Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1084

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Feature

Eric Roberson: Erro Dynamic

Eric Roberson @bluesandsoul.com
Eric Roberson @bluesandsoul.com

Widely acknowledged as Americaâs premier male independent soul/R&B artist, Rahway, New-Jersey-raised Eric Roberson this month celebrates his twentieth year in the music business with âB-Sides, Features & Heartachesâ - a new, 13-track rarities collection consisting largely of previously-released features on other artistsâ projects together with three newly-available songs - the hypnotic, midtempo head-nodder âAnymoreâ; the dreamily-sensual Aaron Camper duet âFar Away Girlâ; and the romantically-escapist, seductive ballad âFantasyâ.

Meanwhile, with artists featured including the likes of Angela Johnson, Wes Felton, DJ Spinna, Les Nubians, DJ Kemit and Foreign Exchange Musicâs Zo!, the diverse range of older tracks present on âB-Sides, Features & Heartachesâ ranges from the pounding house groove of âLet Me Knowâ and rap-laced party vibe of âThis Could Be The Nightâ to the dreamily-ethereal, floating âPostcards From The Edgeâ and the heartfelt, Haitian-fund-raising Various Artists anthem âBe A Humanitarianâ.

All of which results in a solid new release for the singer/songwriter/producer often referred to as simply âErroâ, who prestigiously back in 1990 won a scholarship to Howard University before releasing his first single - âThe Moonâ - for Warner Brothers back in 1994. Having gone on to also record an album for Warners which never got released, in 1995 Roberson returned to the aforementioned Howard University to complete his studies in Musical Theatre before, after performing in a number of musicals and plays, landing a songwriting deal with EMI and eventually hooking up with Philadelphia-based artists like Jill Scott, Musiq Soulchild and DJ Jazzy Jeff - most notably contributing to the latterâs 2002 LP âThe Magnificentâ.

Setting up his own record-label Blue Erro Soul in 2001, in the same year Eric independently released his debut album âThe Esoteric Movementâ. Which he has since followed-up with eight further self-financed albums - the last four of which (2007âs â⦠Leftâ; 2009âs two-times-Grammy-nominated âMusic Fan Firstâ; 2011âs âMister Nice Guyâ; and the current âB-Sides, Features & Heartachesâ) have also been released in the UK and Europe via respected British indie Dome. Meanwhile, last year also saw Roberson contributing vocals to the âDeluxe Editionâ of Robert Glasper Experimentâs critically-acclaimed US Top 20 LP âBlack Radio 2â as well as moving into gospel music for the first time by teaming up with Fred Hammond, BLACKstreet member Dave Hollister and Brian Courtrney Wilson to form the vocal quartet United Tenors, whose self-titled RCA-released debut album prestigiously hit the US mainstream Top 40.

...Cue an ever-warm-mannered and charming 37-year-old Mr. Roberson reacquainting himself with âBlues & Soulâ Assistant Editor Pete Lewis to discuss the aforementioned âB-Sides, Features & Heartachesâ; his upcoming all-new studio album; plus his recent move into gospel.

PETE: What was the background and thinking behind releasing âB-Sides, Features & Heartachesâ at this point in your career?

ERIC: âWith this being my twentieth year in the business I really wanted to CELEBRATE that. And it was actually one of my staff members that initially brought the idea to me of putting out a record called âB-Sidesâ where weâd showcase some of my lesser-known songs that Iâd featured on with other artists - which in turn prompted me to look into just how many features Iâd actually DONE over the years. And once Iâd discovered to my surprise that it was actually almost 40, what had really started out as just a small conversation soon got to the point where we were like âYeah, we really could make this project into a full ALBUM!â. Which is how we eventually came up with this record where Iâm basically saying that this has all very much been a team effort and that I wouldnât be where I was at right now if it wasnât for my PEERS. You know, itâs very much all about that spirit of collaboration as well as hopefully in some cases updating my fans on records they havenât heard before or maybe putting them in touch with artists they might love but may not have previously KNOWN about... And then the reason we decided to spread out the features by adding some new songs to the album as well was really just to ensure we gave my fanbase something special that has that substance to it that they always expect and WANT from me.â

PETE: Can you fill me in on the three new songs youâve included on the album?

ERIC: âWell, âAnymoreâ came about from me wanting to have something on there that was FUN. Because though it does have a tough sorta âwe donât talk anymore and we donât hold hands while weâre walkingâ theme and it is about a breakup, if you listen closely there are a lot of comedic undertones to it that help give it that lighter feel⦠Then âFar Away Girlâ is more like a simple guitar song that Iâve done as a duet with an amazing artist called Aaron Camper who I think youâll be hearing a lot about in the near future. Heâs currently on tour singing background for Justin Timberlake while at the same time putting together his solo album. And to me heâs just a phenomenal, phenomenal talent that I personally believe will be very big in years to come⦠While âFantasyâ on the other hand is a beautiful ballad that, though I recorded it years ago, no-oneâs heard because I just never got around to USING it. I mean, what initially happened was that (Grammy-nominated R&B man) Carl Thomas used the music for an album he put out that didnât DO too much - but whatâs funny is that since then itâs remained this song that insiders around my camp all know about and have always been ASKING about. So itâs kinda exciting now to see what the public themselves think of this record now theyâre finally getting a chance to HEAR it. Because I have a feeling itâs one of those songs that people are really gonna give a lot of ATTENTION to.â

PETE: Youâre also planning to release a brand-new studio album later this year. So what in general can we expect from it?

ERIC: âAt this moment in time the record is tentatively entitled âMusical Monologuesâ, though that may change. And to show just how happy I am with the way itâs going I am actually putting a Track 14 on this âB-Sidesâ record where youâll be able to hear about 40 seconds of three of the new songs that are going on it... I mean, right now weâre about seven songs in - I really only want there to be 12 songs in total - and, while I donât wanna jinx anything by saying the names right now because the tracks in question havenât been recorded, I will say that I do have some amazing features already committed to by some really phenomenal artists⦠Then in terms of the actual music itself, all I can really say is that itâll be an extension of where my writing has already BEEN. You know, with me being really into storytelling and bringing musical theatre into my work but very much from the soul side of things, I guess âsoulful musical theatreâ is probably the best way to describe it - hence âMusical MONOLOGUESâ!â

PETE: 2013 saw you moving into gospel music, teaming up with Fred Hammond, Dave Hollister and Brian Courtney Wilson to form the male vocal quartet United Tenors, whose RCA-released debut album impressively hit the mainstream US Top 40â¦

ERIC: âWhen I was a kid - and Iâm being completely honest here - I literally started doing music because of COMMISSIONED, the group that Fred Hammond was a MEMBER of. You know, it was like the first time the lyrics ever penetrated through my chest and went straight to my heart and the first time I remember crying to records without even REALISING I was crying was when I listed to COMMMISSIONED albums! So then when 30 years later I get a call from Fred himself - who Iâd met a couple of years before - telling me he was putting together another group and wanting to know if Iâd be interested, of course my response was âJust tell me when and WHERE!â!... And the only way I can describe how the whole United Tenors experience has been is TOTALLY EMOTIONAL! You know, with all of us having had the same influences - Brian and Dave were both big Commissioned fans too - the first time we all got in the studio and sang together it sounded like weâd been singing for 10 YEARS! I mean, we not only cried throughout the making of the ALBUM but also through the first five or six shows TOO, including FRED! Because it was like at some point we all suddenly realised that this was just an entirely overwhelming SITUATION⦠And so yeah, with me priding myself on the fact that Iâve never denied my Christianity - you can just listen to my music and pretty much hear that - for me to do a gospel record with three other amazing people has been truly incredible, and I very much look forward to making MORE albums with the guys!â

The album âB-Sides, Features, & Heartachesâ is out now through Dome

TWITTER: Your thoughts ALWAYS welcome @BluesandSoul | @IamEricRoberson | @DomeRecords ***If we favourite your Tweet, you get it added to the print issue.

Read more from our intriguing interview with US independent soul man Eric Robersonâ¦click below to order your print issue now.
Words PETE LEWIS

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