Eric Zayne is officially “Coming Undone.” His newest single was elected by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as the lead song for his new clothing collaboration with Under Armour #ProjectRock, putting Eric’s name on the map as a solo recording artist versus his past known work as a producer.
After evacuating to Montreal where his mom’s sister lived, the Congo native reveals that music simply came to him. He states, “I started hearing music in my head, in everything. When people yawn, when people honk their horns, in water faucets, everything sounded like a melody. I tried to mimic everything I was hearing and became obsessed. I’ve learned every instrument that way: how to play drums, how to play guitar, how to play keyboards, how to sing, how to produce, how to engineer, how to do everything I had to do because of this obsession with his internal radio station in my head. The rest happened naturally.”
Currently living in Los Angeles, the multi-faceted musician has had the pleasure of producing and writing for a slew of greats, from CeeLo Green to Matisyahu to 21 Pilots. Shifting gears into his own artistry, the rising star is here to keep the magic of rock alive—while creating heartfelt music and records that resonate with the soul.
Flaunt caught up with Eric via FaceTime to discuss his upbringing from Congo to the States, teaching himself how to produce, transitioning to in front of the mic, the making of “Coming Undone,” getting The Rock’s attention, shooting “My Friends” acoustic, goals, and more!
Talk about being from Congo and transitioning into the US.
I grew up in Congo since I was 11 days old, my parents loved it there so they’d been living there for years already. It was a very mopey sort of life. I remember I had a pet snake that I took to school, very wild. It was very African, the center of the jungle. One day when I was 12, a war erupted. I was evacuated by myself without my family because only one seat was left on the last plane evacuating people from the war. Of course, my parents said “put the kid in it.” My 2 brothers were in the back building Molotov cocktails, this concoction with oil and alcohol to protect from mercenaries coming in the house.
Within a very short time, I was taken away from my family to save me. The next time I saw my family was 10 years later so I basically raised myself. That’s when music came into my life. My dad really wanted me to be a musician, but I had no interest. My older brother Rome used to import all these records from the States, I grew up listening to all these classic records because he had a really good taste. He used to play me Luther Vandross, Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson, Jimi Hendrix. I developed an ear for it but I remember when I heard Prince, it changed my life. Something inside of me sparked. I knew if there’s a person able to play all these instruments and move all these records by himself, I developed my entrepreneurial state of mind then.
How did you get to write for Jordin Sparks, BTS, Ashlee Simpson, and produce for Usher and 21 Pilots?
Producing was never something that I wanted to do. I remember it’s been years that people were trying to get me to produce, I always had an ear for it because I learned how to do it for myself. 3 years ago, I was broke. My ex-girlfriend at the time said “why don’t you produce other people?” Well I don’t want to give other people my gold, I want to keep it for myself because my main passion is to express my own music. I want to be on stage, touring my whole life. I said you know what, I’ll give it a try. I had this negative view about what he meant to produce other peoples but I gave it a shot. From word to mouth, my name started spreading.
Not only did I have all these cross points because I knew how to play all these instruments and do everything myself, there’s no need for somebody else in the room. I can write, produce, engineer, all that. On top of that, I didn’t come at it from a producer standpoint. “I’m a producer, I’ma put my stamp on it. Eric Zayne production!” It wasn’t any of that. Being a bridge and a facilitator to other artists, understanding what they’re going through and getting myself out of the way. I did everything to not make it about me, no ego involved at all. The doors opened, from one thing to the next. I’m producing Jeremy Renner, I’m doing something with Dwayne Johnson, BTS asked me to write a song, Dallas Austin, CeeLo Green, all these things. I could’ve not seen for that all to happen at all and I didn’t try for it and it was completely organic.
Is Eric Zayne your real name?
Eric Zayne isn’t my real name, but my last name’s too complicated to say. It’s an abbreviation of my last name.
How would you describe your own sound?
It’s a hard thing to do, but I know I love funk music. I love soul music. I love rock music, but more the Jimi Hendrix and Prince style. My interest as a producer has always been to be able to mix everything, because I used to play classical music on the piano. I want to mix everything you can, that’s not supposed to mix together. Whether it’s classical and heavy metal or polka and punk, I’m always trying for new things. I relate the most to alternative. How would you describe my sound?
I would say it’s rock.
Yeah rock, but I move through… my new single “My Friends” is more Queen meets 21 Pilots. In 2021, I’m putting out so much different music that it’s going to move all over the map. It’s not going to be all “Coming Undone.” Alternative rock or alternative pop, I don’t really know.
Do you prefer producing or your own music?
They’re both different. Producing is very interesting because I don’t really have the pressure that I put on myself as an artist. I’m really strong in the room, I know exactly what I’m doing. I have no fears in praising what we did. As an artist, it’s very vulnerable. You feel naked when you’re showing yourself out there. At the same time there’s no greater satisfaction than manifesting something within yourself, your own sound you did as an artist that’s successful and well-received. There’s nothing like it. They’re both different, they both feed into one another.
Bring us back to when you recorded “Coming Undone.”
I recorded this groove 3 years ago. I knew it was gonna be big, I always get a feeling when the track’s going to do well. There’s no vocals to it, it was just a jam. I was working a lot with Lauren Hashian and Naz Tokio, Lauren’s Dwayne Johnson‘s wife and we became really good friends. We were working on Red Notice, the new movie coming out with Dwayne Johnson and Ryan Reynolds. They told me the sound they wanted, I said “I have something perfect for this.”
I played the track and we came up with the melodies within an hour. It was supposed to be for the movie. She went home and went over it with Dwayne, Dwayne said “this isn’t for Red Notice, this is perfect for my Under Armour campaign. We’ve been looking for a song.” They put it as the #1 song on the editorial playlist, they put it everywhere. Dwayne posted about me, it’s been really amazing around 1.6 million now within 3 months.
Amazing, what do you make of this organic collaboration?
It’s so exciting. It opened a lot of doors for me because I haven’t put out music in a while, I’ve been so busy producing. The first one I put out and it reached really high, opened a lot of doors. There’s a lot of interest now for me as an artist. I’m really excited in 2021 to put as much music out as possible.
How was shooting the music video, performing and bringing the record to life?
The music video’s hilarious because I paid more than I normally would for a music video. With my friend, I knew it required it. I woke up at 2am with a fever. Shit I have Covid! I’m not gonna be able to do this. I text my director, he said “dude you better be up at 6am, go to the clinic, check to see if it’s Covid. If it’s not, fuck it we’re doing it.” I felt like shit. I get to the clinic, for sure I have Covid because everything hurts. I do the test and I don’t have Covid. It ended up being strep throat. It hurt so bad, I had such a big fever. Everybody said “you gotta do it, we got the trucks ready.” I’m really surprised at how it turned out because I wasn’t feeling my best, but it was so much fun. I’m a performer, I’ve been on stage my whole life. I’ve sat in the studio for years now producing so I love the opportunity to show people I’m a live musician.
What do you feel when you’re playing the guitar?
I’m trying to channel Prince and Jimi as much as I can, that raw fire energy. I see guitar as a performance instrument, not just a sonic instrument. You can use it as a prop to really take your performance to another level.
You say you’re super proud of the new “My Friends” acoustic version. Why is that?
That was incredible. I called my buddy up and said “hey man why don’t we do an acoustic version of ‘My Friends’?” I called 3 of my friends who are string players: “can you guys transcribe the violin part I have in the song I put out on Spotify?” They said yeah. We came to the studio and recorded it live 4 times, it’s that simple. Turned out really amazing. I put it out on Instagram and Facebook, it’s got thousands and thousands of plays. People are sharing it everywhere, a really nice response. I’m excited about the love I’ve been getting lately.
3 things that you need in a studio?
Mood lights, I got the Hue Lights which is the most important investment that I got. I need really loud speakers, and tequila. [laughs]
What is it that you want fans to get from your story?
I’ve raised myself without family since I was 13. I want them to get the same thing I got when I watched my mentors: it doesn’t matter what you want to create in your world. We’re all little gods in that way, we have the power to manifest whatever we want. I want people to feel through my journey no matter how hard it gets, as long as you truly focus on your inner compass, what is it you want to do that’s unique on this planet, you move forward then eventually you’ll create exactly what you want. It’s not going to be easy, but it’ll be worth it.
What would you be doing if you weren’t doing music?
I’d probably be a fucking astronaut. [laughs] I’m fascinated by space. Put on an alien movie at any point and I’m always in, it gets all my attention.
How important is social media for your career?
It’s the most important. It’s such a different thing now, you can have direct access to your fans. I love that. You can gauge directly what they like, what they don’t like, how you’re resonating. What’s interesting is what the fans react to is your true authentic self, you know when you’re being real. It’s a perfect tool, you don’t have all these middlemen to tell you what to do. I love the fact I can be a creator and a distributor at the same time, I can do it myself. I used to dream of getting signed to a record company, to be real I don’t fucking care anymore. If I can access my fans directly and I can tour the world directly, nothing’s better than that. I’m very fast, I can create a song in 3 hours and put it out right away. [snaps] That to me is the greatest freedom an artist can get, I don’t need to have 40 people tell me what to do.
Goals do you have for yourself at this point?
I definitely want to keep increasing my base, that’s most important. I want people to know me as a musician across the world because I have a lot to share. I want to be able to use that to tour and have the constant ability to be able to tour whenever I want, as much as I want. As a producer obviously to keep building my name at work with all the people I love, whether it’s Ryan Tedder or anybody. I love the ability to play with geniuses, it’s nothing like it.
What can we expect next?
A lot of new music coming from me as an artist and a lot of new music coming from an artist I’m producing. It’s very exciting, I already have 9 songs lined up ready to be released