After four solo albums, three Grammy nominations, and more than 15 years of caressing a microphone with his vocal effervescence, Benet drops his fifth album on November 30. This latest project, Lost In Time, is an eclectic journey framing the timeless beauty of soul, sound and heart strings.
In this interview, Benet tells Insight News about his latest album which features guest appearances by artists such as Faith Evans, Ledisi and R&B great, Eddie Levert.
Insight News: Avid listeners of your music might notice that with this new album you’ve taken a shift into more of an old school R&B inspired sound. What made you make that transition?
Eric Benet: When you listen to most of my songs from the first record and onward, you can hear some 70s influence on a lot of the writing and production. I think I’ve always been one of those artists that you can definitely hear the influence of the early 70s when it comes to Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, and Al Green. The difference on this particular record is that instead of just doing a flavor of that era and that time period, I wanted to completely immerse myself, or attempt to, in the time period of the mid to late 70s, the production styles and the sense of trying to get as much technology out of the studio as possible to make a record that was completely live and raw and real. There are R&B artists out there who do that every now and then, but often times when R&B artists in 2000 try and make something that’s all live, and real, it’s either thrown into an alternative R&B category, or a high brow, smooth jazz territory.
What I was trying to do was make the kind of popular R&B that was made in that time period, but just do it with live instruments. I think it’s a progression from the way I made the last few records.
Insight News: I had an opportunity to listen to the album and I must say that it truly is incredible. Just noting how a lot of artists nowadays aren’t going for that “real sound,” I think your album is going to be something that encourages people to get back to the basics of songwriting and music, and put the same quality out there.
Benet: Well that is my hope. I think that technology and the infusion of Hip Hop and Techno into what is considered R&B has drained the live element out of music. It’s very difficult to have a very personal and passionate track when it’s all loops and sequences, or the vocals are autotuned and protooled to the hilt. I would hope that this album, and even Maxwell’s last record, will successfully help record companies take notice that people actually want this kind of music. Hopefully, they then will invest in more artists that want to do something that is very natural, real and raw like this [album]. I hope you’re right.
Insight News: On your new album you have duets with Eddie Levert, Ledisi, Chrisette Michelle and Faith Evans. How did you choose the people and how was it collaborating with them?
Benet: While working on my last record, “Love and Life,” one of the questions I was most frequently asked was: what contemporary artists are you feeling? The two names that I kept thinking of were Ledisi and Chrisette Michelle because I love what they do. My cousin George and I had pretty much wrote and produced the whole record. But when we finished two specific songs, it was natural for me to think: I’ve been blowing these two girls up for the past couple of years, so let me reach out to them and see if they’d like to be a part of this record.
Eddie Levert is a legend. When I think of my childhood, one of the staples in the soundtrack of my growing up was the O-Jays. They always had a hit on the radio, and today, [an O-Jays song] takes me right back to the 7’s and makes me feel good. The cool thing about the O-Jays was that they had the feel good songs like “Used To Be My Girl.” But they also had some very socially conscious song such as “For the Love of Money,” and “Backstabbers.” So when George and I wrote this song called, “Paid,” it sounded so incredibly much like an O-Jay song, that I had to reach out to Eddie and ask him if he would work with me. Once again I was blessed. He loved the demo.
Faith and I did Georgy Porgy ten years ago. Somewhere in the back of my mind over the years I’ve been trying to think of the right song for Faith and I to get together on again. When we finished “Feel Good,” it just seemed like the perfect song for her.
Insight News: Which song on this album do you think you’re most proud of, and why?
Benet: That’s one I can’t really answer.
Insight News: [Laughs] You must love them all just like I do.
Benet: [Laughs] It’s one of those things where it almost sounds like a cliché answer, but they’re like all my children, and I love them all for different reasons. My mood changes, and sometimes I’m feeling this song, and sometimes I love performing another one. So that one I don’t think I can answer. I love the entire album.