Pleading the First - A talk with Singer/Songwriter/Smartass Eric Schwartz
When asked (or even when not), Eric Schwartz claims to have been
"singing from day one" (much to the surprise of the obstetrician, to be
sure!). Schwartz was also born with an insatiable hunger for attention,
which he manifested through behaviors which earned him the title of
"wise-ass" from those who, he says, did not understand.
In Junior High, Schwartz followed his natural road to the theater.
"It was my way of getting attention and love and all of that unoriginal
stuff," he says.
After graduating from Tufts University, Schwartz switched tracks
slightly to musical performance. While on a post-graduate trip to Spain,
Schwartz picked-up his roommate's guitar and quickly realized that he could
not only cover Chapin, Croce and Costello, but that he could also write his
very own songs.
After touring Europe as a busking street performer, Schwartz returned
States-side and returned to acting. This time, however, life on the boards
bored the burgeoning talent, and Eric soon found himself strumming instead
Schwartz began playing in ever-larger clubs around Manhattan. Unfortunately,
most of these venues were more attuned to cover bands and Schwartz's
insightful and often hilarious compositions often went unheard and
Hooking up with an Upstate management firm, Schwartz began the "slow,
painful road" to obtaining professional recognition as a singer/songwriter.
As for where he gets his material, Schwartz has a simple and typically
"We all do things we're not proud of," he says. "I write about them."
Schwartz especially likes exploring the world of taboo (i.e., what we all
think but only few say) and often wonders where the concept of propriety
"I don't get that," he puzzles. "We're not all pure and good, yet the world
tries to pass us off as if we were."
In order to test this theory, Eric uses his songs as conversations with his
audience, always watching carefully for titter placement and seat shifting.
"The more I push the limits," he figures, "the funnier and less trivial it
can be. One song often gets to the heart of a different subject."
Though his oft humorous contexts make uncomfortable topics more palatable,
such piercingly personal pieces have brought many a staunch music fan to
tears and fits of laughter, sometimes within the same three minutes. People
just LOVE his songs. For Eric, however, the playing's the thing.
"I don't care how good a song is," he claims. "It's about the performance-
that conversational give and take. That's what makes it."
That's not to say, however, that Schwartz does not work hard at his creative
"I'm not saying that I don't try to write great songs," he explains, "but
it's irrelevant if there's nobody to play it for. We are all social
Eric's great desire to connect on a personal level, in combination with his
flair for the dramatic and theatrical greatly enhance his performances,
turning many a listening room into a rollicking roadhouse. They have also
garnered him bookings from the Avenue of the Americas to the American Virgin
Islands (and some British ones too).
"Those were nice," Schwartz smiles, tugging at his trademark overalls.
Looking over his ever-expanding, ever more affecting repertoire, Eric is
ready to defend himself, but does not see the need.
"I know what I feel and why I feel it," he declares," so how can you fault
me? Even bathroom humor can be deep."
Having thus flushed his critics, Eric is hard on the trail of finding a
future direction for himself.
"I'm an odd combination," he admits. "On the one hand, I want to be
intellectual and philosophical. On the other hand, I want to have fun and
Such duality has led Eric to question his own tactics at times.
"I often ask myself 'Is this cheap? Am I trying (only) to get a rise out of
people?' And then I answer myself (sometimes in another voice), 'No. I'm in
this for me and my enjoyment.' While I admit that this may not be a pleasant
motto," Schwartz concedes, "at least it's true."
Apparently, Schwartz has bought in (at least somewhat) to the 'truth will
set you free' thing.
"In showing my journal, I am empowering others to admit their perversions.
They may be protest songs," he says, "but they're not protests against
ideals. They're protests against those who would stifle me."
Still looking for attention, Eric?
"What can I say? I'm a brat!"