By Staff Writer Arya Jha
I caught up with Eric Krasno as he was walking into the Marigny section of New Orleans, on his last day in town before he departed for his West Coast Tour.
Read on as he discusses his shows at Brick and Mortar on 10/7 and Terrapin Crossroads on 10/8 &10/9, as well as his experiences playing with Phil Lesh, Eric Krasno Band’s future sounds, and plenty more!
BISS List (BL): Congratulations on your July release of Blood From A Stone, and Eric Krasno Band tour!
Eric Krasno (EK): Thank you, yea I am looking forward to bringing the band out west, it's going to be great.
BL: You already have such a widespread fanbase, who know your work very well. How is the reaction of your live audience been to the new music of Eric Krasno Band?
EK: Oh it’s been great! You know, because, this album is a little bit of a departure from Lettuce and Soulive. The people who follow close enough, know the other stuff I’ve done, they’ve heard some of the stuff I’ve done with artists like Aaron Neville, more of my songwriting side. This album kind of showcases a little bit of it all, you know, it’s like people get down, and groove with us, but it’s more about the songs, it’s more about the guitar playing. I’m really excited because the band has kind of taken the songs to new places, because I have such a killer band. And it’s a big band, well it’s fairly big, its like 6 of us. So it’s a really big sound and people have been really diggin it. As the album has kind of gotten out there to more people, people are starting to know the music more, and know more of the songs, which is cool, so yea its exciting!
BL: The music community has been keen to notice the debut of strong, vintage sounding, Kraz-Vocals on this project! Along with your lyrical partner Dave Gutter, many of these songs on Blood From A Stone were initially written for other people. To what extent did you alter these previously written tunes to match the sound and message of Eric Krasno Band? Were you able to adapt these lyrics to your own project easily?
EK: Well you know, this album is kind of a collection of the stuff that I thought translated well to me and my band. So, I would say the reason these songs ended up on my record, is because they kind of were close to my heart, not to sound too corny. These songs were the ones that I was like ‘Oh, I Wanna Keep That One!’ And then what’s happened since then, cause you know I wrote a bunch of these songs and then did a short little tour a couple years ago before the album was released, so I got to try out playing this stuff live, and that kind of helped me pick the right songs that translated live, and that I wanted to sing live. Now that the band is together I’m writing stuff that really fits the style of the band. So now the next phase of stuff is I think even better! You know it’s cool because I’ve been in bands for so long, my other bands, so it’s just fresh. It feels really good to be out there doing a new thing, with new energy, that’s been really cool.
BL: Have you had to prepare differently for touring as a vocalist? Can you touch base on how the incorporation of lyrics might have affected your sound as a guitarist in terms of Eric Krasno Band?
EK: Oh yea, definitely. Also for me, I’ve always sang background and sang here and there, but to sing all night, every night it’s a task. It's not just your fingers, it’s your whole body. You can’t party quite as much, you gotta kind of pick your moments to hang out, and you also have to pick your moments for when to talk! The first tour we did, the second show we did, I actually lost my voice. I got it back, I just didn’t talk all day, I drank tea and honey, and got it back. It was also kind of a little bit of a scare, man, I gotta be careful here, gotta make sure my health is on point, gotta be careful to not get sick.
I would say that it has affected my guitar playing, in a good way. I’m playing more lyrically, and choosing my notes more carefully maybe. I’m also just playing the guitar parts to showcase the song more. We definitely jam out and get weird and stuff, but in a different way I would say. It’s kind of a more mature approach. It’s been good for the guitar playing side of me.
BL: Blood from a Stone is cohesive, yet each track has its own persona. The influence of psychedelic rock, soul and funk are obvious. The most surprising part for me was the calm, airy and chill vibe that Blood From A Stone creates for the listener. What do you think influenced that aspect?
EK: You know, I've always been the guy that likes the ballads on the records. I always gravitate towards the 6/8 tracks, it's just what I like. Those were the songs that I gravitated towards, I dunno, it was the mood that I was in. It's very much what I like. Live, I would say, we definitely add a lot more energy to the songs. When you see the live show, it's not quite as slow & chill as the album. Also, the stuff I've been writing for the next record, partly because when we do go on tour, I’m like I need more up tempo songs for the live show thing. Blood From A Stone showcases more of the sensitive side, more of the songwriting side.
BL: Tell me about your band. Who are you touring with, how did you choose them, were they involved in the album as well?
EK: Sorry hold on, I’m walking by this band playing in the street (laughs) totally in New Orleans right now! Okay so, the band is killer. Eric Kalb is on drums, who used to play with John Scofield and played with Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings for a long time. The bass player also played with Sharon Jones & played with Charles Bradley, his name is Alex Chakour. Danny Mayer and Mary Corso- Danny actually played in Alan Evans Trio, he’s kind of all over the northeast Jam and Funk scene, he just really got it. He really knows how to expand on the material, and then Mary is just an incredible vocalist, super soulful. That’s a whole element to the show that isn’t on the album. She sings lead on a few tracks every night, and every night everyone's like “Oh My God! She’s amazing!” So thats kind of the secret weapon to the band. Mary sang background on the very last song (of the record), “When the Day Comes”. The record actually, I played a lot of the stuff myself, and I had the drummer and bass player from the London Souls do a lot of it, and they’re obviously busy with their band.
Its a badass lineup. Another one of the band members is DeShawn Alexander, he’s another one that’s a little superstar, he’s like 23 or 24. I heard him at Berklee, I went up to do a music seminar at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, and he came up and sat in with me because the teachers were like, “You’ve gotta hear this kid, he’s amazing and he knows all your music!” He had been in, well, they had a Lettuce/Soulive Ensemble where the kids learned all that music. So he knew all these songs of mine, and he plays good, and he sings great, he was the choir director of his church, and he plays the organ. So now I’m bringing him around to all these festivals, and he’s just having a blast. Everywhere we go, it’s the same thing, people are like “He’s Amazing!” So it’s been really fun, watching them all kind of not only be a part of it, but add their own flavor to the music.
BL: The Bay Area shows you have include a two night at Terrapin Crossroads with special guest Phil Lesh. You’ve been developing a relationship with the Dead community for along time now, and Phil Lesh for years. You’ve even been influencing Phil Lesh to have your own funk brothers, from Soulive to the Shady Horns, join in on Dead collaborations. How have you felt about combining the Royal Family with the Grateful Dead family?
EK: It’s literally what I’ve - I’ve never thought it would happen, but it’s what I always hoped would happen. You know when I was a kid that was some of the first shows I went to, the first music I experienced. My older brother was a Deadhead so would bring me around to Dead shows when I was a kid, I used to collect the tapes, I was a little Deadhead. It was some of the first things I learned on the guitar. So it’s huge for me. Then there were many years where I kind of went away from that, I was more funk and jazz and soul, I went that route. When Phil called me to start playing with him, I was super honored, and it was kind of a gateway, to come full circle and start listening to that music again. To be honest, when I got really deep into songwriting in the last 10 years, I had been kind of referring back to that. When I went to learn all of those songs for Phil, I realized what an incredible catalogue they music had, and what incredible writers they are. So I’ve been super inspired by that, and being around Phil. Then Phil has me singing a lot with him, he’s been pushing me in that realm which has been great. It’s been full circle, and in the last year, he said, let's get some of your guys, and I said ‘Let's Do It!’
Watching Alan and Neal, they weren’t really Deadheads at all, but I would always kinda sneak certain stuff on in the van, it wasn’t really their thing. I think now they are having the same experience, going through the catalogue and learning the music, sayin’ “Oh Man, there is some great music here!” They’re even having a blast with it. This last time we had the Shady Horns with Phil and he just loves them SO much. They’re vibe is so great. It’s a blessing, for sure.
BL: How do you feel about playing your own music at Terrapin Crossroads, rather than the songs of the Grateful Dead? Will Phil be collaborating on EKB tracks?
EK: I mean, that was like, I’ve been dreaming of that. Not only did he invite me, but then he called me and actually asked me if he could play. I was like ‘Are you kidding me?’ I think we might get him on one or two EKB tracks, and then do some of his music too.
BL: You recently got to play Jerry Garcia’s Tiger guitar in Central Park, and additionally received the Paul Reed Smith to work with at a run of Phil shows in Brooklyn. Has the incorporation of tone, timber and pedals changed your perception of how you might play in the future? Will we be seeing more of these configurations and techniques in future Eric Krasno shows?
EK: Definitely. It has just all been more ingredients thrown into the pot, into the gumbo, not to be too New Orleans. I’m just trying to incorporate more and more vocabulary and more sound into what I’m doing. Being able to play Tiger was another bucket list checked off. Now I’ve been playing with John Mayer’s guitar. It’s inspired me to expand my pallet of sounds, I guess. I’ve been doing a lot of experimenting with guitars and pedals, and the only downside, is that my tech and I have a lot more stuff to carry around. I’ve maybe gone a little too far. It’s fun, it’s really fun.
BL: You are no stranger to Bay Area. We absolutely love you out here, and truly look forward to your three Bay Area shows. Welcome Back Krasno!
EK: I’m really looking forward to it! The show at Brick and Mortar is also with the Jazz Mafia guys opening and hopefully sitting in a little bit too!
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