DECEMBER 2005 ISSUE

Gary Pig Gold
on the 7th Floor of Christmas

Interview with Erich Overhultz (November, 2005)
By Gary Pig Gold


"Christmas is a very special time of the year," states one of my absolute favorite American keyboardists, Erich Overhultz. "One that can evoke a wide array of emotions."

"I wanted to make a recording of a collection of music that was diverse, fun, spirited, both traditional and new."

And that the man most definitely has.

Though its title track delightfully sounds just as if Scott Joplin had somehow hijacked the 1966 Beatles Christmas Message, Erich's "7th Floor Christmas" album immediately thereafter more than fulfills its wish to cast seasonal classics in charmingly original, yet never less than properly respectful surroundings. To cite the most exceptional examples, that timeless tinkling melody of "Carol of the Bells" now chimes inside a delicate baroque music box setting, as does my own beloved childhood "Away in the Manger," which here as elsewhere never fails to instantly conjure warm, chocolate childhood memories of Dinky Toys and Dave Clark Five forty-fives strewn beneath the tinsel.

Quite conversely, "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing," Erich's own "Reflections of a Christmas," and even more so "God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman" adds a uniquely grown-up hue to Vince Guaraldi's classic Peanutty Yule scores of yore …yet somehow without once spoiling that sonic sense of wintry wonder and splendor.

Then another fully Overhultz original, "Spiders in the Chimney," adds a splash of Christmas pine green to Piano Red, as jaunty Spectorian sleigh bells - then a perfectly SMiLE-worthy B. Wilson kazoo! - shake the snow-beat most merrily along. But to my ears especially, Erich mesmerizes most completely when he applies his blue-hilled dulcimer hammer upon "Christmas Hornpipe," "Angels We Have Heard on High," and the Overhultz-composed "Run to Bethlehem," the latter two incongruously joined by a subtle tabla-like accompaniment which must immediately bring all newfound respect to that lately most hackneyed of musical pigeonholes, "world music."

Concluding this particular half-hour sojourn with an appropriately "Silent Night" indeed, one can only faintly hear frost-bitten scarves being loosened, gifts excitedly unwrapped, and the true, almost-long-lost Spirit of Christmas surely unfolding.

"I truly feel that music is a wonderful gift from God," Erich assures, and it is in that genuine, faithful spirit in which "7th Floor Christmas" is offered, and will most assuredly melt many a late December night to follow.

So whilst floating within the nearest egg nog - and being sure to check straight in at www.erichoverhultz.com for a copy of the man's joyous "All Aboard!" CD as well - I thought it well within the spirit of the season to ask Erich those Eight Questions…..

E.C.: "Munsters" or "Addams Family": Which one's for you, and Why?

Erich: Munsters. Just because of the great theme song. I read somewhere that NRBQ occasionally played it during their live shows.

E.C.: Who in the world, living or dead, would you most like to play a game of "Twister" with?

Erich: My wife! Hands down!

E.C.: How many Sid King & The Five Strings records do you own?

Erich: Unfortunately none.

E.C.: If you had been working the front gate at The Dakota that night a quarter century ago when nasty Mark David Chapman showed up, pistol in hand, to avenge the Chief Beatle for his "Bigger than Jesus" wisecrack, what would you have done?

Erich: STOP!

E.C.: "Ginger" or "Mary-Ann": Which one's for you, and for How Long?

Erich: Mary-Ann. She was really attractive and down to earth.

E.C.: What single song, living or dead, do you most wish you'd written… and Why Didn't You?

Erich: Interesting question. I don't think I can give you an answer on that. I really love many of the old Christian hymns, what they convey in terms of one's relationship with Christ, the hope they instill, etc. Some of the histories behind the songs are quite interesting too -- check out "Then Sings My Soul" by Robert J. Morgan, a great book. I usually write instrumentals, and only occasionally will write something with lyrics.

E.C.: Whose O'Brien hammered dulcimer would you most like to be reincarnated as?

Erich: I love the sound of my TK O'Brien hammered dulcimer. But, why would anyone want to be bound with 46 high tension steel strings and beaten with wooden sticks!

I guess that would be better than being cast as a Port-o-Potty.

E.C.: In 2000 words or less, Your hopes, Aspirations and Goals, musical and otherwise, for your life and your country?

Erich: Musically, I guess my goals are to successfully play what I'm feeling in my soul. As you can see from my first two CDs, I'm a bit of a musical chameleon. I would like to do a gospel project soon. To me, music is a wonderful gift from God, whether I'm playing piano, hammering on a dulcimer, or blowing a kazoo. And it's fun.

Personally, I believe that how one lives his or her life comes down to their own relationship with Jesus. That's what's most important. It's not an easy road to always follow-I know, because I fail miserably several times each day. It makes you even more in awe of how He lived His life; but at the same time, the reassurance of salvation that I get from accepting who He was, His purpose, His sacrifice and His resurrection on the cross sustains me from day to day.

The future of our country? I love America, but I am deeply troubled by a lot of things I see. I supported us going over to take out Saddam and look for WMDs. But as far as "giving them" democracy, to me it's just incongruent with Islamist culture-democracy must come up from the people, the grass roots, and from a relatively virtuous demographic. I am disturbed by the growing national debt, the growing trade deficit, elitist decisions by judicial activists on the Supreme Court (and other benches), and in general, a growing coarseness and cultural ignorance among people. A generation that knows woefully little about people like Art Tatum or Ray Charles, but is content being spoon-fed the latest gossip about American Idol.

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