Eric Turner takes pop to the future, while keeping an eye on the past.
On his forthcoming debut album for EMI Music, the American-born, Stockholm-based vocal impresario flips the script and pens massive anthems with a message. A 21st century musical chameleon, he embraces rock, hip hop, house, and pop, while simultaneously blazing his own trail. That trail began with the signer's irresistible refrain on Tinie Tempah's international smash hit single, "Written in the Stars" and an equally fiery feature for Lupe Fiasco on "Break the Chain" from the critically acclaimed Lasers. However, Turner quickly proved to be much more than a go-to "hook man".
After growing up in Boston, Turner spent a semester abroad in Stockholm as part of McGill University's exchange program. Falling in love with the picturesque setting of Uppsala University, he decided not to go home. Assimilating into life in a new country, he formed a blues band and finished up his master's degree in biochemistry. Teaching during the day and gigging around town by night, Turner soon caught the ear of producer, iSHi. The expert producer was given a sampling of Turner's band, Street Fighting Man, and he became transfixed by the singer's voice. They met at the suggestion of a mutual friend, and the duo swiftly formed a creative partnership based on one goal—to sound as big as possible.
"We want to have this stadium sound," declares Turner with a smile. "We've found a crossroads between iSHi's hip hop roots and my classic singer-songwriter and rock influences. The songs really arise from feel and the message of the lyrics. Then everything is filtered through a hip hop or house kaleidoscope. It's organic and natural. We write songs like they did back in the '60s."
That formula never fails, and it serves this team well. In 2010, iSHi and Turner's first formal collaboration with Tinie Tempah, "Written in the Stars", became a veritable phenomenon worldwide. The single reached platinum status in the U.S. and was featured prominently during post-season Major League Baseball games on MLB Network and TBS as well as on the WWE's Wrestlemania XXVII and promo spots for USA Network's Necessary Roughness. It was only a jump-off point though.
Turner's debut solo single, "Angels & Stars" builds upon that initial blueprint, while elevating everything to a new plateau. Ethereal synths morph into a bouncy cyber stomp as Tinie Tempah and Lupe Fiasco trade razor sharp rhymes that give way to the crooner's heavenly, hypnotic hook. Beneath the song's infectious chorus, Turner injects an important and intricate perspective.
"It's a very dark song," reveals Turner. "You can't really trust the politicians and authority figures who are supposed to know better. There's a feeling that they're dumbing down what they're saying and lying to get power. They are the 'Angels & Stars', and their lies are leading us down the wrong road. Everyone is struggling. The song reflects the feeling that you can't trust what's around you."
Elsewhere, Turner examines global disillusionment on the airy, elegant piano-driven "Cruel World", and then he lights up the dance floor with the undeniably catchy "Dancing in My Head". His voice sails across house-inspired keyboards as driving production pulsates. "I wanted to write something timeless and sexy, but I also wanted to make a statement," he goes on. "Every guy has gone to a club, gotten a little tipsy and really wanted to talk to his dream girl but didn't do it. He goes home and she's still dancing in his head. It's fun, but it's also relatable."
Turner thrives upon dichotomies such as that. He may be an educator by day, but when he's in the studio or on stage, the vibrant and daring artist inside of him cuts loose.
"I have a lot to say that people won't necessarily get to hear in the Top 40, but they're going to hopefully get it here," he affirms. "Lyrically, there's a very strong message in each song. There are political themes, songs about hurt, songs about not fitting in and how hard it is to be in that situation. A lot of the songs are really close to my heart. They say exactly what I feel. I really don't hold back on the album."
Turner's "stadium sound" remains honest, and it may just have revolutionary implications. He concludes, "I want people to think more about what's going on around them and the things this generation has to face. If they even just to take a minute to think about that, I've done my job."