Interview: Eric Sommer

Interview: Eric Sommer

How does your cultural background influence your daily life and decision-making?

I live the way I grew up – it is chaotic, vibrant, somewhat undisciplined depending on the activity at hand, but always robust and full of passion. When I do something, I am in it generally all the way. That’s me functioning at the edge of the spectrum since I don’t do well in the middle.

What does wellness mean to you, and how do you prioritize it in your daily life?

I don’t even really know what that term means. Sounds like a made-up word the Medical Industry uses to market more solutions to made up crisis situations. I try to stay as far away as I can from the Medical Industrial Complex, the group that has a very sketchy track record, shady medical solutions, and even shadier funding.

The best medicine is to watch what you eat, have a good diet that suits your physiology and stay out of hospitals – they are germ and virus magnets. I try to stay healthy on my own, since I am responsible for health and well-being. I try to eat correctly, do as much in moderation as I can and do what makes me have energy and focus.

I toured with the Dead Kennedy’s, Mission of Burma and Gang of Four for 7 years or so, and there was so much of everything that I was going to die. It was getting in the way of the music, and it made life miserable. Today I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, and I do no drugs of any kind at all and that is what makes it worth getting up in the morning.

Are there specific wellness rituals or practices that you swear by for maintaining balance and harmony?

There are a few. I am generally up at 6am. I listen to Miles Davis, I listen to John Coltrain and I listen to Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jon Mayall and Mose Alison in the morning, and that puts me in touch with what I was working on the previous day and circles me back to my roots.

I have a large pot of coffee all hot and ready and I carefully review what is up for the day, what the specific deliverables are and the deadlines… and I get to work!

When I snack, I generally have a slice of pear, or a smoothie of bananas, blueberries, and a scoop of Superfood/Energy. That generally goes til noon when I have a scoop of cottage cheese, half a ham sandwich and “core” water. This simple ritual does wonders for me – it keeps me focused, keeps me on a steady schedule of food intake, and regulates my energy supply.

I don’t do well in the middle. Balance is not a great solution for me, because chaos and confusion are the cauldron from which great creativity emerges, at least that’s best environment for me. Rollo May has a wonderful book titled “The Courage to Create” in which he carefully explains his views on the creative process. And the result? To create, destruction must occur. You need to destroy a current position you may hold so that the new position can take its place. Or it could be a new idea, a new approach that replaces an old approach – whatever it may be, the act of creation is essentially a destructive process.

Striking a balance doesn’t keep you on or even near the edge, and being on the edge is where I function the best, and creativity explodes.

Describe your relationship with food. Are you a foodie, a health enthusiast, or a bit of both?

I am neither one of those. I see food as a bit of a nuisance: I know I need it, I need it for energy, but I hate the time it takes to get it all together, preparing it, cooking it and so on. I eat to live, not the other way around. If there was an IV for Porterhouse steak with mashed potatoes and gravy, I’d much rather hook into that, than spend all the time required to make it.

I do enjoy sitting around the table but only for a short period – I can only do that for so long until the urge to write, work on songs, write melodies or jump into studio and work out a new mix or a new song takes over…

Do you have a favorite cuisine or dish that holds a special place in your heart?

I gew up in Bangkok, Thailand, and the street food, the noodle carts that roamed the soi and the little village paths is always something I long for.

The best dish I ever had from those years that I remember vividly was on the train from Bangkok to Cambodia, and they served a rice dish that was Thai fried rice with scallions and a fried egg on top that was out-of-this-world delicious.

The noodles the food cart vendors sold in the street was equally delicious: large, small, egg or thin rice noodles in hot chicken stock broth with fish balls and handfuls of bean sprouts…

Are you a sports enthusiast, and if so, which sports do you follow or participate in?

I like anything done well; I always enjoy watching squash and Cricket, but other than that, nothing really does it for me.

Do you have a favorite sports team or athlete that you passionately support?

I have been a fan of Tom Brady for years. My interest dropped off immediately after he left the game.

What’s your all-time favorite movie, and what about it resonates with you?

I love Fahrenheit 451, that’s the original movie version by Francoise Truffaut, and it is such a wonderful yet truly frightening narrative about the rise of the Government as being all powerful. It gives al the more power to all efforts to resist tyranny in any and all forms.

Do you have a preferred movie genre, or do you enjoy exploring a variety of genres?

I enjoy and appreciate anything that is done well. A good narrative, well scored, filmed, and written, is always good, no matter what the classification.

Can you recall a film that has had a significant influence on your perspective or outlook on life?

There was a short film that I saw when I was just barely 16 called “Occurance at Owl Creek Bridge” that has stayed with me for years – it had everything I found essential to good film making; the others are “A Hard Day’s Night”, “2002 A Space Odyssey”, and “400 Blows” and just about every film by Fellini, most of all “8 ½” and “Amarchord”

What is your favorite album of all time?

“Maiden Voyage” by Herbie Hancock

Tell us about your latest project!

As a band, we have a lot going on for 2024. There will be a lot more sonic experimentations, we will be using more dynamic arrangements, and we will be incorporating more unique instruments – Cello, for one. I want to try more horn arrangements and using piano on some new songs – not overpowered orchestral approaches, but clear and minimal string parts.

Since I started out in the acoustic side, I am going to try and do more in that area, and really explor the players I learned from in the beginning: David Bromberg, Steve Howe, Bert Jansch and Davy Graham.

We will have another record out for the Trio “Eric Sommer and The Fabulous Piedmonts” as well as a new solo record of acoustic material with vocals and 3-4 part harmonies.

Stay tuned!