Eric Hansen
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Eric Hansen

Tucson, Arizona, United States | INDIE | AFTRA

Tucson, Arizona, United States | INDIE | AFTRA
Band Folk Singer/Songwriter

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“Above all, the songs are heartfelt and the guy is sincere, and that goes a long way in the irony-drenched climate we’ve all gotten so accustomed to.”
- Tucson Weekly


From children's notes, a musical partnership
Singer: After exchanging e-mails, Arizona folk artist Eric Hansen visits West Baltimore pupils for a second time.
By Liz Bowie
Sun Staff

April 23, 2004

There is music being made in room 422 this week at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School, and it comes from an unlikely collaboration between the exuberant voices of city second-graders and the songs of a middle-aged Arizona folk singer.

The children learn math to the rhythm of the blues and clap in unison to learn about whole notes, half notes and fractions. They write lyrics and do a little acting.

And by the end of each day, the children find their way to the musician's side, leaning against his shoulder and dancing to his melody.

Music brought together the children and the musician, Eric Hansen, after a friendship born and nurtured in dozens of e-mails that whizzed between Baltimore and Tucson during the fall and winter.

"My house caught on fire," one girl wrote in December. "And I am sad now because my house is burned down. My mother is too because she loved her house and my sister did too. Well I'm sorry for my three cats because they all died."

Hansen wrote back: "I am so happy to hear that you got out of the burning house safely. That must have been very scary. Your Mom sounds like a very strong woman. ... Yes, I love macaroni and pizza. I also love hot fudge sundaes. ... Continue being so brave and strong."

These inner-city children and the stories of their lives have tugged so hard at Hansen that he has flown across the country twice to see them. His first trip was in December, and he is making his second visit, a two-week stay that ends today.

"The kids touched me. They really touched me, so I wanted to be there for them," said Hansen, 47, who has had a varied career that has included acting, teaching and making several CDs of his work. The children began e-mailing him after their teacher played his CDs in class.

He travels around the West in a van, performing at coffeehouses, hospitals, outdoor concerts and prisons.

Although he has never set out to produce children's music, some of Hansen's songs, such as the "Boo Boo Blues," were inspired by teaching children, he said.

And one of his CDs, Nobody Knows, is described as "music for kids of all ages, shapes and sizes."

The singer's gentle manner and music have encouraged quiet and troubled children to sing with passion and learn math without realizing it.

Hansen sings about courage and heroes and friends, themes real to children who have experienced hard times.

Many have a relative in prison, have failed a grade or are living with foster parents, said their teacher, Linda Morris.

On a recent day in Morris' classroom, pupils began to tell Hansen their stories.

The class sang "Hero in the Dark," a Hansen song about unsung heroes.

The refrain is, "So sing this song for the unknown heroes who change the world every day."

Between verses, he asked the children to talk about their heroes.

"My hero is my grandfather because there was a fire in my house. I was the only one in my house, and he went in and saved me," said Angelica Hill.

"My whole family because they take care of me," Malcolm Denton said.

Morris, the second-grade teacher, said she has always incorporated music into learning to motivate and teach her pupils.

"This music is an alternative way to reach them," she said. "It is a great way to teach phonics and vocabulary."

The teacher said she has found that children with behavior problems are more engaged in what they are learning and more obedient when the arts are combined with academics.

Morris met Hansen when she wrote an article about him for the music magazine Dirty Linen.

She began playing his CDs to her class, and the children decided to write to him. With e-mail available in their classroom, they began to write to him individually.

"Somehow the songs spoke to them. They started writing pretty personal stuff," Hansen said.

One child told him about his mother's death, another about how Hansen's song "In Grandpa's Eyes" reminded him of his grandfather.

Hansen wrote back to each child.

"I would try to be really positive. I would try to give them good, strong ideas. They started pouring their hearts out to me through the teacher," he said.

Then one day he got an e-mail from the children with a whimsical notion:

They would take a bus to Arizona to visit him. Their teacher would come, too. And they gave him a long list of items, including cupcakes and salmon cakes, that they wanted him to prepare for a big dinner they would have together.

"I said, 'I don't think so,'" Hansen said. He decided to fly to them, spending his money for the December trip. This time, he received a grant to pay the airfare and has combined the visit with several performances in the area.

Working with the children takes a lot of effort because Hansen has a lung disease, alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, that has left him with 32 percent lung function. He takes medications to stabilize the disease.

"I have a hard time working with children. It is exhausting," he said.

"It is very sad for me. I wish I was stronger and could work with them more."

During one class, Hansen pulled a shy boy who was having a moment of sadness to the front of the classroom.

Slowly, the boy draped his arm over Hansen's shoulder, and minutes later the boy began to sing.

The rest of the children were singing their hearts out for a song called "True Friends."


Copyright © 2004, The Baltimore Sun
- The Baltimore Sun


“…wraps his voice of supple leather around the solid sole of his songs for music that wears well mile after mile. His simple songs of substance forgo artifice, aiming more directly for the heart.”
R.Warr- Sing Out!
- Sing Out!


Wow! This Tucson Troubadour's rich and intimate vocals, well written songs and expert guitar work are such a feast for the ears.
With the sensitivity of David Roth and writing chops as good as Mac Mc Anally, I loved every minute of this release.

J.A. - Sing Out!


Discography

1. Lucky
2. Real Slow
3. Hero in the Dark
4. Nobody Knows
5. A Lover's Lullaby
6. My Medicine

Photos

Bio

Eric might as well have a campfire on stage. The warmth and intimacy of his songs and performance style embrace every person in the audience. Stephen Seigel (Tucson Weekly) writes: “…His trademarked earnest-in-a-time-of-irony-songwriting.” His body of work includes whimsical songs about frogs and baby geese, passionate songs about love lost and love found, playful adult songs with a groove and sexy slant and inspirational songs that ask human beings to build a bridge of hands in cooperation. His performances have made grown men cry and children adore him.

There is a sense of humor both in the guitar work and the sensibility of this sensual and thoughtful man. Linda J. Morris-(Dirty Linen) writes: “First there’s the voice-you can lose your soul in that voice” which combined with intense and confident guitar playing, makes for a rich and exciting musical experience.

Originally from Highland, Indiana, Eric began playing guitar and singing at family gatherings at the age of nine. He played in Chicago coffee houses throughout his teens, and then studied guitar, voice and musical composition at Chicago Musical College, where he stumbled upon the theater department. He spent four years as both songwriter and performer with Chicago’s Free Street Theater, then 17 years in New York working in musicals, plays, radio plays, commercials, soap operas, cabaret and nightclubs.

Eric tours extensively from early spring to late fall and has sung in concert halls, theatres, prison, churches, hockey stadiums, mental institutions, sidewalks, hospital beds, on the phone, and most everywhere across the U.S. and Germany.

he is Music Director of Green Valley Church of Religious Science, 2005 Unisong songwriting contest winner for The Holy Man, 1999 and 2007 New Folk finalist at Kerrville Folk Festival, 2003 “Music to Life Award” presented by Noel and Elizabeth Stookey at Kerrville. Eric won the 1998 Back Stage Bistro Award for Outstanding Songwriter and in 1999 for Outstanding Song and was named Goodwill Ambassador by the Alpha1 Association in 2000. Stone Soup Folk Arts Foundation, The Fast Folk Café-NYC, Kerrville Folk Festival, The Bluebird Café, Black Rose Acoustic Music Society, The Living Room-NYC, 2003 Daft Tour/Germany, three showcases for ASCAP. Numerous hospitals across the U.S., Phoenix, Tucson and Prescott Folk Festivals and Texas Firelight Theater. Eric can be heard on various jingles in Tucson.
He is a member of the Folk Alliance.

Mission Statement
My mission is to provide quality music to audiences of all ages:
Music that is entertaining, beautiful, uplifting and inspiring.