For Eric Darius there are no limitations when it comes to breaking new ground. Internationally known as an elite Contemporary Jazz Saxophonist, Songwriter, and Performer, Darius recently dropped, “Dare 2 Dream,” the second single from his forthcoming album, Breakin’ Thru, slated for release this summer (2018).
This project is an extra special milestone for Darius as it is his first release via his own independent label, SagiDarius Music. The title track and debut single for Breakin’ Thru has been a staple at Smooth Jazz radio since its release in the fall of 2017, and has allowed fans to salivate on an exciting uptempo instrumental while he finalizes in what may be his most adventurous project to date. Breakin’ Thru will feature an estimate 10 songs plus some interludes with co-production by Darius, Rodney Jones Jr. (Musiq Soulchild, Mary Mary, R. Kelly) and Butta ‘N Bizkit (Ledesi, John Legend, Ne-Yo, Miguel, R&B singer MAJOR). A nationwide tour is also underway to promote the Breakin’ Thru album.
Eric Darius was born in Livingston, New Jersey, raised in Tampa, Florida, and now resides in Los Angeles. At the age of 17, he recorded and released his first album titled, Cruisin’, which would lay the ground work for his seven full-length albums: Night on the Town (Higher Octave Music 2004), Just Getting Started (Narada Jazz 2006), Goin’ All Out (Blue Note Records 2008), On a Mission (Shanachie Entertainment 2010) and Retro Forward (Shanachie Entertainment 2014).
With six highly-acclaimed albums to his discography, Darius continues to rack up some impressive statistics: Three No. 1 Singles; Ten Top 10 Radio Hits on Nielsen’s R&R/Billboard Contemporary Jazz Chart; named 2015’s SESAC Top 10 Jazz Artist of the Year; 2017’s Best Jazz, Saxophonist, Composer, Producer & Musician of the Year Award at the 1st Annual Citril Starz Awards; 2004’s Debut Artist of the Year, Smooth Jazz News, with more milestones and honors to come.
Music Industry Quarterly caught up with the talented Darius for some up close introspection.
Congratulations on the release of the “Dare 2 Dream” single. Why did you choose to go it alone with this particular album Breakin Thru?
I’m really excited to release the album on my own record label. The timing felt right. Seeing how the music business has changed over time, I wanted to take complete advantage of the technology and social media that is at my disposal – putting the music entirely back into my own hands and giving the audience and fans an experience exactly the way I hear and feel it. Breakin’ Thru is about breaking down all of the walls, barriers and boundaries, and just making good music. It’s not about genres. When you listen to this project, you’ll hear so many elements from Hip-Hop, to R&B, Pop, Rock, Gospel, Funk, and Reggae. I don’t want to be caged or boxed in. The project is a true and honest representation of me as an artist.
Talk about the success you’re having at radio with “Dare 2 Dream.”
“Dare 2 Dream” has been very well received so far. I’m very excited about that, because I’m always trying to push boundaries with my music. When it comes to the Smooth Jazz format, stations typically like to play a certain style or sound of music. When it comes to “Dare 2 Dream,” there’s elements of Pop and R&B, which you don’t typically hear in Smooth Jazz, but it’s being well-received. It’s already in the Top 10 on Billboard’s Smooth Jazz Charts, Top 10 on Media Base. It’s moving really well.
A lot of satellite stations are giving me support. Watercolors on SiriusXM are great supporters, and even some non-traditional Jazz radio stations are supporting the new single. It’s very encouraging to me. I’m doing some promotional stuff at radio: call-ins, liners, etc., and with me constantly touring we will schedule more radio station visits with each city I’m in.
You seem to stay on the road, who handles your bookings?
I have a booking agent out of New York who handles most of that, Mighty Music Corp. My schedule is jam-packed until October/ November; almost every weekend is full in different cities around the country. There are some dates out of the U.S. like Midem in Cannes, France this June. I’m performing in London this summer, Cancun in September, and Japan later this year.
Which do you prefer: the big summer Jazz Festivals, or the smaller more intimate venues?
I love performing in a variety of situations because they’re all different. It brings out a different side of me as well. I love small venues because it allows me to truly connect with the audience on a one to one basis. It’s a different energy when it seems you’re performing in your own living room for friends and family. By the same token, I love performing in front of thousands upon thousands of people. There’s an energy and natural high that I get playing in front of so many people, you can’t compare that to anything else. The wonderful thing about Jazz is there’s so many different types of venues and opportunities to play music and connect with the fans. You can even throw in the cruise ships. Next year I’m doing the Smooth Jazz Cruise with Marcus Miller, Lalah Hathaway, and others.
You’ve been signed to a number of indie labels throughout your career. How has it helped you in owning and operating your own label?
Having worked with so many record labels, I’ve gotten the opportunity to get the inside scoop on how labels operate. I’ve learned so much about these entities, and they’ve given me insight on how to run my own business, and I’ve applied those principles to what I’m doing now as CEO of my own record label. I’ve learned a lot and I still have a lot more to learn as this is a new venture for me.
So, what’s been the most challenging for you?
Wearing so many different hats. Within record labels there are so many different departments. In owning my own label, I’ve had to wear every different hat for every different aspect. It’s very time consuming when it comes to running everything yourself. From a financial aspect, I don’t have a record label financing my project, so everything falls on my shoulders. It’s a huge responsibility but if I didn’t think I could handle it then I wouldn’t have pursued it.
In 2015, Performance rights organization SESAC named you Jazz Artist of the Year.
That was an honor. Every time I’m recognized for my hard work its validation for me personally. I know how much I put into what I do. When I’m given recognition for it, it’s a great feeling. I never rest on my laurels. I continue to push myself to take things forward. I’m continually appreciative of SESAC. They’ve been very supportive and truly believe in my music and my vision and have been in my corner since day one. I’m continuing to grow and push the boundaries and appreciative of the support I get.
Your first CD came out when you were only 17, when most guys that age are rapping or are interested in being Hip-Hop artists. What made you take to the saxophone?
I’ve loved music since I was a kid. I come from a very musical household. My Dad plays the bass, my Mom sings and plays piano. My older brother plays drums and the trumpet. My sister sings and plays clarinet. My parents exposed me to so many styles and genres of music as a child. I grew up listening to Earth Wind & Fire, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Al Green, George Benson, David Sanborn, and Grover Washington Jr.
There was something about the sound of a saxophone that truly appealed to me. It spoke to me every time I heard that instrument. I was nine years old at my church, when I first saw someone physically play the saxophone in front of me. Just listening and watching him play the instrument, stirred my soul. The emotion of it reminded me of a voice. It was so expressive, I could almost hear the words of the song coming from the instrument. I felt as if the saxophone chose me, as opposed to me choosing the saxophone. It spoke to me in a way I never felt before. Literally after church, I told my parents I wanted to play the saxophone, and I never looked back since.
What’s the best thing about being Eric Darius?
I’m living my dream. I have the opportunity to not just make a living at what I do, but to touch people’s lives and share with the listener my God-given gifts. There’s nothing like it. I actually dared to dream, and I get to do it every single day.
Interview Conducted by David A. Mitchell