Eric Martin – Whiter Shade of Pale… ?

Yes, it’s true; Click the above and see for yourself. Eric IS a whiter shade of pale, for not only the reason that he prefers camping on a mountainside over a beach, but he absolutely loves this song; So much in fact that you will more than likely hear the Procol Harum classic when finding the exit at the end of one of his performances. I had the ultimate privilege to speak with one of my all-time favourite singers just a couple of days before he jetted off to Europe for an acoustic run. He’s a busy guy, as when he gets back, he will be still touring as he makes his way to our sister city of Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan and play the Kewadin Casino on February 15.

Before we get into the conversation I had with Eric, I will just run down a few things that most of you already know. I am sure most of you are familiar with “To Be With You” which is a Mr. Big hit that topped charts all over the world. Eric and the rest of the band also had hits such as Wild World (Cat Stevens), Just Take My Heart and one of my personal favourites, Shine featuring Richie Kotzen on guitar.

Mr. Big has an all-star cult following lineup when playing together but the band and any activity has been put on hold since the passing of drummer Pat Torpey in 2018. Bassist Billy Sheehan, guitarist Paul Gilbert and Eric are still grieving their loss.

I originally started listening to Mr. Big as per their guitar master Paul Gilbert, but the more I listened and even up to their last couple of albums, the more I appreciated the vocal talent of Eric, the great bass riffs and solos from Billy, and the perfect timing of the late Pat Torpey. Adding to my list of favourites, Mr. Big knows no boundaries and tracks like Your Daddy, Your Brother, and Addicted to that Rush solidify hard-rocking musicianship to the core.

When I called Eric, he was in the midst of chatting roundtable with friends of his in the industry where they have a thread called “Gig Pigs” and so I offered to call him back. “No, it’s all cool, I need an excuse to talk to somebody else (laughter)” I didn’t need him to elaborate on the thread haha. I also told him I had my friend Michelle sitting at the table with me and if that was alright…” is this friend, one of my ex-wives?” (laughter) Since my friend is a big fan, he laughed it off.

I proceeded to start off with an easy question🤣. I asked him what he considers to be the meaning of life and how has he balanced a musical career with his family and twin boys?  To my credit, he responds, that he doesn’t think he has ever been asked that question. For a writer, this is a good thing, as you can see the eyes roll when you ask a question that you know the artist has answered ten times; that day.

“it’s really hard to balance a musical career with family and kids. When they were really little, it was really difficult to leave them. When my sons came into the picture, I think Mr. Big was on a hiatus of about five or six years, so I had the luxury of staying home and taking three years off and being a full-time Dad. I can easily say you’re talking to somebody that has easily changed 7,000 diapers (laughter). Anyway, I started to get that itch again playing weekend warrior shows, I was asked to join a few bands, and things just started to get busy again. I started going on the road full time and thank God for Skype. It was really sad; I would play these great shows where the fans were appreciative, telling my jokes, singing, and then I’d go back to my hotel room and have a good cry because I wanted to be with my two little boys.”

Do you have any memories of playing Canada during your career?

“Yeah, I remember playing Club Soda in Toronto and actually I remembered playing an arena in Edmonton when Mr. Big, Skid Row were playing with Bon Jovi. The funny thing is I remember that for some reason, after watching Bon Jovi for a few songs, I went back down to the room where we hanging out with Skid Row and we just kept telling the filthiest stories for like an hour and a half (laughter)”

Hmm… sounds like a thread of  Gig Pigs🐖🎸 Eric also tells me that Rush is one of his favourite bands and learned a lot when Mr. Big opened for them. In response to what Eric does for leisure, it’s a toss-up between audiobooks, playing video games online with his sons and relearning his older Mr. Big songs.

I started to tell him I was almost done and I was going to ask a few cliche questions and wrap it up when he literally cut me off in midsentence, “NO NO, Ernest… I have tons of time..!!.” It was almost like a call was coming in from an ex-wife that he didn’t want to take. We’ve all had those moments, right?

When on the tour in Europe before returning to North America, his dates on the other side of the pond include five shows as a guest with The Frontm3n featuring singers from the Hollies, the Sweet, and 10cc.

In respect to the setlist for the Kewadin show, it’s “going to be the best of both worlds with Mr. Big’s world a bit bigger (laughter) …the songs will include, To Be With You, Wild Word, some Trixter songs like One In a Million, Give It to Me Good, some solo stuff… I will say this, the Canadian and American fans can look forward to great music, funny storytelling, and just a great night”

Before I start editing, I will leave you with a bit of hope. I asked Eric if there was any chance that Mr. Big will play again, or have they called it quits after the passing of Pat Torpey. ” I will be grieving for the rest of my life for Pat Torpey; we haven’t really talked much about it. I actually talk to Billy more than Paul as he is on his constant solo touring project. When I talk to Billy, we want to do something in the future….we’re not calling it quits… is all I’m gonna say.” Even though the potential return of a studio album of Mr. Big in the future, it will be hard to fill the shoes that Pat fit into.

Ernest Skinner