They say you can’t have it all. But Eric Benét’s life as he tells it, seems to be the exception to the rule. The singer recently married Manuela Testolini last summer and the two celebrated the birth of their first child Lucia, Benét’s second daughter, in December 2011. His oldest, India, is now a 20-year-old college student attending USC.
On his sixth studio album The One, released in early June, Benét sings of gratitude to the women in his life with “Real Love” dedicated to his wife, a duet with his daughter India titled “Muzik,” and a lullaby “Here In My Arms” dedicated to his baby daughter.
Moreover, Benét has finally created an album that is totally all him. After breaking ties with Warner Brothers the singer released his first album on his new label Jordan House Records. While maintaining his soulful and R&B roots on The One, he explores with a country-inspired track “Come Home To Me;” a little bit of reggae with “Hope That It’s You;” and a tinge of hip-hop with a feature from rapper Lil Wayne on his song “Red Bone Girl.”
Also, after a career that spans two-decades, Benét still gives his fans a moving and satisfying live performance. He’s currently on tour with fellow Soul star Ledisi, and at a recent tour stop at the Beacon Theatre in New York City, he brought singer Tamia to the stage for a surprise feature to sing their hit love song, “Spend My Life With You.” He exited the stage at the end of his set with a standing ovation.
In between shows, Eric Benét gave EBONY the scoop on touring with Ledisi, how his new marriage and daughters have inspired his latest album, and all the other reasons he is winning right now.
EBONY: Why is the album called The One?
Eric Benét: It’s the one that I’ve been trying to make my whole career. The project that I own completely. The project that I have complete autonomy and creative control over. And I recently started my own record label which is something that I’ve been aspiring to do my whole career.
EBONY: You’ve already released five studio albums before this. Lyrically and musically what did you want to do differently with The One?
EB: I wanted this project musically to show diversity, depth, and evolution as a songwriter and as a singer. And I think by nature of the project it’s a very core Eric Benét fan-based record. But there’s also obvious songs where I pushed the envelope, where people don’t expect from me… a country song, reggae… So I was able to just do what I do but also push the envelope in a couple areas.
I’M NOT KNOCKING WHAT NEW R&B IS. IT’S FUN. IT FEELS GOOD IN THE CLUB WHEN I WANT TO DANCE AND I WANT TO HEAR THAT. BUT I DON’T THINK IT SHOULD BE CALLED R&B ANYMORE.
EBONY: “Real Love” was your first single. What will be the next single?
EB: Well it’s not for certain, but what we’re working right now is “Harriett Jones” and that’s going well. But what we’re looking at is a song called “Runnin’,” which I like to refer to as a grown-ass man song. It’s a very evolved-guy’s perspective of the joy and the simplistic beauty of being in love versus being that guy out there just running around from situation to situation.
EBONY: After marrying last July and having a baby, how have these experiences inspired your current music in any way?
EB: Well I think as a songwriter, my life is always reflected in my music. At least for me. And so being married, being in love again, knowing the blissful joy of being a father all over again, I think it just widens and deepens my life experience. When my life is fuller I think the music is fuller. And from a more literal perspective, I definitely pull from my life when it comes to this project. The first single, “Real Love” is all about my relationship with my wife. And the song “Muzik” is a song I do with my daughter India, about our relationship. “Lucia’s Lullaby” is dedicated to my new baby. It was a melody I would actually sing to her before she was born and was still a prenatal and my wife and I wrote the lyrics when she was born.
EBONY: Your oldest India is a young woman now, and now you have a new born. How does that feel to start at that point again with raising Lucia with a little more life experience, as compared to being a younger dad raising India?
EB: It’s very different the first time. The first time I was very much a kid. It was wonderful to be a father and India was the best thing that happened to me. But at the same time I was very afraid — not afraid — I guess trepidation; doubt. Like, “Can I really do this?” Like, “Am I going to be all the things that I need to be and do all the things that I need to do?” Now that I have this 20-year-old wonderful and talented, beautiful, gorgeous daughter. I now have Lucia with all the joy and all the bliss without all the