Eric Ripper naturally follows his sense of adventure.
The Northville acoustic singer-songwriter drives cross-country, visits campsites and boards cruise ships to seek inspiration for his growing catalog of dreamy, ambient pop-rock music.
“This past summer I went to Utah, and I wanted the whole experience of just driving across the country. I knew it would be inspirational for me, and then I worked at a resort just entertaining people and playing covers and originals five days a week,” Ripper said.
“I wrote a few new songs while I was out there, and that’s kind of what I wanted … to be out there experiencing life.”
Ripper thoughtfully depicts his travels, experiences and reflections across three recent releases, including an atmospheric covers album, an outdoorsy instrumental project and a transformational anthology.
“For Classic Covers, I kept noticing how I was staying in the classic rock genre, and I decided to stick with it and kept the songs in that era. I also wanted to experiment with the sounds that I created and discovered with Lost in a Perfect Camping Trip. I wasn’t ready to write new original stuff yet,” he said.
“I like the instrumental album because I’m self-conscious about my voice like all singers are. I wanted to have some fun and not focus on writing lyrics. I was just gonna jam out and play with a different sound. And Story Notes is definitely a coming-of-age album … it’s different topics and different parts of my life.”
It’s a refreshing way to revisit and digest timeless songs that have shaped Ripper’s creative journey and whetted his appetite for musical exploration.
“I’ve always been a classic rock fan, and I liked the idea of doing cover songs. I started with ‘All Along the Watchtower’ and then did ‘Baba O’Riley,’” said Ripper, who started playing guitar in high school.
Ripper casts a magical spell on “All Along the Watchtower,” as aerial acoustic guitar, glistening electric guitar, fluttering keys and synths, drifting bass and clacking drums soar into the horizon.
He sings, “There must be some kind of way outta here/Said the joker to the thief/There’s too much confusion/I can’t get no relief.”
“I like ‘All the Along the Watchtower’ and the little keyboard part I do in there. I just think that one flows throughout,” Ripper said.
Ripper also flows throughout the whimsical rendition of “Gimme Shelter,” which fuses tapping drums, echoing electric guitars, thoughtful bass and floaty keys and synths into a downtempo groove.
He sings, “Ooh, see the fire is sweepin’/Our streets today/Burns like a red coal carpet/Mad bull lost its way.”
“‘Gimme Shelter’ was one of the last ones I did … I have a little scream at the end of that one,” Ripper said. “That’s always been my favorite Stones’ song, and I just figured I’d make my own version of it.”
Since dropping Classic Covers: Set I in January, Ripper is considering a second volume as part of an ongoing series, which might include a trippy reinterpretation of MGMT’s “Electric Feel.”
“That’s why I left it at set one in case if I go back. I kind of made that like a tease. I might do set two as a ‘90s one or a more modern one,” he said.
Lost in a Perfect Camping Trip
In addition to celebrating his favorite classic rock tracks, Ripper relishes spending time outdoors at local campsites, national parks and international destinations.
A trip to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula one summer inspired Ripper to write and record Lost in a Perfect Camping Trip as a lush instrumental companion for rustic adventures.
The album’s cinematic opener, “Arrival,” instantly welcomes listeners as churning acoustic guitar, shimmying percussion, worldly synths, rhythmic hand claps, expansive electric guitar and uplifting bass echo the serenity of nature.
“I came off the first camping trip and was like, ‘Maybe I should base all these songs off a theme or story.’ That way, people can interpret a story in their minds of what I’m trying to say through instruments,” said Ripper, who sought inspiration from Tycho for the 10-track album. “People would tell me that they’d put it on while they’re having bonfires.”
Ripper also exhilarates nature lovers on the radiant instrumental anthem, “Sunrise,” which beams with cosmic synths, upbeat electric guitar, tranquil acoustic guitar, pounding drums and radiant bass. The track also fittingly complements the album’s lustrous, 13-minute title track.
“‘Sunrise’ was originally called ‘Lost in Your Eyes,’ and I had all these random names for the songs on the album. For the title track, it was like, ‘I’m lost in this song,’ and it slowly developed into ‘I’m lost, but where?’ Then, I decided it was on this camping trip where we’re all lost inside it,” he said.
Story Notes and Next Chapter
Before embarking on his insightful northern Michigan camping trip, Ripper retreated to his parents’ Northville basement to record Story Notes, an ambitious 26-track album, during the spring 2020 lockdown.
With nearly two hours of music, the double album chronicles Ripper’s personal journey of self-discovery over a five-year period. It beautifully explores searching for a sense of purpose while working on cruise ships, honing a musical craft and being in a relationship.
“It’s a personal project of mine and that’s why I wanted to call it Story Notes. I don’t know if it’s a clever pun or a silly pun, but it’s all the stories of my life put to notes,” said Ripper, who’s influenced by Ed Sheeran, John Mayer and Jack Johnson.
Ripper spotlights one of the album’s most influential stories on “The Sailor,” an island-esque ode to the challenges of seafaring life and cruise ship employment.
Calm ocean waves, introspective acoustic guitar, soft drum taps, consolatory electric guitar and cozy bass pay tribute to international ports and cherished shipmates.
He sings, “I’ve had some lovers/I’ve had some foes/Both of which have helped me grow/Into more of who I am/And they would understand/What a life like this would do to you/Seeing new faces every day/Pleasing everyone you meet.”
Ripper also dropped a compelling video for “The Sailor,” which features personal footage from his cruise ship days interspersed with outdoor scenes at a nearby lake.
“When I released that video and sent that to cruise friends, they shared it and were like, ‘Thanks for writing a song for all of us,’” said Ripper, who worked with director Kris Herrmann on the video.
Along with being “The Sailor,” Ripper shares the vulnerability and intimacy of falling in love at sea on “Feather.” Tender acoustic guitar, magnetic electric guitar, coasting bass, light drum taps and jingly cymbals provide a warm, lasting embrace.
He sings, “The answer I need to know/Is will it always show/In the darkest of days/Will you feel the same.”
“If you’ve heard the other version of ‘Feather’ from my Crave album, then you’ll notice the song is too short. I like long songs, and I wanted to write more verses, so that’s why there’s like two or three more verses in the new version,” Ripper said.
Ripper continues to write tracks for the next chapter of his life, including a new album called Wavelength in collaboration with Studio 222’s Brandon McLeod.
“I have a song that’s coming out called ‘Grow Away,’ and the opening lyrics are ‘Driving across the country/Watching the land grow/Hoping with this new time/I watch myself grow.’ I’m being intimate and talking about being out here and taking my journey into music,” Ripper said.