Soulive and Lettuce Guitarist Explores the Roots of Rock as a Solo Artist

Words by James Farrell
Photo by Jay Sansone

Guitar player Eric Krasno recorded his latest album, Blood From a Stone, by accident.

Two years before the album was released, he reached out to Ryan Zoidis, sax player for Krasno’s funk band, Lettuce, and David Gutter, Zoidis’ bandmate from Rustic Overtones, and expressed interest in workshopping some ideas for a new project. Zoidis and Gutter had been doing some recording out of a barn in Portland, Maine, and they invited Krasno to come up and write some songs.

“It was really like a hang. Like, let’s go hang and write a few tunes,” Krasno said.

Krasno and Gutter worked day and night writing. Krasno brought in equipment to start making demos. Then Gutter and Zoidis started calling some musicians they knew in the area, and soon enough they had a string section and a choir demoing with them. They started to like what they heard.

“It sounds quirky and dirty and whatever, but we loved how it started sounding. We were like ‘hey we’re not demoing, we’re recording,’” Krasno said. “This is a record.”

The album—Krasno’s first solo record and his debut as a lead singer—wouldn’t be released for another two years, after Krasno enlisted the help of producers Russell Elevado (D’Angelo) and Jeremy Most (Emily King). The recordings from the barn in Portland were the foundation for the product.

For those who have followed Krasno’s career, Blood From A Stone may seem as surprising a product as the production that led to it. The album is more informed by rockers and jammers of the ‘60s—The Allman Brothers, Jimi Hendrix, the Beatles—than the soul and funk music that have shaped Krasno’s career in his funk bands Soulive and Lettuce. It also features Krasno front and center as lead vocalist—a role that he has never taken on before. But in reality, the album is a natural return to the influences that first introduced him to music, an organic exploration of Krasno’s roots.

“The funny thing is that that’s what I grew up listening to and playing though,” Krasno said of those ‘60s influences. “So really me stepping into Soulive was a little bit more out of the box. It’s just what people knew me for and that’s what I did for so long.”

Krasno was a fan of the funk and soul that takes a more prominent role in shaping Soulive’s music—James Brown, Herbie Hancock, Tower of Power—but he drew from it consciously to keep up after Soulive took off.

“I stocked up on my soul jazz records and went out there and kind of, you know, initially faked it a little,” he said. “I never owned a hollow-body. I bought it on the way to the first session.”

As for singing, Krasno says it’s really more something that fell off to the wayside than a newly discovered calling. As a kid, he did musicals.

“As that became not as cool and guitar became cooler, I kind of went into that role,” he said. “A lot of times the artists I was working with, whether it was Susan Tedeschi or Nigel Hall or Aaron Neville or whatever, they’d be like, well why don’t you just sing? And I was like, ‘well, you know, I’m gonna do it one of these days.’ It just took a long time.”

Blood From A Stone features Krasno’s impressive vocals over 10 tracks of varying styles. “Torture” could be a track off of Hendrix’s Electric Ladyland. “Unconditional Love” has a hint of the Beatles. “I Need Love,” rests on bluesy garage rock reminiscent of the Black Keys. It’s a dynamic collection of songs that allow Krasno to experiment with his voice, as he sings on personal subjects of love and betrayal.

Krasno added that he had been spending a lot of time with longtime Allman Brothers guitarist Derek Trucks, which helped inform the album’s jam-rock tilt. “Curse Lifter” features the guitar virtuosos trading licks over an Allman-esque jam centered around a harmonized guitar line. That collaboration is also a return to Krasno’s roots—Soulive’s first national tour was opening up for the Derek Trucks band.

“He’s maybe my favorite current player out there,” Krasno said of Trucks. “He’s just always been super generous.”

Since the album’s release, Krasno has been busy touring with his new band, a hodgepodge of hand-selected musicians chosen to help bring the studio album to life. On stage, the album has taken on new life, Krasno says, as the band works to find itself. And even while this latest project is a return to Krasno’s roots, it provides an opportunity to experiment and explore in a way that feels new, with a new group of musicians who can trailblaze together.

“Part of why I do so many different things is because I like to keep it fresh and try to, the more that I can kind of stretch out and try different things, the more excitement that I get out of it,” he said. “Currently right now my band, it’s really exciting because we’re like doing a lot of things for the first time.”

Krasno hits Brooklyn Bowl this Thursday, August 4th for Aaron Neville’s 7th Birthday Bash. Get your tickets here! | CMM