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Q&A: Jackie O's to host acoustic guitarist

Eric Sommer will bring his new-wave influenced, acoustic rock to Jackie O's, 24 W. Union St., at 10 p.m. tomorrow.

Sommer started his music career in Boston, where he and his punk rock group, The Atomics, were the house band at a popular bar. Sommer only landed that gig, however, after struggling through several years of being homeless and playing music on the street.

The Post's Bridget Mallon spoke with Sommer about his guitar style, his first guitar and how homelessness affected his music.

The Post: When did you first become interested in playing music?

Eric Sommer: I started when I was about 6 years old. My dad gave me a guitar when we moved to Southeast Asia because he was being stationed in Bangkok ... then I never put it down. I was all by myself, I didn't really have a lot of friends, I didn't know anybody, so it was the only thing I really had that could give me something to do.

Post: What type of music do you play?

Sommer: What I'm doing now is kind of a roots Americana. It's a very unique combination of acoustic guitar, slide guitar, open tuning, finger style and some noise pop. It's a combination of a lot of things. I started out punk, new wave, and now the show I'm doing now is probably 70 percent acoustic with a lot of slide and blues pop.

Post: You spent some time homeless while playing music in Boston. Did that affect or influence your songwriting or performances at all?

Sommer: I was homeless for two or three years. I think it gave my sound a harder edge. I think it made me realize that I didn't want to be homeless, but the situation was very difficult. I had no other means of support than playing on the street. I just struggled through all the coffee house shows. It made me appreciate what it really takes to be a complete human being and a complete guitar player. You have to struggle. You have to believe enough in what you're doing to go through some pretty tough times.

Post: What do you hope people who go see your shows will take away from them?

Sommer: I want people to walk down the street and go, 'That guy is the best there is.' You want to have a show that is entertaining. You want to be able to be really good at your instrument. You want to write songs that are meaningful, and you want to make sure people have a good time. Live music is entertainment. I love the audiences in Athens, Ohio. They always treat me well. ... The guys who run Jackie O's are fantastic. They have been very good to me. It's one of my favorite places to play in the world.

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