16
Dec
08

Spotlight on Eric Strom

Have you heard?

Eric Strom, 23-year-old musician and brother of Wheaton’s own Dana Strom, writes a song every single day. He’s over 100 songs in. And in case you didn’t hear,Eric Strom Daily Song

Welcome to the world of Daily Song. This is Eric’s official Introduction to Daily Song

 

Somewhere in Brooklyn, Eric writes, produces and posts a full song for all to hear. This isn’t just an improv or an idea for a tune; it’s a fully fleshed-out and realized song. Besides the occasional guest, it’s all Eric on guitar, keyboard, electronic drums, other crazy sounds and vocals.

Eric Strom is this guy here, pictured with his mighty axe.
With his mighty axe

     One can only imagine the creative and technical fatigue it must take to so constantly and continuously create songs. I think the only reason Eric isn’t dead yet is that he keeps the journey fun. The style itself is fun, which can go the folksy route, the pop indie direction, the electro-synth road or the parody-filled path. Most of his songs are very catchy, with a happy riff that gets stuck in your head easily. Producing a song in 24 hours means working with what you have, so in Eric’s case, he has an abundance of electronic drums and synth sounds, with guitar (electric or acoustic) and vocals. It’s a one-man operation, so that just makes it more endearing (as well as down-to-Earth). The genre-jumping is also essential to make it work because no one wants to hear the same song every day, much less write and record it.

  It also helps that Eric has a healthy sense of humor. Most of it is silly, some of it just plain weird. Here are some song names:
– Music Today is Stupid (Day 46)
– OMG, Flies! (Day 71)
– Eric America (Day 78)
– How to Write a Bad Song (Day 15)
– My Friend gave me his iPod Touch (Day 100) 

  And here are some song topics:
– Being pulled over by cops in Vermont (Day 26)
– Two friends deciding to go to a party that may be haunted (Day 53)
– Unequivocally expressing happiness because Obama was elected president  (Day 67)
– An uncooperative anthem about turkey eating (Day 87)
– A bunch of people talking about being new to the city of New York:
New New Yorker (Day 74)  

And of course with music, it only makes sense when you hear it, like the silly day 65 song. The only real themes of the songs are self-referential Daily Song things and electronic epics named after ‘Scubacopter’. He’s also got holiday themes, like a week’s worth of Halloween songs, a few Thanksgiving ones and some random election-related ones. Looking forward to the upcoming week of Christmas songs.

     One of the other draws of Daily Song is the Web 2.0 aspect (Web 2.0 is a silly term referring to the increasingly community-based nature of the web these days that hasn’t been seen before, stuff like Facebook). All of the Daily Song songs are under the Creative Commons license, which means people are free to use and share however and where ever they wish, provided they don’t make money off it and credit it accordingly. This is becoming pretty common with musicians these days who utilize the internet as their main source of publicity. Eric also has participation-based songs, such as Text Me a Tune Tuesday. People submit song lyrics and every Tuesday (except for the rest of this December) Eric will post a song with the best submitted lyrics. His website has an option to attach pictures, videos or cover versions for the songs for all to see. Eric’s also hinted at other participation projects, so everyone can be part of the music (yaaaaay!).

And hey, I got AN EXCLUSIVE interview with Eric Strom, which proceeds now:

 

Eric Strom is ES and I am ME.

ME – So. First question: What’s a typical day like in the life of a Daily Song writer?

ES – When I first started this project, I had no idea how much work it would be. I usually spend 15 to 20 minutes writing the song and a few hours recording it. Because of this I figured that I’d have plenty of time to make a website and tell people about daily song, right? Well.. wrong!

So far, my Daily Song Day consists of writing that day’s song, recording that day’s song, and making the website. I knew a little about technical website stuff, but I’ve had to teach myself how to make a podcast and a website. This was much harder than I thought. But now, I consider my podcast and website more or less done and so my Daily Song Day is transforming to add a new element: telling people about Daily Song – promotion.

It’s always the behind-the-scenes work that takes us most of the time. So, the bulk of the song-making is not the actual songwriting. How did you learn to write songs? How do you approach it and what’s your musical background?

I come from a really musical family – my mom plays the violin, my dad plays the guitar, my grandpa plays the clarinet, etc. My parents had friends over every week for Irish music sessions, all my siblings play instruments – music has always played a big role in my life. My dad started teaching me the guitar when I was about 6 , I started piano lessons when I was 7, violin lessons when I was 9, upright bass when I was tall enough…I guess my first songs were written at home with my brother and sister. I would play the guitar or the piano and we would write a song about my grandma’s birthday and then sing it to her – stuff like that. Then, in high school I got really into music theory and started writing more intricate and musically interesting music. I had a couple of bands in high school too, Space Band and Instant Michelle. We wrote goofy songs and performed them for our friends. In college I initially wanted to major in music. I took every theory class my small school offered, plus piano lessons, chamber orchestra, and other music history classes. Even though I eventually switched to science, I learned a lot about writing music during that period. I also had a band in college, Omega Coke Mirror. Both the drummer and the bass player were into weird time signatures and experimenting with recording so we wrote, recorded, and played many hours of music together. These days I tend to get an idea for a song at random times. I write the lyrics first and then writ music to accompany them. It’s hard to explain my process in detail. I’m constantly thinking of interesting patterns and guitar solos and melodies so I carry around a tape recorder for when inspiration strikes (I sing it into the recorder for later). Lyrics + expanded tape recorder music ideas = Daily Song.

Hope that answers your question.

ME – Ah yes, with some people you can tell that they’ve grown up with music all around them. As for musical (or any artistic) inspiration, I don’t think any musician knows exactly where or why their ideas pop up, but the important thing is to remember it when they do. With you and your daily songs, that becomes a necessity. Now, many people before have probably thought of the concept of writing a song a day. How do you think that challenge is made different in this digital age we live in? How would it work if this was 1995? Also, what software/hardware do you use?

ES – Yeah I know – doesn’t it seem like many people probably have done a song-a-day writing stunt before? After first thinking of Daily Song, my second thought was: I bet it’s been done before!

I played an open mic here in Brooklyn a few weeks ago. After I finished my first song (Day #11, That’s How it Goes) I told the crowd that I was writing and recording a brand new song every day. They actually gave me a round of applause. And then one of them asked out loud, “What do you do? Do you put up a video every day of you playing it?” This was a natural question, since I was the “daily song guy” in a room full of acoustic singer songwriters – I’m not sure if they would care for my Scubacopter Electronica-Epics. I just told them I used Pro Tools.

And I like your question very much, I guess I haven’t realized how much modern recording technology allows for Daily Song. However, some parts of Daily Song would still be possible way back in 1995. For example, I record all my acoustic songs live in the studio – no overdubs or audio photoshopping. I just setup a couple mics, one for guitar and one for singing, and just stand there and play it once through or maybe twice. I’m sure this is already incredibly obvious from my sloppy performances with no shortage of laughter and wrong notes. I just don’t have the time for doing more than one take, or on a good day, two takes.

On the flip side, I do some Daily Songs that couldn’t have happened in the audio recording stone-age of 1995. But let me address this from a different angle. I have always loved music regardless of it’s genre, and after seeing so many of my friends be this way too, I believe that this attitude is part of the culture of our college-age/young adult generation. I think that one of the first things about Daily Song that people notice is it’s wide range of musical styles – well I don’t think that I have some magical genre-switching power, I think I am just a natural product of our any-genre-is-alright iTunes generation. Ya know what I mean? So, I just end up seeing through the genre to the fundamental music beneath – good melody, good form from section-to-section, and the rest.

Anyways, this is made possible in a practical way by modern technical audio recording wizardry. I use Pro Tools and I’ve been using Pro Tools ever since I bought it with money I won from a creative contest from the MacArthur Foundation when I was a freshman in college (I tied for first place with a painting – I submitted a song, of course).

I am 23 now, and I was 18 then, so I guess that means I have been using Pro Tools for five years. At that time, 2003, the original M Box had just come out the previous year which Digidesign was saying “made Pro Tools available to everyone.” And that was true – it was available to me! After I bought that, I saved up $300 for a pair of low-end monitors, Alesis M1 Active MKII reference monitors (speakers for recording). I began with Pro Tools LE 5, but other than updating to the most recent Pro Tools 7, I still use an original M Box and all the same equipment. Unfortunately, it’s not a very impressive studio! The rest of my unimpressive line of gear is a five-octave M-Audio weighted MIDI controller keyboard. This is what I use to play the electric pianos, synth leads, organs, and all the drums. I use a Mexican generic Fender P-Bass for bass parts. For my acoustic songs, I use my mom’s old Suzuki guitar (she has bought a better one). Unfortunately, my acoustic guitar is a little broken, maybe from when I dropped it down the stairs when I was in high school. I need to use a capo on at least the fourth fret or it doesn’t play. That’s why my acoustic songs are capoed so high, controversially high. Lastly, my only decent piece of gear is a seven-string Ibanez electric guitar with custom pickups I added which are very bright.

OK that’s probably enough for now!

ME – Well Eric, we really appreciate your sharing about yourself and the Daily Song journey. Any last comments to you want to give all the listeners or all the intrigued?

ES – Here is my last word to the listeners and the intrigued: If you enjoy Daily Song, please help spread the word about me, the daily song guy! I am just a 23-year old independent musician. I have no publicist, no promoter, and no marketing budget – I am relying on word of mouth and grassroots promotion. Thank you so much!

 

And that was the last we heard of him. But we really do appreciate the well thought-out responses. There really is no ‘we’, also.

So that’s Eric Strom and his Daily Song project. It’s inspiring to see a fellow young musician trying to make it in this world with his own crazy idea and a great amount of perseverance. I wish him well and encourage others to follow his journey.

 

Other resources:

An audio interview with Eric – (Done on Day 10)

Example of an honest tune about time travel – Time Travel is Impossible (Day 80)

Example of an electric, brooding landscape – Fate of the Scubacopter (Day 96)

You can subscribe to the daily podcast with iTunes here.

And the snazzy official website for anything else you need, newly designed in celebration of the 100th song: www.ericstromsdailysong.com


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