Guitarist Eric Congdon picks from a world of influences

“I’ve always been very musically curious,” says classical-music raised bluegrass-influenced-progressive-rocker Eric Congdon. / Photo by Tim Robison

“I’ve always been very musically curious,” says classical-music raised bluegrass-influenced-progressive-rocker Eric Congdon. / Photo by Tim Robison

Eric Congdon had to feel a bit tired, but he wasn’t letting on. The morning after a late jam session in Brevard, the guitarist was at his day gig, managing a Hendersonville motorcycle-apparel company. In his solo act, the 44-year-old father of four features original arrangements from the worlds of progressive rock, blues, and country.

BOLD LIFE: You’re the grandson of an opera singer and the nephew of violinist and former concertmaster Ralph Congdon.
ERIC CONGDON: There’s music in my family’s blood. My dad is very musical — he plays guitar and sings. He put a guitar in my hands, and everything took off from there. My wife Marian has a Masters in Art from [University of California at] Berkeley. She’s a fantastic artist.

Tell us about growing up in New York.
Long Island. It was great, because my buddies and I would take the train into the city and see Les Paul. That was so much fun — he was a hoot. The music exposure there was tremendous. I was a child of the ’80s, but I had older brothers, and they turned me on to Zeppelin and Pink Floyd and Yes, and I found that music to be so much better than [the era’s popular light-metal acts] Mötley Crüe or Poison.

You also lived in the San Francisco Bay area.
I’ve always been very musically curious, and always been fond of different world musics. I’m primarily self-taught, and being out in the Bay area was fantastic — the people I met, the different musicians.

Did mountain music creep in when you moved here?
My dad was a country-music fan, along with jazz, and one of my first records was Jerry Reed’s Greatest Hits, so I had an affinity for rootsy acoustic music all along. When I came here, I found those old influences were right at home, keeping me in good stead.

How do you pick your repertoire?
I don’t want to be boring, so I try to cover four or five bases when I do a gig. I do some finger-picking stuff, Merle Travis, Chet Atkins. Some original things, acoustic rock. I bust out the Irish bouzouki, or use my looper. I keep the listener guessing, and entertained — playing a heavy Led Zeppelin classic, turning on a dime and doing Tony Rice’s [version of the mountain-music traditional] “Wayfaring Stranger.”

“I take all of the influences and put them through my own filter.”

Eric Congdon plays at Burntshirt Vineyards on March 7 at 3pm. 2695 Sugarloaf Road in Hendersonville, 828-685-2402, burntshirtvineyards.com.

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