By Heather Wall
A few years ago I got my first car. He was called The Black Stallion and was a battered old VW polo, who’s fifth gear used to pop out and I had to get the passenger to hold it in whilst I drove. In addition to this, ‘Stally’ had a radio I used to flick through, and it was on that radio that I discovered ‘Riddim FM’.
One night on Riddim, a station that remains very dear to me, I heard a beautiful soul track, a pulled over in the car to ‘Shazzam’ it. It was Eric Roberson with ‘Summertime Anthem’. Ever since that night in The Black Stallion I’ve kept my eyes and ears open to what Eric Roberson has been up to.
Based in New Jersey, Eric embarked on a UK tour a couple of weeks ago and I caught up with him at the Manchester leg of their tour. We sat down on a comfy brown leather sofa and I asked him what he thought of Manchester. He doesn’t get to see the cities that he tours in very often, but particularly liked the kebab joint that used to be situated opposite Band On The Wall, which he was disappointed to see had been closed down. We also talked about Toronto, where he has another favourite restaurant where he took his gospel band United Tenors and every member of the band ordered ‘Ginger Fish’. He likes his food.
After the interview, which will be out in full with next month’s instalment of the Mostly Mobo podcast, we chatted further about faith. It transpired that Roberson, like me, is a practicing Christian. We talked about Jesus, church and being a person of faith in the music industry. He’s a gentle, but highly talkative man and it was really encouraging to hear him talk about being a musician but loving Jesus all day every day, and hearing him talk about his ‘walk’ and finding balance in his life.
Later that evening I returned to Band On The Wall for Roberson’s live show. He’d changed out of his leather jacket and trousers into a blue checked suit, retaining his trademark large think square glasses. He was clearly born to perform.
At the beginning of the show, he said that many artists ask their audiences not to take photos and keep their iPhones away. Not so Roberson. He, in fact, enforced a mass ‘selfie’ where the crowd were called on to take photos of ourselves with Roberson in the background. In previous interviews I’d seen that he has said that the secret to making it in the music industry is ‘completion’ (of songs) and business prowess. Roberson clearly takes his own advice. He massively sung to the cameras and to the fans, making it feel even more intimate. His backing singer was similarly hilarious. They had a little double-act going, where Eric was mirrored in a comic style by his sly support from the side. A third into the set, Eric also played out a bit of a slapstick comedy routine with his backing vocalist. The story was of a couple of guys who went to a club together leaving girlfriends at home, and were somehow allured by girls . I couldn’t really do the sketch justice. It was not what I was expecting from the gig, but was a welcome addition! When you see Eric Roberson, you don’t just see the singer. You meet his whole personality.
Musical numbers he graced the audience with included Picture Perfect, written for his wife when she was pregnant and felt less than perfect. Where Do We Go From Here, Mr Nice Guy, to the crowd’s glee, and Just Walk Away were other tracks included in the set list. There were quite a few tracks from his new album, B-Sides, Features & Heartaches as well, such as Fortune Teller.
Half way through the gig, Roberson set to prove his songwriting skills. He took words from the fans such as ‘transcendental’ and improvised a song using the chosen words. He was particularly funny when he made very kind fun of the member of the crowd who didn’t actually know what her word meant.
If you like soul. If you like performance. If you like fun. Interaction. A SHOW. Eric Roberson is your man.
Oh, and did I mention that he’s absolutely lovely?