Eric Bettencourt's got an inimitable -- and terrific -- timeworn voice that belies his 34 years. "Secret Songs for Secret People" was released in November, and you can pick up a copy at eric-bettencourt.com or at Portland and Scarborough Bull Moose Music stores. Downloads are also online at Amazon and iTunes. GO asked Bettencourt for pretty much his life story, at least in terms of music. He kindly obliged us.
What instrument did you start playing first, and when did you start singing?
I've dabbled with most every instrument and can bang out little tidbits when needed, but I'm far from "fluent" on anything other than the guitar and bass. Guitar was my first love, singing is still a relativity new thing for me -- I am by no stretch a natural at either. Loads of practice; trial and error with both.
What did you grow up listening to, and does any of that music influence who you are as a musician and songwriter?
Early on, I listened to little else besides Guns N' Roses, Led Zeppelin, Metallica and Jimi Hendrix. I think I'm still drawn to the same elements in music now as I was then. I still love the intricate guitar parts of all this stuff, the shades of light and dark. I love a lush sonic landscape in music; the music I love I can see as a picture in my head -- it's hard to explain. I have no doubt that the music I love influences the way I write. I think every writer tries to hold or possess what they are infatuated with to some extent. That becomes the fodder that's used for creating new works, I guess. Borrowing from your influences is all a part of it.
Are you happy with the response so far to "Secret Songs for Secret People"?
I'm very happy with the response so far. A lot of people seem to have genuinely connected with that album, which is a nice feeling. That's all you can hope for, really. No artist wants to put all that time into making a record and have no one care about it, so yeah, it's a relief that the response has been so positive.
Is there a song that you are either most proud of or feel the most connected to on it?
I always feel closer to songs that kind of force their way out through the writing process. Songwriting is kind of like therapy for me; sometimes it becomes a way of sorting out those deeper, hard-to-reach feelings and ideas that you're not fully aware of. Although I have some sort of connection to each song on the record, "Furious Pace" and "Road Seldom Traveled" are both songs I feel close to. When they were done, I realized each of these songs had a personal message for me.
You had no less than four drummers play on the CD. Why so many?
This record was kind of hodge-podged together over the course of a couple years; work on some of these songs actually began before I released my first album (2009). Over that span, I found myself working with a lot of different musicians, drummers included. I was trying to find the right combination of players for a band. For various reasons, it didn't work out, and I ended up piecing this record together mostly by myself and whoever else was available when the inspiration struck. The good news is that I have been working with bassist Pete Genova and drummer Seth Kearns pretty steadily over the last few months. It looks like I'll be developing the next batch of songs with them. I've always wanted to do a record with a solid group. My first albums were done mostly in isolation; I'm really excited to see what we come up with.
Where did you grow up, and where do you live now?
I was born in Taunton, Mass., but from age 10 or so I lived way up north in Sherman Mills, on the border of Aroostook County. I would spend every summer break during college in the Portland area, and when I graduated I knew this was where I wanted to be. I've been here for over 10 years now.
Staff Writer Aimsel Ponti can be contacted at 791-6455 or at: