Eric Benet has been making the most of turning 50.
A week before his birthday last October, the neo-soul crooner released his seventh studio album, titled “Eric Benet.” It’s his first stateside release since “The One” in 2012. (He released a couple of projects overseas in the interim.)
“I never want to oversaturate myself here at home,” says the Milwaukee-born, LA-based Benet, on the phone from Cleveland. “So, every four years, that’s a pretty good amount of time for me between albums.”
The first single off the album is the horn-heavy “Sunshine,” which is another fine example of the organic musical composing he’s been down with since his first album, “True to Myself,” was released 21 years ago.
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“I’ve always been a huge champion for live instrumentation – live horns, live strings, live keyboards – and just celebrating instrumentalists and playing the instruments on my records,” he says. “You know, I like to think it’s something that I’ve been evolving and getting better at over the years.”
The video for “Sunshine,” which shows him recording the track with a full band, also features his daughter, India, singing background vocals. (She doesn’t actually perform background vocals on the song.) It turns out the twentysomething India Benet also is working on music of her own. Does this mean we’ll see her collaborating with her old man anytime soon?
“I’ve definitely had her in the studio a few times,” he says. “But I think I much prefer her to forge her way creatively and with as little of my influence as possible, you know. Like, I mean, I kinda taught her foundations, you know, the pillars of music and this, that and the other. But, then, from there, I just want her to forge her own way, really, and she has been. She’s been recording some incredible music.”
India isn’t Benet’s only child. He has two young daughters with his second wife, Manuela Testolini, who was once married to Prince. She’s been married to Benet since 2011. (He was memorably previously married to actress Halle Berry in the early aughts.) Being a family man has definitely shaped how he creates music these days.
“I’m home as much as I can be, and even if I’m in the studio, I make sure that I’m home by 6 p.m. for bedtime and bath time and all that fun stuff,” he says. “I think that one of the great things about being a parent is, you know, it’s almost like being a parent has a way of underscoring some of life’s fundamentals that you’ve been taught, because you have to teach them all over again to somebody who’s two and three and four and five years old. And a lot of those lessons – it might do you some good to hear them again.”
Unfortunately, Benet won’t be doing the bedtime/bath time thing as often for awhile. In the next few months, he’ll be on the road, performing with British vocalist Marsha Ambrosius as part of “The M.E. Tour.” They’ll be making a stop Friday night at the Ritz in Raleigh.
“I was approached with the idea of it months back, and I immediately saw how our chemistry would be great for a tour,” he says.
Benet and Ambrosius have known each other for years, back when Ambrosius was the “songstress” part of the all-girl duo Floetry. As someone who has done past duets with such singers as Faith Evans, Tamia, Meshell Ndegeocello and Ledisi, could this also lead to a possible collabo in the future?
“I mean, we messed around in the studio, like, way back in the day,” Benet said. “But I don’t think anything was ever released. But, yeah, I’m always open to going into the studio with somebody who’s dope and talented and musical and just wants to have fun and make great music.”
But above all else, Benet hopes that audiences will understand that, whether he’s recording music or performing it for the masses, his family is never far from his mind.
“I just want them to appreciate that I’m trying to be the best father and the best man that I could be, you know,” he says. “They can look at my kids and see them, these incredible girls. They’re all just well-rounded, powerful, confident, beautiful women. And I would hope that (audiences) can hear that that’s all I ever really wanted to do – just be the best me that I can be.”
What: “The M.E. Tour” with Marsha Ambrosius and Eric Benet
When: 8:30 p.m. Friday
Where: The Ritz, 2820 Industrial Drive, Raleigh
Details: 919-424-1400 or ritzraleigh.com