Today’s Feature – July 28-29: Ernie Halter

July 29, 2008 at 8:45 pm (Today's Feature)

Since day 1, Ernie Halter has always been a step ahead in his musical career. Just starting out, he was playing wherever and whenever he could, which included the occasional bustling coffee shop; shouted orders and busy blenders part of the territory during his sets. How would you react to this stage setting? Personally, I’d likely just get pissed off. However Halter is probably the only artist that would use the blenders to his advantage, creating tones that worked and mixed with the noisy machines. It’s this innovative approach that has no doubt aided Halter in getting the word out on his stellar sounds and songs.

You can see him on his own YouTube series, covering songs by fan request. Some of them appear on the new record “Starting Over” including, “Just Friends” from Musiq Soulchild, “Pretty Girl” from David Ryan Harris and the very popular “Cyclone” from Baby Bash (Have you heard that one yet? It’s solid). Speaking of the new album, the entire recording process was broadcast over the net from their New York City studio, something perhaps no one has ever done. The collection’s material is autobiographical, detailing some of his recent experiences including “the end of a marriage and the birth of his son.”

The music on “Starting Over” remains consistent Ernie Halter, echoing his belief that “a soulful heartfelt vocal is the most important part,” and that the “perfect groove or rhythm hypnotizes you and makes you want to nod your head, shake your ass.” When you get the chance, shake your ass at a live Halter performance. He generally attacks the stage with only a guitar, and prides himself on stories about his travels, porn and “the dangers of drinking and baking.” You can learn more about this and so much more by simply diving into the XXQ’s.

XXQs: Ernie Halter

PEV: Tell us how you first jumped into playing music.

Ernie Halter (EH): It kind of was. I was always playing around with instruments from a very young age. My mom forced piano lessons on me, and that part I hated, because it was classical training. Way too rigid. I had much more fun with piano after I quit taking lessons and started teaching myself to understand chords and music theory, rather than playing a Bach invention note for note.

PEV: Born in Inglewood, CA, raised in Orange County, what kind of music were you listening to growing up?

EH: I was raised in Tustin CA, but technically born in Inglewood, which I think will make a hilarious introduction when I finally get the chance to sing at The Apollo Theater in Harlem one day. Growing up I listened to what my older brother Alex was listening to. Everything from Billy Joel’s Glass Houses, to The Who, Van Halen, but I he played me my first listen of the Beatles (Abbey Road, Sgt Peppers, Revolver, etc) and it changed my world forever.

PEV: You said, “I was a musician for hire for a while… playing wherever and whenever I could to pay the bills.” With that, tell us about the early days in the music business for you. What were your first performances like and what was it like working your way into gigs?

EH: I would pretty much play anywhere I could make a few bucks doing it. I played a lot of coffeeshops. I remember having to play over the sound of the blenders and barista’s shouting coffee orders in my left ear. I figured out one day that the blenders made a certain tone, and that I could transpose my songs in that key so that the two sounds would compliment each other. No one else noticed but me, but that’s ok.

PEV: Now, how has your style and stage presence changed from those first shows?

EH: I feel like years of touring has really radically improved my show and stage presence. I’ve learned how to work rowdy crowds, pull them into what I’m doing by including them. I tell stories and work them into introductions to my songs, so that my audience can relate their own lives to my music. After all, we’re all selfish. Tell your listeners why this song is about their life, and they’ll pay attention.

Stylistically I feel as though I’ve stayed fairly consistent. I’ve always felt that a soulful heartfelt vocal was the most important part, and my accompaniment has stayed fairly simple. I believe in the power of “the pocket”, that perfect groove or rhythm that hypnotizes you and makes you want to nod your head, shake your ass. I think a lot of acoustic singer-songwriter types neglect this because they’re not playing with a drummer, but I’ve always felt it was extremely important. Back then I played with drum machines, now I play with loop pedals. Anything with perfect time, that I can groove to. Even if its just a guitar and my voice.

PEV: Was there a certain point when you realized that music was going to become more than just a hobby?

EH: I acted in high school and before that as a kid. Music was a hobby, and acting was more my focus. But one day I got into an argument with my acting teacher, and I quit and joined the jazz band. Later that year I attended a summer program in LA hosted by Berklee School of Music. I met other serious young musicians for the first time in my life, and I knew then that this was all I ever wanted to do.

PEV: Who have you not collaborated with so far that you would like to?

EH: I would die happy to write with Elvis Costello or Paul McCartney, tour with Bonnie Raitt, or record a duet with Stevie Wonder.

PEV: In all your travels, which city do you think offers the best scene for music?

EH: Music overall or singer-songwriters? That’s a tough one because I’ve only really worked the music scene in LA. Still I think Atlanta has a really good music scene for the acoustic thing. Nashville is great because its such a songwriting focused community and there is so much great talent there to collaborate with. Though playing shows in Nashville is tough, as in any big music city, because of over saturation.

PEV: How has “life on the road” been for you? Good parts? Bad parts?

EH: Mostly good. I love meeting new people, catching up with old friends. I’ve got friends everywhere pretty much now, which is nice. Feels like a bit of home everywhere I go — because otherwise the road can get lonely. It’s hard to find time in the day to catch up with family and friends back home. Even as I type this, I’ve got 15 minutes till we hit the club in Richmond for sound check, and we’re late.

PEV: What can fans expect from a live Ernie Halter performance?

EH: Full frontal nudity. Not really. Not yet anyhow. I tell a bit of off color stories of my various travels, talk about porn, the dangers of drinking and baking, and whatever else comes to mind during my 40 minutes. Musically speaking I usually play solo – just myself and a guitar. Take requests from the crowd< and otherwise deliver the most heartfelt performance I possibly can.

PEV: Before a show, are there any pre-show rituals you do or is just go out there and perform?

EH: I like to write a setlist and also a “storylist” which has all the things I feel like talking about that night in between songs. If I’m feeling like a prissy vocalist I’ll drink some tea with honey and cleanse my sinuses with Alkalol and a Neti pot. now that’s a party we’d all like to be invite to.

PEV: Any embarrassing or funny live performance stories?

EH: Some girl flashed me her boobs once. the funny part was that it was one of my first gigs ever — at a coffee shop called Al Cappuccino. There were 3 people there, including the girl who flashed me. I was like, um ok, wtf?

PEV: Is there an up and coming artist out right now that you think we should all be looking into?

EH: My friend Dave Barnes is amazing. others you should definitely check out: Tony Lucca, Tyrone Wells, Josh Hoge, Sylvie Lewis, Eric Hutchinson, and I cant get that new Katy Perry song “Kissed A Girl” out of my head.

PEV: What can fans expect from your upcoming release, “Starting Over”?

EH: Fans can expect a much more autobiographical record. The songs detail some of what I’ve been through in the last year. I strived to make the message as universal as I could, even though the material came from very personal experience.

PEV: How has your work on this album differ from your previous works?

EH: On Starting Over, I did more solo writing than on Congress Hotel. On the songs that I did co-write, I feel like I’ve had more influence as a lyricist than ever before. I wanted to deliver a soulful record that wasn’t too polished or over produced, for example, tracking vocals in the control room for more of a live feel with no editing.

PEV: In one word, describe Ernie Halter.

EH: F’awesome

For more information on Ernie Halter, check out www.ErnieHalter.com

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1 Comment

  1. 500conversations said,

    What a great interview. Ernie is one of the hardest working guys out there these days. šŸ™‚

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