school orchestra, learning to read music and experiencing the classics of composers like Beethoven, Chopin, Grieg and many others. Spending a lot of time in the orchestra room, he would always tune his viola to the piano, and since the piano was there he gradually learned to play it all on his own.
“I had a few piano lessons here and there, but piano was not something I was ever trained on.”
– Eric Henry Anderson
When he was 15 years old Eric attended his first live concert: a Summer Feast featuring Ben Folds. He became obsessed with Folds’ music and continues to be a huge fan. He also attended a songwriting retreat with Folds in 2018, and is now scheduled to be a staff member in a Ben Folds virtual writing event later this month. Ben Folds’ influence is clearly evident in Eric’s writing.
Just a few years later Eric was writing his first songs that actually “stuck.”
“The amount of piano playing, music listening and singing I was doing was absolutely insane,” he shared. He was even skipping classes to play music in the choir room.
After spending his first year of college in Colorado, he transferred to University of Nevada, Reno in 2008 so he could also pursue his passion for ski racing while continuing his music studies.
The launch of a career and an enduring friendship
In 2009 he wrote his first album, which was produced by his friend and mentor Kostia Efimov. Kostia is a respected pianist and composer from St. Petersburg, Russia, and was residing in Milwaukee at the time. He is also the keyboard player in Daryl Stuermer’s band. (For those of you who do not recognize the name, Daryl Stuermer started playing guitar with Genesis and Phil Collins in 1977.)
As good fortune would have it, Daryl was looking for a singer for his band. Kostia recommended Eric for the job and played the newly recorded tapes for him. Daryl liked what he heard and agreed to give Eric an audition.
As Eric tells it, he was 22 years old, star struck and nervous. The theater seats were empty except for Daryl, his agent and his lighting designer. Eric was standing on the stage with Daryl’s band with only a microphone. Having never sung as a frontman and without an instrument he was very much out of his element, but he did great and a bond between Eric and Daryl was formed.
Since Eric was having a CD release show that week and had no guitar player lined up, he boldly asked Daryl if he would like to play guitar for him, and Daryl agreed. The two developed a strong friendship that continues to this day. They still play together when the opportunity presents itself. Daryl has also played on some of Eric’s recordings.
In support of this CD, he assembled his first official Eric Anderson Band in Reno. They toured extensively in the area. The first show for this tour was opening for Robin Trower in Sacramento.
Around this time Eric met Joel Ackerson at a Maytan Music Open Mic Night. They played well together and Joel ended up playing mandolin on Eric’s first album.
The Novelists, a concept of Joel’s, became another avenue for the two to play together. The band went through several personnel changes over the years, released several CDs and videos and developed a huge following.
The Novelists went dark during the pandemic, and still are. How much the pandemic played in that decision, I don’t know. I’m sure we haven’t heard the last from The Novelists.
Embraced by a city
A huge development in Eric’s “showbiz” resume was being asked by Mayor Hillary Schieve to help produce a city song in response to a challenge by the mayor of Louisville, Kentucky. The challenge was aimed at lifting spirits across the country as it entered the sixth month of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Eric worked with Beth Macmillan of Artown, Tim Young of the Reno Philharmonic, and Washoe County Commissioner Alexis Hill, along with other musicians in the community to create “Heartbeat to Heartbeat, Eye to Eye.” The entire production was produced virtually, and it was seamless. The first and only live performance was pulled off during Artown 2021 in Rancho San Rafael Park. The list of individuals who made this an amazing project is too lengthy to mention here, but the finished music video speaks volumes.
This side of the pandemic, Eric has come out big with his new band, The Eric Henry Anderson Band. The core members joining Eric are Zachery Teran, Miguel Jimenez-Cruz, Lucas Arizu and Christopher Sexton. The band has been playing frequently–from intimate private parties to huge outdoor events. In one of the last shows of the season, at Carson City’s Brewery Arts Center, they pulled in a crowd of more than 3,000 people.
I asked Eric if he felt like he has been successful in his music career. Creatively he said yes, he feels very successful. Not only is acceptance by an audience satisfying, but he said he has also received messages from people telling him that his music has helped them out when they have found themselves in a dark place.
“That’s the most rewarding thing you can experience as a songwriter,” he said. Spiritually, writing songs helps him clear his mind and it puts him in a healthier state of mind.
“For me, songwriting is almost a musical method of journaling.”
– Eric Henry Anderson
Creating a living
Financially speaking, success is still elusive for Eric.
Since streaming has become the most common way that people enjoy music, the actual sale of CDs or other forms of product have become almost non-existent. Performance revenue is about all that most regional musicians can earn a living from, and it is very critical. Have you noticed how many bigger stars are touring all the time? They need to make a living, too.
As an answer to supporting the artists you enjoy, both so they will be around for us all to enjoy in the future and so they can put food on their table, a new platform called Patreon was launched eight years ago. It’s based on an ages-old concept–and an important part of art history, especially during the Renaissance–where those who could afford it would support artists, philosophers and scholars.
In the modern version, fans can use Patreon to set up a small regular donation for their favorite artist or provide support upon release of new material. All participating artists set up a system by which their patrons are rewarded with special perks as a thank you for their support.
Eric is very optimistic for the future. He has seven new recordings that are nearing completion and he’s hard at work editing a video of the Artown performance of “Heartbeat to Heartbeat, Eye to Eye.”
I’m very optimistic for him also. He’s a very talented singer, songwriter and producer, and he has surrounded himself with a large group of very talented people. You can visit his website below to follow his activities, and keep an eye out for his own upcoming Patreon link.
Nick McCabe is a Reno-based photojournalist and musician. He’s been shooting concerts in the Reno-Tahoe area since 2006 and writing articles and reviews since 2012, as well as doing interviews on occasion. His musical education and playing experience goes back to 1967. He is a founding member of the Reno Tahoe Forte’ Awards, and he still plays music locally for enjoyment. First concert: Jimi Hendrix. Last concert: we’ll see.