Eric Mayson
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Eric Mayson

Minneapolis, MN | Established. Jan 01, 2015

Minneapolis, MN
Established on Jan, 2015
Band Pop Progressive




"OKP Premiere: Eric Mayson Pushes The Prog-Soul Envelope On "Capital""

It’s time we all got much better acquainted with Eric Mayson. The Minneapolis-based singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer has been steadily emerging as one of the Midwest’s greatest sidemen, having backed both Caroline Smith and Big Cats on countless occasions. Mayson has also been working tirelessly to stake out his own territory, and now a bit of that work has reached fruition. Okayplayer is very proud to premiere “Capital,” the latest solo single from Mayson and his first on the newly-minted RiverRock Music Group label.

A gleaming three minutes of self-examination, “Capital” puts Mayson’s full talents on display–his deft keyboard playing is only topped by the sky-high soar of his voice. Everything heard on the winding, progressive-soul track was played by Mayson himself, save the live drums, which were laid down by Big Cats in the studio (Cats also handled production work on the entire track). The inspiration for “Capital” came out of no where. “I was messing around with some synth sounds and it came out almost fully-formed,” Mayson told Okayplayer. “The past few days have been a process of figuring out what the tune means to me.”

Which means that listeners have a right to speculate, as well. As the song hits its peak and he screams “I spent it all on you,” everything about Mayson that’s great happens all at once. Big Cats drums cut a sharp groove while synthesizers veer off at wild angles and in its closing seconds “Capital” channels the unhinged side of artists like Bilal and Kimbra. It’s a prog-soul track with a hip-hop spine wearing the knowing grin of great pop music. It’s surprising and satisfying and never stops building and was produced at a quality that we rarely hear from the snowy land of 10,000 lakes.

The excellence is born out of Mayson’s vast experience. “I’ve been playing piano my whole life, self taught. Music is definitely my first language,” he said. ” I grew up in a creative, musical family and I make my living playing for theatre and dance in Minneapolis, as well as playing in many bands at night.” Even with his full schedule, Mayson plans to release a proper EP in the spring through RiverRock, with a full-length to follow. If you already want to hear more of his chops, you can revisit Toki Wright & Big Cats’s Pangaea LP, which features numerous samples of Mayson’s live keys playing. - OkayPlayer

"Seasoned sideman Eric Mayson comes into his own with solo debut “Detail”"

Eric Mayson is a tad uncomfortable with the idea of being a frontman. Also, he’s rather anxious about using solely his own name and image to market his own music. But based on the quality of his debut album, Detail, the ubiquitous and well-respected sideman should get used to the attention and the spotlight.

After moving from Mankato to the Twin Cities in 2010, Mayson initially made his mark on the local scene with the hip-hop group Crunchy Kids. His fresh style and sound soon caught the attention of a wide array of local musicians, which led to him playing keys for artists like Caroline Smith, Lizzo, P.O.S, Toki Wright & Big Cats, and Ashley Gold.

In addition to those gigs, Mayson does composition work for dancers at the University of Minnesota, Zenon Dance Company, Tu Dance, and Macalester College—work that’s further fueled his ambition to make music of his own. Detail is the focused combination of all of those creative endeavors, and Mayson and his musical cohorts are set to celebrate with a release show at the 7th St. Entry on Friday night.

The sonically diverse album plays like a well-curated mixtape, fluidly blending Mayson’s wide-ranging creative style—which stretches from minimalist electropop to smooth R&B, progressive soul, and straight hip-hop—while also drawing clear inspiration from J Dilla’s innovative beats as well as the impressive array of artists he’s worked with along the way.

“I was listening to Donuts on repeat, and I thought, ‘This format is so awesome,’” Mayson says animatedly about Dilla’s landmark 2006 album. “There’s no stopping point. There’s never a point when you’re like, ‘All right, that’s the end.’ I wanted to have something that was just continuous.”

After scrapping many of the recordings for a planned EP because he was unhappy with the results, a larger work started to form out of the fragments of music that Mayson deemed worthy enough to save, combined with the work resulting from two all-nighters spent in a flurry of creativity.

“It came together, like, lightning fast,” Mayson says of the finished collection. “I came to the realization that if something feels like a full idea, then it is one—and you can add it to the collection, and find out what order works best. The fun part was figuring out that if this part smashes into the end of this one, then what new meaning you can find in both of them.”

Detail is the first album from RiverRock Music Group, a new record label headed by engineer Eric Blomquist, head of RiverRock Studios in Minneapolis, where the album was recorded. Mayson, a multi-instrumentalist, played most of the music on the 19-song collection, which is meant to be heard as two seamless 20-minute segments—thus its simultaneous release online and on cassette.

After Mayson added his distinctive musical touches to the work of numerous Twin Cities musicians over the years, they warmly returned the favor on his new batch of tunes. Big Cats lent his production skills and other sonic elements to multiple tracks; Chance from the Crunchy Kids raps on the record; and Arlen Peiffer and Jesse Schuster, both from Caroline Smith’s band, play with Mayson both live and on tape. (In the photos below, Schuster is seen rehearsing with Mayson.)

Being the ringleader for this new group is something Mayson is still growing accustomed to, despite the fact that these new songs represent his fine-tuned artistic vision more fully than anything he’s worked on in the past.

“I love backing people up, and watching people’s work come to fruition. I’m really comfortable with collaborating,” Mayson readily admits, “but the past few months have been pretty bizarre trying to figure out what it means to be at the center of things. I’ve done a couple of solo shows by myself, and it’s really scary. I empathize more now than I ever have with the people I’ve been backing up and how difficult that is. In the future, I really have no interest in just being by myself on stage, I really don’t like that. I enjoy the group vibe.”

No matter how Mayson’s live show transforms itself in the future, he’s made a bold, assured musical statement with Details. It’s the work of a talented, inspired musician who has been striving his whole life to make something that sounds precisely like this, while also managing the rare artistic feat of not sounding quite like anything else in the process.

“Music really is my first language,” Mayson explains affectionately. “I can be much more accurate when I’m playing or thinking of things musically than I can when I’m speaking.”

Erik Thompson is the clubs editor at City Pages, and a freelance music writer in the Twin Cities. - The Current

"Sideman is now fronting: Eric Mayson steps out in full 'Detail'"

For a lot of Twin Cities music lovers, Eric Mayson’s vocal talents first came to light while hearing him sing about being a woman.

The buoyant-haired and otherwise quite manly Minneapolis musician often gets a turn at the mic during an especially feminine portion of Caroline Smith’s concerts, where you’ll see Mayson on keyboards (including the opening slot before Hozier at Roy Wilkins Auditorium next Thursday). Smith always enlists her female backup vocalists to sing a few lines of her anthem “Half About Being a Woman,” and sometimes she pushes Mayson to follow suit — usually to big laughs and bigger cheers.

“It’s always done in fun,” Mayson said of his girl-power showmanship. “This is different. This is supposed to be serious. So it’s a lot scarier.”

“This” is Mayson’s first solo album, “Detail,” which is indeed very serious, and scary good. He’s nervous about putting it out since it marks his first venture as frontman after several years of playing backup (also for Toki Wright & Big Cats), and as the instrumental backbone of the hip-hop group Crunchy Kids.

An ambitious sonic collage of psychedelic R&B grooves, experimental hip-hop and straight-up sexy pop tunes with Mayson’s smooth but piercing voice out front, “Detail” would make the 26-year-old Minneapolis musician a fitting opener for Sunday’s D’Angelo concert at First Avenue. Instead, he will host a release party Friday at 7th Street Entry.

“Honestly, I’m perfectly comfortable and happy helping other people realize their vision,” he said. “This is going to take some getting used to.”

“Detail” is coming out via RiverRock Music Group, a record-label offshoot of River­Rock Studio in northeast Minneapolis, where Mayson has recorded with Big Cats and Crunchy Kids. The studio’s owner, Eric Blomquist, pushed the keyboardist into making the solo album after hearing him sing John Lennon’s “Isolation.”

“He came into the studio and sang the first half of the song in one take, [then] the second half in one take — no tuning, no editing, just incredibly inspiring talent,” recalled Blomquist. “He had been talking about wanting to dabble in solo music, but I really encouraged him to go all in.”

Mayson said he intentionally didn’t think hard about the offer.

“My career philosophy so far has been, ‘Always say yes,’ and it has worked out very well, I think,” he said. “It was probably good I didn’t think too hard about it or come up with the idea myself, or else there would have been a lot more self-doubt and second-guessing.”

His credentials should have instilled plenty of confidence. After bouncing between Texas, Minnesota and South Carolina as a kid with his artist parents, he wound up back in the Twin Cities in time to join the first graduating high school class at St. Paul Conservatory for Performing Artists.

He initially wanted to be an actor. A musical he wrote at age 17 called “Angst” took him from the Minnesota Fringe Festival to New York’s International Fringe Festival, and he later worked on several productions at Mixed Blood Theatre.

However, Mayson said he ultimately got drawn to playing music in clubs because “the audiences are more reactive and less confined.”

The music on “Detail” sounds the opposite of confined. With fellow Smith backers Jesse Schuster on bass and Arlen Peiffer on drums, he and Big Cats mixed the album with a free-flowing, improv-like approach. From its astral-jazzy opener intro track to the dramatic neo-soul single “Contact” to the dark, trip-hoppy “Hello,” the songs run into each other nonstop as one singular suite of music.

Mayson lifted the idea for the nonstop approach from J Dilla’s 2006 album “Donuts,” which he listened to on cassette over and over after buying a car with a tape deck. In tribute, he’s actually manufacturing “Detail” on cassette (in addition to its digital release). He will also perform the record without breaks in concert — which he said serves both the music and his nerves well.

“That way I don’t have to think of something to say between the songs,” he quipped. Folks should have plenty to say afterward, though. - Star Tribune

"Sideman Eric Mayson blazes into the spotlight with debut EP Detail"

Eric Mayson was left with a choice when a fire burned down his Mankato apartment on Easter morning in 2009, taking everything he owned with it. He could rebuild his life as a theater major at Minnesota State University, or leave it all behind and reinvent himself. "It was an opportunity for a clean slate," Mayson says. "And it put me in a position where I had to make a choice about what to do with my life. So, I'm pretty grateful for the fire."

On the advice of one of his professors, Mayson dropped out of school that same year, moved to Minneapolis, began playing music for dance studios, and never looked back. Since then, he has become a rising contender in the Twin Cities music scene, helping to form the hip-hop group Crunchy Kids, touring with Toki Wright & Big Cats on Atmosphere's Welcome to Minnesota Tour, and playing keys and singing backup for Caroline Smith, Lizzo, and Ashley Gold.

On Wednesday Mayson will release the second single, "Flatspin," off his debut EP, Detail, dropping later this fall. And on June 24 he'll perform his experimental, neo-soul material live at Honey with Homeless & Big Cats, Dosh, and Metasota. It'll be Mayson's first public performance as a solo artist, and he says everything up to now has been unexpected, unplanned, and wholly serendipitous.

"It kind of scared me," Mayson says of the transition from sideman to frontman. "I haven't sought out a lot of gigs... a lot of people were just coming and asking me to do things. This [EP] was another one of those instances."

After the fire, Mayson was taken in by Eric Burton, now the bassist in Crunchy Kids. Burton fed, clothed, and housed him during the rest of his stay in Mankato, and shortly after Burton asked Mayson to start playing music with him.

In 2013, they recorded Crunchy Kids' sophomore album, Mint, at RiverRock Studios (formerly Waterbury Studios) in northeast Minneapolis, where Mayson met local producer Big Cats and the studio's owner, Eric Blomquist. Mayson soon became a fixture at the studio. Last fall, Blomquist asked Mayson to sign on to his new label, RiverRock Music Group.

"I think the most fun thing working in the studio with [Mayson] is how versatile he is," says Spencer "Big Cats" Wirth-Davis, who's helping to produce Detail and has worked closely with Mayson on previous projects. "Anything you might throw at him in the studio he can handle."

Mayson isn't new to music scene, but he has always functioned in secondary roles, playing the keys or singing backup vocals. With Detail, he steps up as a frontman for the first time, something he hadn't considered until fellow musicians at RiverRock approached him about it. "I think it was really us sort of pushing him and giving him that jumping-off point," Wirth-Davis says. "It was our role more to help him through that transition of making his own work and really believing in the stuff that he's doing on his own."

Caroline Smith says she became interested in working with Mayson after hearing him sing backstage at her Half About Being a Woman release show in 2013, where Mayson was playing keys for Toki Wright. "He was wearing this insanely awesome blue one-piece jumpsuit," she reports. "I heard this amazing voice... and I was like, 'Holy shit, is that the dude in the jumpsuit singing?'"

Smith says Mayson is one of the most talented musicians she's ever worked with, adding that it's not uncommon for people with that level of talent to lack professionalism. But working with Mayson has been just the opposite. "He is always on time," she says. "And not only does he listen to your ideas and respect what you are looking for, he adds such dimension to whatever role he is playing."

Wirth-Davis says it's not just Mayson's musical skills that make him so great to work with; he's also just easy to be around. "I was excited about working with him because he's one of the most talented musicians in the Cities," Wirth-Davis says. "But then I quickly found out that he's also just a really cool, smart, laid-back dude."

Mayson released his first single last February. "Capital" is a heavily hip-hop and R&B-influenced number with crisp yet resonant drums, catchy and layered vocals, and swaggering electronic sampling. "Flatspin" follows suit, but with both pieces running about three minutes each, they are the closest things to conventional pop on Detail. Mayson plans to release the EP as a digital download as well as a cassette mixtape, with each side running 20 minutes as one continuously flowing song, every segment running seamlessly into the next.

Part of exploring his solo career has been discovering his personal style, Mayson says, and to him that means bucking a strict singer-songwriter format and staying true to his experimental inclinations. This means some parts of Detail run just 30 seconds before moving on to the next hook. Luckily, he says, the crew at RiverRock is fully supportive of his vision.

"I've been exceedingly grateful for everything that's come my way," Mayson says. "I know a lot of people who have grinded their whole life to do this shit and have never gotten the opportunities I have." - City Pages

"Picked to Click 2015 No. 3: Eric Mayson"

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. - City Pages

"Eric Mayson - Detail"

Those paying attention to the Twin Cities music scene have undoubtedly come across Eric Mayson in the last couple of years, due his work with acts like Caroline Smith, Lizzo, Toki Wright, Crescent Moon and Andrew Broder, Crunchy Kids, and Ashley Gold and Sexy Delicious. The keyboardist/vocalist has elevated a lot of artists work, but now it’s time for him to step into the spotlight and release his first solo album, Detail.
There are several things that hit all at once when you listen to Detail. One thing is how Mayson’s music is hard to pin down, as he floats in between genres, bringing in elements of soul, hip hop, jazz, indie rock, and more experimental pop compositions reminiscent of groups such as Fog or Why?. Producer Big Cats works with him on the majority of the tracks, and he helps Mayson make sense of all his different influences and styles. Detail has a really expansive sound, and it really takes its time to reveal everything to its listeners. Three artists in particular came to mind when I was listening to Detail – Jeff Buckley, Rufus Wainwright, and Bilal. I mention these three because Mayson has a terrific singing voice, with an absolutely incredible range and amazing control, and he’s constantly searching for ways in which to explore all the different notes he can hit and trying out different melodic ideas and playing with harmonies. In the wrong hands, something like this can come across as really self-indulgent and boring. With Mayson, as with the other artists mentioned, his ideas are so interesting and in such constant flux, and his voice just so charismatic, I’m willing to spend more time and be a much more adventurous listener than I would be with most artists. He's not singing typical melodic lines, but he also doesn't come across as pointless wandering. This hints at one of the last aspects of the album on which I’ll touch, which is his capability as a songwriter/arranger. The album contains nineteen tracks, but only clocks in forty minutes. Mayson himself has described the album as being composed of essentially two twenty minute songs, and it certainly feels that way. This is an album that is best listened to in one sitting, from start to finish, with no interruptions. The music is constantly in motion, playing more like a miniature opera, instead of a collection of singles. He's not taking on anything outside of the scope of normal pop music - it's most an exploration of self and relationships with other people, but Mayson uses a combination of music lyrics to make it sound anything but typical.
Normally, it takes an artist an album or two or three to figure things out and find their confidence, especially when they are bringing together such a unique combination of influences as Mayson is on Detail. The way in which it all coheres and sounds so confident, unique, and personal is absolutely remarkable. Make some time for this album. - Scratched Vinyl

"Eric Mayson Detail"

After producing and playing keys for Crunchy Kids plus touring and contributed to the music of Toki Wright, Caroline Smith, Lizzo, Homeless, and Big Cats, Mayson stepped into the spotlight on his Detail cassette release. The blend of Jazz, Hip Hop, and R&B put together by Mayson feels effortless, yet masterful. The 19 track project sounds best when listened to front to back. Each side of the cassette flows from song to song so pleasantly that you’ll loose yourself in bliss. The singles “Flatspin” and “Capital” (plus “Skyline” and “Corn”) should have been the biggest songs on The Current and Go963.

“Detail is a fun and easy listen, without any of the sacrifices that usually comes with those adjectives. Mayson crafted these really weird songs with so many interesting sounds, and vocal mixes while not making an album that is a challenge to listen to.” – Justus Sanchez

“If anyone had any doubts about Eric Mayson as a solo artist, they were quickly dismissed with Details. By painting an honest portrait of the city “Skyline” and offering his whole heart on “Capital,” he has gone beyond what’s expected by making rock music in the era of Hip Hop, all the while reminding the iPod generation of how a real mixtape used to sounds like.” Derek Ehlert - Breaks & Lakes

"Eric Mayson – ‘Detail’ [New Album]"

It is with great pleasure that I share Eric Mayson’s new record, Detail. Eric Mayson is part of Crunchy Kids (band) and most notably known for playing for a variety of artists in the Twin Cities music scene, most notably Caroline Smith, Big Cats, Lizzo, Toki Wright, and P.O.S. Eric is going solo with the release of his Detail record, which became available on August 28th. “Detail” is a record made up of two 20 minute continuous songs, with one piece flowing into the next.The record features many of Mayson’s collaborators, including producer Big Cats, Crunchy Kids rapper Chance York, Caroline Smith and Mayson’s fellow Caroline Smith bandmates Jesse Schuster and Arlen Peiffer. This record incorporates a lot of different musical styles and genres, which is expected because Mayson is known to collaborate with artists from all types of musical backgrounds. Leading up to the release of Detail, I have been fortunate enough to attend Mayson’s sold-out debut solo show at Honey and I also saw him perform alongside Big Cats and Homeless at ‘The Polar Bear Rug’ release show at Icehouse. Since then he has released a few singles; Capital (which premiered on OkayPlayer), Flatspin, and most recently he released Skyline ( Prod. By Big Cats). I have listened to these singles and the Detail record extensively and I think that Mayson’s music is making music without boundaries and he does it effortlessly. The concept of presenting the Detail record as two-20 minute songs is a music purist approach and the fact that it is also available on cassette tapes is very nostalgic. Detail is a testament to the diverse and eclectic music that Mayson makes and that’s why he is a very sought after collaborator in the Twin City music scene. - The Litestyle Observer


Still working on that hot first release.



As the “poster child of entropy”, it’s no surprise that Eric Mayson’s music and live performance is a journey from disbelief into knowing and back again. He understands music as a way to move through space. In an aerial shot, Mayson’s wide-ranging style stretches from minimalist electropop to smooth R&B, progressive soul, and straight hip-hop, while visiting grinning pop, rock and roll, and operatic arrangements.

He builds things from the ground up. Layers are everything, details are the big ideas. To Eric, “if something feels like a full idea, it is one.” His lyrics are hints. Whether direct and considered or fragmented and esoteric, they are not meant to direct your experience or tell you about a thing – they are foundation for contemplation. The impact of his music shifts within the context it’s presented.

He’s a multi-instrumentalist, but frequents the keys. “His deft keyboard playing is only topped by the sky-high soar of his voice”(Okay Player). He has played for the likes of Lizzo, Caroline Smith, Toki Wright, Big Cats, DaNCEBUMS, and as the musical backbone of Minneapolis hip-hop group Crunchy Kids. Whether piano, cello, or bass, his playing is fully embodied; you can see the music happening in and radiating through his body. He stomps. His knees bounce. He traverses the terrain of music he creates.

Born in Corpus Christi, TX, he bounced around the US with his musical father and curator mother before finding roots in Minneapolis at age 16. He left to pursue an education in acting; but in the aftermath of a house fire, returned to Minneapolis in 2010 where he found a love for producing and playing hip-hop.

His first solo release, Detail (2015) is a 40 minute cassette tape with only one track break. “An ambitious sonic collage of psychedelic R&B grooves, experimental hip-hop and straight-up sexy pop tunes with Mayson’s smooth but piercing voice out front” (Star Tribune). He is joined by frequent musical collaborators (Chance York, Caroline Smith, Big Cats, and others). Recorded at RiverRock Studios, Detail was “produced at a quality that we rarely hear from the snowy land of 10,000 lakes”(Okay Player). Eric Mayson is back with new tunes as he prepares to release his sophomore venture with RiverRock Music Group.

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