For 20 years, four-time Grammy nominated singer and songwriter, Eric Benét has tackled several topics in his hit songs that has endeared him to fans—being true to yourself, expressing love and appreciation for your boo, righting your wrongs. It’s his ability to tap into these universal themes and stories that make the crooner a favorite.
Throughout the years, Benét has also showed his versatility as an artist through collaborations with artists like Tamia, Faith Evans, Chrisette Michelle, Ledisi, and Eddie Levert. His 1999 number one single, “Spend My Life with You,” is still a go-to wedding song for couples, and the emotional “Sometimes I Cry” brings his fans to tears. In addition to recording music, the Wisconsin native also runs his own label, Jordan House Records, and signed rising stars Calvin Richardson and Goapele. Add to that Benét’s growing acting career, and the singer’s got a lot on his plate.
Now the R&B superstar is is back and working on a new album that will be released this fall. “Sunshine,” the first single off the album, is a falsetto summer groove record about a relationship losing its zest after a long period of time. The single has already touched a chord with music lovers and one of the most added songs at R&B stations around the country, from New York and Detroit, to Little Rock and Savannah.
Recently, Benet chatted with EBONY.com about why it’s important to deliver music that is soulful and real, working with his daughter, India, evolving as an artist, and his forays onto the screen.
EBONY.com: Let’s talk about your new single, ‘Sunshine.”
Eric Benét: “Sunshine,” is a record that talks about how a relationship has lost its way or spark. The love and commitment is still there but let’s get back to the romance. You know, can we rediscover the passion when we first met? This usually happens when couples have been together for a long time but somewhere down the line, the fire is gone. “Sunshine,” is just about bringing back the light so it won’t be so dim.
EBONY.com: How is this new album you’re working is different from your previous releases?
Benét: I really took more time to work on this upcoming album. My last album was paying tribute to ‘70s music, country music, and reggae. But, with this album, I am unapologetic and I am making R&B music on my own terms. I am doing it on my own pace because I want it to be a great album. And then I have my wife and two girls and I want to be there with them. So it’s going to take me a little bit longer to make an album. I can say the music on this new album is completely fresh. In the studio, we would have a great melody and then start picking up a guitar and making chords that would touch us emotionally. I just want the music for this album to be organic.
EBONY.com: What was it like working with your daughter, India on the “Sunshine,” single?
Benét: Actually, my daughter wasn’t featured on the song. She was in the “Sunshine,” video but India is extremely talented. She is 24 now, graduated from USC, and working on her music. She is a great writer and very passionate about her musical journey. She creates amazing music on her own; she doesn’t wait for me at all. It is important for me not to imply what I want from her when it comes to her music.
EBONY.com: What are some of your favorite records?
Benét: Well, my favorite record would have to be “Sometimes I Cry,” because it is such a profound record. It’s like I’m telling my fans that they’re stronger than their pain and it’s okay to let it all out. Each time I look into the audience, I believe that’s what I’m telling them when I perform that song. And that’s one of the reasons why I can relate to my fans. My fans are feeling what I’m singing about at that given moment.
EBONY.com: Are you working on any other projects outside of music?
Benét: Man, I just love the arts and I would like to explore myself more artistically. I’ve been writing songs but I write stories, screenplays, and poetry. It is a great exercise for creativity because I am challenging myself creatively as well. But, I have a project that I can’t really talk about as of yet, but I will be able to reveal more about it soon.
EBONY.com: How have you evolved as an artist?
Benét: I have evolved as an artist because I believe music is supposed to be real and true. I have evolved as a man, father, friend, and as a human being. I have also learned from my mistakes and accept that change is important. Not all change is bad. Therefore, you have to be more mindful and accountable about the decisions you make in life. Even though I’ve made mistakes, I can say my journey is full of authenticity because I didn’t deny my ups and downs.
The one thing I’ve learned is that you can’t let environmental factors try to deter who you are as a person. It’s a misfortune, but that’s the ugly side of the business. I am now in a place where I have to be truer to myself first before anyone else. If you’re not real, how can you expect others to be real with you? The older you get; you aim to have an understanding of who you are as a person. But, I can honestly say, I am a better me than I’ve ever been in younger years.