SEATTLE, Wash. — Eric Haines is a one-man band.
“The inspiration was probably Mary Poppins, but I didn’t realize it at the time," Haines said. "I was just trying to make it work.”
When Haines makes his way down the street, he’s like an ice cream truck inviting all the kids to come out and play. He’s written 30 songs and makes a living playing at fairs, festivals, comedy clubs and corporate events.
“When I was building it, my wife was a little skeptical," Haines said. "She said, ‘Is there anybody doing this?' I said, ‘No.’ She said, ‘Do you know if there’s a market for it?’ I said, ‘No, I don’t. I haven’t found anybody else who’s doing it.’ And at that point, I hadn’t. Since then, I’ve connected with one-man bands around the world. There’s very few of us that do a stand-up one-man band because it wears out your body really badly, but there’s quite a few of us around the globe.”
Haines says it took him about a month to put everything together. With the right angles and a whole lot of practice, he’s in complete control of the banjo, high hat, bass drum, snare drum and his large collection of bells and whistles.
“Every step that I take is pulling on one of those straps," Haines said. "So, it's like a little kind of baby steps thing that I'm going along. But that's how you keep rhythm with the song.”
In his 11 years of being a one-man band, he’s mastered the art of multitasking.
“I have a really short attention span, and that's one of the keys to being a one-man band, because if you are someone who needs to focus on one thing at a time, you're going to go crazy trying to figure out how to do everything at once.”
Playing in his own community wasn’t something he’d normally do because he travels as a full-time entertainer. However, when everyone was asked to quarantine in the early months of the pandemic, he gifted his neighborhood with the cheery sounds of his music.
“I saw a news program that was talking about the Italian singing to each other from the balconies," Haines said. "And I thought, well, everybody is really stressed out about this. We don't have balconies, so I'm just going to go and go up and down the street and do what I do. And I'll be in the middle of the street, way away from anybody so people can listen from their own house. And then at least they've got something to kind of lighten the load while they're sitting in their house, sort of panicking.”
Restrictions have been lifted as more people get vaccinated and his performance schedule is picking up again. Nonetheless, his neighbors love his music so much, his trips around the block haven’t stopped.
“I feel that it is my job to lift people’s spirits," Haines said. "I feel like that is my calling. They have a sense that they’re all in something together, and it’s a pretty powerful thing for that.”