NOLA native, Erica Falls, shares how her 9th Ward upbringing paired with personal experiences crafts her sound.
In a place where there’s talent on almost every street corner, Erica Falls is one of the very special soul sounds that was bred from the Crescent City.
Exposed to a variety of different music across many different eras and genres in her home at an early age, Erica is carving out her name in the neo-soul spotlight. Being a “Homegrown” girl, which is also the name of her current album, Erica covered the main experiences that she thinks a visitor to New Orleans must have.
“The food of course. The best food is found in the aunties’ or your grandmother’s kitchen here. You know, the restaurants are great but if you want the real deal you had to find good close friends make friends with somebody here and find out when they’re cooking some red beans, or some gumbo, or some etouffee. That’s the best. Of course. The music. And you have to find it’s good to find the locals when you get the truly indigenous music here like our brass bands and our Mardi Gras Indians. You know?” Falls lamenting on the Big Easy.
“A lot of people think our Mardi Gras and our carnival is just Bourbon Street but for us people of color, it’s Orleans and Claiborne, under the bridge. You know, so that’s where we do our thing on Mardi Gras day. And the third thing would be–just soak it up. You know that the culture and kind of walk the streets and engage the people we’re friendly very hospitable. We love to you know engage folks and have conversations. So I think really engaging with the locals and finding out about us and who we are and how we move. You know that’s important to us. So that’s the three things for you.”
Now, a solo artist and the front-woman of the power-funk band Galactic, Erica is, by no means, new to the industry. Erica began performing professionally in the 90s when she was six months pregnant with her daughter, at a Bourbon Street venue called The Old Opera House. The youngest of eight, she explained that she comes from a city where music and culture is ingrained in its people.
“It’s no big deal to hear a second line, a brass band pass in front of your house. So we’re raised in the music. And so it’s a part of everything that I do. As far as writing music sounds, you know the horns the brass the drums you know the syncopated beats.”
As each individual area of the city of New Orleans manifests its own different type of spice that adds to the city and the culture, Erica said being a Ninth ward girl, everything started from within her home. Erica’s mother was a piano player, organ player, and singer. All of Erica’s brothers and sisters sing as well.
“So everything musically started for me right in the house. And so that’s my first go to when I’m creating my sound. And then as I got older, I was a “kept” kid. My parents kept it sort of close to the house. I couldn’t date until I was 18. That whole thing. I snuck out on a few dates, though. But, when I was able to branch out a little more and start soaking up everything within my own city, I learned of Irma Thomas and I learned of the Neville Brothers and the Meters and Dr. John and Allen Toussaint. I was like ‘Wait–these are homegrown people. These are New Orleans people, just like me.’ And I was so fortunate to work with a lot of these people. So they were silently teaching me the whole time. So, all of those things helped me to create myself.”
As she gladly welcomes being a neo-soul artist in a genre that is continually changing to have a broader appeal, Erica expressed that she describes her music as “vintage soul”, but still falls under the neo-soul umbrella.
“It’s like that old schooled sound, but with a modern feel and that’s very important to me, because I grew up listening to it like the Ohio Players and Grand Central Station and the Emotions and Denise Williams and Roberta Flack. And that’s when songs had some real structure to it. And so that’s very important. We had a bridge and a song at that point you know you know he was going to the chains everybody sometimes was your favorite part. You could wait for it to come. So all those things are very important to me in my writing because I like to take my music. I like for my music to be an escape or relatable. You know if you’re having a hard day I want you to put my CD on and my music on and you know kind of forget about your troubles if you come to my show. You know that’s that’s what what I’m like. So those things –those elements are very important and into the music for me and into my sound creating my sound into the song.”
If you’re not listening to Erica Falls, and you’re looking for a place to start, she suggests starting off with “Makings of Love”.
“My favorite song is Makings of Love. And it’s sort of a personal story. You know when you when you’re falling in love for the first time you know you want to make sure that. You know it has a little bit of everything that you’re looking for. So makings of love you know it came from. ‘Listen I need a little love I need a little joy and some patience. I need some compassion I need support and so it’s it was almost like. You know before ‘boy meets girl, girl meets boy, it’s chemistry’. You know that’s the first line. ‘But as time goes on here comes the question Are you the one for me?’ And so that’s what I was dealing with entering this brand new relationship and I was a little concerned you know is this guy really going to handle my heart like he should. And so that’s how this song came about didn’t work out. But you know I got a song out of it, he was a muse for a minute. So that’s that’s a story.”
Musically, Erica talks much about relationships. Her music describes how to love in life, and how to feel what may or may not be real. While speaking on her own experiences, she agrees that sometimes, people are scared to ask their significant other for the things that they need, maybe already knowing that the person might not be able to provide those things and you have to move on.
“Yes. And the key is you know they can’t provide it in the beginning. You’re hoping and then at the end he was like ‘Well I know better’. So you’ve got to pay attention to those red flags and listen to your heart.”