Eric Hester is a quirky alternative acoustic popster who can put a smile on anyone in his path. His soulful, earthy voice complements a charged, poignant and beautifully sick mind for songwriting. You will hum his stuff all the way home and catch yourself dreaming it when you awaken the next morning.
He’s a songwriter who works the road with tireless professionalism. His music and warm stage presence creates instant community, and audiences demand him back. Eric’s acoustic guitar is his private jukebox, generating big-time, small-town Saturday night electricity.
It’s no big surprise that the Madison, Wisconsin songwriter scene has coalesced around this onetime Portland Songwriters Association songwriter of the year and performer of the year. Since his move to Madison in 2000, this New Mexico native founded the popular Madison Songwriters Group, started a monthly musicians’ showcase and has taught songwriting at the University of Wisconsin.
Before his days as a solo artist, Eric was a member of the Southwest-based alternative band The Young Professionals; the band’s chainsaw-pop sensibility stays with Eric today. He was later one-half of the acclaimed acoustic duo The Panhandlers.
Eric is polished but rugged. He’s in that sweet spot in his career when he’s wise and shoeworn but a more dynamite performer, as combustible as his trademark natural red hair. With each year of seasoning, he has tried to leave his infamous psycho killer songs behind, but his devoted audiences pull them back out. That’s testament to the appeal of his 1997 album, “Red,” with its “Catcher in the Rye”-influenced cover. It sold more than 4,000 copies and still gets repeated radio requests.
The foot-tapping first track on “Blue Tattoo,” his sharp latest album, is “MTM,” which references a certain television character about the furthest thing from a psycho killer. “I Know (A Little Girl)” is a bittersweet growing-up song that could pass for a wedding anthem. The album was produced by Nashville dynamo Craig Carothers and includes backing work by national talent like Andrea Zonn (Vince Gill), Phil Baker (Donna Summer), Joe Heinemann (Delbert McClinton) and Claudia Holden (The Peaceful Dead).
For a proper introduction to Eric Hester, do this: Open your copy of “Red,” put it on track #6, turn up the sound, turn off the lights, and keep your eyes open.
Or, better yet, make plans to see him in concert.