Eric Stepanian
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Eric Stepanian

Somerville, Massachusetts, United States | SELF

Somerville, Massachusetts, United States | SELF
Band Rock Singer/Songwriter

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Eric Stepanian's debut album, "Goodnight Scarlett," has all the makings of a hit record. Produced by Malcolm Burn, whose work is behind the Grammy Award winning album "Red Dirt Girl" by Emmylou Harris, as well as albums by Iggy Pop and Peter Gabriel, "Goodnight Scarlett" combines several genres to produce a unique sound that can still mesh well with mainstream pop radio.

Stepanian wrote the album himself, working with a handful of musicians (including Burn) to record it in Kingston, New York. It was released Nov. 10.

The opening track, "Bittersweet," contains Caribbean-style backing and introduces Stepanian's rough-shod vocals well. It sets the pace for the rest of the album, which is upbeat but mellow, catchy enough to get stuck in your ear and stay there until the next time you hear it.

Tracks like "Everybody" and "Call Me When You're Famous" are particularly quick to make you bop along as you listen, while "Last Goodbye" is more melancholy, giving you a chance to reflect once you've finished the album.

There is a particular country twang to Stepanian's vocals, which adds an interesting element to the album. While iTunes labels his work as basic rock, a more appropriate term would be alternative; admittedly, that term does not seem to hold much weight in today's industry anymore, it fits here because there are so many branches of rock represented in Stepanian's sound.

Finally, the lyrical content is solid enough that most people should be able to relate. Stepanian croons about girls, life and experiences he's had, utilizing metaphor but not to an obnoxious extent. His stories are clear, the interpretation such that it won't give you a headache trying to figure it out.

For more information or to stream samples of "Goodnight Scarlett," go to ericstepanian.com. The album is available on iTunes and Amazon. - The New Hampshire


There is something that we are going to call singer-songwriter syndrome. Where a singer-songwriter is so wrapped up in their own singing and songwriting that their performance comes from (and goes into) a one-mind vacuum, wherein the performance is totally sealed off from anything other than itself and thus totally inaccessible to the listener. Eric Stepanian is not one of these self-absorbed tools. “Goodnight Scarlett” is an engaging piece, largely through the Stepanian’s smooth and self-assured vocal style shapes the easy, accessible lyric and melody. - Boston Band Crush


The opening act, Eric Stepanian, stunned the crowd with his heartfelt tune to his ex-college undercover lover with “Call Me When You’re Famous.” His one-man guitar show oozed of purely chilled-out music anyone would love to hear. The kicker of the night was his homage to pop anthems including samples from Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Backstreet Boys, Rihanna and N’SYNC. - The Niagra Index


"perfectly polished, bouyant softrock nuggets, minus the schmaltz ... consider it a guilty pleasure" - Metro (Boston) staff - Metro (Boston)


"Stepanian shows off the fine art of crafting hits" - John Black, Boston NOW - Boston Now


"Famously Sweet: If Jason Mraz were a band instead of one man, he might sound like Stepanian (below), a local pop-rock act that plays non-confrontational acoustic tunes about love and life that have a jam band ring to them." - Meredith Goldsten, Boston Globe Staff - Boston Globe


Discography

2010 - Goodnight Scarlett
2008 - Wait Out the Rain (Stepanian)
2005 - Autumn She Leaves (Stepanian)
2003 - For Lack of Better Words (Stepanian)

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Bio

"There is music I like that is not necessarily current but which is still relevant,” says Grammy Award winning producer Malcolm Burn, who has worked with Bob Dylan, Iggy Pop and Daniel Lanois, among others. “I hear something in Eric’s music that relates to ‘80s bands that I was excited about who had a lot of passion and enthusiasm to their music.”

Eric Stepanian’s Goodnight Scarlett, produced by Malcolm Burn, fits that narrative of music, which is relevant, immediate and powerful. Shorthand? Goodnight Scarlett is timeless, pure, American rock music, influenced by Stepanian’s twin heroes of Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan, tempered by ‘70s AM radio fare and personalized by the singer-songwriter’s unique history.

“The rock thing,” Stepanian remarks from Boston, referring to music that stoked his childhood passions. “Those are the songs I remember, being with my dad playing cassettes in his pick-up. Springsteen taps that real raw emotion conveyed in a blue collar way. Modern day, I enjoy alternative country stuff, like Ryan Adams. Lyrically, he’s honest but there’s a story in his songs. Often when songwriters are honest it’s all emotion but no story, it’s just angst. But you can hear the turmoil with Adams in a setting that’s real.”

Similarly, Stepanian’s songs are often charged with a subtle sense of inner turmoil, but his gift for storytelling is what attracts, not heart on the sleeve histrionics. The songs of Goodnight Scarlett are as relevant as real life. Recorded with a handpicked band: Burn on bass and keyboards, Jon Graboff –pedal steel ( Ryan Adam and The Cardinals/Norah Jones) drummer Ethan Eubanks (Teddy Thompson, Crash Test Dummies) and guitarist Craig Ross (Shawn Colvin, Patty Griffin) Goodnight Scarlett rocks a miracle mile, recalls melancholic memories like rotting rose petals, and ultimately finds release in redemption and self-acceptance. Prime movers include the Stones-ish swaggering “Bittersweet,” the raw nerves-on-ice glam of “Everybody,” sarcastic “Call Me When You’re Famous,” and the cinematic black eyed closer, “Last Goodbye” (imagine it playing as credits roll to the 1975 film “The Day of The Locust”).

Born in Springfield, MA to an elementary teacher and a Special Forces Green Beret, Eric Stepanian found his creative expression swinging a club. After fooling around with guitar in high school, he attended University of Delaware on a full golf scholarship. But Stepanian soon found his first love was also a trap.

“Golf was all about rules,” he recalls, “but songwriting allowed me to express how I was feeling, and I knew other people could relate to what I was feeling. That initial release of the unstructured, the creative side of it, allowed me to do what I wanted. You’re not a carbon copy. You could really put your style into your songwriting.”

Stepanian ditched the golf cash after his freshman year and hit the open mic scene, honing his songs, enjoying the immediacy of the unruly crowds. But his past continued to inform his present.

“The one thing I learned from golf is the ability to take a moment and react to it for what it’s worth,” Stepanian says. “So often in golf people either react wildly to a poor shot or get their emotions in check, because the next shot is as important as the one you just screwed up. In songwriting, it’s all about the emotion of the song, and understanding that emotion so the listener will understand it too. Understanding emotions makes it easier to write than if you’re writing blindly.

“A lot of people go through life feeling like in their worst moments that they’re alone,” he continues. “A good song lets that person know that they’re not alone. There is someone else who knows what they’re feeling and who shares in that moment.”

“Bittersweet” rocks Goodnight Scarlett from the start, complete with soulful Madeline Bell meets Tina Turner “woo-hoo” chorus, Ian McLagan worthy organ rolls and a rollicking rhythm.

“That was not part of the original 12 songs we recorded,” Stepanian says. “I had the song and we shelved it. Then I played it for Malcolm and the guys and they helped shape it. In its raw form, it’s a pop song with a really cool feel. It was a great way to lead off the record.”

Soon, darker emotions rise, as in “Everybody.” Is the song expressing a certain duality, that we often love what we despise?

“There is some tongue in cheek happening there,” Stepanian laughs. “Initially it was serious, a tip of the hat to the person. But the way it’s performed it sounds more sarcastic. ‘Everybody needs somebody like you’ is one lyric. There’s always that one person in your life who will affect you for good or bad, but everybody needs that person to shape them, whether it’s a shitty coach or a great girlfriend. Whatever or whoever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

Goodnight Scarlett has its share of “girl who got away” scenarios, usually to Stepanian’s detriment. But “Call Me When You’re Famous” turns rejection on its ear. K