Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Trading stocks for songs

Express Staff Writer

The stockbroker turned musician only pulls the strings of guitars and hearts these days. Photo courtesy Eric Tollefson

After years of living the responsible life of home ownership and as a stockbroker for Smith Barney and Citigroup, Eric Tollefson is back to the peanut-butter-and-jelly-sandwich days of his youth, and he couldn't be happier about it.

His Bend, Ore., house went away in a short sale for half what he'd paid for it, but he stayed in the game with music as a hobby and release until 2009 when a 7.6 magnitude earthquake hit Indonesia and he began looking at his life.

"So many people just got wiped off the earth, yet everything and everyone around me is talking about how it affects the markets and people's wealth," he said on his website. "I had been thinking, 'Is my life really all about money?'" He said that was the day that he thought, "This is disgusting. I can't do this anymore."

Since then, he and his band have shared stages with Robert Randolph and The Family Band, G. Love and Special Sauce, Jackie Greene, Tyrone Wells and Paula Cole.

The latest incarnation is an album called "The Polar Ends," which he recorded in Charlottesville, Va., last spring. The recording features a cross-section of talent who've worked with the likes of Fiona Apple, Jason Mraz and Taj Mahal.

Still, even after getting some great press, including some that assure this album shows he has the confidence for greatness, Tollefson signs off all of his correspondence with the simple, but intentional word "grateful."

"A lot of the time I'm asking people to do things for me—producers, session players, graphic artists, writers, etc. I always want people to know that I'm grateful for their help," he explained. "It takes a lot of people's efforts at the end of the day. There's no way it could all get done with one person. So that's why. Nothing worse than a cocky musician who feels like he's owed or it's deserved."

Tollefson will bring his band here to Whiskey Jacques' to demonstrate his commitment to change on Friday, Oct. 21. For a music preview, visit He explained his progress in a quick email interview last week.

Q) Is that your voice on the album?

A) That is my voice. I write the music and sing for our band. I'm lucky to work with musicians I greatly respect that can turn a show on its head. I will be bringing with me Keith O'Dell on keys, Gabe Johnson on lead, Jared Forqueran on drums and Tyler Mason on bass.

Q) How would you describe your music?

A) It's a mixture of influences I love to listen to. Blues, rock 'n' roll, acoustic singer/songwriter, with a mix of soul. My biggest goal is to not follow where everyone else in music is going. My goal is to bring back live sounds from the early decades of when rock 'n' roll was first getting its legs. That sound worked for a reason. It didn't have to be overdone, or electronic, it was just rock 'n' roll.

Q) The album flows really nicely, but it's very different from song to song.  Did the various experiences of your band members influence how it was pieced together or did you come in with music needing the right people to play it?

A) Thank you! There will be some additional songs on the new record as well. In total it will be an eight-song album that will be released this winter. For the recording, I went to Charlottesville, Va., and worked with national players. I had my songs with me, but some of the approaches were definitely influenced by the players in the studio. It was refreshing to take them from acoustic renderings into something completely different. In all honesty, I had the time of my life putting that record together. 

Q) Will there be any of the recording partners traveling with you to Ketchum?

A) There won't be, but I'm very proud to play with my bandmates from Bend, Ore. Each one is capable of so much. I'm truly honored to get to play with them.

Q) How will the show be different from the album?

A) For our shows we strive to make them fun and danceable. We want the entire crowd up at the stage with us. We keep some tricks up our sleeve in order to make that happen.

Q) What's next?

A) This fall I'm moving into music as a full-time career. I plan on releasing my record nationally this winter, after the start of the year. I hope that it's good enough to have legs in the industry. I certainly don't expect the world to come to me, but at the end of the day it's my responsibility to make them pay attention. I hope that through my efforts, and touring, I can make that happen. It all starts with playing new cities and being daring with touring. Ketchum is one of those dates for us. It's safe to say that we will play our hearts out Friday night.  

Jennifer Liebrum:

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