Cataldo | Precocious Situations

“Whatever subtle musical thing you worked on doesn’t translate when you’re a solo act, but a refined rock act is a mighty thing that you can’t ignore.”



Cataldo’s newest album Prison Boxing isn’t necessarily new, but this may be the first you’ve heard of him. Eric Anderson, recording under the name Cataldo, melds inspiring and warm emotions with stark anguish and despair. “Heartbreak” is an inspiring theme, one visited by nearly every musician, and Anderson’s latest album is no stranger to such subject matter. What makes Anderson different, however, is his humility, his lack of charades: he isn’t one to mince words in his music. In speaking with him, I learned his blunt honesty is trait that goes beyond lyric writing.

Prison Boxing was written at a pretty fragile crossroads in your life. Can you explain the writing process that went into the newest album?

There was a lot going on. I had just moved to Seattle and was going through a really difficult time—I’d just gone through a breakup, the move, and I didn’t have a job. So with all that, it was just a sort of time for reevaluation and a time of loneliness. It was rough not knowing anyone here [Seattle] or having any pals around. That process went on for a subsequent year, and since then things have turned around; I got a job and things are good right now. All of those elements, though, went in to the writing process. Those emotions went in to Prison Boxing: the lyrics, music, everything.

How did the collection of musicians come together for Prison Boxing?

When I moved here, I got a great show booked and I didn’t have a band. I didn’t know many musicians and had to draw upon several resources. The first band I ever played with is nonexistent but, from drawing on all of my resources, I collected a band to both record and [tour] with. I’ve been lucky to be able spend a lot of time with same musicians, but recording with all the different musicians is interesting; there are a lot of pros and cons between just being a songwriter who records on his own and recording with a band full of musicians where everyone puts their hands in the middle and a “let’s do this together”-type of attitude.

What are some of those pros and cons to recording with a plethora of musicians?

Well, the big positives are that you can kind of cherry-pick which musician you’d like to play for certain songs. Another huge difference for me was the addition of bass and drums on every song. Another cool thing is that the people I’ve been recording with are all very understanding, so no one would get their feelings hurt if they were excluded from a song or something like that.

The bad part is that you have to pay everyone. [Laughs] But, in all seriousness, you can all lose money together, collectively, but again, you’re all together for the same reason: the music and the recording. It’s great because they were neither money hounds nor would they work for free, and we could all meet in the middle. They were all willing to work with me on everything beyond getting paid, the music and recording process, too, so that’s nice. It has been great to be able to build up a rapport working with the same people for years because you discover everything that works, but also everything that might aggravate you musically, and then build on things and add unknown depths and dynamics. I feel like I’m getting the best of both worlds for this project and feel they want to play in my band, which is really important. I’m lucky to be in this precocious situation.

Apart from working with musicians and not just as a solo singer-songwriter, what were some of the other major musical differences you experienced in recording Prison Boxing compared to your last album Signal Flare?

Signal Flare had more people recording on it than Prison Boxing did, but none of the same people recorded in the same place or at the same time. Signal Flare was the most inefficient record, like being in a different world. However, the biggest difference with Prison Boxing was the inclusion of drums and bass in every song. A lot of it was the product of me becoming fascinated with instruments and not really knowing anything about them. It was a three- to four-year process for me, learning how to be in a rock band and communicating that with someone. It also had a lot to do with having played dismal shows as a solo act; if you play alone, there are two types of venues that can be cool. As a solo act, you can both perform in a house and get that intimate feeling where listeners hang on every word, or you can perform in an enormous place where people are sitting down and paying very close attention. Everywhere else just sucks to play in alone. It’s terrible, because you’re like an “agoro-phied” liquor salesman, and if [listeners] are unfamiliar with your music they chat. What’s worse is that whatever subtle musical thing you worked on doesn’t translate when you’re a solo act, but a refined rock act is a mighty thing that you can’t ignore.

Can you talk a bit more about the idea of creating a band and performing as a rock band? How has that changed your creative process?

The process has changed between albums. I got bored with playing guitar—I had been playing for about 10 years, so it made sense that I got bored. What I’m doing now and what began with the recording of Prison Boxing was listening to that little voice inside of me saying different things about melodies or phrases or lyrics that just jump out. Starting from that I’d move to chord structure, but I could never tie it to a rhythm instrument. Just working with drums and bass makes it different, but it didn’t change how I write my songs too much. My writing process is lyrics and melody at the same time. I think about the way a phrase sounds, and phonetic quality is extremely important. For me, I start with melody and phonetics, the sound of the words, which, I don’t know…it just works for me. Sometimes there will be some lyrics that get thrown out the window; that’s just what my brain presents to me. | Jenn Metzler


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