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Eron Falbo‘s story begins in his birthplace of Brazil. Along the way it stops off in Paris and London. It takes a road trip across the USA from Los Angeles to New York. It makes crucial stops in the music capitals of Memphis and Nashville. And it leads us back, as all good stories do, to the place where it began.
Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen. Simon and Garfunkel. Waylon and Willie. Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash. Jim Morrison and Jacques Brel. Their ghosts haunt the highways travelled by Eron on the journey that culminates with his debut album ’73.
That’s the simple version. But there were spiritual guides from times past and places farther afield: Byron and Shelley, Pythagoras and Leadbelly, Voltaire and Sophocles, Michelangelo and King David. “Explorers of the mind and soul,” says Eron.
In his rich artistic life, Eron has been a poet, essayist, novelist and magazine editor. Now he is also a singer-songwriter, embellishing his writing with music for the first time. For Eron, there is no distinction between the disciplines: “If Lord Byron were alive today,” he declares confidently, “he would be a rock’n'roll singer.”
This might be a new chapter in his story but Eron Falbo has already been garlanded with testimonials from men with half a century and more in the music industry: musicians who have seen aspiring newcomers turn into rock superstars before their eyes and ears.
“Eron is a true world musician,” says Kerry Marx, the veteran Nashville session guitarist who has played with superstars from Johnny Cash to Bob Dylan and Elton John. “He borrows from a lot of different styles of music. He’s got one foot in history – he’s steeped in Sixties music – but a real modern thing too.”
“He’s a deep thinker,” adds Shane Keister, another Nashville music man with decades of experience, playing keyboards with everyone from Elvis Presley to Kris Kristofferson. “I really like his lyrics: he’s got a lot to say.”
This, for Eron, is important. Words are the foundations of his songs, music the bricks and mortar that hold them together. He recorded his album in Nashville, Tennessee, because that is where some of his favourite records were made. And to complete his homage, he tracked down the man who made them.
The American leg of Eron’s journey began when he embarked on a search for the man who produced much of the music – the words and music – that inspired him. A man who can claim to have sold “half a billion albums.”
Back in the 1960s Bob Johnston produced landmark records including Bob Dylan’s ‘Blonde on Blonde,’ Simon and Garfunkel’s ‘Sounds of Silence’ and – most pertinently of all – ‘Songs from a Room,’ the record that turned a young Canadian poet called Leonard Cohen into a musical icon.
Nearly half a century later, Eron Falbo tried to coax him back into the studio. It was a long shot just to find a semi-retired music producer in his 70s and persuade him to produce an unknown young poet and would-be musician from Brazil. But he did it.
“I had set my heart on finding Bob because those records he produced are the ones that inspired me to make music,” he says. “But he was impossible to reach because he has no internet. I had more or less given up hope of contacting him when I came across his son’s phone number by chance, on a folk music internet forum.”
After making initial contact, Eron and Johnston Jnr exchanged emails over a period of months – more than a hundred in all – finding a shared vision of music. ”We quickly discovered that we have the same ideas about music: a vision that, for both of us, was formed in the 1960s and found its full expression in 1973. That’s partly why we’ve called the album ’73.”
Finally he made direct contact with Bob by telephone. ”I had emailed him files of my demo recordings but, because he has never used the internet, he had only seen the lyrics. So I sang my songs to him down the phone. Right away, he wanted to get back into the studio with me.”
Eron flew to Austin, Texas, to meet Johnston and discuss his plans for the record before they relocated to Nashville and took up residence at Dark Horse Recordings where some of the biggest names in country music have recorded – Taylor Swift, Faith Hill, Alison Krauss, Vince Gill, Waylon Jennings and many more.
Johnston assembled a studio band of seasoned veterans – “some of the best musicians I knew,” he says – and two days later they had an album. “It’s a sonofabitch,” says Johnston. “I think he’s gonna be very successful. I think it’ll be glorious.”
- Tim Cooper