Eric Madis is a leading Pacific Northwest guitarist and singer best known for his arrangements of blues and jazz, and his original instrumental compositions, that defy categorization and that combine blues logic and harmony with diverse musical influences. He has performed with many recording artists, including blues legends Robben Ford and Big Walter Horton, jazz violinists Paul Anastasio and Julian Smedley, jazz ukulele legend Bill Tapia, Hawaii’s iconic Farden Family and poet Nikki Grimes. He is also an internationally-recognized guitar instructor.
Eric was born in 1953 in Connecticut’s Naugatuck Valley, but raised on a small ranch in rural central Colorado. He grew up surrounded by music, from his father’s cowboy records to his mother’s opera and Broadway shows to his sister’s folk music. His mother, an opera singer with Denver’s Capitol Opera Company, sent Eric for piano lessons at the age of 9, but he took up the guitar at 10 years of age after hearing guitarist Grady Martin on a Marty Robbins record. Later that year he performed for hundreds of youths at a Denver theatre. When he was 12, he and his friend Steve Simmons formed the Phynx of Babylon, a quartet that played the music of the Byrds and sixties folk-rock.
Eric's family moved to Chicago in 1969, where he began performing in coffeehouses and later blues clubs. There he learned from watching and knowing many blues artists, including Willie Dixon, Otis Rush, Luther Allison, Sunnyland Slim, Big Walter Horton and many more. This was a period of great musical growth for Eric, who immersed himself in jazz, blues, classical, country and the emerging progressive rock of the day, always seeking out music with instrumental and compositional integrity. After graduating from University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana, Eric pursued a musical career as a solo artist and playing with Open Road, Madis-Johnson Band, Pat Burton and Illinois senior fiddle champion Halbert Thornberry. He also worked as a luthier and guitar instructor at Rosewood Guitar Shop in Champaign, IL.
Eric lived in Dallas 1979-1981, finding work in that city's rich recording scene as a session guitarist and rhythm section arranger. He also performed with blues organist Deacon Jones, guitarist Craig Wallace and harmonica innovator Kitt Gamble and was a 1981 Kerrville Festival New Folk finalist. Eric returned to Denver 1982-1984, playing with Ukiah and Don't Go No Further, doing an extended solo acoustic engagement at Mercury Cafe and teaching a blues guitar course at Denver Free University.
Eric relocated to Seattle in 1984, working as a solo artist and leading bands, such as his current group Blue Madness and his own jazz trios. Over his Seattle years, he has performed and/or recorded with many Northwest artists, including Smokestack Lightin', BluesCast, Steve Bailey, Little Bill Englehart, Grant Dermody, Paul Green, Mark Dufresne, Mike Lynch, Swingmatism, Runaway Train, Paul Anastasio, Julian Smedley, Pete Martin, Taylor Jay, Orville Johnson, Dr. Slide, Ryan Burns, Steve Luceno and Rick Leppanen. He's opened shows for James Cotton, Robben Ford's Blue Line, Little Charlie & the Nightcats, Mem Shannon, Hawkeye Herman and author Sherman Alexie.
Eric's music has appeared on film soundtracks, television, radio and daily airplay at SeaTac International Airport. His five CDs have received excellent reviews, nominations from NAMA and Washington Blues Society (WBS) and heavy airplay rotation at KBCS-FM. He has received 24 Best Blues nominations from WBS, is the only Northwest blues musician featured in the Northwest Folklife catalog, was featured in KPLU-FM’s (Jazz Northwest) Best of the Blues series and was a finalist in Guitar World’s 1991 Seattle Guitar Starz competition. As a guitar instructor, Eric has taught for National Guitar Workshop, Canada's Guitar Workshop Plus, Northwest Folklife, University of Washington Experimental College, Dusty Strings Music School and JamPlay.com (TrueFire), with whom he has three online guitar courses with over 140 instructional videos.
The music of Eric Madis, rooted in blues, jazz and American folk styles, has appeared on film, television, radio and his five Luna Records CDs. Eric has worked and recorded with many artists, including blues greats Robben Ford and Big Walter Horton, Hawaii's iconic Farden Family, ukulele virtuoso Bill Tapia, swing violinist Paul Anastasio and poet Nicki Grimes. He was a Kerrville Festival and Seattle Guitar Starz finalist and the recipient of 25 award nominations from Washington Blues Society and Northwest Area Music Association. Eric has taught guitar throughout the US and Canada with over 150 online instructional videos.