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Everlast explores the life acoustic 

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Even before there was a Google, musician Erik Schrody, aka Everlast, kept his songs in the cloud. He never wrote a single song down. He believes that if he can't retain the lyrics or melody, then maybe it wasn't really his to write. It started as a way to keep his battle rhymes sharp and grew into a habit.

"It's literally that I don't see lyrics as words; I see them as pictures and captured moments," says the New York rapper from his Montana home. "I have tried to write songs down ... but the minute it goes from a picture in my head to a two-dimensional word on a page, I lose all interest in it. It can be brilliant in my head but if I put it on paper, it's suddenly horrible."

The rapper/musician has settled into the life of an indie artist, self-releasing his last three discs – 2008's Love, War and the Ghost of Whitey Ford, 2011's Songs of the Ungrateful Living, and his latest, The Life Acoustic. He's built a studio in his home and is slowly working on his next full-length album. But in the meantime he's been drawn into the world of the acoustic troubadour.

Though he's played radio shows and the occasional unplugged performance, Everlast had never seriously considered the solo singer/songwriter thing until he appeared on Joe Rogan's podcast. That prompted more interest in Everlast as a solo performer, and the experience has been a good one.

"A lot of people do acoustic shows and I just feel, without being arrogant, they don't sound as good as ours," he says. "There's an energy that I don't think exists at most acoustic shows."

It only seemed natural then to record an album of stripped-down versions of Everlast's older songs, particularly tracks from his last couple albums that might have been missed, like the powerful political anthem "Stone in My Hand." The songs are spare and straightforward, giving them an austere no-nonsense power.

"I just recorded them exactly how I wrote them," he says. "Before, it was produced. I went back to when it was just me and a glass of whiskey in the living room."

The Life Acoustic is a strong set, ranging from the easygoing blues-folk "Sad Girl," to the searing "Black Jesus," a groovy roots cover of Slick Rick's classic "Children's Story," his gruff growl giving it the air of an old backwoods standard. Everlast even offers a take on his career-making hip-hop track "Jump Around," which he originally recorded with his late-'80s/early-'90s rap act, House of Pain.

"'Jump Around' has taken real good care of me. To this day it enables me to do what I want to do. I don't have to worry about selling a million records. I can do a smaller independent label thing and still make a real good living."

The next Everlast album, meanwhile, will be more of a return to his rap roots.

"I was in Dilated Peoples' studio the other day and there was a beat on so I put a rhyme down," he says. "I like my guitar and singing songs, but there will always be a hip-hop element to what I do."

scene@csindy.com

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