MEET ERIC LATHAM
Eric Latham, a sophomore in the Alabama School of Fine Arts Music department, has been counting down the days till June. This month Latham will have the opportunity to attend Grammy Camp in Nashville. Grammy Camp is part of the Grammy in the Schools organization whose mission is to create opportunities for high school students to work with music professionals and get real-world experience and advice on how to have a career in music.
At Grammy Camp Latham will be studying in the audio engineering career track.
“I can’t wait to be in a top-grade professional studio with people that have recorded Grammy winners,” says Latham, who hopes to be a professional audio engineer/producer who creates music both for himself and other artists.
“I really want to see what it’s like to be in that position and have that job,” he says.
In the ASFA music department, Latham’s major instrument is percussion and his love for music started with the drums.
“In the 2nd grade I was having a real tough time,” Latham says. First he used visual arts as a creative outlet, but after his father introduced him to bands from the 1970s and 1980s, Latham wanted to know more about music.
“I just really loved the drums, so I asked for drums for Christmas and I got them,” Latham says, and he started taking lessons. Soon the problems he was having in school improved, too. “All that energy came out through the drums,” he says.
In sixth grade, a year before he came to ASFA, Latham attended a music technology camp at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB).
“I went to the camp and I was just amazed,” Latham says. “That’s where I found that I had the freedom to actually make my ideas come true and from there I just got some tools and software and started teaching myself everything I could.”
Though percussion is Latham’s focus at ASFA, he also plays and records piano, bass guitar and vocals in his home studio.
After coming to ASFA, Latham became exposed to even more elements of music, including hip hop. Latham credits his interest in rap to David Bibbs, who is also a sophomore in the Music department.
On a Music department trip to Walt Disney World, Bibbs introduced Latham to beatboxing and shared with Latham some of his favorite rap songs.
“We just bonded over that and started making music together,” Latham says.
“It was pretty bad at first. I’m embarrassed of my first raps,” Latham says with a laugh.
“At the beginning it was just about having fun, seeing if I could make a rhyme,” he says. But Latham and Bibbs started writing rhymes for school projects and Latham began to dig deeper, listening to more hip hop so he could appreciate the true value of this genre of music.
“When I think of hip-hop, I think of honesty,” Latham says. “I think that’s the central message.”
Under the names ErBeeko and D-Bibbs, Latham and Bibbs have recorded a number of songs together, some for which they’ve created music videos with the help of the ASFA Film class.
The upbeat and inspirational song “I’ll Be Going Far” also includes vocals by ASFA music junior Emma Bratton. The video is set at ASFA and features ASFA students, faculty and staff.
The song “In This City” is Latham and Bibb’s tribute to Birmingham.
Latham hopes Grammy Camp will bring new opportunities to work with other artists.
This year the demanding workload of 10th grade at ASFA has kept Latham and Bibbs from collaborating as much as they would like, but they’ve both continued to work on solo projects.
Some of Latham’s most recent works include the introspective track “The Tree of My Life,” which also demonstrates Latham’s talent with the piano, and a song titled “Crown,” which he says is “five minutes and 42 seconds of honesty” and a “snapshot of [his] conscience.”
Latham says his music education at ASFA has greatly contributed to his development as an artist.
“Before I got here I had never sang and I was very scared of singing, but in choir we have to sing, or try to, which is what I do,” Latham says with a smile. “And we have a class called Aural Awareness which teaches us to match pitches and hear things in music and know what note is what.”
Latham says his Music Theory classes have also helped him with songwriting.
“All of that really built my strength to put into my creative process,” Latham says. Performing with his peers in the music department helps, too.
“Being surrounded by music, eventually you’ll be so close to the music world it kind of sinks into you,” he says.
The drums, however, continue to be Latham’s first love.
“The thing about drums is sometimes I forget how much I love drumming and really my main passion is drum set,” he says. “Sometimes I’ll go a week or two without playing the drum set but every time I go back to it I realize that it’s like a part of my soul. If I have a lot going on, I really just need to sit on the drum set and let it out.”
Visit Eric Latham’s SoundCloud channel at soundcloud.com/erbeeko to hear more of his music.
Story by Javacia Harris Bowser