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2017-12-01 / Spotlight

Soul Man

Eric Ian Farmer | Musician

Eric Ian Farmer moved back to State College eight years ago and enrolled in a doctoral program at Penn State. Now, he’s completed his Ph.D. — but also created a unique musical career that combines storytelling with soul music and rhythm and blues influences. In October, Farmer and friends recorded a live album in The Attic at The State Theatre, the first of its kind for Farmer. “That was a magical night,” he says. “It started with my parents handing out carrot cake to people as they were walking upstairs.” Farmer brought eight local musicians together as well as local production company Earwicker Productions to create the one-of-a-kind album, which Farmer hopes will be released soon. Until then, we caught up with the singer-songwriter to see what keeps him feeling the love.

1. BEAT BOX
“I remember seeing this performance in California, and I’m seeing these people making music, and I hear what sounds like a drum, but I can’t see a drum kit. And then afterwards I see that this guy sitting on a box with a microphone pointed at the hole in it was making all of this sound. Lately I’ve been playing with a singer, Ady Martinez, from Venezuela. She only sings in Spanish. To play with her, I mostly play cajón, and she’s teaching me rhythms I’ve never played before.”

2. OPEN BOOK
“12 Years a Slave is definitely worth watching and reading. I love reading books that give more insight into oppression in the United States. This is a gem, a firsthand account of somebody that got snatched into slavery, who was pretty far from it before. And I’m a big fan of watching the movie and then reading the book, because the book’s so much better, usually. It does throw images in your head, but after the first few pages, I’m hearing a voice that’s different and authentic and separate from the actors.”

3. FULL PLATE
“I love handmade dishware. I love a beautifully made plate. I love the thickness of it, the holes you can see in there. I don’t put these in cabinets; I stack them in this open space in my kitchen so every time I walk in I can see them. It’s almost like a painting on a wall. I feel like food tastes better. I love to cook, and I love to share that cooking. Food is a beautiful experience — we’re about to break bread and have this hopefully well-made food, and I want to put it in something that honors the love that went into making it.”

4. SYMBOLIC SOUVENIR
“This sarong is a gift that I got when I was in Malaysia. I wear this to sing sometimes. I like it for a number of reasons. It’s very comfortable. It also reminds me of traveling east and, though you don’t see these in Zimbabwe, it reminds me of traveling to southern Africa. Those places were huge wakeup calls — the world is a really big place and there’s a lot that’s hard to learn at home.”

5. SHINE A LIGHT
“The salt lamp I got three or four years ago. I used to have it in my living room. And so I was at home, in the living room, heading out to my Thursday night performance at the Adam’s Apple, getting all my gear, and I turn around and I’m like, ‘I’m not ready for us to not be in the same room. You’re coming with me!’ I just plug it in right wherever I’m singing. I just feel better when it’s around. I take it to probably 95 percent of my performances.”

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