It’s a cool afternoon in Los Angeles and Everlast is stuck outside a sandwich shop. “I’m sitting here in my car,” he says, chuckling. “I thought I was going to have a minute between interviews, but I guess not.”
Such no man’s land is a fitting place to find Everlast, born Erik Schrody. As a former ’90s rapper and later co-founder of iconic Irish-American hip hop group, House Of Pain, Schrody’s blue-collar New York roots were often confused with his Southern Californian upbringing. And after he set out on a guitar-driven solo career in 1998, it seemed as baffling to the record industry as his Caucasian skin had been for Ice-T’s Rhyme Syndicate execs almost ten years earlier.
“I was born in New York and spent a small amount of time in New York,” says Schrody. “But it depends on how you ask the question – if you ask where I’m from in the sense of where my family is from, then I say New York. But where was I raised and where did I put my youth time in? It’s Cali.
“As a youth I’d go back [to New York] … [it] was the mecca of all things hip hop and b-boy … But [these days] if you’ve gotta live somewhere and you’ve gotta pick somewhere that has a little bit of everything, it’s hard to beat Southern California.”
Not that Schrody’s success blinds him to his past. He happily chats about House Of Pain, and uses his solo output to remain connected with the struggle of his upbringing.
“I pretty much live among your average middle-class people,” he says. “I see real life and when the economy takes turns I see what it does to people directly. Not only just through my income, but through watching my neighbours. I’m not in an ivory tower surrounded by millionaires. I come from blue collar.”
It’s a flinty attitude that speaks to Everlast’s enduring popularity. Recently, he’s been getting up close and personal with fans via the release of The Life Acoustic, a stripped-down collection of cuts from various points in his career. Some of the songs are iconic, others sleepers that only true fans will know. But all are presented via simply Schrody’s voice, an acoustic guitar and minor accompaniment. “I wanted to pick some songs that the casual fan might not know about and I thought were jams. Songs that I felt really strongly about,” he says.
Many would argue that acoustic is the natural environment for Schrody’s distinctive take on country-blues anyway, and if that’s the case then live is surely the best place to witness these songs.
“I’m enjoying myself,” he says, laughing. “I try not to even make setlists and just play songs that I want to play and see what happens. I feel the crowd out. If I feel they’re bored, I’ll pick it up. If I feel like they’re ready to have their hearts broken, then I’ll throw that on them. And then I’ll bring them out of it.”
Australia will witness Everlast’s acoustic shows over the coming weeks, as Schrody logs dates up and down the country. It’s 13 years since the last Everlast tour. Does he feel overdue?
“Hell yeah, 13 years is a long time. I don’t see why I’m not in Australia every year or every other year … in the last ten years you’ve gotta make that adjustment where touring is actually more about getting out there and doing it. And I enjoy it.”
The Life Acoustic is out now through Martyr Inc.