Eric Roberson wrote and produced songs for Will Smith, Jill Scott and many artists you probably worshipped in high school. But what is most remarkable, more than the big names in his resume, is the lurking irony ever present in his career.
Roberson was signed to a major label in the 90’s. He even had a hit song, “The Moon.” And this is where the life is stranger than fiction alternate universe sets in: it was as an indie performer and not label star that he earned Grammy and BET nominations. On his own merits, Roberson sells a large number of digital albums and has his own profile on MTV.com beside the mainstream greats.
When you write songs for other artists, do you ever want to shout at people, “I wrote it!” Fans credit the singers and not the songwriters more often than not!
Nah, if I wrote something for someone, then I was willing to give it away. If I wrote a song that was too personal, then I wouldn’t sell it, and that happened a lot in my career. But I truly enjoy being in a crowd while an artist is singing a song I wrote. I get a chance to witness people’s reactions to the song. When I’m on stage performing, I can’t focus on that as much as I can when I’m in the crowd standing next to them.
Do you like writing lyrics first? Do you write all the accompanying parts to your songs?
I have no set pattern. Im constantly writing lyrics but probably more to stay in shape for when the inspiration hits me. That’s pretty much what I’m doing though… Chasing inspiration, and that may start with the music or the lyrics.
You’ve been on a major label and released your music independently. What are the pros and cons of each?
Well, the main pro about being on a major is the machine behind your project. The marketing budgets alone will be larger than an indie’s entire project. That will temporarily open doors that are hard to get to.
The main con about the majors is artistic freedom, and control sometimes is not even an option for the artist. That’s pretty sad: to spend a career doing music you don’t particularly love.
The number one pro about being an indie artist is you have the ability to create and release music truly the way you want to. If it doesn’t work, I can live with the fact that I did it the way I heard and felt it.
The major con on the indie side is that you have to wear hats that you may not be prepared to wear. Just because I can make songs, doesn’t mean I’m not an accountant, nor can run a record label. hahahaha..
What do you love about performing for a live audience?
I love the trade off between the crowd, my band and me. There’s truly a collaborative effort in making an amazing artistic night. We go on stage with a loose set list and really allow the show to go in whatever direction the night needs it to go. So I really love connecting with the crowd. When it’s right, it’s like being in heaven.
You are a great role model for independent musicians because you’ve earned Grammy nominations and a BET award nomination ― all with your indie music. A lot of independent artists think that is impossible without a major record deal. What did you do differently? Besides believing in yourself, of course.
I pretty much have this career by mistake. The fans heard what i was doing as an artist and forced me to take the business serious. I literally started with a handful of fans and built it one by one. So it created a very stable relationship where I believe I’ve earned their trust.
You will never hear me say signing with the majors is a bad thing. But, it’s not for everyone. And if your music is ready, I don’t think you should wait for the majors either. The Grammys and other nominations and awards were clearly not expected, but at the same time, my peers and I were prepared for it. I truly believe my indie work is the same or better quality as anything I’ve done with the majors.
BET is incredible for still backing artists while MTV quit playing music videos. Which artists have you seen on BET lately who have really caught your eye…and we would love?
I hope BET continues to play music videos. The artist I say to look out for is Aaron Camper. He was a recent BET Music Matters Artist and I feel is next in line to do big things.