Eric Tingstad

Eric Tingstad follows up his 2006 GRAMMY nominated Southwest, this year with a new disc: Badlands. Layers of American fingerstyle guitar over a solid bed of crunchy twangy telecaster and infectious grooves, Badlands also features an abundance of dobro, steel guitars, fiddle and shamanic rock drumming all tied together with the help of Cindy Cashdollar, Nancy Rumbel and Byron Metcalf.

'... Eric has taken a country sound, touched it with his chamber music aesthetic and added just enough trail dust to make it earthy and real.'  John Diliberto - Echoes

Listen in as Eric answers questions from Creative Director, Yvonne de Villiers

In your new release Badlands, what inspired you to write music that honors the traditions of American roots music, western culture and Native American Spirit?

My earliest influences musically are what I heard on TV as soundtracks for movies and shows. I watched a lot of western adventures. And of course, the Beverly Hillbillies, which was just rich in the roots music of Flatt and Scruggs. Also one of my earliest mentors was a lap steel player and I was fascinated with that sound he got by using a table knife! Growing up, my parents had a real cross-cultural group of friends, and I was fortunate to have some Elders in my life as a child that taught me "the ways." They had an affect on my beliefs and subsequent interest in Native American culture. Also in there, as almost a fourth component, is my crunchy telecaster underpinnings that contributes an edgy quality and brings me out of my rock n roll closet. I would also have to say the music of Angelo Badalamenti from Twin Peaks, and Ennio Maricone resonate with me. Like them, I always strive to create a sense of place with my music.

Is there a common thread that ties these 3 styles together?

I have to say that when the CD was all done I was pleasantly surprised to hear how relaxed all the pieces were. Even though there's more teeth and beef than on previously hailed "calming" recordings of mine, Badlands just has this laid back pocket groove that I was very pleased to hear. It's like some really big guy giving you a massage or a powerful engine that's just idling. Lots of headroom. Of course, when you've got Ben Smith playing the drums and Garey Shelton on bass, what else would you expect

What instruments that are native to each style do you use and why did you pick them?

I guess it would have to be the dobro parts, both slide and fingerstyle,that represent the American roots element and the pedal steel and lap steel surely bring on the western sound. Also, the frame drumming, that not only ties it all together, but brings the spirit of western landscape and depth of the Native American culture to the recording. I use these instruments because I love the way they sound ... and the way they were played. I did the fingerstyle technique on the dobro, but Cindy Cashdollar did all the cool dobro slide work. I did some of the pedal steel work, but all the amazing stuff was done by Terry Lauber. And all that great shamanic hand drumming ... was Byron Metcalf.

Eric Tingstad

Eric Tingstad by Frank Blau

On your website, John Dilberto states that "Badlands" has a slightly menacing message that the desert is a beautiful and spiritual plac, but you can also get into trouble out there." What does that mean?

Actually, from a review, John supplied the quote about the country sound and chamber music aesthetic. He was referring to my previous recording titled, Southwest, which Badlands follows up. Whereas Southwest is more gentle, tender and soothing and all that is bliss in the desert, Badlands intentionally has more grit and attitude. It's not so much about the spiritual ambiance of the Southwest but more of the human element and how it resonates with the harshness of the environment. I always had an image of my cowboy boots, rattlesnakes, and an empty tequila bottle laying somewhere near a dusty trail in my head.

Your 2006 album, Southwest that you say "weaves aboriginal and western elements" and "takes the listener on a sonic journey that evokes the aura and wonder intrinsic to this part of the world." How the music on Badlands different from that on Southwest?

Southwest is more ambient and cinematic than Badlands. It has more of the landscape component and the native flute brings a sense of solace. Badlands has more cowboy in it. I wanted to expand on the red dirt sound and vibe. Whereas Southwest is geographically about the Four Corners, Badlands is centered in West Texas. Conceptually, Southwest is ambient new age music,and Badlands is instrumental Americana.

Tell us something about the unusual keys you use.

On most of the tracks for both Southwest and Badlands, the first thing to be recorded and laid down were the hand and frame drums. These drums are pitched. So it was necessary to play in tune with them which put me in B♭ and other keys in some cases. It's great because every key has a different quality that brings its own vibe to the sound. I play in B♭, F, and E♭ a lot anyway because those keys complement the English Horn and oboe. Of course, D minor is unquestionably the saddest of all keys.

You're currently playing Luna's AMZ 100 from our Americana collection that is inspired by pottery of the Zia pueblo. How does it feel to play music from Badlands and Southwest on an instrument that drew it's artistic inspiration from the same geography as your music?

From the first pictures I saw of the Southwest inspired guitars, I was pretty excited about them. The Southwest is such a cultural experience on all the senses and no less so visually. It's just so darn beautiful. It's the physical beauty that is such a big part of creating the spiritual power and vibe of the area musically. It is so expansive and open and seems to generate wisdom. The artwork that is/was inspired by the ancients that lived there captures that essence. There is a warmth and solidity. To have those Zia icons adorn these beautiful new guitars will help players create and get into their own sense of place.

Badlands  by Eric Tingstad

For more on the rich and varied musical accomplishments of Eric Tingstad, visit

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AMZ 100

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