Eric Martin

Eric Martin Band/Mr. Big

Eric Martin is an American singer, musician, and songwriter.  His impressive musical resume is second to none, which includes the original voice of MR. BIG, preforming and recording with some of the biggest names in the industry, and playing live to millions all over the world, currently touring as Eric Martin Band with the incredibly talented lineup of: P J Farley (Trixter), Paul Pesco and Paul Hartless. He is part of Avantasia's latest album, released on October 21st. Metal Temple writer Fred Bonanno was privileged to see his band last week at the Arcada Theater in St. Charles, Illinois, and even more privileged to call Eric a personal friend, he has a great sense of humor and is one of the most genuine and grounded people I know. He was kind enough to sit down with me (after a lot of begging and pleading) and answer a few questions for Metal Temple.
By Fred Bonanno
October 25, 2022
Mr. Big's Eric Martin: "There's days where a fan gives me something to sign and I'm thinking holy cow…when did I sing on this? And then the fan has got a story. God love the fans...I'm blessed but I crave more!" interview
Eric, first, I just wanna say thank you very much for taking time out of your busy touring schedule to answer a few of my hard-hitting, brilliant questions (laughing), seriously, you're on tour right now with Michael Schenker (UFO, MSG), so how are you doing, how's the tour going?

My pleasure Fred ol' buddy old pal, I haven't been sick at all this year (easily 80 plus shows under my belt) but when we hit Indiana the other day this country honk cough has been killing me. I'm on a 4 in a row stretch , 3 down ,1 to go before the day off. Oh, by the way rocked Detroit, now off to Pittsburgh . Driving on this tour in a van with the three other guys is interesting, P J Farley is driving, we call him Mario Speedwagon. Long story short I'm hanging in there, loving what I do , love the guys in my band and for the most part happy to be working in the USA again .

Can you give our readers a brief history of your start into music?

Brief? Hmmm good luck , you can edit it if ya want …me and my big mouth'  Well I started out as a drummer at 12 years old, became a singer cause I sucked as a drummer ( my old man played professional) …my mother was a singer in glee clubs and choirs, I am pretty sure I got the singing bug from her.  Most definitely her vibrato and her projection was passed on to me… she yelled at me a lot.. I'm sure that's where I got my Mr. big mouth growl.  . I bounced around in bands and in countries …my father was in the army, and we were stationed all over the world.  We came to Sacramento CA. When I was around 15… at 19 I answered an ad "singer wanted for San Francisco rock band" they were called "Kid courage" a great original band that sounded like a cross between the Rolling stones and Traffic. Big claim to fame we opened to AC/DC at the old Waldorf 2 nights in 1978…I think it was Bon and the boys 2nd trip to the USA… after that it was a bunch of gigs opening to international acts… but no happy ending 'I got booted for being late to practice and bad attitude ( ya got to get that shit outta of the way when your young … I was an idiot at 19…ha) …so it was back to the struggle , moved to LA had some gigs ..mostly struggled…  the fish just weren't biting.  A couple years later joined forces with some friends from another band called Mile Hi in Hayward California ..changed the name to 415 then to Eric Martin Band  ..played tons of shows literally became the best club band in San Francisco Bay Area… true story!!!! I've got the bay area music award trophy for best club band of 1983 on my desk at home…whoo hoo. We were signed to Elektra records (all made possible by our manager and Journey Manager  Herbie Herbert ).. we toured up and down the USA, some radio airplay, ,MTV, a couple tours etc. but couldn't catch the public on a good day…a couple of the guys did some major things after EMB. Our drummer Troy Luccketta had big success with TESLA and guitarist John Nyman with Y&T. I went on to become a solo artist on Capitol records and put out a couple records in 86 and 87…. Toured with my 7-piece band in the USA  opening to everybody including with one of my heroes  Eddie Money …I was more into rock & soul back then .   Around 1988 I got a call from my dear friend and producer Mike Varney who hooked me up with Billy Sheehan and after a few months Mr. Big was born..33ish years later 9 studio albums,, 5/6 singles I think ..1 mega #1 hit single in 15 countries,  a boatload of live records, 1000's of miles of touring (got the stamps in 5 passports to prove it) , lots of accolades …So Eric ..ha…was the struggle, experience, and adventure worth it ?? Absolutely … and my story is still going …..uhm but you said brief…doh!!

How did Mr. Big come about?

Oy… so not brief? You want me to keep talking ? Wow Fred you're a hard ass. So, Mike Varney (producer , record mogul for Shrapnel records and guitar player head hunter to a lot of the greats including Ritchie Kotzen and Paul Gilbert ) and I are old friends from the 70's . He called me out of the blue in 1988 when I was at the end of my adventure with capitol records . Billy Sheehan just left David Lee Roth and was looking for a singer and he called Mike… well there I was on a party line with Mike & Billy hatching out a plan to start a band. Billy told me about Paul that he judged this kid in a guitar contest in LA and said he was amazing … so then there were 3 …Pat Torpey was playing with the KNACK at the time came in an auditioned… 1st day got the job and the 4 of us were off and running'. Got to know each other in the rehearsal room , thought of the band name , made the demo's,  …. We literally wrote our first record in 8 days and jammed on it ,cut em' up, pasted them together again , spit, polished and made these tunes shine … played numerous showcases to no avail. Atlantic records signed us sight unseen ( Also made entirely possible by our manager Herbie Herbert….. Herb was my manager for EMB , my solo projects and Mr. Big for many years ).

Your father was a professional drummer, and you actually started out playing drums before switching to singing, what caused that decision?

I was a young kid ..I played drums because I was the apple of my father's eye . He wanted me to follow in his footsteps. He taught me well and to this day I have a good sense of Rhythm  ..but sitting down and beating on drums for 2 hours or even 30 minutes is a bitch. I love the power of it and that I'm guiding the band but once I got a little taste of that front spotlight …well my drumming days were over.  when I was 12 years old I was playing in a band with older boys  called ' the Buzzzzz" . The singer didn't show up, so I offered to sing behind the kit ..I remember the song it was "Get Ready (cause here I come)" by Rare Earth. It was hard to sing sitting down so I stood up …and that was it …the band got a new drummer, and I became the singer … hello spotlight.

Your first "real" band was 415 later changed to The Eric Martin Band which played on American Bandstand and also opened up for major acts like Journey, Z Z Top and Night Ranger, what split that band up?

Electra records fired about 500 people in the company including our A&R agents and the staff that was taking care of us… we didn't stand a chance. We started in late 79 /80 till late 1984 … we were a great band, check out our album "Sucker for a pretty face", such a shame. The one that got away.

What is your favorite song you've written?

Hmmm would it be weird if I said, "To be with you"? It was my little campfire song , I used to sing the chorus to my sisters girlfriends in lieu of talking to them  … I didn't have a gift for gab then ha.. so, I let my little piece of music do the talking . It's my baby .

Do you prefer to write songs on your own, or with collaboration?

I enjoy the collaborative process … I've worked with some great writers  Stan Lynch , Danny Kortchmar, Jim Valance, Tony Fanuchi,  to name a few. My songwriting partner for over 30 years has been Andre Pessis. We know each other so well we can almost read each other's mind.

Do you have a favorite song to perform?

I love singing the MR. BIG country rock tune "Alive & Kickin" it's my rock & Soulful showcase tune and "Just take my heart" it still is an emotional song for me to sing.

"Just take my Heart" (from Mr. Big) is a passionate and emotional song, what's the story behind it?

Whoa…. This is a Twist of fate ??  Sad song actually about a break up with my first wife Stacey ( I've been telling the story for years …but it was of many break ups) yeah we were laying there in bed , she's laying on the other side  and I'm bummed out writing the song in my thoughts basically my love life is unraveling in real time. Next day she was gone, and I had a song …. Hopefully she took my heart .

You were invited to audition for Van Halen after David Lee Roth departed, can you tell us what happened?

I'm tapping out of that subject . He asked me , I was thrilled , then the cold feet prevented me from doing a damn thing about it. Biggest regret.

I know the drummer from Mr. Big, Pat Torpey, passed away in 2018, but have there been any talks with the remaining members for a possible reunion tour?

There's a few whispers around the BIG Camp from the BIG's themselves… my spidey sense is tingling.

You've been in music since the mid-70's and you've performed with and recorded with a lot, and I mean a lot of musical heavyweights, way too many to mention here, and also have been part of over 50 albums (solo, group, compilation, tribute), and of course, thousands of live concerts, do you ever look in the mirror and say "Damn, I've accomplished a ton"

Oh man there's the days where a fan gives me something to sign and I'm thinking holy cow did I sing on this …when did I sing on this? and then the fan has got a story . God love the fans …sometimes I forget what I've done ha. I'm blessed to have what I have in this business … but I crave more brother!!

If you could be a part of any band, current or past, who would that band /artist be?

I would have loved to have done a duet with Steve Marriot with Humble Pie, same with Rod Stewart and the Faces , Jeff Beck group …. Hmmm Toto … I would have loved to be good enough to be in that band circa 1986.

Who are some of your musical influences?

Paul Rogers, Otis Redding, Rod Stewart, Jerry Lewis ( comedian)

Women have become a major player in rock and metal over the past years, some of my personal favs are Lzzy Hale and Nita Strauss, who are some female rockers you're a fan of?

Definitely Ms. Hale, Adrian Cowen & Ina Morgan  from AVANTASIA , Alanis Morissette, Hayley Williams.. there was this woman I saw years ago in San Francisco her name was " STORM" sooooo damn good… killer voice and great performer. The band was called " STORM and her dirty Mouth".

On that thought, tell me about the "Mr. Vocalist" albums you recorded, was it strange singing songs that only woman had performed?

*interviewers note: Eric recorded several albums covering Japanese ballads originally sung by women* It was tough to write English lyrics to Japanese synopsis of the Japanese words… tough as hell. But putting my spin on these songs made popular by famous Japanese female artists was helluva lot of fun. I did a few records on Sony/ Japan covering these tunes… did a DVD called " one special night in Tokyo" and a cd called " Timeless" which was a record of me singing songs from female artists all over the world. Sony records Japan hired me to do the male spin on these tunes…. Till this day my favorite vocal performance next to " To be with you" is " SUPERSTAR" originally sung by Bonnie Bramlett … question about it.

You've had huge success and popularity over the years in Japan, what's the difference between American audiences and Japan?

Hmmm you know Fred everyone looks the same with their hands in the air ….we spent more time in Japan then in any country including America so in turn we grew up with most of the folks there. It's a deep love ….they still hold the torch high for us.

I know you're a big sports fan, if you could have made a career in athletics instead of music, which is sport would you have excelled at?

I played baseball - center fielder , Basketball- point guard- and football -tackling dummy …. Football was my favorite sport too… father was the president of the pop Warner league  and I  still sat on the bench most of the time. Ha …I used to walk home from the big games with a clean uniform ….I would throw myself in a pile of dirt on the ground and bang my helmet against the wall so my mom would think that I played …pathetic right ? Nope… if she didn't think I was getting any playing time then the coaches or the president ( my Dad) would get an earful. She used to do the same thing to the local Sacramento radio station " The Eagle" …if she didn't hear me on the radio everyday she would call the program director up and demand to hear my songs … my Mom was the greatest!

What is your preferred way to relax when not on the road or recording?

Hanging with my kids playing vids and shooting hoops

I am honored and privileged to say I've gotten to know you on a personal level over the past few years and I know what an extremely funny and amazing personality you are, have you ever considered some sort of acting? Or maybe even a radio show?

Ha…. Fred I'm a Singer dude , off the cuff comedian , Geoff Tate's backstage pass entertainment CLOWN prince of rock & roll...

What future projects are in the works for Eric Martin?

Mr. Big?, Avantasia's new album, A Paranormal Evening with the Moonflower Society, coming out on Oct. 21st. I'm singing on a duet with the main man Tobias Sammet, heading to Latin America after this Michael Schenker tour in November for another solo tour.

Thank you so very much for your time, and I wish you all the best moving forward in any and all Eric Martin projects, and as always, look forward to seeing you live on stage.

Life is good…thanks old pal.

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