An unexpected hospital visit got TJ Foster back into music. No, it wasn’t thanks to COVID-19.
However, it did send the Albany resident to the hospital, where doctors discovered his heart had stopped for 15 seconds and had to perform emergency surgery. While he was recovering at the hospital for a few days, he decided it was time to return to songwriting, recording and playing live; all of which had fallen by the wayside.
“After not really playing in a live band, I was really missing it. Now it's been six years since I'd really done anything in that respect and it [had] really made me happy,” Foster said, “I decided I was just going to write the record and find a band later.”
Thankfully for the rest of us, it worked out and earlier this month Foster released “Don’t Wanna Live, Don’t Wanna Die,” under the band name E.R.I.E. It’s musically cheery, and lyrically chilling at times, with an authenticity and honesty that Foster developed early on in his life.
He started songwriting and playing guitar when he was a teenager, growing up in Connecticut.
“It was a really good outlet for me and I've never looked back. It's been a constant. If I've got anything going on I can turn to my favorite records, favorite songs, or I can just pick up an instrument and write. It's [cathartic],” Foster said.
He went on to study music industry and audio engineering at SUNY Oneonta and it eventually brought him to the Capital Region, where he started a few projects, notably Darling Valley and most recently E.R.I.E., which is composed of Foster, Jordan Stewart, Matt Delgado and Chad Flewwelling.
“I've always [had my] heart on my sleeve. I always want to be very honest with the things I'm going through. One of the things I've always written a lot about is struggling with mental health,” Foster said.
With his other projects, he wrote mostly about what it’s like to struggle with anxiety and depression. But with E.R.I.E, he wanted to take things a step further.
“I wanted to create something that was a little bit more hopeful. Yeah, a lot of people go through this stuff but there's also a light at the end of the tunnel. I wanted to focus on that instead of the negatives,” Foster said.
That can be heard especially on tracks like “Fire Away,” the opening track on the album.
“Last year was a sh** storm for the ages. fifteen seconds and I was dead,” sings Foster. Weaving piano with electric guitar, he goes on to sing “Make it if I try, fake it if I don’t.”
Later the album gets brighter with “Fears Come Runnin,’ ” an energetic romp that starts with the rallying cry, “I want to find my faith in the spirit of my hometown. I want to rise back up when they drag me down.”
“That song was kind of my way of putting to paper all the craziness that's going on in the world right now. I think it becomes very easy to get worn down by it all and discouraged, almost feeling like there's no end in sight. . . The energy you put out in the world is important so that's what that song's about,” Foster said.
Songs like “Life And/Or Death” are perhaps a bit more somber.
“That was one [where] I really wanted to attack the subject of mental health from that different perspective and the chorus which is also where the album title comes from it goes ‘I don't want to live but I sure as Hell don't want to die,’ I had written those lines a while ago and I never found anything to use them for. It just seemed like a great way to almost sum up living with depression and anxiety and all that on a daily basis. Writing the lyrics around that was tough because I'd never approached it from that way before,” Foster said.
The album has already received praise and a lot of airtime from stations like EQX and WEXT.
“On release day, [WEXT] played a song from it every single hour and they played the entire thing front to back that night. So it was a little album take over, which was awesome. Just the support in this area for their artists, their bands, their musicians is so awesome. It's a really great scene to be a part of, definitely lucky to be here for it,” Foster said.
On Saturday, Foster and the rest of the band will hold an album release show. It won’t be how they originally imagined it, with a crowd of friends, fans and family at the Low Beat. But the show will go on virtually, along with The Strange Paradise and Justin Friello. Foster will stream it from the band’s Facebook page: A Band Called ERIE. Check their Facebook page for the time. For more info on the album visit E.R.I.E. on SoundCloud, Bandcamp, Spotify, etc.