For many, catching a holiday performance by Ed Gerhard is as much a seasonal tradition as lighting the tree. Kate Dube learns a little more about this local favorite.
Claim to Fame: Guitar guru Gerhard is a much-loved local talent with a worldwide audience. His unique instrumentals are known for their gorgeous tone and compositional depth. With seven albums on Virtue Records, Gerhard has many fans who go to see him play again and again. His annual holiday show at the Unitarian
Church in Portsmouth is considered by many to be the premiere holiday event on the Seacoast.
Lives: Center Strafford, NH
Originally from: Suburban Philadelphia
Why live in New Hampshire? I travel all the time. I get to go to all the big cities at least twice a year. It’s really nice to have a sane, quiet place to come home to.
You had a guitar named after you. What else would you like to have named after you? I’m not like a deli sandwich kind of guy. Breedlove [an acoustic guitar maker] came up with the guitar. It was mainly to get my input and improve it a little. When they wanted to name it after me, I was apprehensive at first. They did put my initials on the 12th fret, even though I think they should be on every fret.
What’s the best part of your job? There are so many parts and I love them all. I really love playing to an audience. Being on stage with the guitar and the audience, that’s one of the best things ever.
What’s the biggest challenge in your job? It used to be educating an audience that you don’t have to sing to communicate through music. Now the biggest is traveling to a gig.
Who has influenced you musically? There are so many, and a lot are not even guitar players. The French composer Debussy is one. His music just opened up the concept of musical freedom for me. Mississippi John Hurt, the great blues man. Miles Davis. He was a great trumpet player, but he also taught me that you don’t have to play a lot. You can play notes so every one counted and it would move you.
Who has influenced you outside of music? There are poets I’ve enjoyed, many of whom go by the name “Anonymous.” They’re ancient Chinese and Japanese writers and they’ve influenced my music but also the way I think. There’s a spareness to the writing, a way of making every moment powerful. I’ve tried to aspire to that.
What’s the weirdest thing a fan has done or said? Two years ago I was in Los Angeles at the NAMM show, which is a big musical instrument/ equipment trade show. This guy approaches me, grabs me by the cheeks (facial cheeks, that is) and says, “I know you! I’m a huge fan, I just love your music!” He looks very familiar, but I can’t place him. Still gripping my face he says, “I used to see you play at the Troubadour all the time!” Turns out he thought I was Arlo Guthrie. He was Robert Blake.
Favorite local performers or artists? I haven’t been out much. I’ve traveled so much this year. I do like Say Zuzu, though.
Favorite spot for breakfast? I like staying home. My favorite spot for dinner would have to be Shalimar. And I get all my coffee at Breaking New Grounds. Life is too short for bad coffee.
What’s special for you about the holiday concert? This is unofficially my twentieth anniversary. It’s kind of cool that some of the first shows were in little clubs. For over 15 years I’ve been at the Unitarian Church, and there are a bunch of people who come to see almost every single one. After playing holiday music for so long, sometimes I think it will feel kind of corny or it’ll get tired, but it doesn’t. That kind of communion with an audience is an irreplaceable experience and something I value very highly.