Eric Benet is making power moves in 2014, not only as an artist, but also as a label boss and executive. Along with beginning the recording process for his next studio album, a follow-up to his latest successful effort, The One, the veteran R&B crooner will launch albums from soul singers Calvin Richardson and Goapele after signing both artists to his Jordan House record label. In addition, Benet will executive produce the upcoming reality TV show, Sub-Stars, which will showcase the talents of the best “underground” musicians, discovered in the subway systems of major cities across the US.
Singersroom caught up with Benet to touch on all his upcoming endeavors…see what he had to say.
On his recent performance in New York City
I think the show went really well; it was a packed house. I do what I do; I gave my all on stage. I had my band and sh*t was off the chain. It was a great show. Every region in the country has its own personality, and New York has that. For New York, it's like if you’re not really bringing it, we're not going to be too polite about it. New York is that kind of audience! I remember when I first started out; New York was the kind of city that was like if they don't know or if they are not familiar with your music, you might have to deal with some crossed arms in the first, like two or three songs. But if you're coming with it, by the time you get half way in your show, people are standing on their feet and screaming for more. I'm grateful that I am at this stage in my career where people are familiar with my music, with who I am, and what I do now. I remember when I first started out, there were cities that were polite, but with New York, it was like we're going to have tough love for you. So that's what I like about New York.
On his collaboration with Faith Evans on the holiday record “Christmas Without You”
Well, Faith is one of those people…. she's just like a sweetheart and I love her to death. Obviously, we have a long history together. “Georgie Porgie” was a big hit for the both of us back in the day. We stayed in touch, and we collaborated a few albums ago. But, last year, I was in the studio with my partner Damonte Posey, we were in the Christmassy mood and we came up with this vibe for the song. And it was very natural for me to say that Faith will sound dope singing this song with me. We actually did this in October of 2012 and the song is not really attached to an album or a particular project. It's just one of those I'm in a Christmas mood, and I'm going to write a Christmas song and ask Faith if she wants to get down on it with me. And Faith being the sweetheart that she is; she's like, “yo, I'll be in the studio. How about tomorrow?” And she knocked it out, and the song seems to be something that people are really digging. It was us recapturing that holiday mood and spirit. I think it has a shot of being one of those classics.
On Possibly working with Faith on a collaborative Project
I mean every time you get in the studio, and you work on something, it's just so smooth and effortless. I think we still have that mutual admiration for each other as artists. And so, I am always down to do anything with Faith. She has a beautiful personality and obviously ridiculously talented and just easy to work with. So, if Faith calls me today and was like “yo, I want to do a Faith Evans, Eric Benet album like some Marvin Gaye and Tammie Terrell type sh*t,” I will be like I am In. It speaks to the level of her talent, her character, and personality. That's a big part of it because if you do a project with somebody, it's just not really about just their talent. Because you're realizing that you're going to be promoting this sh*t together; we're going to spend a lot of time and hours out here doing this and you want to be doing that with somebody who is just all around dope; not just their voice and talent. Faith is definitely that person.
On upcoming projects and Signing Calvin & Goapele to His Jordan House Imprint
My record label, Jordan House, is where I released my latest project, The One, and right now I got my fourth single off The One, and it's called "Runnin'". It's doing really well on the radio. Actually, we signed a few artists to Jordan House right now. One is Calvin Richardson, who is an amazing vocalist. A lot of people know who Calvin is. He's got that vintage soulful and effortless brilliant voice and I couldn't wait to get in the studio with him and write some stuff with my partner Demonte. We're just about done with his record. We also just signed Goapele; Goapele is a dope artist and so clear about who and what she is creatively. It's just been so fun being in the studio with her. Goapele has that eclectic thing and so we're going to be really busy in Jordan House this year. While I'm getting into this Goapele record, I am actually going to be starting the next Eric Benet record as well. So, it's going to be pretty busy.
On the takeoff of Jordan House records
The One was really the foundation of Jordan House. Jordan House was only a record label that I released my album on, but I had such great success with my record that I loved the idea of reaching out to some artists, who I felt like their particular creative journey was where I was trying to go with Jordan House. It's really about knowing what the potential is in certain artists and calling and seeing if it can happen.
On possibly signing other artists
Ummm… not right now. For the first quarter of 2014, we're going to be pretty damn busy with just Calvin, Goapele, and Eric Benet. Who knows what mid-year is going to bring; there may be another artist. For right now, we're just going to concentrate on that.
On Calvin Richardson and Goapele’s sound
Well, I think for every artist; we endeavor to grow and step out a little and evolve. But, at the same time, we don't want to do anything, speaking for myself, that is non-congruent with who we are and what we are. I think the same thing applies to both Goapele and Calvin. With each artist, we sat down and talked about the kind of project that each one respectively will make and Calvin was very clear. Calvin was like, Look E, you know what I do; I like soul music. I basically want to do a sexy ass record. I want to do a record where people put it on and kind of just want to stay home, cut the light off, and cuddle up with who they’re with and make a couple of babies. And that's pretty much what we did. But with Goapele, she is a dope blend of eclectic soulful, alternative; Oakland, California kind of soulful thing. She wants to do that again, but she also wants to try some new things. So, I think for every artist, it's all about look let’s look at your body of work and let's look at what we're trying to do here.
On his involvement with the Sub-Stars TV Project
Well, I had a friend of mine, who had this concept for the show, which was based on traveling all around the country and trying to find the most talented people. For anybody who is a subway commuter, you've been walking through the subways, and you saw some crazy talent. You probably was like damn, why is this person not signed or have a record out? So, Sub-Stars is an opportunity for incredible talent like this, all around the country, to have a platform. The television show will be talent competition based, and the winner will be signed to my label. There's a lot of cool things about the concept where everybody can download a Sub-Star's app to their Smartphone. Everybody can be a talent agent. Like in Philly, you may see somebody performing on the street, and you may wanna film 15 seconds of it and send it to the Sub-Star app and see if this person is worthy of being on the show. It's a talent competition show that is not like any of the other ones. It seems like the other talent shows are more about the production of the show. You never really know if the producer picked their own favorites and it seems like it's more about the glitz and glamour, whether it would be the X Factor or American Idol. It almost feels like a glorified karaoke show, but these people on Sub-Stars basically made this their life. They wake up in the morning, and they're like let me go down here and make some money. This is their life right now. These are not people that are auditioning for talent contests. These are people who have chosen this as their life. It's going to be a gritty; real raw concept. You can go to SubStarsTV.com.
On working with Kevin Hart on the Real Husbands of Hollywood reality TV show
That show is so fun to hang out on because you know it's a TV set like no other. It's no stress; it really feels like what it looks like. It's really like a bunch of dudes hanging out, having fun, and the cameras are rolling. And we're just clowning, having fun. You know how crazy and funny Kevin is, and he is that funny in person. He's cool and down to earth. People you've met along the way in the industry, like your Bobby Brown or Nelly, you get a chance to work with them on a comedic level. It not only show the unique talent, but working with people like that, you really get a chance to see their character on a one to one basis. Everyone is so dope and cool on that set. I look forward to the next time I'm on set with those fools.
Transcribed by Dominique Carson