The electrification of Eric Himan

Posted on 14 Jan 2010 at 4:39pm
By ARNOLD WAYNE JONES | Life+Style Editor jones@dallasvoice.com

The queer acoustic rocker has a new band, a new CD, a new sound. But the singer-songwriter is still up to an old trick: Making great music

WE ARE FAMILY | Angel Adams, left, and Eric Himan, center, form the gay nexus of Eric and the Adams, while Angel’s brother Jimmy keeps it all in the family. (Photo by Kelly Kerr)

UP AND ADAMS
Eric and the Adams performs at Sue Ellen’s,
3014 Throckmorton St. Jan. 15. 10 p.m.
Caven.com.
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If you think you have an idea about the kind of music Eric Himan makes, that idea may be about to change.

Himan — the sexy, tattooed Oklahoman — has spent the better part of a decade staking his claim to gay indie musician cred. Dark Horse, his soulful 2005 CD, established him as a guitar god equally at home with rockabilly and radio-friendly pop ballads. But while his acoustic sound identified him, it did not define him — at least, not to himself.

"I have been touring non-stop since 2002 with solo acoustic music," Himan says from his home in Tulsa. "But when I was growing up, I liked bands like the Black Crowes and Pearl Jam. When I heard the music I was listening to, I wanted to play that."

Yes, deep down, Himan has always been a closet metalhead who dreamed of sounding like Aerosmith: Loud.

Himan’s dad nurtured his music, buying him acoustic and electric guitars by the time he was a teenager, but making sure that he also studied the fundamentals (Himan can still play "Claire de Lune" if you press him). But when he went to college, it was the acoustic that he toted along.

"I liked a lot of the acoustic artists of the time, like Dave Matthews and Ani DiFranco. A guy holding an acoustic guitar? People responded to that. And it was easy to play acoustic by myself. If the power goes out, I can still play; with an electric, if the power goes out, no gig!"

Himan might have continued along that path if he hadn’t met Angel and Jimmy Adams. He was doing a show in Washington, D.C., when a friend mentioned a brother-and-sister team from Tulsa and said they should work together. Months later, he met Jimmy and Angel at an open mike night and asked if they would back him up for a show. It worked, and he tapped them for session work on his 2008 CD Resonate. They all recognized the chemistry when they came together.

"As brother and sister, they have been playing together for a while and they are very upbeat. Jimmy is the crazy one and Angel is the gracious one and I’m the business one. I was drawn to their charisma, which made me a little looser in my business mode and lightened up the whole thing. When you’re having a good time on stage, it shows and people are drawn to that," he says.

And then he switched to an electric guitar. And that opened an entire new sound.
"We took 2009 to develop the band and take my music to the next level," Himan explains. "We thought it would be great if, by the end of the year, we could go off the momentum of that work."

They just made it. In December, the eponymous five-song CD Eric and the Adams dropped, and while it may not rival Steven Tyler and company for stadium rock, it’s a surprising and bold ratcheting up of Himan’s usually leisurely tenor. Angel’s rollicking drumwork and Jimmy’s bass ground the songs, but also speed them up.

It’s evolutionary more than revolutionary, familiar yet different. Which is what Himan wanted.

"You always get the ‘I liked you better when’ comments — some people just don’t like change. But it’s not like I’m instantly trying to be Nickelback. A good song is always a good song no matter what you do with it," he says.

So far, the response has been positive. Eric and the Adams toured extensively in 2009, working on their new material and their sound.

"We’ve played all over the country — a lot of Pride events — and even though it wasn’t exactly the same sound [I used to play], it has been well-received."

Himan has recently had some of his songs licensed for use on TV shows like Keeping Up with the Kardashians, The Hills and The Real World, and the new album has been heavily marketed toward college radio. But the gay identity does follow them — for good and bad.

 "We do play a lot of gay events, which makes Jimmy stand out because he’s the only straight one. People always come up to him and say, ‘It’s great of you to be here.’ He’s like, ‘I’m playing a gig. I didn’t really donate to a charity.’"

Himan finds another taboo far more interesting: Having a female drummer, which still raises eyebrows sometimes. ("People are still shocked that she kicks it," he says.)

But ultimately, it’s all part of being who he wants to be musically.

"For me, being a gay artist who happens to play music, it’s funny to me how surprised people are [when they hear my music]. I still had to learn to play guitar and how to sing — it’s not like being gay is a handicap. But we don’t fit the stereotype of a band. We’re not dark or trying to create an image. We just play the music we like and let it be fun."  

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 15, 2010.

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