If there is a face to the independent soul music movement, it is probably Eric Roberson. The respect he receives from other artists has been driven by his uncompromising success as well as from the unselfishness he has shown in support of other up-and-coming singers and musicians. That peer love appears to only be exceeded by the near fanatical following he has among a surprisingly large fanbase, making him a sort of indie soul royalty.
Born and raised in a musical family in Rahway, New Jersey, some of Roberson's earliest memories were of his father singing and playing guitar. Eric was singing even as a child, and began performing in earnest as a teenager. He attended Howard University on a Musical Theatre scholarship and performed frequently on campus, while also landing a recording contract with Warner Brothers, for which he recording the R&B hit "The Moon" in 1994.
Following graduation, Roberson gathered a reputation as singer, songwriter and producer, and over the past decade he has worked with a virtual "who's who" of adult soul artists including Jill Scott, Musiq Soulchild, Vivian Green, Dwele and Will Downing.
The desire for creative freedom led Roberson to shun major labels and work as an independent for his solo career, beginning with 2001's The Esoteric Movement. Over the next half decade he violated virtually every tenet of conventional wisdom in fashioning one of the most successful independent recording careers. He's released albums when he felt like it, and sometimes reworked and reissued them. He's also sold his CDs principally through his concerts, small retail outlets and CD Baby, resulting in over 100,000 copies sold of his four critically acclaimed albums, The Esoteric Movement, The Vault, Vol 1, The Vault, Vol 1.5, and 2005's The Appetizer. The latter album won for Roberson two SoulTracks Readers' Choice Awards for best album and best male artist.
Roberson followed in 2007 with Left, another solid album that continued his winning streak and topped the indie soul charts. And in 2009, he released his most ambitious disc yet, Music Fan First. It won for him multiple SoulTracks Readers' Choice Awards and solidified his position among the indie soul royalty.
In 2011, Roberson signed with Purpose Music Group and began work on his Mr. Nice Guy album. It is slated for an October, 2011 release date and has generated much pre-release buzz.
A tirelessly touring artist, Roberson plays 8-10 sold out concerts each month and is a guest vocalist on countless albums by other artists. The success of Eric Roberson's activity outside the mainstream has made him a role model for other independent artists and has resulted in a career that continues to build momentum, completely on Roberson's own terms.
By Chris Rizik