Gary James' Interview With
Eric Carmen

As lead singer for the Cleveland, Ohio based group The Raspberries, Eric Carmen made a name for both himself and the group. The Raspberries with Carmen, made famous such songs as "Go All The Way", "I Wanna Be With You", "Let's Pretend", and "Tonight". Successful they were, and maybe even a little ahead of their time.

In 1975 Eric Carmen left to pursue a solo career. That career has been even more successful than the one before it. The writer of songs such as "All By Myself", "Never Gonna Fall In Love Again", "Change of Heart", "That's Rock 'n' Roll" and "Hey Deanie" has a firm place in the world of music.

We are honored to present an interview with truly one of the finest singer songwriters in the business today - Eric Carmen.

Q - Is there a certain time when you will sit down and write a song?

A - There's no particular time. It could be 10 AM or 4 AM or anytime in-between. I'll sit at the piano and bang around for awhile. The best inspirations can come in a car or in my sleep. I write when I'm moved to write.

Q - Can you ever tell when you've just written a hit song?

A - You can never tell for sure, but you can tell if it's gonna be a good-one. I never thought a seven and a half minute ballad "All By Myself" would be the big smash. I thought "My Girl" was the strong contender. So the songs you don't suspect to be hits can turn out to be hits.

Q - Can a songwriting course really teach you how to write a "hit" song?

A - I haven't the faintest idea. I don't know whether they're good or bad. I've seen those kinds of ads in magazines.

Q - Have you ever seen another group do an Eric Carmen song?

A - Yes. I've heard some interesting versions. I'm happy when anybody does my song. It's the ultimate flattery and a great compliment.

Q - Would you consider an acting career?

A - No, not really. I'd be interested in writing soundtracks for TV or the movies.

Q - Did someone spot The Raspberries in a Cleveland club and say "OK, you wanna make a record?"

A - The Raspberries started in '71, playing material by the Beatles, the Stones, Elvis and Little Richard. That's all we did, no originals at first. We became quite popular and started bringing in first one of our own songs, then two, three. We went into a local studio and made some demo tapes. We sent them to everybody we could think of in New York. The guy who responded was record producer Jimmy Ienner. He flew to Cleveland, we met him at the airport and brought him to a club where we were playing. He went back to New York, told some record company reps about us, and four or five of 'em came down to see us. We signed with Capitol.

Q - From the time you started the group, to the inking of the record contract - how much time had elapsed?

A - About a year.

Q - Why did you have to leave The Raspberries? Couldn't you have included some of your songs on a Raspberries album?

A - It's possible that some of my songs could've been recorded with The Raspberries. The Raspberries started out as a democratic group but the problem was there never was an equal distribution of talent and drive. You know that's the story with so many groups. After the first and second albums, things got a little tense. It just so happened that the record company was releasing my songs as the singles. The other members weren't willing to work harder on their songwriting. It came to a point where they just didn't want anything to do with my songs. So I left.

Q - Tell me what you think of this statement by country performer Roy Acuff. "Some of these Rock performers are just disturbing the audiences. They get the youngsters all riled up. The next thing you know, they're all doped up. They jump into a car and crash into a telephone pole."

A - (laughs) That's a pretty myopic view of the Rock and Roll world.

Q - Are you at all surprised that many of the new wave acts will mention The Raspberries as a source of inspiration?

A - It's become intermittently fashionable and unfashionable to like The Raspberries.

Q - What does it take for a group to make it these days?

A - An enormous amount of drive and belief. There's a bit of risk and chance certainly for a young group to pay out $5,000 to 10,000 for a demo tape.

Q - What's the future hold?

A - I'm planning to go back to Japan this year for another tour. I'll enjoy the sunshine here in Cleveland and write songs. I'll see what Arista does with my latest album, "Tonight You're Mine."

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