You wouldn’t know it but I didn’t actually learn Eric’s name until I received this interview back from the Tossing Pennies camp…how unreal is that right? Whether it was an intentional thing or not…I ended up going with it…I dug the approach of anonymity and letting the facts about the music simply speak for themselves. And then of course after I read this, I realize what a down-to-earth and rad guy Eric is and I’m kinda surprised we weren’t already the best of friends before this interview occurred – seems like we have a lot of things in common.
I’m excited for you to get to know him as well…and all about his band Tossing Pennies and the upcoming album release Somewhere Between Lives, due out this year. And NO…not just because I felt like we had tons in common…but because DAMMIT MAN…these answers are REAL! Talking with him briefly over the net in setting this all up…I already had the sense he was a pretty humble guy – and when you think about it, right around the time of putting out a new record is probably one of the hardest times to stay grounded and keep your head on your shoulders. Eric has done a tremendous job of sharing what it’s been like over the past years in setting all this up and getting the machine fired-up & ready for Tossing Pennies to take over 2016…I know you’ll dig this interview as much as I did. Enjoy!
Tossing Pennies Interview
SBS: Tossing Pennies…we’re honoured to have you on our pages and thanks so much for sharing your time & thoughts with us. Though we know you’re still somewhat new…we’ve also read and know this is an exceptionally exciting time for Tossing Pennies with a new album on the horizon & singles about to be released…but before we get to all that…it seems as if the road to getting here was not an easy one whatsoever. In the Tossing Pennies bio it mentions just surviving in life at points rather than actually living – so how did it all start? What’s the history? The highs, the lows…how did they all lead to where you are now in Tossing Pennies?
TP: It’s been an insane year over here! This is Eric, and I’m going to be speaking for the band today. I started the project in 2014, about a month before I got a job out of town. So everything was sidelined. The guys from then…they were all fantastic folks (and still are!). We remain good friends, but I took the project with me. I spent most of 2015 living out of a seedy hotel during the week and driving back home on weekends. The job is good, the money is great, the coworkers are awesome, but there was no time or energy left for living. It was all about just trying to make it through the next day. As for the highs, a band that I used to work with opened up for As Above/So Below early last year. For those that don’t know, their guitarist is CJ from Drowning Pool. So I got to meet him in the green room and sit down with him and just chat. He’s just a very humble and awesome guy. It was pretty amazing. I’m sure he doesn’t remember me, but I’ll always remember that. Also, getting up on stage with great people from several different bands, and just going to watch my friends play shows when there was time. Don’t tell my boss, but there were a few times that I left work at 5, drove 3-4 hours to catch my friends play shows in Tyler, Longview, Austin, or Dallas, and came back to work by 8 the next morning.
SBS: You’ve got your debut-single, “Mainline Hero” due out any day now. For the world-awaiting that has yet to hear the music…what would you say the defining qualities of the music of Tossing Pennies are? What is going to potentially set you apart from the rest of the bands in similar genres?
TP: It’s all about making music relevant to life. It’s about being real. No one has the exact same experiences, but everyone has some hard times. Everyone has some triumphs. So we’re sharing those. It’s not all about the times you’re down, but it’s got some of that. It’s not all about partying, but there’s some of that too. It’s about the realities of life. This first one is going to be more about the bad times and grim realities than the good because of the last year, but we’ve already got a few things we’re throwing around thematically for the next time around to balance that out a bit.
SBS: Speaking of “Mainline Hero” – what made it the obvious choice as the lead-single from your upcoming album Somewhere Between Lives? Was there a specific reason that became the first song you’d release from the record? Was there debate between others? What determines the whole process of selection for a decision like that? Might seem like a small detail to some…but that could potentially be a pivotal point in a new career…best foot forward & all-that…know what I mean?
TP: Oh man, that’s a great question. There was a debate between everyone involved in it. Any of the songs that are going to be coming out on the EP (look for it at the beginning of the summer!) could have ended up being the first except for the one we actually picked. Originally we had decided on a song called “Shrugging” for the first single because it is really the central point for the whole album, the defining track. We were booked to sit down in the studio for that the day after Scott Weiland died. Well, STP was a big deal for us, a huge influence. We had “Mainline Hero” that we had been throwing around (although that wasn’t the name at the time), but wasn’t necessarily going to be a part of this project. The subject matter was very on-point considering the timing, so we sat down the night before and made it come together completely. So it’s kind of a homage to him, even though it didn’t start that way.
SBS: From what I’ve gathered in my research…it almost sounds as if Somewhere Between Lives didn’t get recorded that there very well might never be another record afterwards. You know what I mean? Almost like these songs had to be written in order for it to even be possible to write others in the future. On a personal-level…how important was it for you just to make this record?
TP: This was my last time down. The other guys are great and they would have done something great, but I had planned on hanging it all up and just doing some open mics and doing guest spots or joining in on pickup bands forever if this didn’t work out. I could never give up music entirely. I just didn’t know if there were any songs left inside of me that hadn’t been performed. I had written and recorded scratch tracks all year since there wasn’t much else to do after work during the week, but I wasn’t feeling the spark, you know? I was going to an open mic once a week and to play guitar and that’s really what kept me going musically. If it hadn’t been for Papatone and Eddie there to just keep on playing, this album wouldn’t have happened.
SBS: What did the making of Somewhere Between Lives teach you about yourself personally, and also as a musician? Did you feel like making the record changed you somewhat by the end of the experience in terms of who you were when you started in contrast to who you were by the time it wrapped up?
TP: We’re still wrapping up! Originally the single was going to come out a little closer to “go time” for the EP, which was going to come out closer to the full album, because there are day jobs and families to work around. When this one solidified, we just wanted to send it out into the world as quickly as possible because it just spoke to us. That’s why it’s such a weird release schedule. We’re all hoping it works out! Between here and there we’ve still got some work to put in on this and some soul cleansing stuff with some side projects. But to answer your question, I’m definitely a different person and musician, and all the lessons from recording the rest of the album will certainly evolve that a bit more. I’ve learned more about musicianship over the last year and especially the last few months than I have all of the rest of my time playing music combined.
SBS: What challenged you the most during the recording of the new album…how did you overcome the obstacle to get what you needed to done?
TP: The two biggest challenges have been time and solidifying the lineup. There are tons of great musicians in Houston. When you’re first starting out you still have those pesky day jobs getting in the way. So it has really just been a matter of recording scratch tracks on whatever equipment we have available wherever we happen to have an extra minute, practice as hard as we can when we get to do it, and make time for the studio.
SBS: When it comes to the process of recruiting more players to expand the overall capabilities of Tossing Pennies…what’s that like? What becomes more important during the audition process – is it personality & ‘fit’ – or are you looking for the straight-up skill-level to be at the max? Everyone’s got an idea of what makes someone the perfect player to be in their band…so maybe take an opportunity here to spell it all out for people as plain as day…what is key to not only becoming a member of Tossing Pennies – but key to staying one?
TP: It’s all about attitude! There’s a story, I don’t know how true it is but I’m going to put it out there anyway, that Sid Vicious once went to Lemmy (Rest in Peace!) and said “I can’t play bass.” Lemmy just replied with “I know.” That’s powerful. The guy had a lot of issues, but he left it all on stage. He had heart and passion. That’s way more important than musicianship. Even if you only know the rudiments, someone can teach you to play something by rote while you work out the why. You can’t teach that kind of personality. I’d rather be with a good group of guys with a lot of love for music and a little talent than with any number of perfect players with no personality or, worse, huge egos. I know the other guys feel the same way because they agreed to play music with me, haha!
SBS: During all the rough times I’ve read about in the survival-phase of the life of Tossing Pennies…it also seems that the music never left your side. Now…let’s take it all back to before survival…because something, someone, some live-performance or some record made music incredibly important to you along the way – enough so that it would stick with you for life and make you want to pursue music as an entire career. I don’t think that people acknowledge or really realize just how important those moments are…but something has to send us towards the insane notion that making music as a living is a great idea…and we all know that by the time we get there; but still – whatever it is that sends us in that direction has to be pretty damn powerful. What would you say the defining moment was for you? How did it impact you so incredibly that it made you want to pursue music for your entire lifetime to follow?
TP: The music has always lived inside of me. I was lucky enough to have a family who encouraged all of us to do what we loved rather than what everyone else thought we should be doing. A moment, though…I grew up in Texas where we have both kinds of music: Country and Western, neither of which were that exciting for me. There are some fantastic Country artists out there, but with the notable exception of some of the older Outlaw Country it’s just not that appealing to me personally. When I was 11, right about the time Nirvana was coming out with Nevermind, I got into my dad’s cassette collection and discovered Rock music. That’s the day I really knew, the day I really figured out how I wanted it all to go down. I don’t think he knows I’m the one that stole his Nazareth “Hair of the Dog” tape (dad, if you’re reading this, sorry about that!). I couldn’t give it back because I ended up playing it so much that eventually it wouldn’t play anymore. So I discovered rock right as Grunge music was starting. I ended up following Rock to Grunge to Alt-Rock to anything with that driving kind of beat and distorted guitars which led me backwards in time to a lot of blues and folk origin of those songs. I would sit down with a cheap little keyboard and try to pick out the tunes I was hearing until my grandparents actually got me a piano. I took two whole lessons and decided I’d teach myself. Let me tell you, that’s a mistake. It’s a fun mistake though. Think I might be rambling now!
SBS: I asked about obstacles that would have had to have been overcome in order to make the new album Somewhere Between Lives…but let’s face it…some of that time also just snaps directly into place and things can flow smoothly too. Sometimes where we assume there will be stress, maybe there’s none…that kind of thing. Tell us about what surprised you about making the new record and on the positive-side – what were the real highlights of the recording sessions?
TP: Definitely recording Mainline Hero. It was just something being tossed back and forth that had never solidified or come into its own. It wasn’t a planned track on the album. I was lucky to have some great musicians around me when that happened because it just fell right into place.
SBS: Do you allow yourself to feel the success of what you’ve achieved already…and let it motivate you to continue forward? With all that you’ve gone through to get here…how do you feel like you define success these days? Is that definition something that’s changed through the course of making it to this point in your career & life? How so? What does success look like to Tossing Pennies?
TP: Success is different for everyone, but I’m going to say the success itself takes a back seat to what’s really important. Taking the time to make music with some great folks, spending time kicking back with friends, and just giving everything we’ve got to whatever we’re doing in the moment. Just putting out an album that we love is more success than anyone deserves because it feels like such an accomplishment. It’s such a great rush.
SBS: I never really thought about it until I was doing this interview…but…Tossing Pennies…the name itself… You know…the way things are going one day not all too far from now, you’ll actually need to fully explain what a penny actually was, let alone why you might toss one or two! You ever think about things like that? This world can move quickly! Nevermind the name itself…but the music man! How are you going to keep the music of Tossing Pennies relevant over time?
TP: It’s all about staying down to earth and doing something relatable. There’s a lot of classic rock influence in the band. If you look at the things that have endured through time, it’s mostly about things we can relate to. We all know love. We all know loss. We know there’s a man or woman wanting to do us wrong, another wanting to do us right, and another that’s the one that got away. We’ve all got friends, families, and memories. So we write about our experiences with those things. The good, the bad, and the horribly ugly.
SBS: How far down the road are you looking these days? The new album, Somewhere Between Lives is set to release this year in 2016…any thought to what lies beyond that for Tossing Pennies or what might be the next move? What’s the most important thing you can do for the band over the course of the next five years and, ultimately, how would you like to leave your mark out there in terms of making an impact through your music? When people hear the new record…what is it you want them to take away or remember from what they hear?
TP: Looking ahead, there’s always that next step. We don’t have a name or a theme for the next album yet, but we’ve got some musical ideas and some lyrics we are playing with. Personally, I like to use those to kind of cleanse my soul between writing, arranging, and recording. It’s so much easier to come back to something fresh after you’ve done something else for a bit. In the next five years it’s the same as the next ten and the next fifty. David Bowie (I’m mentioning a lot of recently dead artists, aren’t I?) put out his first solo album in 1967. His last album came out a few days ago. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think he had 26 studio albums. It’s all about making the best music we know how to make for as long as we are able to make it. Ultimately, we really want anyone who hears the full album to look back and say “Yeah, I’ve been there,” and know that wherever they’ve been there’s so much more ahead.
SBS: Tossing Pennies…you made it to the end! Thank you so much once again for your time & effort taken to decode my ramblings and share your truths with us all! I’d love to offer you one last space here to express anything else, say anything you’d like to, bring-up anything that we didn’t talk about in the interview itself…the floor is all yours. Welcome to the SBS ‘Open Floor’ – leave us with some final thoughts…and make sure to let the people know where to find the new album Somewhere Between Lives and when it’s officially coming out! Thanks again for everything!
TP: Thank you so much for taking the time to do this! Since it’s an open floor, I hope you don’t mind if I use some of the space to thank some awesome musicians who helped me along the way. Thanks to all of the guys, past and present, from Edge of Misery for allowing me to help arrange and do guest spots with you, the guys from Deathrow Bodeen who picked me up when I was down, Eddie from Funnel of Souls and Papatone for keeping me going musically, the guys from Sik Mule, all the guys from Bad Mother Trucker for showing me you can absolutely pick the music back up where you left off, all of the great bands who play at Clicks in Tyler, TX, all of the good folks at Live Oak for having me out, Karila Shannis from Coldcock Whiskey for helping with the endorsement deal…wait, how much blank space do I have? I know I’m forgetting people, but you’ve all been great! You can catch us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/tossingpennies or Reverbnation at www.reverbnation.com/tossingpennies. The album, Somewhere Between Lives will be out in November and the COMPLETELY FREE EP, complete with some acoustic jam sessions recorded from my living room will be out at the end of April. The full album will be available on Reverbnation, iTunes, and if you’re the kind that likes to have a physical CD to hold on to you’ll just have to come to one of our shows! And whatever happens, just keep on living life.