By Charles Hallman
It’s been almost a year since Eric Benét’s mid-life maturation took place: He got remarried last July and starred a month later in his first leading film role. Then last fall he was nominated for a Grammy and a Soul Train award, followed by the birth of a baby girl with his newlywed, Manuela Testolini (who was once married to Prince) around Christmastime.
“I feel I am at the strongest of my game I’d ever been, both vocally and creatively,” says Benét in a recent phone interview with the MSR. “I’m in my 40s now, and one thing about getting older, and I think that is one of the things about wisdom in general, [is that] I just appreciate everything more now than when I was in my 20s.”
Benét will soon release his first album on his own label, Jordan House Records. The One is expected to be released June 5. “Real Love,” the album’s first single, has been climbing the Urban AC charts since its release earlier this year.
“Along with that control and autonomy also comes the blessing to being able to do whatever the hell I want to do,” he points out.
Benét’s label’s name honors his family — his full name is Eric Benét Jordan; Benét is his mother’s maiden name —and the house in Milwaukee where he had grown up. His neighborhood was full of music — and the Jordan house often was the epicenter.
However, starting his own record label took a long, sometimes frustrating time because of his contractual obligations, Benét notes: “Signing a record deal with Warner Bros. very early in my career — signing with [any] major record label means in a lot of ways letting go of a lot of control.”
It was a lesson he had to learn. “It was right after my first experience in the music business when I was signed to EMI with my sister in 1992,” Benét recalls. He, sister Lisa and cousin George Nash, Jr. formed a band called Benét and released an album. “All of a sudden we were signed to this major label, and I learned real quick that when you don’t have control, you really don’t have anything. That’s when I realized I needed to learn as much as I can, and that as soon as it is legally possible for me to [I should] own everything that I can.
“It took me a little longer, a decade and a half, but now that I picked up some gems and nuggets of knowledge along the way, I will try to make [this label] everything it could be.”
Lil’ Wayne is among the featured artists on Benét’s sixth album: “I’m a fan of his daringness lyric-wise, and his strength as an artist,” notes Benét, who adds that once he learned that Wayne liked his Grammy-nominated song “Sometimes I Cry,” “He was my first thought to ask him if he wanted to be a part [of the album].”
“I’ve taken chances on this record,” Benét adds. “I think my core audience is going to definitely hear what they know and love from me musically, but there also some things on it that I tried to bring in some more people.”
Benét also does a duet with his oldest daughter: “India is unbelievably talented, and it always has been my thought” to do a song with her, says her proud father. “She always has been a strong writer in addition to her voice. I definitely always wanted to have a song that I felt [would] accentuate her vocals.”
Benét wanted his father-daughter duet to be stand out “without it being cheesy or being weird, because usually male-female duets are about love or relationships or love lost,” he admits, but he believes the song instead displays “a beautiful father-daughter type of relationship. I think it does a great job of letting people see a little bit of the incredible talent she has.”
Benét also talked briefly about being a father to a second child: “When my first daughter India was born, I was very much a kid. It was the best and most wonderful thing that ever happened to me, but at the same time [I had] a lot of fear [of] not knowing what I was doing. Twenty years later, I’m a little bit wiser and more grown up.”
In Trinity Goodheart, a GMC Television original feature film released on DVD in March, Benét co-stars with youngster Erica Gluck (who’s had roles in TV shows The Game and Girlfriends). In the film, Gluck plays a girl who goes on a journey to find her long-lost mother, and Benét plays her father.
“At 12 years old, [Gluck] already is a veteran. She was just a joy to work with — I feel I was spoiled. An experience like that really makes me excited about doing another movie,” Benét notes.
Benét recently appeared with Chaka Khan and other artists wearing hoodies in a video on Trayvon Martin. “That whole project was very spur-of-the-moment. It was something I was happy to be part of.”
For more information on Eric Benét, go to www.ericbenet.net. For more information about Trinity Goodheart, go to www.watchgmctv.com.
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to [email protected]