Interview with Brittany Cooper of Pledge Music -
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Songwriters are always having to seek out new inspiration and find the places, people or events that move them to write. For folk artist Eric Bettencourt, that sweet spot was Austin, Texas. Moving to the music city without knowing a soul, Bettencourt experienced a creative streak that produced a batch of songs he believes are his best yet.
Releasing his new record, “An Underwater Dream,” with help from Pledgers, the artist gives us the details of his time in Austin, his upcoming project and giving away his first guitar to a Pledger – no easy task! Enjoy these free tracks above (3 covers, one original) and be sure to check out his campaign page as well.
You’re based in Portland, Maine, but you went to Austin to write for the winter. What inspired that move?
Portland is an awesome city for music. It has a very diverse and strong music scene, but there is also a low ceiling and only so much opportunity connected to the outside world. I moved to Austin for two reasons really. One is weather – I’m not a fan of the cold and wasn’t too excited about enduring another Maine winter. The other reason for moving was to find a bit more opportunity and seek new musical challenges. Austin was great for that.
There are just so many artists competing for the same stages. I wanted to be in an environment where there was much more cutthroat competition. One of the best things about the Portland scene is everyone is friends and helps each other out; it’s amazing, but it can also coddle an artist too much and curb constructive criticism where it might be needed. I felt that having a good element of challenge in the atmosphere brings out the best in artists. It really worked for me. I ended up writing a pile of new songs in Austin and made my way into some really great musical circles in a short amount of time.
What about Austin was particularly inspiring for you?
Picking up and moving to a new city where I didn’t know anyone was a huge challenge. I lived in a VW bus for my first month there and simply started playing open mics. This is how I started meeting people and from there getting shows. It was completely starting over. Living under this pressure brought out the best in me I feel. I found myself writing and practicing a lot more afraid of not being good enough in a way. [With] this extra momentum, I pushed myself with started to come through in my writing and performances, I think.
Can you unpack the title “An Underwater Dream” for us?
It comes from a new song called “Underwater Dream.” I woke one day with most of the lyrics to it in my head: “I woke from a dream and underwater dream, breathing deep into the light that spilled across my walls and floors and eyes I heard her weeping. It lasted most of the night.”
At the time I was going through a tough long-distance relationship and the pressure of being kinda broke and trying to find my footing in a new city was really squeezing the songs out of me. These desperate times brought out that creative energy I’d been looking for. If I remember right, I had the chords and melodies, and those words filled themselves in right over it. It’s a song that, when I step back from it, I still wonder what exactly it was trying to tell me. I think that’s why it still feels fresh to me because I didn’t try to write that one. It was given to me, and I still don’t feel like I understand it all.
Is it hard to part with your first ever guitar as an exclusive on your campaign?
Yes and no. On one hand it holds a lot of sentimental value, of course. On the other hand I have been learning the value of having less stuff. Stuff becomes a huge burden when you move a lot, and I’ve been getting really good at ridding myself of things I just don’t use. Putting that guitar up was just the next level in living by that standard.
We’d love to hear more about the songwriting contest. What has that meant to you?
Being a winner at this years Kerrville New Folk Festival in Kerrville, Texas, was a pretty big deal for me. This contest has been a springboard for so many well-known artists over the last three plus decades, including the likes of Lyle Lovett and Steve Earle. It definitely helps to get my emails answered quicker when booking, which is nice …