Eric Himan describes himself as a folkstar. He’s also openly gay, recently released a new album and will be performing in Philly on Feb. 27 (7:30 p.m.) at the William Way for a special event with the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association for his “Under the Ink” tour. In an exclusive interview, we caught up with the tattoo-loving singer-songwriter to find out what inspired his latest collection of songs, how he started his own food show, and why he loves old-school Tracy Bonham so much.
You’re up to your seventh studio release – congratulations on that. What inspired 100% Formal?
Formal was inspired by my love of Motown and early 70s soul music. I wanted to take my music to the next level and, by adding a horn section and some awesome backup singers, I think this CD is on its way to doing that.
Unlike some of your other folk-based work, you experiment with some serious rock licks on the new album – did that have anything to do with your working with Chris Bellman (famous for also working with Alanis Morrisette)?
You would think, but Chris mastered the CD after it had been recorded in Tucson. He definitely did add some magic to it though. Rock music has always been a big love of mine (Led Zeppelin, Heart, Janis Joplin).
What does a song like “Dust” have to say about being an artist today?
“Dust” says that it is a tough world where you may not get the attention you feel you deserve. When it happens for someone else, it can make you feel like you aren’t really moving as an artist. It is a lesson in envy.
What’s your songwriting process like? Do the lyrics come to you first – or does the music?
It is always different, but many times I will get a lyric that matches a fun melody and I build the music around it.
There’s also an R&B vibe to other tracks – like “You Come Around.” What old-school artists inspired this sound?
Otis Redding, Aretha Franklin’s more downbeat material, Bill Withers, Stevie Wonder.
Who else are you listening to these days?
Lately, I have been jamming on the Alabama Shakes and old-school Tracy Bonham.
What was it like coming out in the music industry? Any challenges?
Coming out was, for the most part, easy. I had a great reaction to my music from the LGBT community through media outlets like Out magazine, The Advocate, and more. Some of the challenges I have faced include being perceived as an artist that only speaks to the gay community or for the gay community. I’m so proud of who I am and where I have come from, but I want to share that with everyone who listens.
I think that’s what any artist wants. But how has the LGBT community embraced you and your music?
Very well. They have made it possible for me to have a career and I am very grateful.
You’ve been doing work with various LGBT charities. Why is this important to you?
It is important to make other’s experiences with coming out easier that how it was for yourself. I try to do my best to align with organizations that stick to this motive.
If you had a message for young fans who may be struggling with their own sexuality, what would it be?
It would be to watch the videos posted by those for the It Gets Better Project. Take it from those who have been there that support you and love you for wanting to connect. Believe that you are not the only one going through this experience.
What’s something about yourself that may surprise even your most loyal fans?
I love to cook and have my own cooking show online, Trial and Eric, that follows my adventures with food around the country.
Eric Himan, Feb. 27, 7:30 p.m., William Way, 1315 Spruce Street, 215-732-2220.