“Wherever the Song Wants to Go”: An Interview with Say Hi’s Eric Elbogen

Recently I had the good fortune of chatting with Eric Elbogen, the one and only member of Say Hi, previously known as Say Hi to Your Mom.  Based out of Seattle, Mr. Elbogen combines spare, introspective lyrics with a foot-tapping, hand-clapping mix of electronic keyboards, kick-ass drums, powerful guitar riffs and a soulful voice.  These are songs about robots, Northwestern girls, spaceships, vampires, and Ms. Pac-Man, but their common denominator is the ability to strike a chord deep within the listener.  Go Ahead.

And here are words of wisdom pertaining to chairs being chairs, the compulsion to make records, and future tropical beach destinations…

If you could be known for only 1 of your songs, which would it be?

It’s difficult for me to think in those terms. I’m more concerned with what the entire body of work has to offer. A single song is only a tiny slice of the pie.

So what are three of your favorite slices?

I like all the pieces equally!

If you were not musically-talented, where would you have ended up?

Probably in a much happier place.

Maybe New Jersey? Or Tunisia? Would a career in accounting or anthropology have been preferable to one in music?

I wasn’t speaking so much about a geographical place, although, who knows? Perhaps a career in accounting or anthropology WOULD have made me happier. Too late now to tell: I’m in it to win it.

What makes you write? When is the easiest time to write, & when is the hardest?

It’s never an easy time to write. I jot ideas year round and revisit them when it’s time to make a record, which means making a record is just a monumental editing process.

Where does rhyme fit into your lyrics creation? How strictly do you adhere to it?

Most of the time it makes sense for a song. Occasionally it doesn’t. I don’t think about it too much. Wherever the song wants to go, it goes…

How does the interplay between word & sound affect you?  Are the words always accompanied by music?

Usually I’m just trying to write lyrics that don’t distract too much from the musical arrangement. Melody, texture and rhythm is what I’m interested in.

Do you tend to set the music down before writing the lyrics to the songs?

Most of the time, yes. Occasionally I will have jotted down lyrics that beg to have music written around them though…

What do you see as being the limits of music?

A chair is a chair. The sky is the sky. Music is music. Don’t see much point in willing any of those things to be what they aren’t.

When you reach the limits of music being music, in what other artistic forms do you like to express yourself? 

I’m pretty incapable of other forms of artistic expression, I just don’t have the brain-space with my constant obsession about making records.

What do you see as YOUR limits? What are you lacking as a musician?

I’m just as flawed as the rest of them. Most of my brain-space is devoted to accepting the fact that I’ll never make a record like Abbey Road.

What do you see as your role as an artist? What do you strive to accomplish with your music?

It’s really just a compulsion to make records. I get fidgety if I can’t do that. Everything else doesn’t really matter to me.

When did you realize you wanted to be a professional musician?  Did people try to talk you out of it?  Which people were most supportive?

I was 13 years old. I’ve never asked anyone’s opinion in the matter.

Do you write more with your heart or your head?

My head, definitely. I’m not a fan of music written from the heart.

Regarding the songs that don’t make it to your albums, why don’t they?

They’re not good enough or don’t fit in with the record I’m making.

Do you save scraps of these songs?

They exist somewhere on a hard drive, yes. I’ve yet to successfully resurrect an old idea for a new record though…

Do you have a target audience when you write or do you sort of write into the void?

It would be too crippling to do the former. I can’t consider anything but the music itself.

Is poetry a part of your daily life?

It’s part of everybody’s daily life. Some folks just consider the weight of the poetry more than others.

So who are your favorite poets?

I don’t read poetry anymore. There was a time I did, but I don’t remember much from that time.

Where do you see yourself in 23 years?

Hopefully on a tropical beach somewhere.

Which one are you aiming for?

Any beach will do. I’ll make it there.

[Feature image from PhotoJJ]

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