Interviewed by: Bhaskar J. Das | Anup Deka
Photo Credits: Dimpi Dimple
Eric Martin is the golden voice of the astounding American band, Mr. Big; who has embarked on a remarkable journey starting his career with the Eric Martin Band, then Mr. BIG and launched a successful solo career following the temporary disbandment. Mr. Eric Martin, the frontman of the popular Big band who has also collaborated with the supergroup Tak Matsumoto Group, enlightened us with his gracious presence on 18th of November, 2016, in Guwahati. The Indian Music Mug (IMM) had the great opportunity to chat with such an amazing jolly persona. An all-inclusive abstract of the pre-show candid talk pens down the insights of his mere experiences with Mr. Big, the pleasant tour to India, specially the North-East and the reflections of his love for music, struggle, fame, care and hope; in his personal life. As a whole, it’s a unique blend of motivation for all of us as a person or a musician.
- Welcome back to India Eric and specially the Northeast.
Eric – Well thanks a lot.
- First of all, we on behalf of the Rock community of India would like to thank you for entertaining us with your master voice in some of the remarkable songs ever written in the history of Rock music; naming just a few would rather be a bare affront. Now, India isn’t a new place to you right? So how do you feel to be back?
Eric – My Pleasure as always. It’s good to be back. I am enjoying I must say. Two or three times I have been to India and played over 14 shows with Marcus (Marcus Granberg, Swedish musician and singer accompanying Eric). We had a great time; for instance we played in Aizawl with over 4,000 people and it was like the whole town came out to see. Marcus was supposed to play with me but he was like having a little visa vacation in Nepal (Marcus and us laughing). The gigs are the big payoff and that’s necessary.
- Sounds interesting. How was your overall experience and would you mind sharing some memorable instances with us?
Eric – Unbelievable! Like I said the gigs have been worth it and all the hard travels. But if you guys have ever noticed there are a couple of road problems. But anyway, I don’t know how you all do it. Traffic bothers me but doesn’t bother more as bad as the bumpy roads plus no guard rails and so much traffic on the narrow jungle highways. Once, we came upon this dirt road and an army truck bumped into a car of 4 or 5 guys and it was like the car went down the hill, but nothing serious did happen and the guys were fine and we reached our gig sound and safe. Anything different (thinking), ah yes, I have eaten more Indian food than I have in my 50 plus years and I love it. I am cool right now and everything is good (giggles). Spicier the better (laughs).
- Have you watched any local bands here? If so how’s your experience?
Eric – We played this gig in Itanagar with this band called Boomerang (Boomerang is from Mizoram) and their singer was not with them. They had this other guy, a rapper named Dexter and I liked him a lot because he said “we are going to open up for you” and I was like why don’t you learn some of our songs and he was like “oh yeah we know some”. Well they really only knew “To be with you” but they learned this other song called ‘Temperamental’. Boomerang is like the Rage Against the Machine kind of band (He beat boxes edgy funky beat). This song Temperamental by Mr. Big was a perfect song for them. ‘Temperamental’, “Wild World”, ‘Just Take My Heart’ and “To Be With You”; we played it together and it was an amazing experience.
- What suggestions would you like to give to the young artists and would you like to say something about the rock scene nowadays?
Eric – (Rationally thinking he replies) Well when I was small, I wanted to make it big so bad and when I didn’t, I got really frustrated and I couldn’t believe it. I had to go through musical experiences, life’s journey and struggle and it was really hard. But I had to do it in order to be a better singer, a man and able to handle things in life. I mean people nowadays try to make this so fast. No, things doesn’t work that way. As the saying goes “get your ducks in a row”, build up a fan base. Rock scene is all about making it all around the world. My mantra is- when you are least expected, don’t worry about it, things will come along your way (with a deep sigh), don’t stress about it. Try to be a big fish in a small pond first. Don’t be anxious to leave your hometown; it’s a gigantic world out there. You got to be great where you are and then have enough confidence to actually go out. You know, not cocky but confidence works out.
- Now talking about Mr. Big, why did you guys break up at the first place and as you have reunited again, please tell us about this experience?
Eric – We kind off basically killed each other in the 80s and 90s and we were working so much, just like a lot of bands do. But we were away from our loved ones, family members for so long, that we lost respect for each other a little bit and we just broke up. It was terrible. And then we got back together in 2009, but the reunion didn’t work out much. We decided to tour for a couple of years and recorded “What If” and then “The Stories We Could Tell” and it was great, but (in a despondent voice) the momentum we had earlier died. So, I said (with humor) it’s time to make a new record and tour like the old days or we would be too old to do that again.
- Anything new we can expect in 2017 and if so, tell us about the creative process?
Eric – Yes, Mr. Big is going on tour next year between May and the end of August and we are going to do a record. Everybody is taking on emails and they are like “we are going to get together in LA (with excitement) just like the old times; we all together would write some music and send it to Eric” and these happens all the times. They send me CDs with 100’s of new ideas and I basically select like 15 or 20 of them and write some songs and melodies out of it and everyone comes in and finishes the songs. I am looking forward to it.
- You started your Solo career in 2002. Tell us about it?
Eric – I wanted to do a solo career for so long and there are lot of things I would like to get off my chests. The real reason I didn’t make a record is because when I got married and I had these kids, they literally sucked the creativity right out of me. I could sing the songs of Mr. Big while in bed, but I was like so excited to be a dad, I just forgot that I was a songwriter and I forgot about me and my outlet. I love to do the voice of Mr. Big thing but it started to get to me a little bit like I have enough stamina and my heart is still heavy and that I can come out as a new artist and I would like to do that. Me and Marcus we came up, played couple of my solo stuff and people liked it. For instance, we played a song called “No One Say Goodbye”- it’s autobiographical about me staring out of my hotel window in a strange town thinking about my woman who’s probably with another man right now and wonder, if she is thinking about me right now. It’s kind of a sad song and in between I hear people going- two beers please; which is quite unlikely with my experience of Mr. Big opening for RUSH, Aerosmith etc. earlier in our days. And the same people sings “Wild World” smashing the beer bottles down to get the camera out. It’s funny actually (giggles) and it’s good to have couple of hits.
- Now talking about your friend here, accompanying you on this tour, Marcus. Where did you actually meet him and how did the collaboration start?
Eric – Once I was playing this gig in Sweden and he was also playing in the same venue and I remember I met him at around 4 or 5 o’clock in the morning, getting up to go to the airport and he was in the lobby and I said “Hey, how are you doing” and he said “I am a fan of yours. I am a musician here too” and we got to talking and I didn’t think much about it later. And the next time I came to Sweden, I was playing this gig in the CC pub; he came up to me and said “I know your songs and can I jam with you?” and I said “No problem”. Then we began jamming and tell you what- I was stunned. I (with surprising look) was like “the goose that lays the golden eggs (all of us laughing), somebody has got real talent here”. We played for around two and half hours that night and it was amazing. I asked “Where are you from man?” and he said (mimicking Marcus’s voice)”I am from Sri-Lanka”. I said “Well I am going to India” and asked if he would be interested, maybe open up some door in Sri-Lanka and he said “I was born in Sri-Lanka, but I was adopted by Swedish parents. I don’t speak Hindi or any other dialects but I do talk Spanish” and I said “We might need that” (all of us started laughing). Anyways, that doesn’t matter, we are talking music here and it’s a universal language.
- It was a great pleasure talking to you Eric and thank you for your time. Have a great evening and a great show tonight.
Eric – Ok. On that note (in a fainted voice) Eric slowly faded away (all of us giggling) and a tiny rainbow came out and he disappeared into the clouds (all of us started laughing out loud). Thank you very much.