Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Q & A With Eric Tessmer

A while back, I was on the Lower East Side, taking in music at a local venue. Two of the bands on the line-up I had experienced previously, the third, I was unfamiliar with.  Upon hearing a few moments of that unfamiliar band, I thought, ‘whoa, who’s that?!’ and took out my camera to document the set. Musically, the band covered the territory that spans between blues rock and face melting.

The band, Austin based trio, Eric Tessmer Band

Recently, I 'e-questioned' guitarist Eric Tessmer. The talented Tessmer has garnered comparison to Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jimi Hendrix while carving out his own place on the scene and honing his own sound.  He recently took second place in The Austin Chronicle music poll in the "Best Electric Guitar" category behind Gary Clark, Jr. Yeah, he’s the real deal folks.  Check out our Q & A below.

Quirky NY Chick (QNYC): Tell us a little about yourself.  When did you first start playing?

Eric Tessmer (ET): I'm not really sure when I started, to be honest. My dad plays guitar, my grandma played guitar and apparently a lot of family further back on my dad's side had an affinity for stringed instruments, so it was always around when I was growing up. We used to go to my dad's gigs when I was little. I remember my dad got my older brother a guitar when he was 12, so I would have been 8. My brother wasn't really into it, but I sure thought it was exciting! I think I really realized it was how I identified my feelings and how I wanted to express myself around age 12. My dad took me and my brother to see Pink Floyd that year. David Gilmour could have told me to eat worms and I would have done it, I was obsessed!

(QNYC): Who or what inspired you to pick up the guitar?

(ET): Oops I pretty much covered that in the first answer. Definitely my dad and his record collection, first and foremost. Also: I was WAY into Slash and Guns N' Roses when I was in probably 3rd grade. That didn't hurt either.

(QNYC): What was your first guitar and do you still have it?

(ET): My first guitar was a "Conrad". It is a total beater and I am proud to say I still have it. It's still in my childhood bedroom at my parents' house and whenever I go home, I set my '59 strat next to it and just smile like an idiot.

(QNYC): What was the first song you learned how to play?

(ET): I couldn't remember if I tried! Probably "Smoke On Water" or something supremely complicated like that.

(QNYC): How would you describe your sound to those who may be unfamiliar with your work?

(ET): We get compared to Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jimi Hendrix a lot, and that's extremely flattering, but at the same time it's a compliment I will never feel comfortable accepting. Mostly because they are completely untouchable, but also because we do our best to take it in a different direction. When I describe it to a stranger, the best I can do is "Intense Texas Blues Psychedelia". If I described it to my friends I'd say we're trying to make music we'd want to listen to in the van on our way to the next town.

(QNYC): Who are some of your musical influences?

(ET): Geez, how much time do you have??? First off, my dad. Then you got Albert King, B.B. King, Albert Collins, Alan Haynes, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jimi Hendrix, Jimmie Vaughan, Otis Rush, Freddie King, Elmore James, Pink Floyd, Little Richard, The Sonics, Kamchatka, Led Zeppelin, Monte Montgomery, Eric Johnson, Sam Cooke, Otis Redding, Donny Hathaway, Marvin Gaye, Eric Clapton, King Hobo, Nick Curran, Charlie Patton, Neil Young, Brandi Carlile, the Beatles, the Temptations, the Drifters, Everly Brothers.... Shit, there's so many more. I listen to everything. Really.

(QNYC): Is there an artist or song people would be surprised that you listen to?

(ET): I love this question. Ok, I'm not sure why, since I don't like anything else in their genre, but I fucking LOVE Fall Out Boy. All my friends make fun of me about it, but it's all good. Music is a beautiful thing and if it talks to you, who fucking cares what anyone else thinks? Life is too short to be ashamed of the things that resonate with you. Machismo won't make you feel alive.  Rock on, Fall Out Boy, rock on...

(QNYC): Do you think being in Austin has had an influence on the way you approach music?

(ET): Absolutely. There are so many amazing players in so many genres here. It's easy to be humble. Alan Haynes, Eric Johnson, Monte Montgomery, Jimmie Vaughan- just to name a tiny few. They are all "gods who walk among us" in my world and yet they have all been the most gracious human beings to me. Austin has a small community feel to it and it's laid back, but it's still Texas and there's a certain attitude about Texas that permeates everything.

(QNYC): What inspires you to write? 

(ET): Life. Enjoying the good times, enduring the hard times, embracing the moments that you're getting kicked around as something you can channel from.

(QNYC): What's the least likely thing you've gained inspiration from?

(ET): Hmmm...  I had a girlfriend once who dissected all my songs. Reading way too much into them and creating nonexistent problems. So I wrote a song about nothing to mess with her. I even used a random CAPTCHA code I found online for the title.

(QNYC): I’ve seen you live and I believe the term ‘badassery’ was used in my description of the show (along with some other embarrassing fan-girl declarations).  What’s your favorite song to play live?

(ET): Awww, you're so sweet! "Fan-girl" haha.  Honestly, it all depends on the show, crowd, our mental state, etc. I love playing "Are You Experienced" by Hendrix and copping the psychedelic, backwards guitar parts by playing the guitar's volume knob. Also, our buddy, Anders Osborne from New Orleans, has a great song "Love Is Taking Its Toll" that we've made our own, we usually open with it because it centers us immediately.  However, the most rewarding thing is playing our original songs and watching them become the vehicles they grow into over time. It makes you feel pretty small and at the same time, a part of something much, much bigger.

(QNYC): I’m a big fan of the silent video clips.  How did those come about? 

(ET): We did some promotion stuff for Samsung a while back and they wanted me to do a short clip talking straight into the camera and expounding the virtues of the latest cell phone or something. The only problem is that I'm intensely shy about that sort of thing, so I decided I'd write my stuff on note cards and narrate it like that. Turns out they liked that even more and now it's just grown into a funny little thing I do every once in a while to keep our fans in the loop.

(QNYC): If the world was ending in ten minutes, what would you want the last song you ever heard to be?

(ET): "May This Be Love" by Jimi. The tragically short (and completely underrated) guitar solo at the end is pure euphoria. I only hope I can create something half as beautiful in my lifetime.

(QNYC): In parting, is there anything you’d like to say to your fans?

(ET): 1. Life is short, choose to be happy. 

2. Thank you for the incredible support!
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You can keep up-to-date with the Eric Tessmer Band here, here and here.  Oh, and when they play near you, go and show them some love.