By: Andy Tennille
"It was around that time that I started hearing things in my head."
Sitting on a bench in a bricked courtyard behind his apartment, Eric McFadden snickers a wicked little laugh as he casually strums a Manuel Rodriguez e Hijos acoustic guitar while discussing his most recent studio release, Let's Die Forever... Together.
| Eric McFadden in Barcelona by Kayceman|
"Inspiration can come from anywhere for me, man," the 38-year-old San Francisco guitarist and songwriter explains as dusk falls on another warm summer evening in the Haight Ashbury district. "It could be anything – a movie I saw, some book I read, something a girl says, a beautiful sunset, a sunrise after getting too drunk the night before, really anything. I hear music in pretty much everything."
"There are, of course, the voices too," he cracks, dispelling any notion that he's abetting any rock star self-mythology. "I usually try to listen to them as much as I can but it's hard when they all start talking at once. I don't know which one I should listen to."
Over a career that spans the better part of the last two decades, Eric McFadden has successfully navigated the ongoing clash between the sounds and voices inside his head to create a unique musical persona. Beginning with the Albuquerque, New Mexico-based punk rock trio Angry Babies in the late '80s, McFadden's raspy baritone, flamenco guitar rock and dark carnie balladry has served as the creative force behind bands such as Liar, Alien Lovestock, Faraway Brothers, Holy Smokes, IZM as well as the Eric McFadden Trio and Eric McFadden Experience.
McFadden's reputation as a consummate musician's musician, comfortable both fronting his own group as well as serving as a jaw-dropping sideman, has earned him respect and admiration from his peers as well as gigs working with rock luminaries such as Jackson Browne, Joe Strummer, Bo Diddley, Keb Mo', Les Claypool and George Clinton. In 2004, McFadden recorded and toured with the Stockholm Syndrome, a five-piece rock outfit formed by Widespread Panic bassist Dave Schools and songwriter Jerry Joseph. In 2005, rock legend Eric Burdon invited McFadden, bassist Paula O'Rourke and drummer Wally Ingram to join him on tour as The New Animals.
2006 found the guitarist splitting time between the Animals and his own Trio, which includes stand-up bassist James Whiton and drummer Jeff Cohen. When his Trio got a few rare days off the road last winter, McFadden dropped by San Francisco's Hyde Street Studios to lay some basic tracks for a few songs he'd recently completed.
| Eric McFadden by Jon R. Luini|
"I started hearing things while I was laying the basic tracks down," he recalls. "I heard an accordion on one of the tracks and some cello on another. I heard some trumpet on a couple of things. So that's when I started calling people and asking if they'd come in and lay some parts down."
Working with engineer Justin Phelps (Chuck Prophet, Cake, RatDog, The Mother Hips, The Court & Spark), McFadden began summoning various friends around the Bay Area to fill out the soundscapes he was hearing in his head. Cellists Sam Bass (Loop!Station) and Marika Hughes (Red Pocket, Charming Hostess), accordion player Isabel Douglass (Rupa Marya & the April Fishes), violinist Marisa Martinez (Liar), trumpeter Freddie Price (Rube Wadell), guitarist Pat McDonald (Timbuk 3), vocalist Robin Coomer (Loop!Station) and tuba player Ed Ivey joined a rhythm section consisting of bassists Paula O'Rourke, Seth Ford Young (Tom Waits) and James Whiton, and drummer Doug Port (Inner Ear Brigade).
"Some of them are people I've wanted to play with for a long time but haven't gotten the chance and others I'd never played with before," McFadden explains. "I've known Freddie Price for more than 10 years and always loved his band, Rube Wadell. They're one of my favorite bands, so to finally get Freddie on a record is great. I didn't even know Doug Port before he showed up for the session. Freddie recommended him and he came in and played only a kick drum, high hat and snare on the entire record and did wondrous things. I'd never played with Seth Ford Young, so it was really cool to have him in. He played on the new Tom Waits record, who happens to be one of my favorite artists. It's good to work with other people and get their mojo on the stuff. It offers another perspective."