Respect Tradition. An Interview with Eric Sardinas.
Eric Sardinas knows a thing or two about the blues. He started playing guitar at the age of 6 and was also inspired by traditional blues artists. This combination, along with other musical influences, has really made an impact on the music he creates. Recording for the better part of 15 years now, he continues to blur the lines between traditional blues and his style of blues. His passion for music is apparent throughout every album, not to mention his live show will blow you away.
Today I’m joined by Eric Sardinas. Thank you for taking the time to talk with me.
Thank you. It’s a pleasure.
The other day I realized that it’s been almost 15 years since you released your first album, Treat Me Right. What’s been the biggest change with your approach to writing and recording music and even the industry from 1999 to now?
I think the changes have all been kind of organic. Just in the sense that people are able to independently record and sell their music without any of the record labels, or record labels in general, and being able to produce your own music with or without major studios. There’s been a bigger surge of that which is great.
Have you changed your approach to writing music?
No, I don’t think so. I think my approach to writing music is fairly organic. I never write two songs the same way. Some songs I write from backwards to forward, frontward to backward or something comes before the other. You know, whether it’s music or ideas or words, you know, everything together. It’s very, like I said, it’s very organic the way I write. I think the approach to music is, each song needs to be treated differently and you have to chip it away until you find it.
So what’s kept you motivated to keep writing and keep touring and performing for people?
I think it’s just the basic love for music and what music gives to me, what it gave to me since I started coherently knowing what I was listening to as a child and music has been the one thing that inspires me and makes me happy and connects me. It’s like my air. To make music and to be able to have music be such a major part of my life, to be able to travel around the world making it, is a real great thing for me.
Well cool. I know you’ve been playing guitar since you were very young, but do you remember the one song that made you stop and think, “THIS is what I want to do.”
I don’t know if it was really about one song. I think it was just the energy. There’s just so much great music and I was inspired by so many different energies of music and styles of music. Everybody loves music. I really felt music was the thing that was definitely my motivation and inspired me the most at a very early age. I just felt it very naturally. It wasn’t like one song, it was just kind of more an overall love of the music.
What is your personal history with the Gibson Resonator guitars you use on stage and what drew you to that style of guitar?
Well, I was really inspired by traditional blues. I really love the acoustic energy of traditional blues and acoustic playing in general. I really took to those guitars, a little out of the box, and pushed them forward and found my own electric voice within that instrument. It’s my own creation and it’s something that I’m very connected to. It’s my ode to, my respect for traditional and straight ahead roots music, but also at the same time, also moving it forward.
Since you’ve been touring, have you pretty much used the same guitars or do you switch them out and try different ones?
No, I have many, many, many resonators but I have my favorites. Every guitar has its own voice and its own soul, so you just use it for how it moves you. That’s the way I look at it.
In the past I’ve seen you set your guitar on fire and play it. Do you do that anymore?
I don’t really look at it like something I do. It’s things. Things like that happen and I’ve done it before and I’ve beaten on it many times before and broken guitars and thrown guitars into the crowd and things like that.
Your live performance is full of very passionate playing and singing. Do you have a specific setlist in mind each night, or does it vary depending on your mood, or do you just make it up as you go along?
There’s a lot of freedom and there may be some structure, just like within the songs, but we never play the songs the same way twice. There’s a lot of freedom within it even though there’s structure. But there’s always an outline, but the of the moment and creativity and all that stuff, there’s a lot of freedom and a lot of open interpretation. It can go in any direction at any time. I think the best part about making music is the freedom as opposed to the structures.
I also have to add you have a fantastic wardrobe. Do you have your clothes custom made or do you find them in random stores?
(laughs) I pretty much wear everything vintage or have things made that reflect what I like in the vintage style. Stuff that I like, yeah, it’s always vintage or made. I’m not somebody that gets things off the racks. (laughs)
So over the years, you’ve had a few line-up changes and most recently, Bryan Keeling is now playing drums with you. How did that come about?
It’s a real great thing that ended up being a very natural progression. I always believe that the band is like a family and it always has to be that way for me, for me to be happy. We’ve been looking for that sort of third amigo, if you will, and that’s exactly what we got. It’s just very organic. Our drummer last year went to Foreigner and Bryan came out of Shooter Jennings’ band and it was just meant to be. We all feel that we found everybody for a reason at the right time.
You’ve played overseas quite a bit through the years and in April you’re going back again. Are you playing new places this time around?
Yes, of course. It always changes. We don’t always play the same places. There’s a lot of places we go back to, but we don’t always play the same places.
Is there a country that you prefer?
That’s a tough question. Every country has its great moments of memories of all the times that I’ve been there. You could go to a country and not have a good experience or not a good show and think that its not a place you want to be at or play at, but then you go back and it’s incredible. I’ve been able to revisit, to be in so many countries more than a dozen times that there are good shows and bad shows. But as far as playing overseas, I pretty much hold it all together and I think every place is great.
Do you notice a huge difference between the United States with either the fans or the vibe over there for the style of music?
That’s what I’m saying, it’s different playing music down South as it is, I don’t know, in the Midwest. Maybe there’s a little difference. But I just think it’s an energy thing. I think every place has its own energy. France has a different energy than Italy. That doesn’t mean it’s anything but just a different vibe. It’s always good though. People have their own energy from where they’re from. It is what it is.
Is there a specific country that you haven’t been to that you want to go to still?
I don’t know. I haven’t played in Africa or Cuba yet. West Africa, something like that.
That might be interesting.
Yeah. Or Casablanca or something like that.
Are there any bands you’re listening to, new bands that you’ve discovered or any band that some people might be surprised you listen to?
I’m basically wide open with music. I listen to pretty much everything, so I can say anything. I keep my ears open. I think the worst thing you can do is only listen to one genre of music. I think it’s good to be inspired by everything that’s around. I think it’s healthy.
Right. You never know when that next impact or emotion is going to hit you from a song or a lyric or something like that.
Yeah, you never know. Some people, they only like one kind of music. You’d be surprised, there’s a lot, especially music from the past. The amount of music that’s gone on in the past, it’s kind of hard sometimes to rediscover it, unless you’re inspired to go back and check it out. Digging in music from the past is one of my favorite things.
Your last album Sticks and Stones was released in 2011. Have you been working on any new material for your next album?
Oh yeah. Absolutely. We’re looking to record at some point this year.
Do you think it will be released this year as well?
Don’t know yet, too many cooks in the kitchen. I don’t know yet. That’s something that happens after the recording process. We’ll figure it out. Hopefully, hopefully.
Do you think you’ll do a traditional release with CD or do you think you’ll do digital, or possibly vinyl?
We released the last album on vinyl and CD of course, iTunes as well. I would imagine we’d do it the same way. I’m all about physical product. I like to be able to hold music in my hands.
I do too. Alright, so over the years you’ve collaborated with various artists. Is there anyone else that you’d love to create music with or have as a guest musician that you haven’t already?
Oh yeah, sure. There are a lot. There are so many people that I’ve met and have been able to bill with and play with but I haven’t had the opportunity to record with. The bottom line is the future may bring great things. But the list goes on and on.
I’d like to talk about the tattoo on your back.
Your large tattoo, I might add, of the snake wrapped around the guitar with the banner “Respect Tradition.” Does that saying come from something specific or is it more a way of life?
Oh absolutely. I believe the snake represents a lot of different things to different cultures, but to me it’s a sign of protection and of warning and “Respect Tradition” is from my respect for traditional blues because I like to blur the lines and push my kind of blues a little forward. But it’s all about the roots and the respect for traditional music.
So I guess the snake explains why you have another tattoo on your chest and you’re known to wear the hat with the snake head on it. That actually answers another question I had.
I’ve got a little bit of an affinity for snakes. So, it is what it is. (laughs)
They’re very cool animals, or reptiles I should say. Well, thank you again for taking the time to talk with me.
Oh yeah, absolutely. Thanks for giving me a call.
Take care and I wish you the best of luck with everything and I look forward to those new tunes.
Yeah, absolutely. Thanks.
Keep up with Eric Sardinas and Big Motor below:
Check out Eric Sardinas performing “Get Down to Whiskey” below: