Eric Roberson [Exclusive Interview]
Interviewed and written by Hector De La Rosa, twitter: @11journ_list
Entering the venue and the sound of crashing drums and guitar riffs make up a sweet bliss of instrumental sounds. Eric Roberson is present on stage with band mates for sound check. The crooner discovers his inner Frank Sinatra as he sings his version of The Notorious B.I.G’s “Big Poppa.” Plenty of chuckles came out as Roberson expresses his entire soul adding humor to the song’s famous lyric, “I got more Mack than Craig in the bed/ Believe me sweety I got enough to feed the needy.”It is a wonder that Roberson is dubbed for crafting baby making music. However, Roberson adlibbing his Grammy nominated single “Tale of Two” (a personal favorite) on stage came to mind why he is dubbed genius and as “The King of Indie Soul.”
Hector De La Rosa: In what ways has music helped Eric Roberson’s life?
ERRO: Music has been the soundtrack of my life. It has been a best friend and advisor. It has been the pat on my back through the roughest times experienced in life. It has assisted me with someone I have really loved. Metaphorically, music has always been that coat over my body on a below zero blistery cold day. I have been fortunate and blessed to be able to recognize and know sound, hear words in my head, and combine those things. I have been able to have the opportunity to view how the public is able to benefit off the music I create. With this said, I have a lot of closeness with music.
HD: Where did the inspiration derived from making the album Music Fan First especially the single “Tale of Two?”
ERRO: Actually, the percussionist in my band produced the majority of the album. He is so creative he would send me music that went in so many directions. On some songs he used samples and others complete instrumentation. A lot of the album’s inspiration came from saying screw all the traditional rules of the music industry and let me expand on much as I possibly can. Let me fall in love with the music and create music that I would love to do as a fan. The album was about provoking thought in music.
The Music Fan First album had become an awakening for me. The album made me feel I had an obligation to be an artist of authenticity. I drifted away from how much music pleased me, how a beautiful lyric can make me smile and heal, and how one can sleep to a woman’s honey coated vocals heard on the radio. I had to train my mind to stop judging a certain song and open my heart and mind on how I felt when listening to a specific record.
When I first wrote “Tale of Two,” I wrote from the perspective of everyone having two sides of a story. For example, a preacher may be powerful in sermon on the pulpit but may experience sadness after preaching. Everybody is two different people. The way the song was formed equivalent to a 16-bar with no chorus or hook and featuring Michelle Thompson’s vocals towards the end was clever. Her vocals on the record are symbolic of one’s conscious. The song earned me a Grammy nomination due to its great storytelling and for breaking the rules.
HD: Name one life changing album that tremendously has an impact on Eric Roberson’s musical career?
ERRO: An album that comes to mind is Terence Trent D’arby’s Vibrator. It completely flopped in every sense. It was not a successful album for the artist. When I heard that record I said to myself from this day forward every lyric has to count for something. I cannot make an excuse of writing a lyric because it rhymes. What I write has to be connected to something and it has to make sense. The lyrics to that album are so simple but such a brilliant record. I was always a hip-hop kid. I was always
wordy, but when I listened to that record my world and my music changed.
HD: What lacks in relationships both courtships and business wise?
ERRO: Assumptions is the death of any type of relationship. Communication is the best step of getting you and someone else to the best place possible. People make mistakes from a music standpoint where there is no communication as to who is going to get credit for a produced hit record. There is no accordance because of a lack of a simple conversation. My life as a musician and love life can be parallel and that is because I practice the same models in both. I view my wife and my music industry peers as my partners. When I make an album, I have a strong vision. It does not mean I have to bury one’s vision to make it my vision. I learn to compromise. Metaphorically in applied music industry terms, ‘it is not meant to be the best song, it supposed to be the right song.’ Finding common ground in both business relationships and courtships are extremely important but rare in today’s society where we are so quick to give up instead of fighting the battle and taking the time to communicate. I try to avoid assumptions as much as possible.
HD: Name a profession or course of study for Eric Roberson if a career in music were to never take off.
ERRO: I never considered myself to be corporate America material. I always had hobbies before music became a passion. I was big on skateboarding, BMX bike riding, and designing clothes. I thought I would go to the Fashion Institute of Technology New York and pursue a fashion career and run my own fashion line. Also, I was into theatre and performing in musicals. I was always doing something creative.
HD: What is Eric Roberson’s definition of Black love?
ERRO: It is absolutely beautiful in all places.I think we as African Americans still bare the world on our shoulders. This kind of love allows us to get up from insecurities that bring us down through slavery to the fight to be recognized. The greatest thing about Black love is we as a people are extremely committed. Experiencing the ups and downs of life is what makes us people of consistency.
HD: Explain the story of actor Omari Hardwick and how he ended up on the album Mr. Nice Guy.
ERRO: Omari Hardwick is one of those people that you meet and you feel that you had known them for all your life or have a general respect for one another. We met at the after party of the NAACP Image Awards. We were properly introduced. I knew his body of work and he knew mine. He had my album and we immediately build. Omari Hardwick told me he was a poet and asked if I was working on an album, which at the time was Mr. Nice Guy. He told me he will fly to the studio I was recording. Of course, he did! There are no accidents when meeting people, especially Omari when one of my best friends from Philadelphia (who happened to be a teacher) is also his best friend. Omari and I called him and he tells us to come to his classroom to speak to his students. Therefore, we both flew out there. While we were talking to the students I get a phone call from my father. He tells me my grandfather had passed away, who means the world to me. It was a horrendous moment for me and my family. My best friend and Omari Hardwick (whom I barely know) were supportive of me. We build a brotherhood and the trust factor was already there. Omari Hardwick is a really good brother. Not only did he took care of that song for the album but also took good care of me and my wife through our time of grief. He is the type of person if he sees something that needs to be taken care of he would fill that space. He is very direct but passionate.
HD: What is the one thing that the public does not know about Eric Roberson?
ERRO: A large part of my songs are written in the bathroom releasing words and other things while sitting on the toilet stool [laughs].
HD: How is Eric Roberson unique from other soul R&B musicians such as Bilal or Musiq Soulchild?
ERRO: I learned a long time ago I may look at a bench and tell you it is the color brown. Someone else may say that it is the color black. If you give one of us a keyboard and the other a set of drums, all three of us are going to do something different. Though, we may have the same materials but have different approaches. With me, my career started from being in the crowd to performing for the crowd. I never separated myself from the crowd like some artists do and to where I have no personal connection from the [masses]. I always make sure to never drift away from the audience.
HD: What is the one thing Eric Roberson would like to be remembered for?
ERRO: I would like to be known as someone who handles things fairly. Also, I would like to be known as a person who strengthens the foundation for others to follow and walk on. I want to make sure I am helping others through my music and words for the betterment.
HD: Describe the new Eric Roberson album
ERRO: The album B-Sides, Features, & Heartaches is about a quarter finished. It started as a small idea and then saw the bigger picture. It’s a mixture of collaborations I have done with other people but also new material added. I am going to let the creative process dictate to me where to go with it. It may be a project served as a gift to the fans.
HD: Eric Roberson’s advice to upcoming talent or youth?
ERRO: With artists, understand that you are a brand and carry yourself how you want your artistry and brand to be remembered and respected.It is not about breaking hit records and the number of spins you get on Clear Channel. It is about your connection to the fans and how they connect with you as an artist. It is about how an artist carries him or herself off stage. What I just mentioned will determine your future as an artist.
My advice to the youth would be to feel free to be a student but realize you are a teacher as well. Do not be afraid as you learn and take on things in life to share that knowledge with your fellow peers younger and older than you.