Q&A: Eric Dill, Platinum Songwriter, Comes Home to Indiana

Indeed, Indiana’s platinum songwriter returns home with a radio-ready full-length album. Many music fans know the song “No Surprise” by Chris Daughtry. What they don’t know is that Indiana native Eric Dill wrote it. And before that, he was The Click Five’s frontman during the pop band’s popularity peak. (Recall this song.)

How did this happen?

Dill grew up in Indiana and attended Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School and Purdue University. During those years, he developed a respect for playing and performing music. When the drummer of his high school band moved to Boston to attend Berklee School of Music, he called Dill with some intriguing information. A manager and producer that he knew wanted to start a group but couldn’t find the ideal frontman.

In late 2004, Dill flew out to meet them, decided it was worth chasing, and released a record that charted in the top 15 on the Billboard 200—all within a year. When the time came to write The Click Five’s next record, Dill was nearly burnt out—and longing to play music he was starting to write. A songwriter at heart finds it difficult to give his all to another’s craft. Feeling excommunicated, Dill decided to part ways. It could be said that he chose the art of music over the art of image.

Dill learned a lot about the industry during his short run with The Click Five. He took that knowledge and moved to Los Angeles in 2007 to begin writing his own music again. He penned that platinum song for Daughtry. Things were going well, so well that Sony and others offered him publishing deals. But Dill didn’t feel the labels had his interests first. He started his own publishing company and record label, and moved back to Indiana about a month ago.

Finally, Dill is home with a collection of his own songs. He stopped by IM‘s offices to chat about the past and the release of his first solo LP, Forever Is Not Enough, an album chock-full of songs with memorable melodies that could make Billboard’s Hot 100 sizzle. His first single, “War With The Wolves,” has entered Billboard’s Top 40 on mainstream radio. See our Q&A below the video:

James Layne: You got a taste of Hollywood and how major labels operate. Do you have any expectations moving back to Indiana?

Eric Dill: I don’t have expectations. I’m just going to do it until [my music] gets out there to everybody. Because when you spend so much time out there you begin to feel like the people you need to talk with are the industry gatekeepers, and you need to keep them happy and play songs that get them off. But you forget the fact that you need to make music that you love, and then you need to connect that to people.

JL: Would you ever sign with a major label again?

ED: Nope … never. What I would do is, I would work with them to distribute my record. I would never sign my life away to people who care nothing about music, and care nothing about me.

JL: The Click Five toured with Ashlee Simpson, The Backstreet Boys, as well as with groups all over the world. Did you learn anything notable from those experiences?

ED: What I learned from those tours had nothing to do with the people that put the shows on. I learned how to play in front of all those people. I learned how to interact with huge crowds—sometimes 25,000 people. And I learned how to kick ass on stage.

JL: So you learned stage performance and interaction, but nothing about music or songwriting?

ED: I learned a lot when I was in the studio with The Click Five record, because I sung all the harmony parts. So I learned about chord structure, blending, how to pull away from the mic, and how to sing really, really hard in recordings—maybe harder than you would live just because you don’t want it to be stale. Basically I learned a lot about recording, while recording [the Greetings From Imire House album].

JL: How long did it take to complete your new record, Forever Is Not Enough—was it throughout the course of being with The Click Five up until now, or all recent?

ED: I didn’t write any of this when I was with The Click Five. I moved to Hollywood in 2007 and started writing right out of the gates. I wrote three songs [early on], two of which are with me today. “No Surprise” is one Chris Daughtry ended up doing. The other is “Postcard From Hollywood,” which is an ironic song because I was writing about stuff I hadn’t fully experienced yet. And after living in Hollywood for six years, the song’s more true than I thought. [laughs] One of the other first songs was called “I’d Follow You,” which is also on this record. And even up until the recording of the record, there were a couple of unwritten songs I worked on during the recording [process]. So the span of that time encompassed everything from 2007 to 2012.

JL: How did Chris Daughtry take notice of your song “No Surprise,” which is now certified platinum?

ED: Chad Kroeger [Nickelback’s lead singer] was at Atlantic Records looking for a label imprint, and he didn’t like anything they had, but he liked my demo. I had some pictures. He liked the pictures and was like, “Hey, send him up to Vancouver.” So I worked with [Chad] for a week and we made the song better. We added a bridge, which I really liked. Then he showed it to Chris Daughtry, and he liked it and had it as his first single off his second record.

JL: You’re focused on your own thing right now, but because of the success “No Surprise” had, would you ever write for another artist again?

ED: The only way I’d write for someone else is if I liked them as an artist, which is very possible. I love writing, and it all kind of depends on what they’re doing. I’m not going to write stock songs for no reason. They have to really want to do it and love music. Otherwise we’re all kind of wasting time. [laughs]

JL: I know you grew up in Indiana, but left for The Click Five and to pursue music. As you’ve been gone for so long, is touring your roots next on your list, now that you’re back home?

ED: I think the way I want to do it is, in 2013, I want to play a lot locally. I want to play at high schools. I want to play at universities. I want to play all around Fountain Square …

JL: So no limits?

ED: No limits. And you know, if there’s someone that I hop on tour with and do some kind of a national tour—that’s possible, too. But I just really want to play a lot in Indianapolis and create my awareness here. And then connect the dots by letting people know that I’m from here, and then I left here. I had my little “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride” [fronting The Click Five] and went around the world and learned all these different things. I got to see what I think few people have got to see, and I want to take the good and bad from that and apply it to my life, certainly to uplift the music here. I know it sounds ambitious, but I want nothing short of a renaissance here with music.

JL: Well, you came back at a wonderful time. People are proud of Indiana’s scene again.

ED: Well, I lived in Boston, Los Angeles, and I’ve traveled around the world and this is where I want to live.

JL: Last, what was your favorite record of 2012?

ED: Jack White’s Blunderbuss.

Jame’s Layne’s Forever Is Not Enough recommendations:
Title track, “Wherever You Are,” “War With The Wolves,” “Leaving You Lonely”

You can follow Eric Dill on Twitter: @OfficialEDill. “Forever Is Not Enough” is available on iTunes.

Photos by James Layne