Artist Interviews

An Interview with Eric Edstrom
Mar 16, 2010
Eric Edstrom Interviews
Eric Edstrom, Country Songwriter
from Wisconsin
Country songwriter Eric Kent Edstrom uses Lilac Writer daily for all of his songwriting and collaboration. While he is clearly a talented writer, he is also dedicated to songcraft. In this interview, I talked to him about how he writes songs usually through a three stage demo process from idea to Nashville demo.
To get an example of his songwriting, check out one of his latest songs - "Close" at www.EricEdstrom.com.

Eric told me that the Lilac Writer revision history for "Close" has 86 entries. He also said that he had attached six generations of demos to the song on the files tab in Lilac Writer. For Eric, songcraft involves iterative rewrites and revisions along with a process of successive demos leading to a finished song.

This is an interview I did with Eric Edstrom about his demo process and how he uses Lilac Writer.


Lilac Writer (LW): From previous discussions I know that you are dedicated to songcraft.

Eric Edstrom (Eric): Yes.


LW: How do your initial songwriting recordings become a nashville demo ready for pitching?

Eric: I write lyrics and music pretty much simultaneously, so I do a guitar/vocal recording on my BOSS BR-600 recorder and then listen to it a lot. I'll do many rewrites . For "Close" I probably did ten or twelve iterations of guitar/vocal recordings. They're all still on my iPhone.


LW: Did you record to the iPhone directly or or transfer them from the BR-600?

Eric: I transfer from the BR-600 recorder into GarageBand for mixing and a few effects, then to iTunes, then to iPhone. Sounds complicated, but it's pretty fast. I like recording into the BR-600 because the mics are really good. Anyway, once I get it close, I'll go into my home studio and record a full band demo on Pro Tools. I'll play everything on that. Then I get critiques and make tweaks to the lyrics.


LW: About how many tracks do you have in Pro Tools on a home studio demo?

Eric: I use stereo drum loops, stereo acoustic guitar, two electric guitar tracks, bass, lead vocal and a few harmony vocals. So somewhere between eight and twelve. If I add a banjo sound or resonator guitar, it's really coloration.


LW: And to be clear, you record all the instruments yourself?

Eric: Yes, except the drums, which are loops. The trick is to be able to fake it enough to get the point across. I recently put accordion on a song. It required lots of takes, clever editing, and to be put far back in the mix.


LW: Do you ever bring in other vocalists, say if the song is targeted to a female singer?

Eric: I've used outside singers a few times. I've found them using demosinger.com which was pretty useful. They can record and email tracks back to you. The downside is that I wasn't present to produce the performance, so I don't think I'll do that again.


LW: You have had co-writers sing on these intermediate demos sometimes right? KatieBeth for example?

Eric: Yes, we're working on her newest project now and she came in to track vocals on a rough demo. She took that back to her band so they could learn the song and begin performing it live.


LW: How many hours would you say you spend on a typical home studio demo?

Eric: That stage is still part of the songwriting process for me. I redo parts a lot, so it'll take me a few hours to get all the basic tracks done. Then I go back and build the drum part from loops, which takes a while. Then I'll do the final vocal and harmonies. I'd guess it's a 5 or 6 hour process, but it could easily be 12. That's why I don't let every song get to that point


LW: So what is the purpose of your home demos?

Eric: I have to hear the song produced. I'm never satisfied with a guitar/vocal. I need to hear the pulse and dynamics to see if the song comes across. I also believe that to get feedback from others, having a decent demo helps them. Most people cannot "listen through" a guitar/vocal.


LW: So you use your home studio demos to get critiques and reactions from other people?

Eric: Yes, I don't consider my home demos to be pitchable to artists. To publishers, maybe.


LW: It also seems to get your own reaction to the song.

Eric: My favorite songs have lyrics of average quality. I respond to the groove and melody and the dynamics of soft/loud, low/high. Think of the band Boston. But, I spend 70% of the time on lyrics of my songs. The reward is to get to the part I like the most, which is the feel and sound.


LW: After the home demo, the next iteration will be a Nashville demo session, right?

Eric: Yes. Out of ten songs I start, maybe five will get enough lyrics to get a guitar/vocal. Of those, one will get a home studio demo. I need seven or eight home studio demos to select three for Nashville demos.


LW: Do you sing on those final demos?

Eric: No. I'm pitching to country artists, and my voice does not have a very authentic country quality to it.


LW: Then the Nashville demo is the product used to promote your song to artists and publishers?

Eric: Yes. But it's also used to promote myself as a songwriter.


LW: Do you perform your songs live as an artist?

Eric: The short answer is no. I do perform live as a songwriter, which is a great tradition in Nashville. I'm not putting myself forward as a recording artist.


LW: So you have outlined a writing process with three distinct phases. Guitar/vocal demo, home studio demo and finally a Nashville demo.

LW: What role does Lilac Writer play during the songwriting process?

Eric: When I start a new song, I usually have Lilac Writer open and a guitar on my knee. I'll get a few lines of lyric and melody and figure out the shape of the song. Then I put down the guitar and begin developing the lyrics, all in Lilac Writer. I use the rhyme lookup extensively. I'll just rewrite and iterate. If I get stuck, I switch to the ideas tab and write questions to myself, snippets of possible lyrics, or a paragraph of brainstorming.

LW: Right...

Eric: When I get to the critique phase, I'll cut and paste the text I get back from those right into a comment or the ideas tab. I like having the critique in the right pane, and the lyrics open in the left so I can work on fixing problems.


LW: Do you find it helpful to load mp3s of your demos in to Lilac Writer?

Eric: As soon as I get a guitar/vocal, it goes into the files tab. I often just listen while I read down the lyrics and think about the marketability and whether I want to invest anymore time in that particular song. I'll end up with a whole bunch of iterations in there.


LW: Do you use Lilac Writer when working with co-writers as well?

Eric: Yes, it's a great collaboration tool. Not only for the comment section, but also for the file upload. I've found that one person usually "owns" the lyric and the others provide comments. For some reason, people are timid about changing anything in the lyrics tab. I think they forget about the revision system. I've reverted songs to previous revisions many times.


That you to Eric for spending the time to answer these questions. It is always great to get a look inside the songwriting processes. You can listen more of Eric Edstrom's songs at www.EricEdstrom.com.


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