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Thursday, Jan. 13, 2005 04:54 am

now playing 1-13-05

Eddie from Ohio

What is an Eddie from Ohio? In our little story, it's a pop/rock/folk quartet from the Commonwealth of Virginia.

The definitive tale behind the name goes like this: Back in 1991, when the newly formed group was doing the usual band-name search, Five Foot Seven was the bass player's choice. No one else liked it. The drummer was nicknamed Eddie from Ohio, not because of his personal history, but because a local lead singer called himself Ed from Ohio and Eddie's friend Elizabeth thought it would be cute to call him a slightly more familiar version of the name -- and that is where the band got its peculiar moniker.

These days, Eddie from Ohio means well-done music and songs by an acclaimed foursome of musicians and singers intent on building lasting careers in the music business. "We'd love to be huge, but it's more important to do this as long as possible," says Robbie Schaefer, guitarist and one of the group's main songwriters.

Around the time of the band's second album, producer/mentor Bill Wolf sat the band down for a talk. "He had us think about why we were doing this and what we wanted out of it," Schaefer says. After that conversation, the band decided to stay independent of major labels, book themselves, and build their musical world as they saw fit.

"We knew we would grow more slowly at a grassroots level, but we'd be more likely to do this for a long, long time," he says. "We wanted families and personal lives and control over what we do."

Apparently the plan has worked. Singer Julie Murphy Wells is married with children, as is Schaefer. Bassist Michael Clem talks about his child with perfect pitch, and percussionist Eddie Hartness speaks of a steady girlfriend and having a "musical friendship" with his bandmates for more than 13 years. In the swirling world that encompasses a working band in progress, this quartet has not only survived but flourished.

"Creating a balance is important for us," says Schaefer. "We always want to learn new things and grow musically, yet we need to keep our partnership solvent."

That's great, but how do they do it? Without hesitation, Schaefer gives his answer: "Our secret to staying together this long is staying independent."

Eddie from Ohio swings into Studio Theatre Public Affairs Center UIS at 8 p.m. Saturday Jan. 15.

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