Matthew Lenox: Hope this isn’t rude or inappropriate, but what is a city boy like you doing, playing country?
Eric Van Houten: Well, I grew up on it. I grew up going out to the land my uncles owned and stuff, riding ATV’s, shooting deer and hanging out so it’s kind of what o grew up listening to, so it’s something I edged my way into when I began learning how to perform so it came kind of easy.
ML: Is there a good country scene in Buffalo?
EVH: It’s working its way up to where the rock is now. It’s not as popular as your rock, jazz and blues buts it’s getting there. Were getting a good fan base and there’s a lot of country music fans. They’re right now starting to support the local country scene and not just the national artists that come here. They’re actually starting to go out and listen to it and demand more of the local acts at the bars and venues around here.
ML: Would you say there is an area around here that could be considered the central scene for country music?
EVH: Williamsville has a good draw because they have a nice venue there in Club Infinity. They do a lot of country shows but it’s all over. You can’t really pinpoint it, it’s everywhere. Obviously you get it more in the Elma area where there’s actually country and farm land.
ML: You seem ambitious when it comes to your music career and what you want to do with it. Do you plan on staying in Buffalo or perhaps going somewhere else with a bigger market?
EVH: We were just down in Nashville not too long ago, in the beginning of October, we were down there with some good friends, the heritage, who we just played with last Saturday at club infinity. Jillian McNeight was there, a female singer I was performing with for awhile. She was in the band, we had a little breaking off, she went off and did her own thing, but we still write and record and perform together. Her and I went down there with Scott and Christian and Donny from the heritage and we were performing and really liked the city and a really clean place to live. I don’t know about moving there now but it’s defiantly something I would consider in the future.
ML: I saw that you were recently nominated for an award. Can you tell me more about that?
EVH: The band was nominated for top country band in Western New York by the Buffalo Night Life Music Awards. I was also nominated for top male vocalist. My guitar player, Joe Kreppel, was nominated for top lead guitar player. And Jillian was nominated for female vocalist.
ML: What led you to become a singer?
EVH: When I started playing I was just kind of learning songs, not really focusing on what was being said, just what was being played, working on my guitar playing. When I started performing I was actually just playing lead guitar for my friend at cafes. We were called 4 Years Apart because that was our age difference. I was like 14 and he was like 18. He was doing all of the singing, while I did backups and then my dad came up to me at one point and he suggested I try some singing so I gave it a shot, practicing at home and I would sing along with the tunes we were playing. Started performing then on my own and started singing, I kept trying at it and now it’s natural.
ML: Have you released any CDs yet?
EVH: In September of 2011, we recorded a 6 song CD and released it in March of 2012. It was called Aint Gonna Do cause that was one of the tracks on there. That was one of the ones professionally done whereas the others were garage and basement stuff. Nothing spectacular, just kind of done to get our songs out there and get some gigs. Then things started rolling and we began opening for some national recording artists and we’ve been rolling ever since.
ML: In your performances, do you play a lot of your own material or mainly covers?
EVH: Well, depends on the venue. When we’re playing shows where we are opening up for people, if we get like 45 minutes to an hour, we split it. Half original material and half covers that people are interested in and can dance to.
ML: I saw one of the covers you did was "Rolling in the Deep" by Adele.
EVH: Yeah, we can no longer do that song because Jillians gone but it got some good crowd reaction when we covered it.
ML: That’s an interesting cover for a country band.
EVH: Yeah, that’s why we did it. We also did some Beatles tunes, just to do some tunes that people wouldn’t expect out of a country band. They were coming expecting country and then they got that little treat. So people could come to our shows and not expect just country.
ML: What does the future hold for your band?
EVH: Well, our sound guy right now, Jimmy K, owns his own basement studio and is really good, has great gear and software. Were down there recording some songs to get them on CD, hopefully they can come out soon. Try and get them done as quickly but as good as possible so we can material moving and get people listening and hopefully broaden our fan base so we can perform outside of Buffalo and go down south and out west. Coming up, we got some shows at Club Infinity lined up. We will be opening up there for national recording artist James Wesley. He’s got a couple tunes on the radio, some top 10s. That’s on November 30th so that should be a good time.
ML: Thank you for your time.
EVH: Thank you buddy.
After we have concluded the interview, he cannot resist but pick up the acoustic guitar again and begin to noodle around on it. He goes through a torrent of song snippets, sampling his favorite artists. He mentions that Eric Church and Keith Urban are favorite artists of his and Keith Urban actually inspired him to pursue guitar playing seriously. While discussing the difference in country musicians of now and years ago, he says he has a preference of artists of the past over the present but takes the chance to mention that besides country music, he also grew up on 80s metal. In his performances, he channels the energy of an 80's band lead singer over a country singer because he prefers to be animated like them as opposed to the stiff front men of some country bands. He goes as far as to say that he wants to blend Poison and Kiss with George Strait and Elvis. If he does try and blend these styles, it might be interesting to see if he would be the first country star to wear face paint for his performances.