If you’ve heard the band The Racer and their excellent brand of indie pop then you have heard the piano playing of Eric Sosler a staple member of the band. In this new project Eric does it all from the vocals to his signature indie piano style playing. Above is the debut video “Comfort”. His album drops on all streaming services and mp3 stores on Friday February 19th via Mint 400 Records. We had the chance to sit down with Eric and talk about this new side project and here is what he said:
What is this project?
No Great Pretender is the solo creative works of Eric Sosler. The idea came to fruition in the start of the pandemic in March 2020.
To me it's more than just music though, it’s about a creative lifestyle that I am trying to live and practice. I’ve learned a lot of new things since the start of the pandemic and I’ve learned a few things about myself. After reading Patti Smith’s book “Just Kids” and being blown away at how being creative is a lifestyle and will always keep evolving, well that's how I want to try to live my life. No Great Pretender is me. The name comes from a track off The Roots album “Illadelph Halflife” and I just love what the image of it conjures up for me.
“The Piano Project” is my first real piece of work to unveil to people. It’s me getting to sing on songs that I was able to write all by myself, on piano, which I have never done before. It’s a sound of indie/folk singer/songwriter vibes. And I like the name of the album because I don’t want this to be a sound that defines me right out the gates. I just want people to know that this is going to be the sound of this album. I want to do all sorts of other projects in the future. Collaborate with other artists as much as possible. So we’ll see what the future brings!
How is it different from The Racer?
The main difference is I am singing on this. I may have done a few minor background vocals for The Racer but never actually lead vocals. So to sing my own melodies and lyrics is quite a sensation that I've never been able to feel before. Another difference is this is just a simple arrangement. Pretty much just vocals and piano (a couple tracks have some simple intricate beats thanks to Michael Esserman who is a band-mate of The Racer). In The Racer we like to add in all sorts of ear candy and with this I wanted to make something as simple as possible.
What is the inspiration behind the vocal delivery and keeping it all basically piano?
I wanted to try to capture the intimacy of when I sit in my apartment and just play the piano. These are the songs. This is the way it was written. Simple. I wanted to record it that way. I wanted to make it feel real for what I was playing every day. As far as the vocals, I think I am still trying to figure out what kind of voice I have. I know I love The National’s Matt Berninger’s voice and Justin Vernon’s low octave voice and I think I have a similar thing going but I also wanted to try to sing lighter at times. The track “Comfort” is a good example of balancing that out. Singing and staying in key does not come naturally for me so I have to really focus when doing it and stay disciplined.
How long have you had these songs sitting around or were they all written in one shot?
Pretty much every song was written in the first two months of the pandemic. From arranging to writing lyrics. One song I was sitting on an instrumental verse for a few months beforehand and I originally was going to bring to The Racer but I ended up putting vocals to it so I kept the idea going and decided I wanted to sing this for myself. I also had one more song but decided to cut it. So originally I was going for 8 tracks.
Take us through the recording process for this:
We didn’t start officially recording until a couple months ago even though I had all the songs ready to go for a while. For each song I would send in an email the piano tracks recorded in Garageband through midi to Michael Esserman who was able to transfer it to ProTools and he took it from there (I have very limited self recording experience which I learned Garageband out of necessity early in the pandemic to demo songs for The Racer). A few of the more intricate tracks I had to play in the studio to really capture the feel of the song so some tracks were twice recorded in that sense. Then I recorded the vocals in the studio in 1 or 2 takes. I didn't want to go crazy with trying to sound perfect. I just wanted to get the feel of it. I think Mike did a great job of capturing the vibe and as he said he was imagining me sitting down to an old dusty piano in an old empty room and just playing. I am grateful for his hard work on this project.
Take us through the songwriting process:
The song writing process was an amazing experience for myself. I had the time due to being an out of work bartender to really sit and focus and play the piano without being tired or hungover. I was trying to make some sounds that I normally wouldn’t do. Trying to create complete melodies that I normally wouldn’t do. I didn’t want it to flow naturally because sometimes when I let things come naturally they come out corny to me. So I had to put effort and focus into the process to make it what it is. It wasn’t easy work. Overall I felt like I was in a song writing zone for that two month time period, embracing the challenge of trying to capture what I was feeling.
This experience also made me realize how nice it is to be in a band with basically your own support group at all times. Being solo everything falls all on you alone, and then you alone control what you want to accomplish.
What other similar acts inspired this project?
Some of my favorite acts are The National, Bon Iver, and Frightened Rabbit. All which had a huge impact on these songs. But I think the most impact was Gregory Alan Isakov. He’s more of an indie folk artist who I discovered this past year and his records are just so emotionally calming for me. I really wanted to try to capture all my emotions in these songs and that's what I was listening to the most when writing these songs.
Also seeing Ed O’Brien, the guitar player from Radiohead put out his solo project inspired me to be like its ok to do something on the side for yourself. That really pushed me and I'm thankful to him for doing that.
Take us through making the video:
The video for “Comfort” was my first attempt at doing everything by myself. I was most nervous when editing came up to the plate. I had never done editing before for a full video of significance. To edit I used iMovie and another app called Videoleap all on my phone! (which I learned once again during the ongoing pandemic. Also it’s really amazing that technology has been able to simplify these complicated programs so that basically anyone can figure it out if it’s something that interests them). So I was curious to see what would happen. Thankfully it was a simple enough of a concept where I was able to pull it off to my satisfaction level.
I was able to clear out a section of my home of furniture to create the environment. Use some basic lighting and a tripod for my iPhone11 and press record all by myself. And I am proud of doing it by myself but definitely missed the companionship of working together in a group on fun things like this. The concept is really to just show a little bit of who I am. Doing a solo project brings a real feeling of vulnerability to me. I’ve always shied away from showing my face for whatever reason but I thought this would be a good introduction for No Great Pretender. I wanted to show that I’m ready to embrace it and put all my emotions out there. I think it goes hand in hand with the song in this instance.
- Sam Lowry, BMN Contributor