Such no man’s land is a fitting place to find Everlast, born Erik Schrody. As a turn of the’ 90s rapper and then co-founder of iconic Irish-American hip hop group, House of Pain, the blue collar New York roots were sometimes confused with his southern Californian upbringing. And after he set out on a guitar-driven solo career in 1998, it often seemed as peculiar to the record industry as his Caucasian skin had been for Rhyme Syndicate execs almost ten years earlier.
“I was born in New York and spent a small amount of time in New York,” he says. “But it depends on how you ask the question: if you ask where I’m from in the sense of where my family is from, then I say New York. But where was I raised and where did I put my youth time in? It’s Cali.
“As a youth I’d go back … to New York and it was always the centre of preoccupation for me because it was the Mecca of all things hip hop and b-boy, when no-one was really hip to that stuff in California. But [these days] if you’ve gotta live somewhere and you’ve gotta pick somewhere that has a little bit of everything, it’s hard to beat Southern California.”
Not that Schrody’s success blinds him to his past. He happily chats about House of Pain and uses his solo output to remain connected with the struggles of his blue collar upbringing.
“I pretty much live among your average middle-class people,” he says. “I see real life and when the economy takes turns, I see what it does to people directly. Not only just through my income, but through watching my neighbours. I’m not in an ivory tower surrounded by millionaires. I come from blue collar.”
It’s a flinty attitude that speaks to Schrody’s enduring popularity. Recently, he’s been getting up close and personal with fans via the release of The Life Acoustic, a stripped down collection of cuts from various points of his career. Some of the songs are iconic, others sleepers that only true fans will know. But all are presented via simply Schrody, a guitar and the most minor of accompaniment.
“I guess it’s fair [to say] you rediscover the essence of a song … I wanted to pick some songs that the casual fan might not know about and I thought were jams. Songs that I felt really strongly about.”
Many would argue acoustic is the natural environment for Schrody’s delicate take on country-blues anyway. If that’s the case then live is surely the best place to witness these songs.
“I’m enjoying myself,” he says, laughing. “I try not to even make set lists and just play songs that I want to play and see what happens. I feel the crowd out. If I feel they’re bored, I’ll pick it up. If I feel like they’re ready to have their hearts broken, then I’ll throw that on them. And then I’ll bring them out of it.”
Australia gets to witness the acoustic shows over the coming weeks, as Schrody logs dates up and down the country. It’s 13 years since the last Everlast tour. Does he feel overdue?
“Hell yeah, 13 years is a long time,” he says. “I don’t see why I’m not in Australia every year or every other year. I used to tour as promotion for records, but in the last ten years you’ve gotta make that adjustment where touring is actually more about getting out there and doing it. And I enjoy it.”
BY MATT SHEA