Posted 04 October 2016
Eric Wortham II -
The Philadelphia-born pianist, songwriter and producer tours with the likes of Adele and loves to improvise. Eric Wortham II talks to his near-namesake, Erica Worth, before a Seattle gig
Posted 04 October 2016
The Philadelphia-born pianist, songwriter and producer tours with the likes of Adele and loves to improvise. Eric Wortham II talks to his near-namesake, Erica Worth, before a Seattle gig
Eric Wortham II -
It’s the end of the working day here in London, but my interviewee has just woken up for the start of his. Eric Wortham II is in Seattle, and he’s got time to speak to me before his gig with Adele tonight. As I dial his number, I wonder where our conversation will lead – after all, I’m more accustomed to speaking to concert pianists such as Lang Lang and Stephen Hough than I am to a jazz/R&B/blues pianist like Wortham, who teams up with the likes of Jill Scott, Vivien Green and, of course, Adele.

So I start with the obvious question: How did the son of a church pastor who never took formal piano lessons as a child become the recognised pianist, composer, songwriter and producer he is today? ‘I was singing in the church choir at a youth convention when I was about six,’ Wortham tells me, ‘and I was watching the organist seemingly press buttons – and I was really impressed with the configurations, the ways his hands moved, and the tones he created. I was also really impressed by how he was able to understand what to play, to kind of incite the choir’s mood. If he wanted them to cry, he would do certain chords and configurations and melody. And if you wanted excitement from them, he could do that too – just with his fingers. It was amazing that someone could control that, just with their fingers. I started playing as a result of that.’

And thus started his fascination with the piano. ‘My sisters started piano before me,’ he says. ‘I’d sit and watch at their piano lessons. We had a family keyboard, and I used to doodle, and it was all by ear. Being a church boy, I would be at someone’s church Monday, Wednesday and Sunday, listening to soulful, spiritual music. This was music intended to evoke emotion. Once I had fallen in love with the piano, instead of sitting next to my mom, sisters and dad in church, I’d sit by the organ and try to remember different configurations, and then take them home to practise on our keyboard.’

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