Shaking Up a Musical Tradition

with Eric Wickens, Creator at Back Home Indiana Project

Indiana General Interest

One of the greatest musical traditions in the Hoosier state is the song “Back Home Again in Indiana”. The song was composed by James F. Hanley and written by Ballard MacDonald before being published in January 1917.  While it is not considered the state song of Indiana, it is, perhaps, the most well known. Since 1946, “Back Home Again in Indiana” has been sung during the Indianpolis 500 Opening Ceremonies event by Jim Nabors.  Nabors performed the song, most often, between 1972 to 2014. Classically-trained singer and local, anthem performer, Eric Wickens, details his plans for a new rendition of the jazz standard.

Interview recorded on July 12, 2017.  Hosted by Taylor Bennett. Part 1 of 1.

Read a partial transcript of the interview here:

Bennett: Why music?

Wickens: Why music? I don’t know if I ever had a choice, really. I grew up in the ’70’s and ’80’s. My mom was a big fan of Elvis, the Beatles, ’60’s music; that’s what I grew up on. I never felt the strong need to move away; which if you are going to be successful in Classical music, that’s what you should probably do, move out east to New York, the Met, that kinda thing. By age 30, I was comfortable and more interested in a social life and a family.

Bennett: Why did you want to make changes to a popular song; something in tradition here, well known.

Wickens: It wasn’t my first choice. About a year and a half ago, it was suggested to me to just do a video of it with the Purdue band and put it on YouTube and call it done, but why would people watch that?  About 5 years ago I recorded a classical, sacred work called Comfort and the video for Be Still My Soul used stories to help propel the song along. We thought, why don’t we give a similar idea to Back Home Again in Indiana. Get people who moved away from Indiana for whatever reason and then came back to make Indiana home. Use those stories and then build a new arrangement and video around those stories; rejuvinate the song, if you will.

Bennett: How do you feel about it so far?

Wickens: We’re still in the very beginning process of it.  We’re funding it with a Kickstarter project; get the stories and we’re really in the beginning stages.

*If you would like to give to Eric’s Kickstarter Fund or learn more about the project, please visit Back Home Indiana Project on Facebook.