Eric Andersen told me that he believes every artist has a spiritual or symbolic father; someone who enlightens and informs them and helps to define their path in life. For Eric, that person was the poet Arthur Rimbaud. That symbolic father for me, as teenager with a guitar and caught between unwanted expectations and hopeful dreams, was Eric. I still vividly recall the first time I heard him after the needle dropped on the opening cut from an album I had found in the discount bin at the local record store. The year was 1973 and the album was The Best of Eric Andersen. That album led me to the timeless sounds of Today is the Highway, 'Bout Changes & Things, Avalanche, Blue River, Be True To You and Sweet Surprise.
I soon found out that he hailed from my hometown of Buffalo, New York and in 1976 I had a chance to see him at a place called The Belle Starr about 30-minutes south of Buffalo. It was a rough and tumble blues joint known more for bar fights and after-hours hijinks than poets and folk musicians. But this was the Eric Andersen and I went there expecting standing room only. What I found was a smattering of people; some who obviously didn’t even know who Eric Andersen was. The evening seemed to be a picture of disparity. I spoke to him after the show. He was a bit drunk and somewhat distant but humble and gracious. I left, just thrilled having had the chance to have met him.
I’m drawn to stories that are rooted in a person or event that moves me on an emotional and intellectual level. The Songpoet is an intensely personal film embedded in my deep appreciation of Eric’s music. But beyond that, it came from a place in my soul that wanted to give something back to someone who had given so much to me through his words and music.
It took nearly eight years to make this film and during that span, much of my time was spent with Eric at his home in the Netherlands where he opened a very hidden and private world to me. There were late night conversations that lasted until dawn. I became immersed for countless hours reading hundreds of journal entries and scouring through thousands of photographs. I was privy to his greatest moments of happiness and some of his darkest moments of despair. What emerged was a film about the artist but more importantly, the man came into sharp relief allowing the artist to be understood as it touches on things common to all of us – home, family, career, relationships, ego – and the conflicts that can arise as we attempt to balance and make sense of them while seeking out and pursuing our own purpose in life.
The Songpoet is a thank you gift to Eric. If, in the process, more people are made aware of Eric and his music, then all the better.
February 14, 2019