The Ultimate Subway Street Performer – Theo Eastwind

Theo Eastwind

Photo: Theo Eastwind

If you can get a New York City straphanger to purchase your CD in the 30 seconds it takes for their next train to arrive, you’re damn good. Theo Eastwind’s intoxicating lullaby style is guaranteed to hook you in, wrap you up, and stop you dead in your tracks.

Described as “New York’s Own” by The Village Voice, Theo is the essence of a self- made man. He arrived in this country with nothing. He has since gone on to form his own production company, TheoSophical Music, from which he has produced three albums. He has also attracted a sizable following of devoted fans by playing in the subways and clubs of NYC where he has sold over 20,000 CDs.

The story of Theo Eastwind begins in Vienna, Austria. Theo’s mother cleaned office buildings and his father worked for the city library as well as conducted a small local orchestra in the 17th district of Vienna called The Hernalser Chamber Orchestra. Theo received his musical roots from his father, but was never given any attention or support towards his talent as a musician.

Dyslexia and strabismus in his left eye (corrected later in life through a surgical process) made school extremely difficult for Theo. He quickly grew impatient and dropped out of school in the ninth grade. He then enrolled in a trade school and started an apprenticeship for a degree in the confectionery arts. There, a new passion and talent for baking was found. He specialized in Viennese and French pastry and various types of bread.

In 1995, Theo answered an unemployment notice seeking a baker to run a Viennese bakeshop called “Lipizaner” in New York City. He was given a round trip ticket to fly to the Big Apple, but by the time he arrived, the business had lost all its backers and the venture had fallen through. Theo was left on his own in a strange city with his life savings in his pocket. His only possession was a beat-up old guitar strapped to his back.

He was too proud and stubborn to return to Vienna, but his savings quickly ran out. With no place to live, and without knowing a soul in this new country, the reality of the tough city was now setting in. Down and out, strolling through the subway, a voice captured his attention. A man, Carlton, was singing a cappella for money. This subway musician inspired Theo to do the same.

With all the music Theo had accumulated over the years, he began recording their first album, the shimmering and soulful, W.I.P. (Work in Progress). His second album, Oh La La Li was dedicated to Nick Drake, one of Theo’s biggest inspirations. Oh La La Li… showcases Theo’s raw, expansive talent and intimate lyricism that can reduce a room to silence.

Theo’s third album, One, was recorded in 2000. One is richly textured and emotionally diverse. Jamie Lamm at Fearless Music, NYC, produced and mixed the album. One was a collaborative effort of many talented and accomplished artists, including Matt Johnson (former drummer for Jeff Buckley), Steve Holley of the Saturday Night Live Band, Billy White (electric guitarist from Dokken), Steve Schlitz from Longwave, and many more.

The O, released in 2006 is an impressive recording clearly demonstrating Theo’s appeal to both an alternative and more mainstream audience. Featuring the instantly memorable “Set Up”, The O is a startling and refined recording produced by the multi-talented Mark Ambrosino at the Madhouse Studios.

Theo is a committed advocate of artists working in the subway and currently the organizer of a quarterly event known as the Busker Ball. Busker Ball VII will take place on July 24th, 2014, in Brooklyn, NY, and the event has now spread to other cities around the world.

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