Dustin Erhardt

21 May

“I really think the most defining trait of an artist is honesty. If you are an artist and people look up to you or your work, I think you have a responsibility to speak up.”

Portland, OR is one city that has a great music scene. Full of talented bands and musicians that all work hard, hoping the end result is them getting noticed. One of those individuals is named Dustin Erhardt and he’s been making music since he was a young boy. Having been encouraged by a parent to fully immerse himself in art, he started learning various different instruments. He’s been making music for years now and has only gotten better at his craft. I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know Dustin and I’ve learned that he’s passionate about making the music he loves and having it heard by as many people as possible. When we were discussing our interview, Dustin decided that he wanted to debut his brand new song, Better Than Nothing, on Sounds That Matter for you all to hear. Enjoy the interview with Dustin and if you like his new song, be sure to click the link and download the song for free.

Q. How did you get your start in music and what has been the biggest reward since beginning?

A. I started playing guitar in 6th grade, to the credit of my mom. I was very artistically inclined, always drawing, painting, sculpting with clay, writing poems, singing, designing t-shirts… I was basically desperate to express myself in any way I could. I think my mom saw that, and she tried to encourage it.

We attempted piano lessons when I was 5 or so, but I got bored quickly because I just wanted to play by ear, I wasn’t interested in the theory. I just wanted to get the songs out of my head and into the open air. The guitar is much more suited to playing by ear, so it was a no brainer. I got an electric guitar and an amp for Christmas one year, and that became my main outlet of expression for the next 12 years.

I’ve had the opportunity to play in a band and travel around the country, and I think the most rewarding thing about music is its ability to bring people together. I remember touring in Denmark 2 years ago, sometimes playing shows where the majority of the audience didn’t speak English, and being able to connect with them on a spiritual level. That’s priceless.

Q. You’re currently living in Portland, OR, which I’ve heard has a really great music scene. Who do you think are a few of the best bands/artists that have come out of the city?

A. Well, of course there are the big ones: Decemberists, Dandy Warhols, Portugal. The Man, Courtney Love, Everclear, Stars of Track and Field, Matt Kearney. These are the guys who had a huge role in defining the scene over here.

But I like to talk about the musicians that I’ve had the opportunity to meet and/or call my friends. Bands like Above The Golden State, Rootdown, Kutless, and Shawn McDonald.

There’s a new generation of musicians coming out right now, too. Almost all my friends are involved in some kind of project right now, which is really exciting. I really love the creative and collaborative atmosphere in this city.

Q. Currently, you have an assortment of your songs on Bandcamp available for download. Do you have plans to record a full-length?

A. Eventually. This whole thing actually started as a way for me to express myself, and I had no intention of ever selling my tracks for money. For the most part, I was giving away all my tracks because I didn’t want to charge people to become a fan of my music, and also because I knew I wouldn’t make that much money on digital downloads anyway. So, that’s how it started, and I’m still giving it all away. I do have a few songs on iTunes, and I’m always amazed when people still buy the tracks. I’m equally humbled and encouraged by the support.

I’m always involved in a couple musical endeavors, so I’m sure I’ll eventually get bored with releasing just one song at a time and start doing longer projects, like an EP or something like that. My hope is that I can always keep my music free to download, because I hate the idea of charging someone to hear my music for the first time. How are they supposed to know they like it?

Q. What are a few of your goals that you would like to achieve within the next few years?

A. I’ve been lucky enough to work with a lot of really talented people, and I have a few songwriting and producing gigs that I’m really excited to finish. After that, I want to collaborate with some friends and put out some good music.

Q. If you had the opportunity of appearing on stage with any artist, who would that be and why would you choose this person?

A. Whenever I fantasize about this, I picture myself with someone like Jack White or Brad Paisley. But the truth is, if someone offered that to me today I don’t think I’d accept. I’m not ready.

Q. When you’re in the writing process, does it typically come easy for you or does writers block often visit?

A. One of the positive things about being independent is that there’s no pressure to come up with material when you’re uninspired, unless you put that pressure on yourself. When I started releasing music, I was just posting songs as I wrote them, and I still have a pretty laid back approach to it. My real problem is finding enough time to record all the ideas I have.

Q. All sorts of things inspire artists to write. What are some of the things in your life that inspire you to write songs?

A. Last year I made a commitment to be totally honest, with myself and others. As easy as that sounds, it was really hard for me. Once I was able to admit my imperfection and fully accept the good and bad parts of myself, the songs just naturally came.

Everything I’ve written about is real, but sometimes there can be a bunch of things that inspire a song. I might be talking to a girl in verse one and talking to someone completely different in the chorus, or maybe in the bridge I’m talking to God, “Better Than Nothing” is a good example of that idea. 

Q. When it comes to performance, do you think it’s better to be “glam” like many artists these days, or do you think it’s better to keep it tame?

A. I think it’s important to be true to yourself and make a connection to the audience, which is ultimately what being a musician is all about. If Mumford and Sons started playing shows wearing excessive eyeliner and tight leather pants, they might have a hard time being taken seriously. I think people can tell when you’re being fake.

Q. In your opinion, what do you think is the definition of a true artist?

A. Wow, that’s a really tough question. I think there are a lot of ways to answer that, and if you had asked me that question a year ago I’d have a totally different answer. I really think the most defining trait of an artist is honesty. If you are an artist and people look up to you or your work, I think you have a responsibility to speak up. Not that anyone is right 100% of the time, and not that I deserve to be some kind of leader. But if you fail, you have an even greater responsibility to set an example by getting up and trying again. Music used to be about spreading ideas, about speaking up when things weren’t right. I think we’ve lost a lot of that spirit, but it’s making a comeback.

Q. If you were stranded on an island for the rest of your life and could only bring one of your songs to listen to, which one would it be and why?

A. Is there a way to answer this without sounding narcissistic? Probably the least depressing one, if I’m stranded by myself.

Here is “Better Than Nothing.” Enjoy.

Download this song plus more of his music here and share with everyone. Spreading good music around is something we all should do.
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One Response to “Dustin Erhardt”

  1. Jay May 23, 2011 at 6:13 pm #

    That is an awesome interview!

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