Innovation comes in many forms. Meet the creative minds inspiring others through art.
Erik Findling is the founder and lead guitarist for High Street, a hard rock and heavily blues-influenced group from Los Angeles. Having started playing at venues when he was 7 years old, Erik originated the band in Chicago while still in high school. During this time, he was the only guitarist in the country to be selected for the Grammy Jazz Band and Jazz Band of America. After his older bandmates went off to college, Erik relocated to L.A. and reignited the momentum High Street had gained with an all new lineup. See now how his band is delivering a fresh spin on classic rock sounds with current pop influences.
Both you and your brother began playing music at a very early age. What was the driving force behind that?
The driving force behind it all was really my father. He got me a guitar around Christmas when I was just 4 years old, so there was never really a time that I can remember when the guitar wasn’t a part of my life. My dad listened to a lot of 80s rock and roll when I was younger and he sort of turned me on to that. From then on, I started to look up to a lot of professional guitarists from that era and I really had a strive to be like them. Since then, I always had a strong devotion to be the best I could at the guitar, which led to many hours in the practice room.
What made you choose L.A. as the right city to continue your music career?
College was really the main reason I came out to L.A. I knew I wanted to be in a musical environment wherever I ended up studying, so I was looking at schools in New York as well as L.A. Since I have family out in Los Angeles and I had been there many times when I was younger, I felt most comfortable living out there. I ended up enrolling at California State University, Northridge (CSUN) which has one of the best music programs in the country. I knew I would make fabulous connections there, as well as receive an education that would help to further my career in the music and entertainment industry. Ever since, I have been working on not only establishing myself as an artist, but meeting people and making connections in all aspects of the music industry so I could be as successful as possible.
Everyone says that making it in L.A. is difficult. What was it like for you moving there right after high school?
It was a nice change moving to L.A. after high school. I had lived in the greater Chicago area my whole life and wanted a change for once. I immediately met a ton of musicians within the music department at CSUN and started playing a lot of gigs in the area and around the city. It took time to adjust to the scene, but after playing a few shows I started to get really comfortable performing in L.A.
What sort of things did you look for in your bandmates when piecing together the new version of High Street?
The things I looked for in searching for new bandmates was obviously talent, number one. Number two, I wanted to make sure that they were not only talented, but had the same drive and commitment that I had. In order to have a successful band, everyone needs to be a team player—meaning they show up on time, learn the music, and perform to their highest level. That is something that is really hard to find, but is essential to putting together a solid band.
What was it about Phoebe Collins that stood out to you in your quest for a new singer?
The thing about Phoebe that stood out to me was her amazing talent and preparedness. She came to the audition knowing all of the material and rocked it! Not only that, but I really wanted a female to be the lead singer since I’ve only ever performed with a girl on lead vocals, so it was something that just felt more comfortable to me.
How do you maintain positive work relationships in such a creative group environment?
That is something that is so key to have in a band that really makes the process so much more fun. With everyone I work with, I try to maintain a good relationship with them, but I try to not let that come in the way of the seriousness of the band. For me, I view it as a professional workspace just like any other job that you would have. The work comes first always and if you happen to really get along with everyone, that is a huge plus.
What is your creative process like when writing music? Do you work together as a team or do you each come up with ideas separately?
We are in the process of working on all of the original High Street material with our new members before we move on to writing new music. But when writing, I’ve always written things on my own and if I like the way it sounds, I’ll bring it to rehearsal and show the other band members. One thing about creativity is that you can’t force it, it just naturally comes at certain moments and it’s at those times that you need to have your phone on you or something so you can record whatever ideas that come to mind. Since I am not one to write lyrics, I liked the fact that Phoebe actively writes and creates her own lyrics. Moving forward, I see her being the lyricist for the band and me being the instrumental writer.
What is something you hope audiences take away from each High Street performance?
After every High Street performance, I hope that people walk away inspired and wanting to hear more. I also hope to be as engaging as possible with the audience at every show, so they feel like they are a part of the journey.
What projects or events are you working on now? Is there a new album in the works?
The biggest thing we are working on now is expanding our presence in L.A. Since the band’s history is in Chicago, many of our followers and audience members are from there. We just shared some previously unreleased tracks on all major streaming platforms and are working on creating new music.
High Street Links:
What is Erik’s GREY Style?
This article originally published on GREY Journal.