Scoop: Lone Ranger

We catch up with local musician Eric Elbogen, a modern-day one-man band, to learn the pros and cons

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We catch up with local musician Eric Elbogen, a modern-day one-man band, to learn the pros and cons of going it alone

With the release of his CD Oohs & Ahhs this month (March 3), Eric Elbogen of the band Say Hi—which has earned acclaim from Rolling Stone and The New York Times—makes the leap from being a DIY musician releasing self-produced albums on his Euphobia label, to a DIY musician signed with local label Barsuk Records. What’s surprising about Say Hi is that its full band sound (guitar, bass, keyboards, drum and vocal) is actually the result of one very creative man toiling solo in his Seattle home. All of the band’s catchy indie-pop tunes are written, arranged and played single-handedly by Elbogen. We caught up with this modern-day one-man band to learn the pros and cons of going it alone.


Seattle Magazine: What’s your musical background?
Eric Elbogen: I started teaching myself to play the guitar in 1989 (I think) and very quickly shifted my focus from the technical aspects of playing an instrument to writing songs. A rudimentary proficiency at other instruments sort of just happened during the process of making records at home.

What are the challenges of recording albums all by yourself?
EE: Staying objective throughout the whole process, figuring out how to know what’s good without being able to bounce ideas off of contemporaries. I also think there’s something lost when it isn’t four people playing in a room together: the unquantifiable subtleties that happen when a drummer is pushing one way, a bass player, the other. I think that sort of thing affects people on a subconscious level when we’re listening to records. Trying to compensate for that is difficult.

SM: What are the advantages of being your own band?
EE: The fact that I don’t need to consult anyone about the decisions I make. Once you introduce three more egos into the equation, it becomes far more difficult to get anything done.

SM: But how do you play all those instruments on tour?
EE: I’ve been fortunate to have a variety of talented musicians come on tour with me to help re-create the songs live.

SM: You released five records without being signed to a label—why sign now?
EE: The more I do this, the more I desire to focus on writing songs, making records and becoming a better performer, instead of…the business side of things.

SM: What equipment is essential for someone looking to become a solo band?
EE: A decent computer and some basic knowledge of audio software. I’m definitely a nerd and gearhead when it comes to this sort of stuff, but every time I finish a record, I realize I’ve spent way too much time worrying about the hardware and software, when I should have spent the time writing better song structures and melodies or getting better performances out of myself.

SM: Do you see solo bands as a growing music trend?
EE: Well, I don’t wish my insular existence on anybody, so I really hope not.