Eric Himan: Indie Idol

As he releases his seventh studio album, Supposed Unknown, grassroots folk-pop rocker Eric Himan looks back at his determined decade as an openly gay artist and lyrical activist.

BY Brandon Voss

April 28 2011 11:25 AM ET

Mainstream musicians may continue to make headlines for coming out of the closet, but Eric Himan has been out and loud since his 2000 debut. Gearing up for a national tour to promote his seventh studio album, Supposed Unknown, which will be released May 2 on his own Thumbcrown Records label, the handsome, heavily tattooed Oklahoma-based singer-songwriter explains how the climate has changed for gay artists and why he has never been suited for American Idol.

Advocate.com: Congratulations on Supposed Unknown. How does it compare to your past releases?
Eric Himan: It has to be the most relaxed disc I’ve ever made. I used to book studio time and try to cram all the recording, mixing, and mastering into a little less than a month. But this time I asked my friend, award-winning transgender singer-songwriter Namoli Brennet, if she would produce this CD in her home studio, so I was able to take my time. Namoli did an amazing job producing and mixing this with me, and it was mastered by Chris Bellman, who has mastered CDs like Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill, Ani DiFranco’s Dilate, and many more. There’s something special about collaborating with people that inspire you, and that makes this new disc stand out from the others.

What’s the significance of the album title?
The title comes from a lyric in my song, “You First” — “I am constantly given advice at my shows to enter contests on TV that rocket supposed unknowns to fame and to wealth that many never see. Am I still an American if that is not my dream?” Many times I get questioned because I don’t audition for shows like American Idol. Although I’d love the exposure to a wider audience, and I have no judgment for those who do audition, those shows aren’t for me. My goal isn’t to become the richest and most famous musician that I can be molded into; it is to make a consistent living and to continue growing as a working musician. Without the big push of a record label, publicists, and agents, I decided 10 years ago to become my own billboard, tour as much as I could, and put out CDs every year or so. Thanks to Ani DiFranco and other indies for showing me the way.

What was the inspiration behind “Dust,” the first single from the new album?
“Dust” is a song about the jealousy and competitiveness I’ve seen and sometimes felt in the music world. I love the albums from the ’60s where musicians backed each other up and didn’t make a big deal about it, and I hope to always have those relationships with my other singer-songwriter friends. But there are moments where opportunities knock for some and not for others, me included. So the song comes from those moments where I feel like I’m getting pretty far on my indie path, but then another musician takes the fast track, and I feel like I didn’t move one bit. I didn’t notice many songs that address this issue, so I decided to write one.

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