Music Interview: Singer Eric Benet on Love and Life

eric-benet-1By: Melody Charles

Literally and figuratively, Eric Benet is singing a new tune these days.

Just over three years ago, the contemporary R&B artist, producer and songwriter found himself reeling from a painful divorce with Academy Award-winning actress Halle Berry.  His third CD, 2005’s “Hurricane”, ended a six year recording hiatus while laying bare the angst and upheaval of re-adjusting to single life in the spotlight. With the release of “Love & Life”, Mr. Benet displayed both inner peace and a new-found exuberance with himself and his music.

“I’m the kind of songwriter where the writing reflects where I’m at in my life, and “Hurricane” was a very introspective, soul-searching, sometimes a little dark, kind of record,” said the 41-year old performer. “Right now I’m in this place of happiness and peace and loving life, hence the name of the album.”

Benet did more than purge away the demons; he also sought his Milwaukee, WI roots to team up with his cousin, George Nash, and long-time collaborator, Demonte. “We just locked ourselves up in the studio and made this record that we’re very proud of.” It’s proving to be a successful formula, since its seventies’ flavored first single, “You’re The Only One,” is already number one on Billboard’s Hot Adult R&B Airplay chart and number twenty on its Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, respectively. Mr. Benet said that he purposefully adopted yesteryear’s multi-layerered approach to crafting the music while retaining his modern edge.

“There’s a lot of good stuff and there’s a lot of bad stuff on the radio, quite frankly. There was a certain way of crafting a song back in the day that a lot of artists have strayed away from. Nine times out of ten, when you hear an R&B song, some producer was in the studio, made a hot track and gave it to somebody to write on top of, and sometimes that makes for really fun music. But the way they used to make music was that somebody would sit at the piano, have the melody weave in with the chords and create the lyrics to make sense with it all, with a beginning, a build and an end, so that’s the way I tried to write the songs on this album. With the first single, “You’re The Only One,” you can really feel that old school, classic R&B.”

While Benet says that he doesn’t have a favorite song (“it changes with my mood”), he does confess that he enjoyed recording for the first time with his 16-year-old daughter, India Jordan. “She’s extremely talented,”he brags.  “She writes and plays the guitar. She was a little nervous, because this was her first time, but she knocked it out of the park. She went in there like she was a pro. I’ve worked with a lot of background singers before and she just nailed it right away, which is rare.”

An industry veteran with over a decade’s worth of hits under his belt (“Femininity,” “Georgy Porgy,”  “Spend My Life with You,” “Pretty Baby,” etc.), Mr. Benet has worked with some of the best and the brightest in the music industry, recording with George Duke, Wayman Tisdale, Earth, Wind & Fire, Tamia  and Faith Evans. His wish list of musical partners includes the likes of “Al Green, Chaka Khan, Stevie Wonder, Bobby Caldwell and Steely Dan—-that would be a dream come true.”

And about his personal life?

“I’ve been seeing somebody for a while,” Mr. Benet says of his girlfriend, Manuela Testolini (Prince’s second ex-wife), “so I’m not accepting or putting out any applications right now,” he laughs.

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