It takes a certain drive and determination to be great at what you do. Gifted and talented on levels we can’t begin to imagine, Erick Walls plays his hand at all things music and he delivers a striking beat that we want to hear over and over again. A multi-instrumentalist, Grammy award-winning, Emmy nominated songwriter, producer, and powerhouse in the grand world of music, he got his start at a very early age playing in his father’s church. With faith as his foundation, he has taken his childhood passions and dreams and turned them into his reality. Erick has a musical resume that runs deep working with some of the most powerful names in the industry. As a founding member of the international recording Alt-Rock duo, Black Waat3r, Erick shows us his true love for everything that is the creation and art of music. To love music is to know it has the power to create something very magical, a combination of beautiful melodies meeting for the first time to deliver lasting memories. It’s easy to strive for something, however, when you truly want it there is nothing that will keep you from achieving it! Without further adieu, pull up a chair, get cozy and dive into this open and amazing conversation with a true MVP in the music world.
Born and raised in Durham, North Carolina you developed a taste for music at an early age by playing in your father’s church. As a multi-instrumentalist, you are an MVP in many aspects. Talented on the guitar, bass, drums, and piano you can switch gears without skipping a beat. Would you credit the time spent playing in the church as what shaped you musically, and what is your fondest memory from that time in your life?
My early musical education came from being around my late father, George Walls, who was a gospel singer, recording artist, and preacher. All my earliest memories are of watching him release and going with him to the studio, church, and everywhere else.
I vividly remember being very young and realizing how special being surrounded by music was!
My fondest memory of that time was performing on stage with him and his group when I was around six years old. I actually have it on Beta video tape somewhere in the archives.
The life of a musician seems to move quite fast at times and your resume truly tells a story in itself. Having worked with some of the biggest names in the industry. From Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Beyonce, The Black-Eyed Peas, Shirley Caesar, Rihanna, Usher, and the list really does go on and on. How do you remain grounded and focused working with such an eclectic array of talented musicians?
My faith foundation is my absolute anchor. Navigating the music business is tough and has many challenges. My understanding is that God allows us to be in possession of our gifts, we don’t own them. We’re simply vessels. Good stewardship over the gifts yield returns and sustainment. The Bible states “A man’s gift maketh room for him, and bringeth him before great men.” Proverbs 18:16 KJV, and basically knowing that allows for me to feel like I belong in every room I might find myself in.
You attended The Berklee College of Music and then decided to move to Los Angeles. Were you always determined to make your mark in the music industry?
Growing up in a musically rich environment encouraged me to believe that a career in music was both realistic and attainable. Growing up, I was constantly reading album credits and realized that the majority of what I liked was produced and recorded in Los Angeles. Getting to LA became an early goal of mine.
My parents were always encouraging of my ambitions and made me believe that I could achieve anything I set my mind to. They encouraged me to plan everything as thoroughly as possible. By attending Berklee, I was able to connect with many other like-minded individuals, allowing me to expand my professional network.
With some formal education, a network, and God’s favor, I jumped at the first opportunity to relocate to Los Angeles.
Has there ever been anyone you were nervous to work with?
To be quite honest, no. However, I was a bit star-struck initially meeting Whitney Houston. All I could see was the ion from my childhood standing in front of me. I was eventually able to compose myself and get down to business though. She had a special type of Star power that’s very rarely seen.
As a songwriter, you are tasked with capturing the essence of what the artist is thinking, and what they want the listeners to feel the first time they hear a song. How do you know once you have created a masterpiece?
The songwriting process for me varies depending on the dynamics of the relationship with the artist. I believe the best songs are ones that are interpreted through genuine connection with the lyrics and melody. Spending time to get to know an artist almost always ensures that something meaningful and special will be created. Honestly, I feel that creating a masterpiece is like capturing lightning in a bottle. There isn’t necessarily an exact formula on how to do it. As long as we’re striving to be the best that we possibly can be, that’s all that truly matters.
When was the idea of Black Waat3r born and does that name have a deeper meaning?
Black Waat3r was birthed by my writing partner, Stevie Notes, and myself about ten years ago. Stevie is the son of the legendary Motown songwriter/artist, Greg Perry, and lead singer of the Honey Comb, the late Edna Wright.
Stevie and I bonded over our love of Alt/Rock/Pop music of the ’80s & ‘90s. We had the idea to create music that was a mashup of everything we grew up on.
We like to think of our music as a necessity akin to water and the overall grittiness of our sound represents the dirtying up of the liquid. Hence the name, Black Waat3r!
From your father’s church to a Grammy award-winning, Emmy nominated and platinum producing songwriter have you ever stopped and said, wow this is actually my life?!
I quite often find myself taking moments out of the day to pinch myself! I’ve been literally living out my childhood dreams for over twenty years!
I can distinctly remember being in grade school gazing out of the window and dreaming about the things I now do on a daily basis!
All glory be to God! He keeps showing me his wonders and greatness!
When you are not playing music, what do you like to do to unwind and relax?
When I’m not working I really enjoy shopping! I’m a huge sneaker and shoe fan! Finding exclusive and rare kicks brings me much joy. Additionally, I’m also a huge history buff, enjoy reading, visiting museums, galleries, and keeping up with NBA basketball.
The relationship between a person and their guitar is very intimate. You have to hold it just right and look at it as if this fine instrument is speaking to you in ways only you would understand. How many guitars do you own and what is your favorite?
This is absolutely true. Over the course of the pandemic, I’ve reconnected a form of therapy for me. Currently, I have about twenty-five guitars. They’re all in use and serve specific purposes. My number one is a ’98 Don Grosh Retro classic art I’ve had for many years. I call it my “Swiss Army” guitar because of its versatility.
What positive inspiration would you share with someone just starting on their journey into the world of music?
I would encourage anyone starting their journey in music to exercise faith whenever making decisions! The fear of the unknown can derail a budding career very easily. I spoke earlier about “Your gift making room for you.” If we were to unpack what this means, even more, we’ll begin to understand how as an individual you’re gifted in your own unique way. This uniqueness allows for a lane to open up specifically for you!
The other main component to navigating the professional world of music is to have a solid understanding of the Business of music. If you only focus on the music and negate the business side, you’re setting yourself up for much frustration!
Thankfully we’re living in an era where the majority of pertinent information is available at the click of a button. I would encourage everyone to utilize all the modern tools (social media, internet, ie) in planning out what they’d like their career to ultimately shape up to be.
I love everything that is music. It serves as my therapist on a daily basis and it also gives me the background I need when I think I can sing in the shower. How would you describe your relationship with music?
Music at this point represents my life’s work. I believe it to be a force unmatched by anything else. It’s truly a universal language and the only thing the entire world has in common. Aside from music being my passion, it’s also a big part of my purpose. It has literally been a vehicle for me to go to places that I wouldn’t have otherwise gone, introduced me to culture I wasn’t previously aware of, and overall broadened my perspective about life through interactions.
What can we look forward to next from Erick Walls?
I’ve been working with John Legend on his newest double album that’ll be released later this year. I’m also working on various TV and film projects that I’ll be posting updates about soon. I’m performing with Usher for his current Vegas residency throughout the year. Lastly, my band, Black Waat3r is in the process of recording a new EP that will also be released later this year.
Tell your fans and listeners how to follow and connect with you.
I can be found on IG and Twitter under the handles @IamErickWalls, @BlackWaat3r.
My website ErickWalls.com is under construction but should be active again very soon!
Get your digital or print copy of Issue 28 at www.groovmagazine.com
"This is how you do it; you sit down at the keyboard and you put one word after another until it's done. It's that easy, and that hard." -Neil Gaiman