The Way Forward: Eric Slick

The Dr. Dog drummer on releasing a solo album into a chaotic world.

I’m currently sitting in Marvin’s room. Marvin is our dog, a Boston Terrier/Chihuahua/god-knows-what mix. His DNA test is pending, but I can confirm he is 100% adorable. He is the alpha of the household, so he has his own quarters. In June of 2020, Marvin was diagnosed with a stage III brain tumor, an aggressive form of cancer called a “glioma.” This year couldn’t possibly get any worse, and then THAT happened. I am an insane person, so the day after he was diagnosed, I was on the phone with veterinarians worldwide, figuring out a cure for his ailment. We eventually came across a doctor in Minneapolis who was doing a clinical trial that involved radical immunotherapy. Theoretically, Marvin would get the brain tumor removed, and then they would shoot a virus into his brain. The next step involved a 12-day cycle of antiviral pills that would destroy the remaining cancer cells. We drove 14 hours to get to Minneapolis, and we drove the same route home — during a pandemic. So far, Marvin is doing well. He’s on a keto diet, taking a healthy amount of CBD oil, and getting snuggled with at every possible juncture. We were so lucky to have financial support from all of our friends via GoFundMe. I can’t even begin to process it. I’ll start crying.

I released the first single from my new solo album Wiseacre the day Marvin was having brain surgery. It felt surreal and selfish to be promoting anything while I was so drained. Simultaneously, there was a voice inside of me telling me that it was OK to move forward with it. I had spent so much time making sure Wiseacre was the way I wanted it to be, and I couldn’t just turn my back on it now. Before my LP was announced, I had a call with my astrologer. His name is Peter Matthew Bauer, and yes, he played in The Walkmen. He is a fantastic interpreter of the planets. After reading my latest chart, he assured me that “Everything around your album should be playful — the way you present it, the way you think about the way it’s received. No expectations. Don’t get depressed if it’s not going the way you planned. You have to remove your ego as much as possible.” I thought about his reading a lot the day Marvin was under the knife, and I thought about the removal of expectations in every facet of my life. Maybe something was shifting in a seismic way. Marvin’s trial was yet another test, and there was a lesson to be learned. If he were to pass away during surgery, I would have to accept it. All things end at some point, you know, the circle of life.

After we got back home from Minneapolis, I filmed a music video for the Wiseacre single “Closer To Heaven.” I got the video edit as I was sitting and inhaling vermicelli noodles. I saw myself in the video and my heart sank. Had I gained 800 pounds during quarantine? I talked to my partner Natalie and she expressed that I had indeed gained some weight. I thought about it, beat myself up over it, and remembered the teenage days when I struggled even harder with an eating disorder called body dysmorphia. It’s been the elephant in the room for my whole adult life. It prevents me from staring too much at pictures of myself. It prevents me from spending quality time with people I care about. I used to binge before shows and prevent myself from eating too much later in the tour. My weight fluctuates drastically because of it. It’s a way of quelling deep anxiety. Alas, there was another opportunity for growth. Perhaps now would be a good time to confront my eating disorder and begin the recovery path finally. I could tell my friends about it and destigmatize it. I could potentially help people. Now, I wake up every morning and exercise with a bunch of wonderful musician friends all over the world in a Zoom meeting. We do Tabata, a high-intensity interval training program. I do my best to make healthy eating choices. I try to respect my body and acknowledge my struggle as a gift. I finally feel like I can let it all go.

It’s been a bumpy year. I didn’t think I’d be putting out a record. I didn’t think there’d be a tornado in my town. I didn’t think Marvin was going to survive. I didn’t think I’d be conquering a lifelong eating disorder. I didn’t think I would be unemployed. The moments of bewildering clarity have been earth-shattering for me. I also recognize that this is a privilege. Some people out there are suffering much worse than me, and the amount of strain that 2020 is putting on them is insurmountable. A stockpile of debts that have no ceilings. At its worst: no foreseeable relief. It makes my heart hurt.

I do think there is always a way forward and I have gratitude for it. The world is continually changing and we’re adapting quickly, becoming more malleable as the days pass us by. I miss seeing faces in the crowd and I miss performing for everyone. I know that when the day returns, I will have a whole new sense of gratitude for the peaks and valleys.

Blissfulness is at the core of Wiseacre, the strikingly purifying sophomore record from Eric SlickWiseacre is a location, literally. It’s the place he married the light in his life, Natalie Prass, and titling the record after it is an attempt at bottling the euphoria of his wedding day. The record isn’t just about the joy that comes from a loving existence blossoming out of a new relationship, it’s also about the hard work that it takes to get to that place. The majority of his time has been behind a drum set, spending the last decade rounding out the industrious outfit Dr. Dog, and as of late, touring as a newlywed alongside his wife.

(Photo credit: Shervin Lainez)