by Shawn Schikora
After appearing in Chicago for several Market Days concerts and participating in the closing ceremonies for Gay Games VII in 2006 at Wrigley Field, singer/songwriter Eric Himan returns for this year's Market Days.
A longtime LGBT indie music favorite, Himan feels this year's Market Days performance will be his "biggest appearance yet." Accompanied by his new back-up band, Himan seemed psyched during a recent interview, having recently released a well-received new recording, Supposed Unknown, his seventh studio CD on his own label, Thumbcrown Records. Considered by many to be a commercial breakthrough, the new CD is also both a continuation of Himan's long-held eclectic musical mix of folk/pop/rock and a return to his acoustic roots after a slight departure for a more pop-oriented approach with his now-disbanded group, Eric and the Adams. While well-received, Himan considered the group "a short-lived pop project that I lead. It was fun, but I don't see an [Eric and the Adams] reunion show anytime in the future."
While Supposed Unknown is broadening Himan's fan base (the hard-edged single "Dust" was a hit on Midwest rock stations, and the ballad "Save the Afternoon" has received substantial airplay on Sirius XM's Coffeehouse Channel), Himan downplayed any career maneuvering in regard to this new disc. When asked about his intent creating the music, Himan said, "I really didn't have big intentions for the CD. I was just excited to work with my friend and fellow singer/songwriter, Namoli Brennet. We recorded at her house in Tucson, Ariz., and we just clicked. By the time the session was over, I had about 10-12 songs which made it easy to consider it my next full-length disc."
"Recording the CD was the most relaxed recording session I ever had. There was no looking at the clock to see how much time I had left in the studio or my wallet. It was organic, and Namoli was a great producer to have on the disc."
Himan has steadily built a career on his own terms, without major label backing or a team of agents or publicists. He's also refused to compromise his electric musical style to fit one particular category. "I do feel pressure as an acoustic artist to be softer and quieter in my sound," he said. "I had a run-in with a record label that wanted me to be their quiet singer/songwriter. Suffice it to say, it didn't work out that well. I have no problems singing a ballad, but I do like to get loud a good percentage of the time."
While he embraces a wide variety of styles in his music, and is equally adept at singing a rockabilly song as well as a soulful ballad, when asked which genre he most identifies with, Himan said, "I think blues music is at my core. I can pick up any other style but the minute I hear someone sing the blues, all I want to do is join in."
Although openly gay since the beginning of his career a decade ago, Himan hasn't used his sexuality as direct marketing tool. He admitted, "I've gotten a bit of the 'Use more male pronouns in your songs' speech and 'Why don't you go for a more Lady Gaga appearance style?" Himan believed he simply does "what comes naturally. It was natural for me to be out from the start of my career, and I have addressed LGBT issues in a few of my songs, namely 'Protest Song.'"
Himan's grassroots approach to building his career has included extensive touring. While this has earned him a loyal fan base (including many in the LGBT community), some might wonder if his extensive touring schedule makes maintaining a romantic relationship difficult. "I have been with my partner for six years and, yes, sometimes it does get hard when I am gone for weeks at a time, but many jobs involve this kind of traveling and distance," Himan explained. "I am lucky to be with my loving, trusting person who has made my life so much easier, and pushes me to be the best musician I can be. If you are with someone supportive, you can do anything."
After 10 years in the businessbuilt during the rise of the Internet, satellite radio and music downloadingHiman feels his fan base "has expanded, but really hasn't changed that much." Himan's eclectic music has long had wide appeal, gaining him a diverse group of fans. "I've played all different types of bars/clubs/events, and find different listeners in each one. I am pretty lucky and blessed that my music has attracted women, men, gay, straight. I'm always trying to reach more people, and I hope with this new disc that it does reach out to more listeners."
Eric Himan performs at Northalsted Market Days Saturday, Aug. 13. For more info on Eric, visit www.erichiman.com .