In order to measure one’s footprints through life, for some, it takes far more than the Metric System to gauge the proper measurement one has apart the pressure of their heal and onto the soft indention of each toe. For Eric Roberson, the strength of his footing in the music industry is clearly defined by the impact of each step he takes that courses far beneath the surface of each pivotal motion and unto the depths of each musical stride. Like footprints through cement, his impression on our ears never fades past the brick of each musical endeavor. His work is solid and unyielding.
The Producer, Singer and Songwriter and Howard University alum has worked with such artists as Dwele, Lalah Hathaway, Musiq Soulchild, Jill Scott, Slum Village, 112, and Vivian Green has found incredible success both in front of and behind the microphone through his 15 year venture creating music that comes from the heart and is a reflection of every honest emotion he is feeling.
Sparking the wick with his 6th turn at bat, and blazing a full circle of heat with his esoteric style of soul music, Eric Roberson, who goes by the nickname Erro, is arriving at the beginning once again, with the introduction of his latest album, Music Fan First, an honest compilation of immeasurable independence.
Clutch: You’ve got a beast of a following out here with the appreciators of eclectic grooves, especially with Music Fan First being your 6th album. But for those who don’t know Erro, please give us a soft overlay of who you are.
Eric: I’m a Jersey kid that really is a very big music fan. I’ve been in this business for a long time and first got introduced in this business as an artist. At 19 I actually had a song called The Moon, that was on Warner Bros., but mainly after that I was a songwriter and a producer for many artists all the way from Musiq Soulchild, Vivian Green, Jill Scott, Carl Thomas, Dwele, 112, Will Downing, Charlie Wilson and a few others. But then I started doing my own albums as well, so what started out as a hobby of me just trying to get some thoughts out of my head and sharing some music, turned into a full career and now I’m on album number six. That’s the newest album, Music Fan First, and I’ve been fortunate enough to make a living doing music, touring the world performing my songs. This is how I’m doing it.
Clutch: Now you refer to your music as “Honest Music,” give us an explanation of how we can interpret that from your sound?
Eric: Well you know as a fan of music, I have a lot of different genres that I’m into. For me “Honest Music,” really just comes from not adding compromise in any form or fashion to what you’re creating. I’m an independent artist, I create my own music, and distribute from my own label. I really have no distractions or rules I must abide by, which gives me the opportunity to do music the way I want to do it. Which means I can do it the way I honestly feel at the time. That’s really the basis of “Honest Music.” A lot of times people say that I’m a soul artist so I must just like soul music. Naw, I can’t even say that. I like Hip Hop music, House music, Rock N’ Roll, Classical and Jazz. So the honesty comes from where I’m at [during] the time, and it determines what direction I’m going to go in. I think my fans have been able to realize that and enjoy that from me because when you come to my shows, there’s no telling what you’re going to get. We’re going to have different moments, different feels, and different vibes but at the same time it will be genuine and come from an honest place and that’s what we like to do.
I’m an independent artist, I create my own music, and distribute from my own label. I really have no distractions or rules I must abide by, which gives me the opportunity to do music the way I want to do it.
Clutch: Now if we were to go back to Howard University, where it all began, what would you say was that first pinnacle moment in your quest for stardom that made you feel like your efforts were getting you somewhere?
Eric: It starts in different places. My grandfather says that you have to have ups and downs, to ever really travel. A birds wings go up and down in order for it to fly. For every high moment that we had, we had low moments as well. Each one strengthened it and readied me for the first time I ever heard my song on the radio. I remember this one time when I was walking through London and walked past a restaurant and my song was playing in the restaurant. It didn’t even register to me at first, I was just like, ‘Hey I know that song.’ I was so distant from it, I was like, ‘What is that, what is that’ and then I realized I was wildin’ because it was me. I remember one time when I was doing a show in Atlanta, and I went to the bathroom before I went on stage. A guy came into the bathroom and was like, ‘I don’t mean to disturb you. I know you have a ritual and all, but I just wanted to give you a picture of my kids. I had our child to your music.’ I mean seriously, the number of pictures of kids and babies I have in my wallet now from people throughout my travel who said, ‘I met my wife at your show,’ or ‘I fell in love with this woman through your music,’ or ‘We had our first child to your music,’ or one brother had used the song Obstacles to get him through chemotherapy as he defeated cancer. For me, to be able to tour different countries and to do everything else has highs, but those fan moments make up for every challenge or lull you may run into. I’ve been very fortunate to receive a push, because that’s what those moments are. Those are the little pats that you need to stay focused and stay firm to keep doing it.
Clutch: That rawness is what has fans flocking to you and your music, it creates a feeling of truth that they can identify with. Now is your music at all a reflection of your personal life, or do you write from the point of view of the world?
Eric: That’s a great question, and one of the reasons why it’s called “Honest Music” is because I write from a very honest place as well. I made the decision a long time ago that I would never compromise my creativity by not allowing my personal life to be used in the music. I’ve written about a lot of tough moments in my life. Times I got my heart broken. Times I made mistakes or whatever. If it happened I’m going to put a song to it, or a beat to it. That’s just what I feel has always been important. That’s how some people make a major connection, as well as if you and I were to talk and you shared something with me that I felt was powerful, I might put that to a song. The songs are everywhere. I tell everyone that as a songwriter, you’re really just a fisherman. You’re just throwing your bait out there into the pond, hoping that you catch something. I’m always open to a story, or something that will inspire a song and you never know where it will come from. A lot of times it does come from my own personal life, but at the same times there is stuff that I witness as well.
Clutch: How do you think the industry has played a hand in your success or even hindered it in any way?
Eric: As a songwriter and a producer it has definitely helped. I did a song for Musiq Soulchild called Previous Cats and I had so many fans who told me they found me from it, but not because I wrote the song, but because I sang background. They’d say, ‘Who is this singing background vocals to this song?’ They found me from that way. There’s so many different ways. To me it was a challenge that I had to reach at one point because there was a time where most of my peers looked at me like I was crazy because I was putting out music independently. ‘You don’t want a record deal at a major label?’ I’d get a lot of those kinds of questions. I’d tell them that, ‘I’m not saying that, but right now, my heart is for sharing this music, and this is just the way I choose to share it.’ It made me do something that I feel has been a theme to this album and that’s just number one, be honest to yourself. I challenge everyone to always ask themselves personal questions in the hopes to find truth within yourself. A lot of us, the majority of us, aren’t truthful with ourselves. If we start being truthful with ourselves about what we want, what we hope for and are searching for, we’d have a more clear cut and rewarding journey towards where we’re going to. Most of the brick walls I’ve ran into through life, and most of the times I found myself lost in different situations, whether it was in my love life, business life, or music life, those were times when I wasn’t being honest with myself. I was just taking opportunities or doing whatever. I had to ask myself questions and come to terms with what I wanted. ‘What’s most important to me,’ I’d say. Just sharing it. I’d have been satisfied if I’d had half as much success as I’ve had right now because the gift is sharing art and being able to survive off of what it gives you and that’s not even just from a financial standpoint. They could pay you a ton of money but if it doesn’t give you something spiritually or inspirationally, then you’ll still be empty.
Clutch: In going back to that statement you made about people pressuring you to sign with a major label, do you ever feel the pressure of the industry to change your sound to gain a wider following and achieve that “radio” sound that a lot of artists sometimes feel the pressure to cross over to?
Eric: For myself, I know I don’t do well when I deviate from what is naturally in me. Me trying to follow what someone else is doing or trying to follow what the radio movement is doing right now, isn’t really for me because I know what my strong points are. Sure, the drums may not be in style with what’s in style today. Sure, my music may be a little different. Sure, this is an independent esoteric genre, but what you know and if people really take a minute to pay attention, they’ll realize it’s genuine and it has quality to it. I recognize that my music is not for everybody, and I’ve never done a song trying to win the whole world over. My whole thing is trying to show balance and saying, ‘Hey, you like this, well check this out.’ Or if you don’t like this then it just shows you that there’s more out there so I hope you can find something that does fulfill you. I’m always searching for good music. Literally to this day not only do I find new acts, but I find old music released in the 70’s, 80’s or earlier and I’ll go, ‘Oh, how did I not know about this,’ and it will blow my mind. To me, I’m satisfied with it. I also look at the fact that I’m 36 years old, I just turned 36 and I look at the industry right now and how it’s built and I look at a lot of my friends who are victims of this funny period artistically, that has them struggling to get their albums out and things of that nature, and I wouldn’t trade my independence. I wouldn’t want the headaches and the drama that they’re going through for the trade of more popularity. It’s not a popularity contest, it’s about sharing. I recognize that without fans, listeners and supporters, I wouldn’t be able to do what I do which is why I never get caught up in the big picture because I understand that together we all paint the picture.
Clutch: How would you describe your evolution, as well as the evolution of your music throughout the years all the way from your first album up to Music Fan First?
Eric: I think my journey and my story have been documented through my music, and I think that’s why people can relate to it. A long time ago I stopped trying to be cool on stage. I stopped saying things like, ‘This doesn’t feel that comfortable but it looks dope so I’m going to wear it.’ It’s not about that. With my music it’s almost like a circle, it’s almost like it’s starting over again in a way because Esoteric Movement was me making an album that I felt a major label would not let me make. Esoteric Movement was only meant to be understood by a chosen few. It was like this secretive sound and direction and with Music Fan First, we’re approaching it to where we receive a lot of success, and we tour successfully- everything we really want is moving as scheduled, but let’s get back to what we do this for… I’m a fan first. And I’m not just a soul fan like I had said before, I love all these different genre’s so now that we have it let’s not really worry to much about rules, assumptions, lets just go into it and have fun.
Let’s just walk into the studio like it’s the first time we ever walked into the studio. So that’s what I mean when I say we went full circle. A cat hit me on Facebook that I worked with in college and he was talking about how I used to sing over Hip Hop beats that he was making and stuff like that- listen, if I felt it and it was a country song or a house track, I was going to sing to it because I just felt it. I think that should be the main thing. This album is a growing progression from our first album. We’ve learned more, more about technology, but the theme of the whole thing with just having a free spirited creativity and not being ashamed or afraid to share anything is what I really strive to always have and we haven’t deviated from that at all through my career of making records.
Clutch: Now Borrow You is your first single, and I understand you’re filming a video for your latest single Dealing featuring the amazing Lalah Hathaway. How will fans be able to relate to both songs?
Eric: Well you know Borrow You, it doesn’t say it, but it’s really an ode to DJ’s. I’m sure you’ve been there before where the DJ starts playing the Michael Jackson Hour or the Biggie Hour and you’re like, ‘Aww this is my joint’ and you know you gotta get out there, you gotta dance, you gotta feel it. But, you didn’t come with anybody, you came with your friends, but you see something over there and you’re like, ‘Yo, just dance with me, come here and let me grab your hand, I don’t know your name, I ain’t trying to holler at ya, I ain’t trying to whatever- I just want to dance.’ It really kind of built from that. You’re feeling good, you want to dance, you’re like ‘Hey, I caught a little eye connection, and it ain’t really about trying to take you back to the hotel or nothing like that, I’m really just trying to dance with you. Oh, you got a ring on your hand? Hey listen, no disrespect, I’m just trying to borrow You, for a little while and after that you can go home.’ But at the same time, there’s a little wrestling of emotions, she’s like ‘Ooh I like that, but I gotta calm down, let me behave myself.’ He’s wrestling with it too, the whole time he’s being respectful, but he understands when the song is over she needs to walk away.
Clutch: So what’s going on Eric? [Laughs] Are you the type of brother out in the club borrowing women and getting in fights? What’s going on?
Eric: [Laughs] I have, I have, but I don’t really do that, that much now. The one thing about me, when I go to a club now and I hear music, it makes me want to make music. I’m always itching to leave. Itching to get out of there because I see what it’s doing to people. I see how they’re dancing and how they’re enjoying it and I feel like I gotta do it. It just inspires me to make music. So I’m there trying to rush home to get the equipment on so I can add to that energy I just witnessed. It’s kind of funny. With the song Dealing, it’s about that situations I think we’ve all been in and one I know I’ve been in. You’re dealing with someone you shouldn’t be with, but that person has your heart and you’re trying to navigate your way through it. The song is really nothing but questions: Where do we go from here? What must I do with these feelings? The first verse, ‘Why must the bad things always feel this good?’ It really captures that lost period where you’re like, ‘I really need to leave this person but I love this person, but what am I supposed to do now?’ I think you can relate to it from being there before and not necessarily being there right now. I don’t really wish that on too many people, but if they are in it, they can work it out.
Clutch: Now you’ve never been known to be a feature heavy artist, but Music Fan First has about seven different featured artists on it. What compelled you to share the spotlight to such an extreme contrast to your other albums?
Eric: I think it all goes along with the theme of the album. I’m a music fan first. I’m a big fan of Lalah [Hathaway], W Ellington Felton, and all the other features on the album like Slum Village and T3, so while making the record, not only was it people that are heard on the record, but there was people just offering their services to it. I can’t tell you, not only is it the big names from the features, but also how many musicians who would hear what we were doing that would just come to the studio with their equipment and say, ‘Yo, I just gotta be on this song.’ Horn players, base players, guitar players that were loving what we were doing and liked how it was going and liked how the project was going and wanted to play on this joint. I was like, ‘Okay, cool.’ I couldn’t get the song up fast enough. I remember the song Further on the album that features T3 from Slum Village, I was working with Slum Village’s DJ, his name is Young RJ from Detroit, and as he sent me the final mix, he was like. ‘Oh by the way, T3 Rhymes on it.’ I was like, ‘Okay, great!’ I’m a big Slum Village fan so if you tell me T3 rhymes on it, or anyone from Slum Village, I would’ve been ecstatic. The fact is that I probably wouldn’t have asked, because I didn’t think they would have done it, but it’s obvious he is good people, because he went ahead and did it because he loved it. That’s what we were trying to be surrounded by once again, and I have been very fortunate with this album to the people who offered their services to make this a good record. We got it done, and I’m really happy about it.
Clutch: You’re a beast with promoting yourself via the web with such vehicles as YouTube, blogs, and Myspace, which keeps fans aware of all that you’re doing. How do you think the web has played a major part in sustaining your popularity and the promotion of the Eric Roberson Movement?
Eric: Everything is always to direct traffic, and we’ve always done things to build relationships. When we do our shows, I’ve often told people that I would rather have them sign our mailing list than to buy my CD when they leave. I would love for them to do both, but I would rather have them on my mailing list because I would prefer to have a growing relationship with them. Luckily there are some people who bought my second or third album that got on my mailing list, we’re able to keep a connection with them and they were able to grow with us and then add on their people. It’s always been about getting people to direct their traffic back so they can learn about what we’re trying to do. Not only learn about what I’m trying to do, but there are so many amazing artists out here that are trying to do exactly what I’m trying to do that deserve the attention. So I’m constantly saying, ‘If you like this, well then check this out and check that out.’ We’re always continually directing. It’s still a business and our show is one big commercial to showcase a movement. If you feel this, we challenge you to follow it, connect to it, get into it. My staff always helps me come up with clever ideas too keep people interested.
Clutch: So aside from promoting Music Fan First, what can we expect next from you?
Eric: Well it’s a gradual growing process. I’m promoting Music Fan First with touring nonstop, but I’m always open to other ideas. I’m a big theatre buff too. I love acting. My music career hasn’t allowed me to do much of it even though right now I feel like I do it right from the stage. But I would love to if the opportunity comes. If I could showcase other aspects of my talent I’d be open to it. At the same time, my main focus is music and building my label up to where I could possibly release another artist as well. I’m really open to a lot of different ideas and am very fortunate to be able to share these things. It will be just a continuation of teaching people what it is that we do.
Clutch: So have you done anything that we can see you in?
Eric: I majored in college at Howard University in musical theater. There’s not much you can see me in because I haven’t done real theater in years, but at the same time stage is stage. I’ve been on so many stages and performed so much that to me it’s all about reading a script, but just in a different way. I’m singing a script rather than reading it. You’re still portraying characters whether it is Shakespeare or the lyrics to Dealing.
Clutch: Film and television are a big departure from the stage, have you ever considered those areas of entertainment?
Eric: Well I would definitely. At the same time because there’s a lot of time and effort that has to go into it, so if I was to do it, just like with music, I would have to go full out because you don’t want to just shortcut it. For me it’s all about doing it correctly and I would want to do it correctly. I would want to give it my all and haven’t had the time to invest in it the way I would want to do it. I’m on the road half of the year, and the other half I’m at home in the studio. Eventually I’m going to put time into doing all those things.
Clutch: So where can fans go to in order to latch onto the Eric Roberson Movement?
Eric: Ericrobersonmusic.com, that’s the best place. You can check out the forums that I’m constantly on talking to the fans. I have a post on there called Ask Eric Anything, and the page has probably 60 pages of questions now that I’m constantly answering back and forth with them. There’s a blog on there and I’m constantly posting what I’m doing as well as music and art that inspires me. We also showcase my tour schedule and all the things that come with that.
Dealing (featuring Lalah Hathaway): [audio:http://dl2.musicwebtown.com/clutchmagmusic/playlists/283767/2956313.mp3]
Borrow You : [audio:http://dl2.musicwebtown.com/clutchmagmusic/playlists/283767/2956314.mp3]
Softest Lips: [audio:http://dl2.musicwebtown.com/clutchmagmusic/playlists/283767/2956315.mp3]
Only For You: [audio:http://dl2.musicwebtown.com/clutchmagmusic/playlists/283767/2956316.mp3]
[Photo Credit: Photo By D Brown Photos in Austin, TX]