Eric Mayson finished No. 3 overall in our 2015 Picked to Click tally with 50 points. Click here to read profiles on this year's other 11 winning acts.
Eric Mayson went solo this year, but he can't seem to shake the "former sideman" label ascribed to him by the local press. The descriptor may be tired, but it's also well-earned and carries plenty of positive connotations.
For the uninitiated: Mayson, 27, is something of a jack-of-all-trades musical wunderkind. In just a few short years, he's gone from playing background music for University of Minnesota dance classes (a gig he only just recently quit) to operating as Minneapolis' go-to hired gun, backing everyone from Toki Wright and Big Cats to Lizzo and Caroline Smith.
Following the September release of his stellar debut solo album, Detail, Mayson took some much-needed time to adjust mentally to his newfound exposure.
"I still don't feel like a frontman," he says, adding that he generally dreads solo performances. "Even in my group, in my band, there are so many other people on stage that I've collaborated with in so many other contexts, [I] just feel like another face of this tribe that I run in."
Detail, which was released by RiverRock Music Group, is a potent mixture of atmospheric soul, experimental hip-hop, and trippy R&B that showcases Mayson's diverse and lush sonic palette. Inspired by the format of revered rap beatmaker J Dilla's final album, the record is comprised of two 20-minute tracks that blend together seamlessly.
Mayson's considerable chops can be attributed to his somewhat rambling, art-centric upbringing. His mother currently works as a director at the Goldstein Museum of Design in St. Paul, and his father, who holds a Ph.D. in low brass, is something of a tuba-playing scholar.
"My parents got me a keyboard from RadioShack when I was like one," Mayson recalls. "There are old family videos of me playing when I was five, and I'd be like, 'Listen, this song is called "Earth!," and it'd be some spacey kid shit."
Mayson comes across as deeply intelligent, good-natured, and remarkably humble, so much so that his affability feels infectious. He considers music to be an extension of his personality.
"Music has never felt like a passion as much as it's felt like the easiest way to examine and communicate my ideas," Mayson explains. "Sometimes I don't enjoy what's coming out of me, but it's just the easiest way for me to communicate. English feels like a second language most of the time.