The first time I heard Eric Linden’s “Chasing You,” I was immediately struck by the song’s energy. The David Johansen swagger of Linden’s vocal delivery left me with a distinct impression of the New York Dolls, and it also held echoes of Lou Reed, Iggy Pop, and a little bit of Peter Murphy. More recently, his single “3,000 Pieces of Me” revealed an incredibly sensitive approach to songwriting and an eye for telling detail. Curious about what makes the burgeoning singer-songwriter tick, I dropped him a line…
You’ve moved around a bit, living in North Dakota and Colorado before settling in Minnesota. Has all of that moving informed your songwriting? What have you taken from each of the places you’ve lived? Or, to put it another way, what kind of impression did each place leave on you as a songwriter?
Growing up in North Dakota meant that my band really had to embrace a DIY approach to doing shows and recording. Also, we were sharing shows with bands who had wildly different sounds so we had to write enough songs that we had options when we put our sets together.
I moved to Colorado right after college and that was a pretty exciting and adventurous time for me. There’s a lot of great eclectic venues in the Denver/Boulder area. Red Rocks is one of my favorite places on Earth. And then you have places like the Mercury Cafe just teeming with creativity. I was into the Spoken Word scene there, and there was also some really great Americana music bubbling up in the area. The Lumineers and Nathanial Rateliff, for example, have hit it big.
Coming back to the Midwest was a bit of a homecoming for me. Minneapolis has such a great music tradition and scene. Of course, Prince was a powerhouse, and the Replacements have been incredibly influential. I’ve been really into Semisonic and Dan Wilson’s songwriting. And there’s always really exciting bands stepping up like Hippo Camus and Durry. It’s a really creative city that supports its musicians.
In 2020, you formed a virtual songwriters’ circle and started working on material for your first album, which will be titled Burning up the Marquee. How did you get the circle going, and how often did you meet? What were the logistics like? What did you learn from that experience?
At the start of COVID I split with a band I’d been playing with for a while. Tommy from The Negatrons suggested that we start a song-writing circle where every week we’d write and record a demo. We’d share the songs and our feedback every week in a chatroom.
Everyone in the group was people we knew from North Dakota’s DIY scene. There was a really wide variety of genres represented. Other guys were working with blues, metal, rap, pop-punk, and country. Check out the music from The Negatrons, Clint Morgenstern, and Moutkeevin to get a sense of the wide range of this group.
And then each of us were pushing our genre boundaries just to keep it interesting. Every song on Burning up the Marquee was written while I was in this group. It’s the strongest ten songs from that time. I cut another 10-15 songs.
The most valuable thing I learned was how to consistently start and finish songs. I’ve heard a Dan Wilson interview where he talked about the importance of finishing songs and training yourself to finish. I think I trained myself to finish songs rather than training myself to abandon songs.
The title Burning up the Marquee is extremely evocative. Where did it come from, and how’s the album coming along?
The album title is a line from my next single “Walk You Home” which will be out February 8th.
It’s a song about finding connection even when the world has put you through the wringer. The lyrics are pulling details from a really cold night in my neighborhood in Northeast Minneapolis: “Streets are uneven, sidewalks are heaving, lights burning up the marquee.” There’s a little theater a few streets down from my house.
As an album title it takes on a couple of different meanings. And I like that. It’s a nod to the civil unrest in the city. It’s a nod to Chuck Berry’s line “Maybe someday your name will be in lights.” My dad was a big Chuck Berry fan, and Johnny B. Goode is one of my go-to karaoke songs. There’s also quite a bit of fire imagery throughout the album, so it’s a good fit.
Your song “3,000 Pieces of Me” depicts a breakup in intimate detail. How much of your personal life shows up in your songs? Are they autobiographical, or are you inventing characters? Or is it a combination of the two?
The song is about a fictional breakup. The narrator of that song is a persona, who is very much “not me.”
Writing that song was kind of like writing a monolog for a character in a play. The first line I had was “I’m not understanding why you’re out standing in the rain.” So I knew she was incredibly upset and he couldn’t understand why she was seething. The rest of the song has a lot of telling details about how petty and materialistic he is.
As I was writing it I thought it was a pretty funny song. But I wrote it from his perspective and it’s true to his emotions during the breakup. And that resonates with people too.
I like that song has a couple of levels. One radio DJ told me she took the narrator’s side because she would be “pissed if someone was taking her records during a breakup.” And she has a point. Breakups have a way of bringing out the worst in people.
I love the verse about the record collection: “But my record collection/ Is looking awfully sparse/ Don’t take my Elton Johns/ Please don’t go breaking my heart.” Is Elton John an influence on your songwriting?
One of the members of the songwriting group told me I had to cut that line. I’m glad I didn’t. I think that little pun/allusion points to some of the humor in the song. Also, Max Collins from Eve 6 recently tweeted about how it’s good for songs to have a line or two that make you cringe. I have no idea if he was being serious, but I agree with it. The line feels pretty cringe.
As for Elton John, I do really like songs like “Rocketman” and “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting.” But “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” worked for this line and this character. It was one of the details that felt distinctly “not me.”
I don’t know that Sir Elton was influencing this record that much. I think I hear influences from Tom Petty, Dan Wilson, and the Rolling Stones at various points of the album.
I also love the line in that song about the suitcase purchased for a trip to Belize. It’s so telling—a suitcase purchased but never used for its intended purpose, like a detail in an Ernest Hemingway story. What’s going on there?
I’ve never been there, but in the moment it sounded like an exotic and showy vacation destination. He’s more interested in the show than the experience with her. He’s more interested in the suitcase than memories he had with her. If they did go on the trip, she’s taking those memories with her too.
After a breakup sweet memories turn sour. You can’t listen to some of your favorite songs anymore. You might lose some of your friends. You have to buy a new suitcase. It’s a whole thing.
If you don’t mind me geeking out a little bit, what’s your recording process? What do software do you use to record? Hardware? Microphones? Interfaces? Do you have a favorite guitar? (Feel free to comment on any combination these topics!)
A lot of this album was written and recorded on a Fender Telecaster with a maple neck. It’s an American Professional model in black with a white pickguard. It’s the first Telecaster I’ve ever owned, and I think it had a big influence during the writing process as well as the final sound of the album. I play various other guitars on the album, but that’s the one that stands out right now.
As far as recording goes It’s all pretty standard stuff: Focusrite, Shure, Pro Tools. I just think it’s incredible that home recording is so accessible these days.
Just to geek out a little more, have you picked up any tips or tricks with respect to recording? Are there any techniques that really work for you?
I wanted to be able to use my full pedal board, but micing a real amp wasn’t going to be ideal. So I settled on using the Strymon Iridium as the amp and cab. It’s a great piece of gear that allows me to switch between voicings for Fender, Marshall, and Vox amps quickly. I really value “convenient versatility” in the home studio. I choose pedals that give me a lot of options without diving deep into menus.
You mention on your website that you’re open to collaboration with other musicians and songwriters. Beyond your writing circle, have you had an opportunity to work with anyone else? What’s your process for working with other musicians? What do you like about creative collaboration?
I’ve played in a number of bands, and I miss the spark of collaboration when everyone is contributing new ideas to a song. I’ve been an actor and director in theater too, and I love working with other people to create a performance.
YouTuber Kristers Hartmanis played drums on the album, and that was a great experience. As was working with Tyler Pilot from Red Dot Recording.
There’s a lot of great musicians on Twitter I’d be interested in co-writing with or creating a collaboration track in the future. I’ve also had people start to inquire about bringing me in as a lyricist. I’m open to all of the above.
I’ve got a new single “Walk You Home” coming on February 8th. And the full album Burning up the Marquee will be out this spring.
I’m looking forward to it! Thanks for taking the time to chat with me, Eric!
Absolutely. Thank you for the thoughtful questions.