Eric Lindell enjoys the view from his back porch — and he should, he’s earned it. Recently returned from a West Coast jaunt, Lindell is resting comfortably on his porch in Louisiana, watching the trees sway and listening to the crawfish click. He has spent more than 20 years on the road, bringing his laid-back blend of country, blues and soul to audiences who have taken very nicely to his brand.
His music isn’t overly complicated. It’s actually fairly simple stuff, and he’s fine with that. Some of the best songs ever written have three chords, and anyway, the best parts of soul and blues don’t lie in analyzing song structure. The parts that are important, Lindell gets.
His most recent studio album, Indian Summer, brings Lindell’s soul and blues influences together with whatever debauchery Louisiana adds to music, and it brings three niche crowds together as well, giving Lindell ample time to drive around the country, and less time on his back porch. But he doesn’t mind, because the work is also the reward.
Like any soul and/or blues artist, for Lindell and bandmates — bass player Myles Weeks and drummer Will McMains — it’s all about pouring heart and soul into the live performance. As a young surf punk, though, he learned this commitment to the craft from a different sort of artist.”When I was young, one of my favorite bands was Fishbone,” Lindell says. “They crossed all genres and boundaries, they didn’t really do just one thing. I liked that they were all over the place with their music.”
Lindell’s love for soul and blues has always been prevalent, and so has his songwriting strategy: Pick a few nice chords and write about what you know. “I really just write basic life stuff everyone can relate to. I translate it into songs. If you can do that, I think you are hitting on something. I’m not trying to sound too crafty, I just write about three chords and a message, like blues, country songs,” he says. “That old Jimmy Reed stuff with the exact same progression, same chord, but the songs are still great. I admire that stuff.”
This straightforward approach shines through effortlessly on Indian Summer, which, while light and laid-back, also has a little snarl tucked in under the back beat. “We started Indian Summer as an acoustic record, and so we used an acoustic bass and acoustic piano,” says Lindell. “Other than that, we had an acoustic resonator guitar, and there was a little electric guitar from Anson Funderburgh. It sort of grew once we added a few other things, but it ended up with some of the same ingredients as the other stuff, but with a different sonic dynamic.”
Anyone familiar with Lindell’s travels would know he spent a good portion of his early years in the California club scene. Anyone not familiar with that can pick it out of his music (think Jack Johnson or the Laurel Canyon scene). What might be a little more difficult to pick out is what Louisiana has added to the music. It isn’t all zydeco and beads, but it’s in there.
“Louisiana is home base, but I’ve been all over,” he says. “I’ve always had the same sort of writing style and the same message, so the spot doesn’t change it. My music is just my life experiences over the last 15 years. Playing a million shows does that to you. I miss the coast, I do like to surf and I miss landscape stuff from California. But I love where I live now; it’s similar to the area I grew up in. Rolling hills and oak trees, a rural setting, horses and cattle. My wife grew up here in the same setting I did, just in a different section of the country. I love both places — they’re a big part of my heart.”
Regardless of his setting, Eric Lindell cares about his product, his music. And he cares about the quality he puts out when he isn’t at home, relaxing on his back porch. “Most people, I hope, walk away thinking it’s real and honest — ‘I can’t believe it’s been so long since I have heard that music.’ No pedals, no distortion, just good sound. People seem to like the good, simple songs.”