Singer, songwriter, and actor, Eric Benet, has released seven albums and earned a #1 hit on the R&B chart with “Spend My Life with You” (featuring Tamia). He has also earned four Grammy Award nominations – Best Traditional R&B Performance, “Sometimes I Cry” (2011); Best male R&B Vocal Performance, “You’re The Only One” (2008); Best R&B Album, Love & Life (2008); and Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocals, “Spend My Life With You” (1999).
In addition to being a talented musician, Benet, 51, is also a dedicated husband and father. He is married to Manuela Testolini, Prince’s ex-wife, and they have two daughters, 6-year-old Lucia Bella and 3-year-old Amoura Luna. In 1993, Benet’s girlfriend Tami Marie Stauff, died after an automobile accident leaving Benét to raise their 1-year-old daughter, India, as a single father. Today India is 26 and is in the music business. Benét was recently in Houston performing at the Kappa Alpha Psi Black & White Ball. That’s where Mocha Man Style journalist Lloyd Gite interviewed the artist.
Mocha Man Style: Your last album came out two years ago. Can we expect any new music anytime soon?
Benét: I’m in a really creative space right now. My last album came out a couple of years ago and it did really well. I just took a little time off and just concentrated on my family. I’ve just gotten back in the studio to get into that creative zone and start coming up with concepts and ideas.
MMS: What inspires you when you’re getting ready to do a new album?
Benét: As a songwriter, there is a constant stream of music playing in my mind. I think as an artist, it’s my job to pick the most honest and the most vulnerable pieces that you get passing by in your mind at any given time. My music really reflects where I’m at in my life. When you hear me come out with an album, if you listen to that album, that’s kind of like where I am in my life at that point.
MMS: As a father of three girls, how has that changed what you do?
Benét: It’s very different now because when India was born, it was like instantly, let me try and figure out how to be a single father and let me do what needs to be done. Getting dropped from my record label and having to take two jobs was difficult. Thankfully, I have the family that I have so that when I was at work, India was either with my mom or my sisters. I was talking to India today and she’s just this incredibly talented, gifted, intelligent woman. I’m so proud of her.
MMS: What’s she doing?
Benét: Oh, she’s making music. She’s making incredible music. She’s writing and producing. Her boyfriend is Robin Thicke’s producer. So they’re recording some amazing music.
Benét: Yes, it is different this time around. My wife is an amazing partner. A lot of the heavy load I share with somebody. And it’s quite a load. Anybody who has kids knows it’s a full-time job.
MMS: Do you want more children?
Benét: Try for boys? Or can I do it? I don’t really think I can do it right now. I’m happy to be blessed with the children I have.
MMS: Everybody knows your wife Manuela was married to Prince. His birthday was in June. How has his death impacted her?
Benét: Oh, very much so. Very much so. For anybody out there, once a marriage is over, there are many wounds that haven’t healed yet. There are many things that haven’t been said. You are basically leaving someone you thought you would spend the rest of your life with. They thought the same thing. I’m a firm believer that love never dies. It just changes into something. She’s still in her own way… she wasn’t in love with him but she loved him very deeply. She shared a very deep part of herself in that marriage. The death of Prince, I only met him a couple of times, but as an artist, his presence was very profound in my life. For her, the loss was something way deeper. He just had a birthday and in a lot of ways, she had to relive that death and that passing. So I’m just as supportive as I know how to be whenever she’s dealing with it.
MMS: You were married to actress Halle Berry for a few years. Do you ever talk to her?
Benét: No. No. It was one of those relationships that when it was over, it was over. She very much moved on with her life and I moved on with mine and all I do is wish her the utmost happiness and the utmost love and joy from this distance.
MMS: You have appeared in television and movies as an actor. Any plans to go back to that?
Benét: I’m actually producing a film. We’re in that Hollywood process of looking for funding right now. It’s a story I created and a story that’s very powerful. I’ve signed on the producer of the film Marshall, Chris Longer. It’s called Legends. It’s a lot of pain, music, a lot of love and a lot of redemption.
MMS: What does Eric Benét do when he’s not on the road performing?
Benét: When I’m not performing, I am the best daddy ever to my 6-year-old and my 3-year-old. Giving them horseback rides or hanging with India talking about music and music production. I have some other business ventures that I’m in the midst of creating right now. But I’m just focused on my children and wife and just being a homebody.
Photos by Frederick J. Goodall