Eric Essix has released 28 full-length albums over a period of more than 32 years, maintaining a steady flow of new music that continues to push the boundaries of contemporary jazz. He has toured relentlessly with his own Eric Essix Group and with dozens of A-list artists as a sideman, constantly refining every aspect of his craft, with legacy always in the forefront of his purpose.

Following the success of his 2020 album "Songs From The Deep," Eric released his 28th album, "STRiDE," on July 1, 2022, under his Essential Recordings label. The album was distributed by Lightyear Entertainment/Virgin Music. His two most recent singles, "My Heartbeat" and "Time To Chill," serve as previews for a new album scheduled for release in the fall of 2024.

Eric's primary goal is to create high-quality art through music or his lifelong passion for photography, always striving to create emotional and spiritual connections with people.



Following the success of his Songs From The Deep project, Eric recently released his 28th album entitled STRiDE on his Essential Recordings label, again distributed by Lightyear Entertainment/Virgin Music/UMG.

The album features nine original compositions by Eric and a lush arrangement of Bill Withers' classic, Ain’t No Sunshine, featuring fellow Birmingham, AL native and American Idol winner Ruben Studdard. Released as a single, the song has done well on smooth jazz radio and has maintained a solid presence on several charts and syndicated programs. 

STRiDE showcases a diverse mix of songs ranging from danceable funk instrumentals to sultry ballads, hints of blues and traditional jazz textures, and, as always, a very intentional nod to Eric's gospel roots. "This album is an extension of the Songs From The Deep record in a sense. I consciously tried to build on what I did with that project compositionally and maintain the same vibe. Musically, it felt like a good place to explore a while longer." 

Even though STRiDE does not directly bring Eric's southern upbringing to the forefront conceptually for this record, the influences and the sound are still essential ingredients in the mix. "Some things will always be buried in every note I play, and those down-home elements that are inherent in my playing are never going away. I gave up trying to be someone other than myself 22 years ago and learned to embrace who I am as a guitarist and an artist. I haven't looked back." 

STRiDE has several uptempo standouts, with Steady, Coming Home To You, The Light, and the title track leading the pack. However, the ballads Until We All Are Free, Slow And Easy and the beautiful 6/8 time, Inside Out (featuring flutist Claudia Hayden and a brilliant synth solo by Grammy winner Phil Davis), are compelling vehicles for some of Eric's best guitar work on the session.



Over the past more than 34 years, and now with 28 full-length album releases, Eric Essix has maintained a steady flow of new music that continues to push the boundaries of contemporary jazz.

After achieving success with his Songs From The Deep project, Eric released his 28th album, STRiDE, on his Essential Recordings label. Most recently, in 2024, Eric released two singles: the title track from his upcoming album, "My Heartbeat," featuring Kaleah Wooten, and “Time To Chill.” These singles are distributed by Lightyear Entertainment/Virgin Music/UMG.

During his first decade as an artist, Eric recorded four well-received albums on Nova Records, his label (S6 Jazz Records), and Ben Tankard’s Spirit Jazz, and earned a degree from Berklee College of Music. In 1998, he reached an exciting plateau when he was signed by legendary Warner Brothers Vice President Ricky Shultz to his new Warner distributed label, Zebra Records. Schultz, who helped develop the careers of contemporary jazz greats Pat Metheny, Al Jarreau, David Sanborn, Larry Carlton, Fourplay, Joshua Redman, and The Yellowjackets, took a liking to Essix’s latest self-produced album, Small Talk, and gave the guitarist his first taste of national promotion and radio exposure. Eric’s single “For Real” was on the airplay charts for 25 weeks, reaching the Top 5 on several. Southbound, the guitarist’s second album on the label, re-imagined the Brook Benton classic “Rainy Night in Georgia,” which became a radio hit in 2001.  

Since launching his indie label Essential Recordings in 2002, Eric has scored numerous radio hits, starting with “Sweet Tea” from 2004’s Somewhere in Alabama and continuing with “Shuttlesworth Drive,” a musical tribute to the great civil rights pioneer Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, which spent seven consecutive weeks at #1 on and over 20 weeks in the Top 10; “New Focus,” which reached #27 on the Billboard Smooth Jazz Songs chart; and “Foot Soldiers,” which hit #1 on the Indie Chart and #9 on the Top Fifty chart among numerous other industry airplay lists. Five years after its release, “Foot Soldiers” remains in regular rotation on SiriusXM Watercolors. From 2020 - 2024, Eric's recordings Late Night Drive, The Deep, Ain't No Sunshine, and My Heartbeat have also been featured on Sirius Watercolors and spent time on the Mediabase/Billboard Top 40 Smooth Jazz charts and many others garnering millions of streams and listeners alike.

Those celebrated hits are not simply standalone achievements but powerful invitations to the more profound artistry Eric has offered through a discography populated with thematic concept albums. Collectively, these works reveal his life’s many passions and ultimate purpose as a musician and artist. Among Eric’s most renowned and acclaimed works is his “Southern Roots” trilogy, starting with Southbound (2001) and including Somewhere in Alabama (2004) and Birmingham (2009). When his beloved mother Imogene passed away in 2004, Eric drew on the power of his faith and music to create a moving tribute of spirituals and hymns called Abide With Me (2005). The guitarist’s album, This Train: The Gospel Sessions (2016), continues this theme dramatically, with contributions from vocalists Ruben Studdard, Candi Staton, The Birmingham Sunlights, Jason Eskridge, and Kaleah Wooten and urban/gospel jazz great, saxophonist Kirk Whalum.  

Eric’s 2013 collection Evolution combines the spirit of his Southern and gospel recordings with songs dedicated to the four young women who lost their lives in the 1963 bombing of Birmingham’s 16th Street. Baptist Church. “Evolution was created to share a message of healing, reconciliation, and hope,” Eric says. “I feel such a deep connection to this recording and what it stands for…it is the most personal musical statement I have ever made.” The guitarist reached another milestone with the subsequent release of The Isley Sessions (2014), celebrating one of his favorite bands of all time, The Isley Brothers. The album has sold more physical copies and digital downloads than any previous release.  

Two other highlights in Eric’s discography are his 2012 self-titled Eric Essix collection (which includes a re-imagining of Tom Petty’s classic “Free Fallin”) and Eric Essix’s MOVE>Trio, which features two members of his longtime band in a unique setting – drummer James “PJ” Spraggins and Grammy-nominated producer and multi-instrumentalist Kelvin Wooten on keyboards. This unit toured the U.S. and Europe extensively. Eric’s full band includes saxophonist Kelley O’Neal and bassist Sean Michael Ray, whose performing and recording history with Eric goes back 30 years. While the group’s core annual performance schedule is a combination of clubs, small halls, and festival dates throughout the Southeast, they have also performed at such legendary clubs across the U.S. as Catalina Bar & Grill (Los Angeles), Yoshi’s in Oakland and Blues Alley in Washington, DC.  

The guitarist’s catalog also includes Blue: The Modern Man Recordings, Retrospective, Vol. 1 (2003), its follow-up Retrospective, Vol 2 Ballads (2012), a project with an 18-piece big band (Eric Essix featuring the Night Flight Band: Superblue) and the holiday album My Gift To You (2010).  

In the late 2000s, Eric expanded his reach in the contemporary urban jazz realm, touring and performing with some of the top names in the genre, including Jeff Lorber, Gerald Albright, Ronnie Laws, Phil Perry, Boney James, Everette Harp, Peabo Bryson, Marcus Miller, Eric Darius, Alex Bugnon, Marcus Johnson, Peter White, Mindi Abair, and others. His love for the genre and deep connections therein inspired him to launch the Preserve Jazz Festival and later Eric Essix's Jazz Escape, two important annual events in Birmingham devoted to jazz performers. As a Founder and Executive Producer for ten years, Eric hosted headliners like Brian Culbertson, Kirk Whalum, Boney James, and Jeff Lorber.    

In 2010, Eric was offered a position at the University of Alabama Birmingham’s prestigious Alys Stephens Performing Arts Center. This premier 1,300-seat venue hosts performances by top musical artists in many genres and from other creative disciplines. He began booking artists and served as the Director of Programming for the Center. Over the years, he has booked everyone from Herbie Hancock, Branford, Wynton Marsalis, and Pat Metheny to Diana Krall, Yo-Yo Ma, Emmylou Harris, and Oscar-winning actor Al Pacino. Booking talent has given Eric a new perspective on creative arts and the entertainment industry.

Gospel music and jazz have influenced Eric's musical sensibilities since childhood and throughout his career. He grew up in Birmingham, playing in quartet gospel groups at the Ephesus Seventh Day Adventist church for many years. He started playing outside the worship environment when he was 24. Although he maintains a deep connection to gospel music, he discovered his passion for contemporary jazz during his late teens when he had an opportunity to experience Jaco Pastorius and Weather Report in a live setting. "After seeing these artists in concert, I knew that instrumental music was what I wanted to play," Eric said. "Although musically I have evolved over the years, I've always loved the freedom of improvisational music and the way it allows me to express myself."

Though Eric admits his style is very different from Wes Montgomery's, the legendary guitarist is another significant influence. Ten years before the Jaco experience, Eric’s dad played Montgomery’s 1966 album California Dreaming for him. “I had never heard anyone play jazz interpretations of pop melodies until then,” Eric says. “I could hear that the guitar was actually "singing" the melody. That's when I realized jazz was the natural style of music for an instrument to achieve the same emotions that a vocal could. I started playing guitar two years later and tried to make the guitar sing right from the start.”  

“The most interesting part of this musical journey has been observing my growth as an artist,” Eric says. "My perspective has drastically changed and is far removed from my early days as a guitarist making records, where I focused on flashy playing, speed, and playing lots of notes."  As  I've matured as a musician and person, I'd like to think I have found my niche as a composer and songwriter and as a guitar player.”