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Eric D. Johnson Revives Fruit Bats — And His Music Career — For ‘Absolute Loser’

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Photo: Fruit Bats
Eric D. Johnson of Fruit Bats

Singer-songwriter Eric D. Johnson spent 16 years building a following under the name Fruit Bats.

Then something happened that made him disown the name.

His wife suffered a miscarriage. It devastated him. Johnson says he soon felt detached from his Fruit Bats songs.

"When those type of things happen you have the 'drive the car off the cliff' reaction, which is: Blow it all up," Johnson says.

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He ditched the Fruit Bats moniker in 2013 -- and decided to restart under his own initials: EDJ. He released a self-titled album the following year.

The EDJ album felt like a breath of fresh air. He wrote more confessional, personal songs than on his Fruit Bats records.

Unfortunately, he says, it didn’t connect with many listeners.

"No one really talked about that record because nobody listened to it. The thing I comfort myself with is that I've always been in love with the lost classics. The weird raw emotional record that someone makes somewhere and it goes nowhere."

Johnson’s career stalled. He lost his booking agent and manager. The singer-songwriter found himself at a crossroads.

So a friend suggested: Bring back the Fruit Bats name. After thinking it over, Johnson swallowed his pride and did it.

"I could either not get paid to play guitar and sing to people anymore, or I can by changing two words."

It worked, and Johnson soon found audiences had a renewed interest in his music. In fact, Fruit Bats opened for My Morning Jacket at Red Rocks Amphitheatre in May. It was a big show for a band that often plays to a few hundred people in a club.

"A lot of bands do the reunion money grab thing. There was never any money to begin with in this band. No matter how cynical you are you can't accuse me of doing that."

Johnson also released a new Fruit Bats record this year, called “Absolute Loser.” While the album fits in with the Fruit Bats catalog, it’s also heavily influenced by the EDJ release. Johnson even calls them companion pieces.

"It's about the emotion and tragedy behind the EDJ record and the results of that too. It's a record about making a record. I'm comforting myself with this."