Date: August 2000
Interviewee: Howie Epstein
Notes: This is part of the “Spotlight on a Heartbreaker” series, which appeared on the official website several years ago (before it was redone), in which fans could email in questions for a Heartbreaker.
1) Carl D. in MA, Marcia S. of MI and Deb asked: How old where you when you first started playing bass?
Howie: I was 20 years old.
2) Lisa I. in AR asked: Have you ever taken voice lessons or does your singing just come naturally?
Howie: I haven’t taken any voice lessons.
3) Nate K. of NY, Steve and Tracey asked: Who were your musical influences growing up?
Howie: Music from the ’50s & ’60s that I heard on AM radio.
4) Donna D. and Marcia S. of MI asked: Do you write any songs?
5) Stan The Man, Carl D. in MA and Deb asked: Do you play any instruments other than bass?
Howie: Yes, I also play guitar, drums, mandolin.
6) Marcia S. of MI, Christian B. and Len M. asked: What different bass guitars do you own and what is your favorite?
Howie: Lots…too many to mention.
Also, please tell us about your Fender Precision Bass.
Howie: It’s a ’55 Precision Bass. I’ve had it for along time. It’s the best sounding. “I like it.”
7) Jo S. in NC, Adam in Canada, Nate in KY, Marion S. in FL, Carl D. in MA, and Rachael in MN asked: How did you end up with the Heartbreakers and what where you doing before that?
Howie: I auditioned for Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers through Del Shannon & John Hiatt.
How did you feel when they asked you to play for them?
Howie: It felt good. I liked the band and I wanted to be in their band.
8 ) Marion S. in FL, Carl D. in MA, Rachael of MN and Christian B. asked: What did you think of TP&HB before you were ever a member of the band?
Howie: I liked the band and had all their records. I had even seen them a few times and thought they were good. I could see myself being in the band.
9) Nick in WI, Marcia S. of MI and Bethany S. asked: What did it feel like to be in your hometown of Milwaukee in front of a jam-packed amphitheater and get a huge standing O from all the fans?
Howie: It was one of the best audiences on the tour. The best ever in Milwaukee. It was unbelievable, the rafters were vibrating.
Do you ever miss your hometown here?
Howie: No, I don’t miss the cold.
10) Steve asked: If you weren’t a musician, what would you be?
Howie: A veterinarian.
11) Mark B. of NY, Ann V. of CA, Bernice T. of MI, Marcia S. of MI, Jessica, Karen L. Donna L. and Len M. asked: Tell us about the dog we’ve seen with you on tour: His name?
Howie: He’s 7 years old.
Where you got him?
Howie: I got him in Los Angeles; he was imported from Germany.
How long you’ve had him?
Howie: I’ve had him for 5 years.
Do you always take him on tour with you?
Howie: Yes, he’s always on tour with me.
12) Karen L., Donna L. and Cathy asked: What kind of other pets do you have?
13) Carl D. in MA, Corey S. of MI, Marcia S. of MI and Steve asked: What are your favorite TP&HB songs to play?
Howie: The newest songs.
Also, what are the most challenging TP&HB songs for you to play?
Howie: The newest ones.
14) Lennie B. of GA asked: What song would you like to perform live that is never done on tour?
Howie: “You Can Still Change Your Mind” from Hard Promises.
15) Dan M. in OH, Lorraine H. in MI, Carl D. in MA, Marcia S. in MI, Nicole in CA and Stan The Man asked: You have an awesome voice, but we only get to hear it in harmonies. Any place to hear it solo?
Howie: At my house.
Will you ever sing lead on a TP&HB song like Mike did?
Howie: Probably. The only recording now is Tom and me singing lead on “Something In The Air” from the Greatest Hits.
16) Marion S. of FL, Len M. and Steven T. asked: Do you make up your own vocal harmonies or does Tom suggest them to you?
Howie: It’s always a collaboration.
Do you ever find it difficult to find the right harmony?
Howie: No, it’s never difficult.
17) Joy E. in Alberta, Canada asked: “One More Day, One More Night” is amazing. Your harmonies put it over the top. Any interesting stories on the making of that song (or any other from Echo)?
Howie: Nothing special.
18) Jiro K. in Japan and Jeff L. of DE asked: Over the years, you have shared bass duties with Mike Campbell or Scott Thurston and sometimes you’ve played acoustic guitar. How is it determined which one of you will play bass on a given track?
Howie: Whoever comes up with the best part determines who will play bass or we switch because of boredom. There is not a lot of discussion. If Scott Thurston grabs the bass, I’ll grab the guitar. There is not a lot of talking about it.
19) Marcia S. of MI, David S. and Rhiannon1284 asked: Which of the Heartbreakers are you most “connected” with on stage (including Scott & Steve)?
Howie: Tom and Ben.
What about off stage?
20) Lee-Ellen O. asked: Do you guys have nicknames for each other, you’ve been together so long?
21) Craig W. Of CN and Len M. asked: How closely do you work with Steve Ferrone (or with Stan in the past) to create a rhythm section feel?
Howie: Not that close.
Do you sync to his bass pedal?
Do you work out rhythm changes?
Howie: No, that’s not really talked about.
22) Jiro K. in Japan and Len M. asked: Do you prefer flatwound or roundwound strings?
How do you decide whether to use your thumb or a pick to play bass?
Howie: I decide what sounds best in each song.
23) Christian asked: Do you ever use some effect pedals onstage/in the studio?
24) Charlie asked: Do you have any pre-show rituals?
Do you ever get stagefright?
25) Lucy S. of CA and Nathan F. asked: When you’re onstage performing to a crowd of thousands and stop to look out at the crowd, what is the feeling you get?
Howie: It’s funny, I like the smaller venues better because you can’t see in the big ones, but you feel the energy. It feels good and I enjoy it. It’s not like I need it, but it’s fun to play. The adulation is fun, but it is not a driving force.
26) Bonnie in MA and Kim in Canada asked: You’ve worked with so many Country artists. Is Country Music your favorite genre of music?
Howie: No, it’s not my favorite. Pop is my favorite.
27) Melissa in MN, Deb and Sue asked: Any plans for you to write or produce another album for Carlene Carter?
What are the differences between working with the Heartbreakers and working with Carlene?
Howie: With Carlene I produce. With the Heartbreakers I don’t.
28) Pete C. of CA and Jeff of IN asked: We loved the John Prine record you produced. Do you plan on doing any other records with him?
What is your role of Prine producer like as opposed to being a Heartbreaker?
Howie: I produce.
Any funny stories about the days recording “Picture Show” with John and Tom?
Howie: No. Tom sang to a tape.
29) Greg asked: What is your favorite album?
Howie: I don’t have one.
30) Adam in Canada and Marcia S. of MI asked: What CD’s are in your CD player right now?
Howie: The Wilco CD with Billy Bragg that is a tribute to Woody Guthrie songs.
31) Page S. in AK asked: Are you of Native American descent?
Howie: No, I’m not.
32) Amanda in NC and Tracey asked: We heard you were a boxer when you were younger. Is that true?
Did you have any great accomplishments in boxing?
Howie: I was the high school Freshman, Sophomore, & Junior Regional Lightweight Champion all 3 years.
33) Bonnie in MA, Len M. and Derek asked: Do you read or have any other hobbies/interests?
Howie: Hobbies: Motorcycles, Indian (Native American) stuff…art & artifacts, restoring old cars. I read a lot.
34) Amanda in NC, Marcia S. of MI, Kyle S., Rhiannon1284 and Victoria K. asked: TP&HB have lasted longer than most marriages: What is their secret and what’s special about playing with them?
Howie: We get along really good. It’s a combination of friendship, music and years.
35) Dan F. asked: What are your thoughts of all the achievements you and boys have reached in your music career?
Howie: It’s great.
You have played with the greatest performers. Have you ever sat back and thought about the giant impact you have had on this world of music?
36) Bernice T. of MI asked: As you left the hotel just before your concert at the Palace, you were all so kind, friendly and willing to sign stuff and pose for pictures. In light of the recent attack on George Harrison, will you change the way you relate to your fans in a public setting?
37) Jürgen M. in Germany, Takeo in Japan, Joy E. in Alberta, Canada, Jun S. in Japan, Joe in IN, Jonathan H. in KY, Corey S. of MI, Bernice T. of MI, Marcia S. of MI, Marion S. of FL, Kerscott A., Lee-Ellen O., Martin, CMT, Tracey and Sylvia asked: Will the band tour again soon?
Howie: No tour is planned any time soon.
Or a new album in the works?
Howie: There is an album in the works.
38) Charlie and Cathy asked: What is your most memorable or embarrassing moment live on stage?
Howie: Nothing embarrassing. My most memorable concerts were in Milwaukee in 1999 and the Fillmore in 1997.
39) Lisa I. in AR and Len M. asked: Would you tell us about your musical projects that are not part of TP&HB?
Howie: I’m building a studio in New Mexico and will be recording soon.
40) Laura L. asked: Name some things none of your fans know about you.
Howie: 1) I play drums really well. 2) I am not married.