Eric Heiligenstein AKA Too Sick Charlie
Cigar Box, Vocals
Tell us a little about your history as a blues artist. Bands you’ve played with, how long etc.
Too Sick Charlie plays the cigar box guitar, a once forgotten instrument of American blues and roots music. His music has been described as traditional Upper Midwestern cigar box guitar blues.
Too Sick was born in a Nassau blue Chevy Bel Air that was being used as a beagle pen on the outskirts of Belleville, Illinois. He performed on the Mississippi River Medicine Show Circuit for several years before transitioning into a practice of medicine. After developing various snake oil cures for ailments that proved unfounded (but very, very profitable) he made his way to Madison, Wisconsin where he lives a quiet, ascetic life of medical study, song writing and robustly varied acquiescence to almost constant temptation.
What do you do for fun when you are not playing?
I love to work out. Run, bike, ski, etc.
How did Too Sick Charlie get started?
I had to take some time off from music due to family issues. In addition, the harmonica player I performed with moved. So I decided to return to performing as a one man band as much driven by necessity than desire to do so. With that change I also transitioned to home-made instruments (3 string cigar box guitars) and multiple instruments (harmonica, drums). The three sting guitar was a perfect fit for my vision of blues music. Less is sometimes more… A major attraction to playing a 3 string CBG was not having rules to deal with. Anything goes.
Who are your biggest musical influences?
RL Burnside, Lightning Hopkins, The Ramones, ZZ Top, Spinal Tap
Who is/are the most famous person(s) you’ve shared the stage with?
Do you write songs? If so, where do you write? How do you find time to write? What’s your writing process like?
I write songs but they are more often spontaneous combustion in my head than purposefully sitting down to write them. When a song comes to me I go with it. But otherwise don’t try to force the process. When they come to you, the process is pretty quick so doesn’t take that much time as you’re in a zone.
If you could collaborate with another musician who would it be?
Any: Prince. Alive: Billy Gibbons
What’s the most important skill to have as a musician right now?
Describe Too Sick Charlie fans in 3 words.
All my friends….
What is your opinion about covers?
Straight covers are boring. When people make them their own (derivative works) then you have magic. Incremental change makes music better. Best example: Stevie Ray Vaughn
What are the benefits of listening to music? Playing music?
Listening always generates ideas for new ways to look at your music. It helps you look at ways in making your music more interesting to listeners.
Karaoke – Yeah, or nah?