He’s a soul singing and writing virtuoso, who is celebrating 20 years in the music industry with two 2014 album releases, the first being last month’s highly anticipated B-sides, Features and Heartaches. Those blessed to have seen him in live performance know that he’s master of the impromptu verse, taking random words from audience members and creating instant melodies that materialize radio ready. Many also have come to know him as 1/4 of the Stellar award-winning gospel ensemble United Tenors, along with Fred Hammond, Dave Hollister and Brian Courtney Wilson. But what some may not know about Eric Roberson, outside of him being the consummate artist, devoted family man and all-around nice guy, is that he also is an MS Awareness advocate who’s passionate about spreading information and “opening up” the conversation about the disease. Eric kindly agreed to discuss his experiences dealing with a loved one’s MS diagnosis and how he’s become more educated about the illness. He also gave insight into his latest projects, and how some songs have become his favorites.
What inspired you to become involved with the Walk MS campaign?
The main thing that inspired me was my wife was diagnosed with MS a little over five years ago, right before we were married. We both said at that point, “what can we do?” We believed there was a higher purpose. We also noticed people could have MS for quite some time, and not be diagnosed or realize it. You may be dealing with something that doesn’t feel right and just kind of shake it off as having a tough day. The great thing that my wife did was, the first time something felt different, she went and got checked out immediately. And even with that, it was a year-long process before they diagnosed her. I was supporting her, and realized that awareness of MS needed to be amplified.
MS was something that I knew nothing about for the most part. I knew a little, but not enough to have a conversation about it. So my wife and I got involved in Walk MS, and I would mention at shows, we would hand out pamphlets, and anything we could do to participate. We were on a cruise last year, and there were two young ladies that we met walking with canes. My wife went up to them, introduced herself, and eventually found out they both had MS. They exchanged numbers and they’ve kept in touch. I think it’s really important that people who are dealing with the same issues stick together, inform each other, and learn about it so we can do better with this disease.
As a person that came to know more about MS through this experience with your wife, what is one thing that you’ve learned about this condition that you wish more people understood?
The number one thing is you need to really know your body. Not just in realizing you could be dealing with MS, but once you’ve been diagnosed you have to know what works best for you; whether it’s medicine, lifestyle or daily schedule. Understand physically what medicines can do for you, and how the atmosphere or your environment affects you. My wife and I weren’t opposed to a hot stone massage or something like that beforehand. But now we’re wiser to what heat may do, and how being out in the sun causes certain effects.
How many years have you participated in Walk MS?
For about five years straight now, and we’ve built a pretty good team! They go above and beyond my expectations with recruiting and putting stuff together. Walk MS is such an inspiring day, and my goal is to participate in it as much as possible. My wife and I have two boys, and she did the walk while pregnant both times. We tweet, Instagram, and use social media; which are good ways to start conversations and let people know their money can go towards helping people living with MS and research. It’s also a way to share information with those newly diagnosed who may not know what to do, and others who may feel something’s not right and need (encouragement) to get checked out.
After my wife went to the doctor the first time, it took several ER visits and doctor appointments before MS was even mentioned. I don’t think doctors were even considering it. It was a year before we found out what we needed to do, and it’s unfortunate because that’s lost time. We need to open up the MS conversation, so people can know to ask certain questions. If my wife and I were more aware of MS, we would have been able to pinpoint and describe what we were dealing with at those doctor appointments. Talking about it, doing the Walk, using social media opens up the conversation for people to share and help others down the road.
Let’s talk music a bit. Here’s the MMT signature question: if you could portray any artist on the screen, past or present, who would it be and why?
Ooh (laughs). That’s a great question. I would want to portray Paul Robeson. I was initially going to say Sam Cooke, and I’m allowing vanity to interfere (laughs). I’m a lot bigger than Sam, he was a slim, suave guy, so I’ll have to lose a lot of weight to play him. But I would love to play Robeson not only because of his talent, but the trials and tribulations he went through as he furthered his art and his fight for equal rights.
Do you have favorite songs of your own?
Yeah, I always come up with favorite songs. There are so many songs that have stood the test of time, and I always look forward to, but a lot of times I look back at the memories of making the records and the good times associated. This latest album I relate (favorites) with meals. I recorded the song “Let Me Know” with Angela Johnson, at her house. And she’s vegetarian, so I ended up eating vegan pizza with vegan cheese for the first time, and it was really good. And the song “Postcards From The Edge” brings back good memories because I did it with Wes Felton, who had a new son, and we were eating sushi and just multi-tasking. We were recording the song, with his child on our lap, sushi on our lap, just having a good time (laughs).
Check out the companion Examiner article here to find out Eric’s motivation behind B-sides, Features, and Heartaches, and when to expect the second album coming later this year. You can also go to his official website here, to purchase music, watch videos, and get event & concert updates.
For those who wish to donate to or join my Walk MS team, click the logo at the top right of this page or click here.
Until next thought family, Thomasena