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Singer-songwriter left Paris for Portland

Eric John Kaiser to appear at Edgefield Saturday, Jan. 26
by: contributed photo, Eric John Kaiser was raised in Paris, but followed a girlfriend to Portland and fell in love with the city.

One night, Eric John Kaiser played his French-language rock at McMenamins Edgefield in Troutdale. After the show, a charming older couple chatted him up, he says, remarking on their delight in his tunes.

The husband then turned to his wife and in a whisper loud enough for Kaiser to hear, said: 'Why do we say (expletive) the French?'

A dual citizen of France and the United States, Kaiser laughs when he recalls the story, noting that he's aware of the alleged sour image each nation's citizens have developed of the other's.

'I don't think the French hate Americans at all. I don't think Americans hate the French.'

As the son of an American mother and French father, Kaiser says he's equally proud of both his heritages.

'When I'm back in Paris, people put an American label on my head, and when I'm here, people put a French label on my head. There's no way for me to escape it.'

Raised in Paris, Kaiser followed a former girlfriend to Portland in 2006. Although his romance with her has ended, his love affair with the Rose City has not, he says, noting he likes the live music scene in the area, and the fact that people fill clubs to hear actual bands, not just deejays spinning discs.

'Here you can play loud and people like it,' he says. 'You push the buttons and kind of go for it.'

Kaiser's promoting his self-produced debut CD, 'L'Odyssée,' which combines rock, grunge, folk, hip hop and a touch of light jazz, as he prepares to play a solo show at McMenamins Edgefield on Saturday, Jan. 26. When he's not flying solo, he plays with a band that features Marc Evilsizer on drums, Anthony Carter on bass and Jeff Simpson on trumpet and keyboards.

Kaiser has done shows at Holocene and Dante's in Portland as well as several area colleges, and has sold several hundred records worldwide from his Web site. A fan of late '60s and early '70s rock, as well as grunge, the 34-year-old took up the guitar when he was 10, learning the classical style. Although he appreciated studying the complex scales that comprise the music, he grew restless under the tutelage of his classical teachers.

'It was very school-oriented,' he says.

More to his eventual liking was the music he heard from bands like the Rolling Stones and Credence Clearwater Revival.

'They really wrote good songs, but there was an underlying groove under it.'

He adds that he likes how rock combines elements of Irish, English and African-American music, and says he enjoys singer-songwriters like Neil Young.

'I really like Neil Young's way of playing the guitar, the way it bounces.'

Kaiser himself has bounced all over the career map, working in France as a radio and TV music journalist, a hip hop group's manager and an employee of two record labels. Along the way, he's met David Bowie, Wyclef Jean, AC/DC, Radiohead, Blur and other famous performers and acts.

Indeed, he's witnessed the music industry from several different angles, so to speak - for example, he remembers a time when he was standing offstage as the Red Hot Chili Peppers played a Paris concert.

'Flea got naked after two songs, so I was very close to see that.'

And?

'He's a very impressive bass-player,' he adds with a chuckle.

Kaiser says he's used his extensive background in music and other media to help him launch his own career, which includes more than 300 shows in France, as well as three previous EPs. His songwriting muses are love and travel.

'I'm pretty much a romantic, I think.'

He adds that he's been happily surprised by how area audiences have embraced him singing in French. He acknowledges that he's been able to pique fans' interest because his French heritage seems to make him a 'bit exotic.' Yet he says that it's the sound of his music, not his language, that wins over audience members in the end.

'I think music is a question of vibes and energy.'

If you go

Who: Eric John Kaiser - 'Portland's French Troubadour'

When: 7 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 26

Where: McMenamins Edgefield, 2126 S.W. Halsey St., Troutdale

How much: Free, for ages 21 and older

For more information on Kaiser: Visit www.ericjohnkaiser.com

For more information on Edgefield: Visit www.

mcmenamins.com