- Smooth Jazz Network
Eric Darius: Behind the Beats
Each week we'll take you 'Behind the Beats' to learn more about the artists that play on our airwaves. This week: Eric Darius.
Saxophonist Eric Darius is climbing the charts with yet another hit tune, His latest single “That’s My Jam” is currently in the TOP 10 on the SMOOTH JAZZ TOP 20.
Eric, thanks for taking some time with us! "That's My Jam" is really doing well and I saw first-hand how fans reacted during your live performance of it on the Dave Koz & Friends at Sea cruise. How did this tune come about?
Hello Allen, it’s such a pleasure! Thanks for having me! That’s My Jam is a song that I wrote recently that pays homage to one of my closest friends who recently passed, Willie Payne. Willie was like a big brother and mentor to me and was a huge supporter of Smooth Jazz! He was always the life of the party everywhere that he went! Any time he heard one of his favorite songs, he’d stop whatever he was doing at the time, put his hands up in the air and yell out: “That’s My Jam!” and hit the dance floor. This is one of those jams that captures his infectious energy that I know he would’ve loved, so it felt right to name the song after one of his favorite past times…living it up and dancing like no one is watching! Willie truly inspired me to live life to the fullest and this song always reminds me of so many unforgettable memories with him!
And you have Justin Lee Schultz guesting on the single….
Yes, Justin Lee Schultz is featured on this track! I’ve been following his young career since he was 12 years old and I just love how he’s representing the next generation with his unbelievable talent! I performed with him sometime last year and absolutely loved his contagious energy and youthful vibe! I reached out to Justin when I was working on this song and thought that he would be the perfect addition as I know that Willie also would’ve loved him! He knocked it out of the park and definitely brought the song to another level!
You seemed to be ubiquitous on board the Dave Koz & Friends at Sea cruise. I think I saw you playing in the atrium and then on the main stage seemingly seconds apart…. Tell us about your experience playing on Dave’s cruise.
I had such an incredible time being on the Dave Koz Cruise sharing the stage with so many incredible artists and hanging with all of the fans! After everything that’s happened over the past several years with COVID, this cruise was something that we were all really looking forward to. The energy was unreal, and the experience was truly like a once in a lifetime kind of experience! I had such a blast jumping from one stage to the next, hosting events and doing impromptu jam sessions with so many of my friends whom I hadn’t seen in a while. It’s not every day that Dave Koz, Kirk Whalum, Candy Dulfer, Mindi Abair, Richard Elliott, Marcus Anderson, Adrian Crutchfield and I are all on the same stage together jamming and trading saxophone licks! This is just one of the many things that makes this cruise so much fun for both the artists and the fans. Dave does such a great job of bringing everyone together and creating such a unique, memorable experience for everyone. There were so many wonderful memories made during those 2 weeks on the cruise that I’ll never forget. Not to mention, my parents celebrated their 45th wedding anniversary with us during week one on the cruise, which made it extra, extra special!
Tell us about SagiDarius Music.
SagiDarius Music is my independent record label that I started about 5 years ago. The name itself is a play on words as I’m a Sagittarius, born in December of course. J The music industry has changed in so many ways from the time my career launched over 15 years ago, and I felt that it was time to take a leap of faith by going independent, take complete control and ownership of my music from start to finish, and embrace all of the new opportunities and technologies now available out there! There is really no better feeling than having true creative freedom and being able to make music directly for my fans with no restrictions or boundaries. It truly has been the most rewarding yet challenging thing I’ve ever done as a recording artist. Prince laid the blueprint years ago for empowering artists by taking creative control and ownership of their own music, and I’m following in his footsteps. Running your own record label is a huge undertaking and responsibility, but I wouldn’t have it any other way! My ultimate vision with my label is to expand in the near future and sign upcoming, emerging artists, giving them a commercial platform to release their music.
You started saxophone at a young age. Tell us how music influenced your early life.
Music has always played a huge role in my life for as long as I can remember. I was exposed to all styles of music at an early age, as my parents were always playing music around the house. The music I grew up listening to literally became the soundtrack to my childhood as I began to really develop a love and passion for it! I started playing the saxophone at the age of 10, while my older brother played the trumpet, my sister sang and played the piano, my father played the bass, and my mother sang also. We had our own family band for a short period of time, playing Caribbean music and bonding together as a family through music! Shortly after, I joined a big band called Sonny LaRosa and America’s Youngest Jazz Band at the age of 11, playing the music of artists such as Duke Ellington, Count Basie, etc…touring worldwide with kids ranging from the ages of 5 – 12. We performed at the Montreaux Jazz Festival in Switzerland in front of thousands of people, and the instant connection I felt to the audience watching them smiling, dancing and clapping while we were performing completely changed my life. At that moment, I realized that music is a universal language that everyone can relate to and nothing brought more joy to me than bringing joy to others with my music. I decided at the point, at the age of 11, that I wanted to pursue a career in music. I followed my passion from that point on performing hundreds of shows as a teenager while attending Blake High School of the Performing Arts in Tampa and recording my first album at age 17. Music was my creative outlet for expressing myself and some of the best memories of my childhood involved performing. My musical opportunities early on in my life truly helped to shape me and prepare me for what was to come next. I got my first record deal while I was a sophomore studying music and business at the University of South Florida in Tampa, and the rest is history!
I recall a story of when you were a young performer and you met Dave Koz…
My Dad would take me to many of the jazz concerts in Tampa, so that I could see a lot of the artists who inspired me, and I enjoyed listening to. I was a huge fan of Dave’s and first met him around the time I was 12 years old after one of his performances in town. Not only was I was completely blown away by his performance, but he was so gracious and encouraging when I met him backstage! I actually recorded a version of his song “Misty” and gave it to him. Several weeks later after listening to my recording, he took the time to mail an autographed photo to me and told me that I sounded amazing and to keep up the great work. I’ll never forget that!
And you are very involved with music education.
I am very involved with music education and launched my On A Mission in the Schools initiative geared towards promoting the importance of music education in the schools, inspire the youth to express themselves positively through music, expose them to jazz and encourage them to follow their dreams. I attribute a lot of the success in my career to the incredible opportunities I had in school and strongly feel that music should be a vital part of every child’s education. With so many budget cuts affecting music programs these days, I felt a responsibility to try to keep the music alive by going to elementary schools through colleges around the country and make a difference through my workshops and programs. This is something that is extremely important to me as I’ll continue my mission in the schools for many years to come!
You have performed with some talented artists over the years. Can you share a couple of highlights?
I have been so blessed to have shared the stage with so many world renown artists over the years who have inspired me such as Prince, Mary J. Blige, Jamie Foxx, David Foster, Carlos Santana, George Benson, Marcus Miller, and so many others! There’s been so many highlights but one of them that truly stands out was the time that I performed with Prince. He was doing a residency at his Club 3121 at the Rio Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas years ago for a short period of time. I knew several members of his band at the time and they invited me to come to one of his shows! After watching his electrifying performance, Prince invited me to come and jam with them at his late night after party which went until 5:00am! That was a life changing experience jamming alongside him! Even after performing a full two-hour show, he was even more excited to do an impromptu jam with all of us after his show!
Another one of the highlights was performing with Mary J. Blige and David Foster together on national TV on a show called The X Factor on Fox for the launch of her Christmas album. I had a solo on “Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer” and performed right next to Mary J. in front of millions of people. It was definitely a dream come true!
Anyone you’d like to perform or record with, but haven’t had the opportunity?
There are many people I would love to have the opportunity to perform and record with but artists at the top of my list are Stevie Wonder, Bruno Mars, and Alicia Keys.
…any newer talent you’ve discovered lately?
I saw a very talented vocalist by the name of Rebecca Jade performing with Sheila E. several years ago and I have been following her career! We are currently touring together, and she is a featured guest on my new album! She has an incredible, new project coming out soon, and I love to see of the amazing things that she’s doing.
What’s on tap for the remainder of 2022?
I’ve got quite a bit going on the remainder of the year that I’m really excited about! I recently launched my world tour a few months ago, which goes until the middle of November. We have so many exciting shows coming up worldwide and I can’t wait for everyone to see my new show. Also, I’m releasing my 8th album titled “Unleashed” on August 12th, which was produced by Grammy Award winning, Philip Lassiter. I feel that it’s my best work yet and I’m really looking forward to sharing my new music with everyone! In addition to this, I was just selected as the Artist of the Year at the Rehoboth Beach Jazz Festival and will be honored at the festival in October! I’m so thankful to be receiving this honor and look forward to celebrating it with my family that weekend. I just recently hosted the San Diego Smooth Jazz Festival at the spectacular Rady Shell at Jacobs Park and will also be hosting the Florida Smooth Jazz Weekend in Daytona in November! Lastly, my On A Mission in the Schools workshops will continue this Fall during the upcoming school semester, so I’m getting really pumped up about mentoring the students again. To keep up with what’s next, everyone can go to my website which is www.ericdarius.com and/or follow me of Facebook, Instagram, & Twitter under the handle @ericdarius. Thanks again for having me, Allen, and for always supporting my music! Can’t wait for what’s in store for the rest of 2022!