Ladies Love Cool Eric. The soulful serenader can still make the girls giggle. He’s hopes to continue making the legs quiver and the stomach do somersaults as he cuts the artistic umbilical chord from his old label and creates a new independent joint, replete with brand new album, One.
High up in the Hard Rock Hotel overlooking arguably the most majestic downtown in the country (Chicago), Eric Benet sits with that 11 O’clock lean and speaks with a low baritone that belies his excitement and anxiety as he wraps his mind around the concept of being an entrepreneur and a musician at the simultaneously. While some entertainers have exemplified a certain level of dexterity at being both a businessperson and an artist, Benet will tell you right off the rip that it is not an easy thing to execute and sustain.
Benet speaks with rolling out about why he broke out on his own and what he thinks about the state of R&B.
How does it feel to come out with your album under your own label?
Liberating. Being an artist at a record label for 13 years, I wanted to have a certain level of autonomy … restrictions, dependence and having to have someone approve. That can be a trying process. It was about them wanting to have more control, them trying to steer me in certain directions.
Are you concerned about the R&B genre, that the great talented soul singers of today would be much bigger stars if they were coming up in the Whitney Houston-Anita Baker-Mariah Carey era?
Am I concerned about R&B. My gut response is no. Although there is a huge difference at what is at the top of the charts and what is R&B today — which doesn’t feel like R&B at all. It feels like a combination of techno, hip-hop, dance and auto tunes. And those are the biggest R&B stars right now. However, there will always be an audience for music with integrity, authenticity, rawness and realness.
Stay tuned for rest of these answers as well as Benet delving into other, more sensual and musical topics very soon. —terry shropshire