While prepping his new music, soul singer Eric Roberson found the songs he was working on weren’t flowing together.
“I sat and started writing songs, and the songs didn’t sound like they belonged with each other,” he says. “I would have a love song, and then I would have a song about Donald Trump. I asked myself, ‘Where was I going?’ I had all of these things in my head. So why don’t I put this in this folder and that in that folder?”
Roberson ended up compiling the music into three EPs: “Earth,” “Wind” and “Fire.” “Earth” is currently in release. “Wind” will be out July 21; “Fire” will be released Oct. 20.
“I’m really excited about this,” Roberson says.“‘Earth’ is a self-empowering, inspirational album. It’s about making oneself better and following our dreams and understanding we’re very small under God. But we can grow. ‘Wind’ is a love album. It’s closest to my usual albums. ‘Fire’ is my ‘What’s Going On’ album. I’m attacking police brutality and the crazy political system we’re in.”
Making “Wind,” Roberson gave fans a peek at the creative process. Through a website and Facebook page, fans helped him pick mixes and songs for “Wind,” which will include a song with Will Downing. (He didn’t do this with “Earth” because he was close to finishing that first EP.)
“My thing is, we’re losing a culture of reading the credits, knowing who played the bassline on what song,” he says. “So why not be completely transparent? It’s been a fun learning experience for both sides.”
Though Roberson is a fan of Earth, Wind & Fire, the trilogy is not based on that band.
“I pay homage to Earth, Wind & Fire on every album I do. But I didn’t want to put out an album called ‘Earth, Wind & Fire.’ I might receive a cease-and-desist order at any moment,” he jokes. “It’s all in good spirits and love. We’re not taking anything away from Earth, Wind & Fire.” I can’t say enough how many lessons I’ve learned from that band.”
One of the highlights of “Earth” is its uplifting “Superman,” which Roberson wrote with his children in mind. The song lets young boys know they don’t have to settle for being Clark Kent because they can be Superman.
The song “Superman” originated from the album “Chasing Goosebumps” by the PLAYlist, an artist collective Roberson was a part of. The original version featured Glenn Lewis on vocals. The new one is Roberson accompanied by Lewis, and Roberson changed it up a bit.
Roberson returns to St. Louis for a special reason. His show Friday night at Mandarin House is a benefit for Nichol Stevenson, co-owner of Cafe Soul, the long-running open-mic R&B event. Stevenson has leiomyosarcoma, a soft-tissue cancer.
“Nichol is a great person — very supportive,” Roberson says. “If I can be a part of something that’s supporting her cause, that’s what I’m going to do.”
His friend James Glasco, a St. Louis producer and songwriter, told him about Stevenson and that an event was coming together.
“I wanted to be a part of it; it’s a no-brainer,” Roberson says. “If it wasn’t for people like Nichol, I wouldn’t have a career — people like her who brought me to their market.
“I sit down and figure out how I can give back, what I can add my name to help with the conversation. It’s a battle we have to fight.”
What Eric Roberson, with additional performances by Justin Hoskin, Rollyn “Klassy” Moore, Dakota Pagan, Quintin Brown, D’Neika Marie, Rhoda G and more • When 8 p.m. Friday • Where Mandarin House Banquet Hall, 8008 Olive Boulevard, University City • How much $40-$50 • More info 314-504-7405