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Exclusive Interview No.1 - Erin Dickins

 

Erin Dickins

1. You've worked with many World famous artists over the years. Are there any particularly memorable or humorous episodes that spring to mind?

Leonard Cohen is one of a kind. We toured Europe with him in the 1970’s and every day was an adventure. One night on stage in Madrid, as he was introducing the band, he would say the member’s name and then toss a hotel key into the audience! Hah! It was a frenzy. And we all thought he was actually giving out our keys!!! I will never forget that night!

He was an impeccable performer, and still is all these years later. Deeply focused in every instant - which makes his music compelling. The musical nuances were spectacular and his delivery powerful beyond imagination. I learned about truth and authenticity from him.

2. In the 70's Manhattan Transfer brought a breath of fresh air to the charts with their amazing vocal performances of jazz classics. Who came up with the idea for this concept, and how did you get together?

I feel like we were just a bunch of kids – we were actually. My mother had to sign my record deal with Capitol as I was under age at the time. Tim and Marty were working together when I first met them in New York, and we started singing together immediately, and began looking for a fourth member. That band came together very quickly. It was so natural. Our voices and personalities blended perfectly.

We were all learning and researching jazz and oldies and voicing each new gem as it was discovered. Tim was really the impetus behind the very early pieces by Whitman and Beiderbecke and Waller that we chose, but we all found different tunes and eras that we loved and the exploration was thrilling. We did everything from originals to Laura Nyro to the Ink Spots and loved it all.

3. Making a living in the music business is the dream that has evaded most of my artists so far, yet although you were doing very well, you decided to leave the business for a number of years, why?

At the time, I felt as if I was doing well in a business, and not really doing music. I was singing on everything imaginable in the studio from jingles to Talking Heads records, and hadn’t spent any time on me - on discovering who I was as an artist. While fun and lucrative, it began to feel hollow and meaningless to me. I desperately needed to get away from the rat race and give myself time to re-learn music as art. There are so many ways to make money that are easy and safe and much kinder than in the music business. So if you are not in it because it is an expression of your passion, then you are missing the point, in my opinion. I felt like I had no idea who I was as a singer, or what I wanted to say. Time to re-group.

4. Tell us about the circumstances that brought you back to the music business after so many years.

Well, there is really no getting away from a lover of this magnitude (music, that is). Believe me, I tried! J My passion for music seeps out at the seams, and I feel as if it kept tapping me on the shoulder.....c’mon, Erin.....won’t you come back to me? It’s always when you least expect it, right?

I began volunteering for Habitat for Humanity and eventually produced a large variety show to benefit our local chapter. That turned into musical directing, and then singing a song here and there, and before I knew it I was back. I was loving music and playing around in my home studio again and feeling alive with it at last.

5. Your first solo album is now finally on the shelves. When was it first conceived, and how did it all come together?

Nice Girls was conceived, like most of my favorite things, over a glass of wine with great friends. My producer and dear friend, Jesse Frederick, had just moved back east and we found the idea of recording together irresistible. That was several years ago. We spent a good deal of time working on the concept and choosing absolute gems for me to sing. Jesse composed two of them. It’s funny, often I am asked about how it is in the recording studio...hard, challenging, stressful? For me, the hard part was the pre-production work Jesse and I did. By the time we hit the studio, it was pure joy....absolutely exhilarating. We had the best players in the world, songs we adored and it was a fabulous experience. And I firmly believe from an altruistic perspective, as I watched the pieces fall magically into place with no effort on my part, that this was all happening because, this time, I wanted to sing and record simply for the joy of it......for the right reason.

6. Do you have any plans to tour? What countries might you visit?

I LOVE touring! Right now I am focused on putting together a tour in China. The Chinese people love American jazz and are very supportive of musicians. I’ve never been there, and I am very interested to see that country. And naturally, the next step will be to add stops in other Asian cities...Hong Kong, Jakarta, Taipei, Tokyo.....oh, poor Japan...we have all been praying for Japan.

I am also working on some dates in Great Britain and France, but that is farther out. And I have some very cool collaborations planned! Top secret!

7. Can we expect more solo projects from you in the future?

Absolutely. I enjoy working in the studio.....especially now that I am focused on my own projects. I’ve already started a list of new tunes that I’ve found for Jesse to critique. He is a very tough audience and I love that about him. For Nice Girls, we went through about 50 tunes before choosing the twelve we picked for the CD.

8. Do you have any advice for my mature unknown artists who are trying to make their mark in the business for the first time?

You know, I think that the most important quality that defines an artist is authenticity. I don’t care if you are fifteen or fifty-five, if you are in it for the fame or the money, people can smell it. Do what you love, and share the passion and joy with everyone you can. If you can remember that your gift comes with some responsibilities – and by that I mean sharing it for the purpose of lifting hearts and minds – then none of the challenges you face will matter. Stay awake and in the moment. Feel each musical vibration fully. And pass it on.

Do that, and I can promise you’ll never regret being a musician. And, who knows, you might be a rock star, too!

 

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