Though Eric Roberson is most comfortable in T-shirts and sneakers, the singer-songwriter donned a suit to celebrate the release of his eighth studio album, Mr. Nice Guy on Wednesday. Held at New York City’s Bubble Lounge on a rainy night, supporters braved the harsh weather for the gentle sounds of the man dubbed “King of Independent Soul Music.”
Opening with “Summertime Anthem,” Eric managed to heat up the room despite the fall temperatures and even brought out the legendary Chubb Rock to perform. Maintaining the crowd’s undivided attention for almost an hour, Roberson shared a couple of jokes before dgging into his last album Left. Then the R&B man rocked a fresh freestyle, using the words “contagious,” “chicken,” “potatoes,” “vodka,” “pineapples”, “octopus,” “splinter” and comedian Kevin Hart’s newest phrase “Alright, Alright, Alright.” I don’t know how he was able to do it but he created an amazing three minute song.
Following the Bubble Lounge party, Roberson headed straight to SOB’s on the city’s west side to host the monthly Singer’s Room showcase. This month in honor of CMJ Music Marathon & Film Festival Week a few new acts performed including CJ Hilton and Bridget Kelly, as Pharrell Williams and Roc Nation label head and father-to-be Jay-Z. Changing into a more comfortable kelly green sweater, Eric rounded out the night with another freestyle, this time with the words “mini skirt,” “hypocrite,” “crackhead” and “orgasm” and a chat with Parlour. He talked about his supportive family, his “locked up” hometown and his beloved alma mater, the world-famous Howard University.
PARLOUR: Many musicians don’t attend or finish college but you dropped out and returned to complete your degree.
Eric Roberson: When I got my record deal my sophomore year, I don’t know if I had any intentions of going back. If I’d sold millions of records, I probably wouldn’t have returned but in hindsight, it was the best decision of my life. Since my first deal didn’t work, which is still one of the hardest times in my life, I came back to school a better student, songwriter, singer and person.
What got you through tough times?
Writing songs, no matter what happened. I have always been a writer, and after going through so many deals and they aren’t working out … it’s funny how my love life and music life have always been parallel with extreme ups and downs.
Now that your music career is doing well so is your love life, how long have you been married?
Three years and we just had our first son, he’s one years old. The parallel is still parallel, I’m building, investing and growing.
How are you balancing your career and your family?
When I can, I bring them everywhere. My son already has a passport and in his first year we went to London and L.A. a few times. I have an expremely supportive wife who works very hard at her job, which challenges me to work very hard on my job as well.
Tell me about Rahway, New Jersey … it’s claim to fame is jail?
I end all my shows by introducing the band, their hometowns and then I say I’m from Rahway, New Jersey. It’s probably more known for its prison. I didn’t know my town was a rare until I got to college, I thought everywhere had enormous prisons.
This weekend you’ll be at Howard’s Homecoming in Washington, D.C., how is it going back?
Howard homecoming is the best in the world, I love it. I went to a school where I had the same teacher as Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway, now I sing with his daughter Lalah. Howard’s talent didn’t start with my circle and it’s not going to stop with us.
Mr. Nice Guy is your eighth studio album, yet many people still don’t know who you are. Do you feel ever feel under-rated?
No, that means we have room to grow. I don’t want to ever feel the ceiling, I’m still selling my first album. I want to grow old doing music so whether you get it now or when I’m 80, come on in.
I guess you can be an advocate proving that nice guys don’t finish last.
Nah, we just have to be patient and find our course, then we’ll finish first.