In 1995, after playing a concert for students at Huffman High School in Birmingham, AL, Eric Essix met a young Ruben Studdard. Ruben’s fellow students persuaded him to sing and Eric listened in amazement and said “young man that voice will take you wherever you want to go in the music industry.” Eight years later, Ruben became the second winner of the hit television show, American Idol!
Eric and Ruben have, over the years, discussed one day working in the studio together and, when considering possible collaborations for his new album “Stride”, Eric knew he would be the perfect person to sing his arrangement of the Bill Withers classic, “Ain’t No Sunshine”.
“My goal when covering an iconic piece of music like this, is to try and preserve the character and soul of the song while creating instrumental moments that will compliment rather than distract from it,” Eric says. “This song is so elegant in its simplicity. It’s a study in songwriting where the lyrics tell a complete story with very few words and Bill Withers delivers a vocal performance that is both understated and stunning. I believe Ruben’s interpretation is one that Mr. Withers would have approved and it was an absolute joy and honor to work with him on it.”
The single is the first from Eric’s new album, “Stride” the follow up to his “Songs From The Deep” album which was released in 2020 and produced the radio hits “Late Night Drive” and “The Deep”. It is Eric’s 28th album as a solo artist since his debut, “First Impressions” in 1989. The new album's release is set for July 1, 2022.
Songs From The Deep is the 6th album I've written and recorded that honors the people, the history and the culture of my home state of Alabama. I made a conscious decision on the first of these records ("Southbound" in 2000), that I would focus the rest of my career exploring the music that influenced me the most as an artist - gospel, blues and jazz - whose roots are here in the South. Ricky Schultz at Zebra Records (Warner/Electra/Atlantic) supported my decision and gave me an opportunity and the platform to follow my heart with my second effort on his label...and I truly thank him for that. It helped me find my voice as a composer and arranger and defined who I wanted to be as an artist. This video for my latest single, The Deep, is an extension of this ongoing exploration of my Southern Roots complete with scenes of both rural and urban Alabama. I hope you will enjoy experiencing it as much as I enjoyed producing it.
"When I was a kid, one of the things we would do as a family for entertainment was pile into the car and my dad would take us on long evening rides through the city of Birmingham while listening to music on the 8 track tape player," Eric recalls. "On one of those trips, I discovered Wes Montgomery's "California Dreaming" album and that's when my love affair with jazz truly began. I tried to capture the feeling and wonder of those moments experiencing jazz for the first time with this song." The video - directed and edited by Eric and filmed by he and wife Tomiko - takes the listener on a nighttime journey through the streets of his hometown of Birmingham, AL. Eric guides viewers through downtown, past the historic 16th Street Baptist Church, Kelly Ingram Park (where the Foot Soldiers gathered) and a replica of Birmingham's iconic "Magic City" sign that decades ago, welcomed visitors traveling by rail. Eric plays his striking, trademark red Gibson guitar underneath the colored lights of the city's newly reconstructed interstate system to emphasize the theme.