Deschutes River Recordings: Eric D. Johnson

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Over the last six months we’ve been working hard to create the Deschutes River Recordings, a unique partnership between musician and cause. We’re dedicated to keeping the Deschutes River healthy and clean and to supporting independent music in the Northwest, so this summer we invited Eric D. Johnson of Fruit Bats, Laura Gibson, and Eric Earley of Blitzen Trapper to Central Oregon to perform river-inspired songs along our beloved waterway.

We’re incredibly proud of this collaboration and we’re thrilled to present you with the first in the Deschutes River Recording series: Eric D. Johnson performing “Ballad of Easy Rider.” The original song, performed by The Byrds and written by Roger McGuillan and Bob Dylan, is upbeat and lighthearted, but Eric slows way down on his epic ballad. Contemplative and almost spiritual, this song echoes our deep connection and respect for the river.

You’ll notice at one point in the video, Eric sitting inside with headphones on speaking into a walkie-talkie. After we first recorded the song, we placed one walkie-talkie at the end of the dock and then, while Eric was listening to his song, he sung into the other, making overdubbed vocals. He also played a vintage instrument called an omnichord (i.e. an electric autoharp from the the 80s), creating an overall ambient effect.

Eric D. Johnson Photo

Eric has been performing as the frontman of Fruit Bats for more than a decade, and this past year he released his fifth album Tripper on Sub Pop Records. Inspired by a 12-hour conversation with a stranger and a call to take a Landmarks roadtrip of his own, Eric used his synthesizer and keyboard expertise to craft a narrative album, focused on the ever-present desire to escape. Eric, who grew up in Chicago and eventually migrated to Portland, not only leads Fruit Bats, but also composes film scores and is a die-hard Bears football fan. It was an honor to work with him, and we deeply appreciate his support of our cause.

If you haven’t had the chance to see Eric perform in person, he will be in Bend performing at Domino Room on September 21.

Watch the film. Download the song. Explore the cause. All proceeds benefit the Deschutes River Conservancy’s efforts for clean water collaboration everywhere.

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