Eric Roberson is truly a breath of fresh air to R&B/soul music. His triple-threat talents as a singer, songwriter and producer, are evident in his latest project “Music Fan First.”
This album combines classic lyrics with a mature, yet boisterous sound. Music Fan First is my kind of record, one that you can dance to and play day or night.
Roberson is a musical mastermind and Music Fan First allowed him to flex his innovative spirit.
This album is the epitome of modernistic soul music teeming with elements of other musical genres from many time periods.
The Indianapolis Recorder Newspaper recently spoke with Roberson, affectionately known as ERRO, and discovered why this artist is on the rise.
You’ve achieved great success in your musical career and are an alumnus of the historic Howard University. A lot of famous and talented people have come out of Howard. How do you feel to be apart of that legacy?
Eric Roberson: Going to Howard was a dream come true – it met all of my expectations. It was such an experience to walk down hallways that Donny Hathaway and Roberta Flack walked. I actually had their English teacher! Being at Howard taught me preparedness. At any point you’re on campus, you may run into A Tribe Called Quest or Muhammad Ali or Bill Cosby or Phylicia Rashad. I learned to always be presentable.
I actually started my music career by running into 112 in a studio. I happened to have my guitar with me and I tried to sell them a song right on the spot. That kind of preparedness and hustle came from college. It makes me feel good that the legacy continues.
You’re a singer, songwriter and producer. Which occupation is the most challenging?
The most challenging is balancing it all. I’ve had a lot of teachers, training and have worked very hard to do each one of them. With songwriting, for the most part, I always have ideas and melodies in my head. Or you’ll get on stage to do a show and you want to do your best, but you’re fatigued from last night’s show. But I love doing each equally.
You’ve worked with people like Musiq Soulchild, Jill Scott and Dwele. How do you create sounds for each different artist and come up with music for yourself?
It’s changed for me through the years. I once was a person who would really try to craft something around the artist. I’d say, ‘I’m writing something for Mary J. Blige, let me write something that Mary J. would like.’ As I wrote more songs, I was able to focus on my personal identity and just got more into character development. Now, I’m into overall characters – it’s more defined. Now it’s like if Mary J., Musiq, or Carl Thomas likes this character, they evolve themselves around it.
Who are some of your musical influences?
Whoo! The list is very long, but there’s a core circle of what helped me at the beginning of my music career. That’s Stevie Wonder, A Tribe Called Quest and the gospel group Commissioned. Each one was monumental for the reason I do music. I was a hip-hop kid, but I grew up in the church singing, so those are my musical roots. From a songwriting standpoint, Stevie Wonder really helped me get into character development. From that point on, I’ve always tried to combine those three genres. The aggressiveness, rule breaking and non-conforming of hip-hop – the storytelling of Stevie Wonder and soul music as well as the conviction of gospel music.
Tell me about your most recent release, Music Fan First?
It’s funny how you don’t necessarily know you’re working on an album. This guy called Bret Baker from Delaware, he and I did the majority of the album. It was really just two music fans. There was no rhyme or reason and we really weren’t trying to abide by the “rules” – we were just having fun. Before I knew it, I had seven or eight songs that I was crazy about. That opened my mind up to say ‘let’s work on an album, but let’s stay in this same lane.’ We’ve worked so hard and studied so much to learn these rules, now let’s forget all about it and just go in the studio. This album is the closest thing I’ve done so far, in my opinion, of doing that blend of Stevie Wonder, A Tribe Called Quest and Commissioned. I had a great time doing it.
You were nominated for a Grammy Award for the song “A Tale of Two.” How did you feel when you heard the news of your nomination?
It was one of the most humbling experiences of my career. It’s shown how far we’ve come, and it told us we’re doing the right thing. That song is probably one of the most radical songs I’ve ever done. It doesn’t have a hook, doesn’t really fit your usual song format. It doesn’t have a happy ending. It’s live instruments mixed with chopped, hip-hop samples. A Tale of Two was one of the earlier songs we did, but it’s about storytelling. It pays homage to Slick Rick’s “Children’s Story” and “Ladi Dadi.” It’s paying homage to Prince’s “Darling Nikki.”
Being nominated also showed me to continue on following what I feel and the importance of being able to step up and be a part of the foundation.
You have very devoted fans that come from all over to see you perform. What’s it like to be at an ERRO concert?
It’s a celebration! And it’s a team effort because I’ve learned through the years, with art, you have a responsibility. If I create it and share it, how it’s received defines the art. Art is supposed to evoke energy, a response, a conversation. I ignored that whole being super-cool thing a long time ago. I just want to have a good time. It’s a big celebration of music and creativity and you never know what might happen. My fans always surprise me with the love and energy they give.
Was there anything you want to add or anything you’d like Recorder readers to know?
I just appreciate everybody supporting my music. They can also check out my Web site, Ericrobersonmusic.com, and to continue supporting good music.
About Howard University
In November 1866, shortly after the end of the Civil War, members of the First Congregational Society of Washington considered establishing a theological seminary for the education of African-American clergymen. Within a few weeks, the concept expanded to include a provision for establishing a university. The new institution was named for General Oliver O. Howard, a Civil War hero.
The university charter was enacted by Congress and subsequently approved by President Andrew Johnson on March 2, 1867.
Today, Howard University is one of 48 U.S. private, doctoral/research-extensive universities, comprising 12 schools and colleges with 10,500 students enjoying academic pursuits in more than 120 areas of study leading to undergraduate, graduate, and professional degrees. The university continues to attract the nation’s top students and produces more African-American Ph.D.s than any other university in the world.
Howard’s notable alumni include the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall; Nobel Laureate and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Toni Morrison; opera singer Jessye Norman; and the first female mayor of Atlanta, Shirley Franklin, among others.