Carolexpat has reached Eric John Kaiser, a French musician living in Portland, Oregon, for a beautiful interview on music, love and French culture!
Can you explain to us who you are and describe your expat life as a French expatriate living in the US?
Bonjour! I’m Eric John Kaiser, a full time French singer songwriter originally from France now living in Portland, Oregon in the USA, since 2006. I moved from Paris to Portland because I met a girl in Paris who was from Portland. After visiting Portland a few times, I finally decided to follow her to the other side of the world. Love makes you do strange things sometimes, doesn’t it…?
Unfortunately the relationship didn’t last long. But I decided to stay anyway and to continue my musical adventures. I love American music and felt very inspired by the West Coast, by indie rock, folk music and blues. Here it is everywhere. I wanted to grow as an artist and learn. I decided to record a second album in Portland, inspired by the city itself and to start touring and exploring the USA, one French song at a time. I mostly sing in French as a way to stay connected with my home country. But being half American it was also a way for me to discover part of my family roots (my mom is originally from San Francisco).
It’s been a great ride. Since then I have released 5 studio albums as an independent artist. My last one “Made In Gaspésie” charted #14 the week of its release in the Billboard World Chart. Since I make a living playing music, as an independent artist, I’m pretty proud about that! 😉
Is the French expat community large in Portland?
No, not very large. Especially compared to Los Angeles, San Francisco or some bigger cities on the East Coast. Although it’s growing, Portland is not a very big town. I think there are just 3,000 French people all over the state of Oregon. There are also several French wine makers in the Willamette Valley and a few French bakeries and restaurants in Portland.
What are the main challenges you went through adapting to a new lifestyle?
The hardest part for me is to be far from my family and close friends. It’s also a long plane ride to get back to Paris from Portland. We also don’t have any direct flights, which makes it harder. The web helps me stay in touch but it’s not the same as seeing people in person. My first year here was probably the hardest because I didn’t know anyone when I moved here. I had followed this girl that I met in Paris, and we broke up soon after I arrived. But I don’t regret it. I met a lot of great people since then. I also love American music and the journey has been very fun so far. Worth living. “Non, je ne regrette rien”, as Edith Piaf use to sing!
Can you tell us about your musician career and if the French touch is appreciated in USA ?
From my experience, a lot of people in the USA, love France and French culture. They love the language, the food, the wine, the way of life. French music is however not very well known. Apart maybe from Edith Piaf or Serge Gainsbourg and more recently Stromae. However people are pretty open minded and seem to like that I offer something “exotic” and different. I also try to play some French classics and explain what my songs in French are about. I also use a lot American rhythms in my own tunes (like blues, rock or folk) so I think people connect with that.
Are your fans from all over the world, locals, expats…?
Most of my fans are in Portland, Oregon and Quebec. In Portland some are French, others are what we call Francophiles (people interested in French culture). I also have some all over the world. Which is very exciting. Streaming and the web offers the possibility today to share my music everywhere. It’ fun to know that people are also listening to what I do for example in Australia, Africa or Northern Europe.
Merci! A bientôt.