Good friend and industry colleague Demario McIlwain mentioned to me at a meeting that he had just spoken to industry known, keyboard superstar Erving “EP” Pope. Immediately I responded to him of the opportunity to interview this brother. His work is a who’s who of some of the greatest talent out there. From Janet Jackson (Damita Jo); Brandy (Afrodisiac); Ne-Yo (In My Own Words); Angie Stone (The Art of Love and War) to Jay-Z (The Blueprint 2.1) Kanye West (The College Dropout, Late Registration) an appearance on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and more that could be named over the course of his music career. When I read the intro on Ervin “EP” Pope, it notes that he is a Louisiana-bred, Watts, CA-raised, church-boy with a family history deeply rooted in music and rich in talent. But talking to this music aficionado went beyond that. Here is a man that relishes his humble and challenged beginnings, giving notice to where his successes, his blessings have come from.
To speak with a person that has so many accolades and connections in the music industry, one would think there would be an air of superiority. But that is surely not the case with “EP.” Our first interaction was as warm and positive as a brother from another mother, and every word spoken genuinely meant.
EP, I want to thank EP for taking time to chat with us at UT. My pleasure !
Ok brother; let us talk about that old piano……Aw man…the old piano, that old piano is everything, that’s where it started. That’s where I developed a love for music and I found out that I was gifted enough to hear something and pick it out on the piano. The piano was given to me by my uncle, who is like a father figure of mine, who happens to be the pastor of my church. And he bought the piano and put it in the house in hopes that myself or one of the siblings would pick it up and find interest in it. My sister tried it, she fell off, my brother tried it also, and it was my turn, and it was on ever since!
That is a powerful foundation that you’ve built your craft upon. How has that drive toward perfection you had when playing that old piano, applied to your craft today? I use piano in almost everything that I do. It builds confidence too, because as a kid in the ghetto, you gotta think, there weren’t too many things we were exposed to or too many things that we found out that we were good at early. So that affected learning self-worth. Anytime you’re good at something or you pick up something that everyone can’t do, you kinda have a sense of pride so that played more than one role in my life, picking out on that old piano!
Your work is literally a who’s who of music royalty….I’m not gonna sit and name all of them, otherwise we will be here for a long while.(lol) But who do you long to work with at this time in your career? I like up and coming artists. I like Big Krit, Big Krit is really dope to me. Of course, I like Adele. I really want to work with Adele. That would be my number one artist that I would like to work with! I think we would make some really dope stuff.
Well you heard it first…on UT. We gonna claim that, put it existence! EP on the keys with Adele!
Yes, let’s claim that!
That creativity in Kanye’s first album is apparent, much respect for your input on that. Who has been your most creative collab or artist to work with?
Hands down, it would be Scarface….
Yes, I say Scarface because I got a chance to display more than just producing or play keys. I got a chance on this latest project Deeply Rooted which I’m the co-executive producer on, I got a chance to write songs, I wrote hooks, I placed artists on the record, I added background to it , laid keys on it, produced and I handled some of the administrative stuff for that album. So creatively… he (Scarface) trusted me, and he allowed me to share a lot more than just producing on project. So hands down it would be Scarface and Deeply Rooted.
Many times I discuss that element with artists, is the versatility. So basically you too are saying that you have to be well rounded as a creative artist in all aspects of what you do is important. Completely important. I mean, it’s everything. You have to have the ability. Say for instance, for that latest project, I couldn’t just bring any singer to any song. It had to be one that complemented that song, or the musician. Sometimes a song calls for something different than somebody in your camp. And you to be able to go outside and bring to the table what is necessary and not really be about self. It’s about whatever makes the project a great project.
We know about your musical background, those you’ve worked with. How you give back to the community. Tell us more about Big Homies. Yeah man, the Big Homies is just, like I grew up in Watts, and I went to church in Watts, maybe a mile from where I was raised. I still attend that same church today, and that neighborhood is stricken with violence and other things that the ghetto is plagued with, and all the challenges. I know for a fact that it’s not of myself why I made it out of the ghetto, it was a bigger source, God is the reason I made it out. And everybody is not as fortunate to get out, so I think the responsibility is on us. When we experience some sort of success, we ought to give back. I mean it’s only right. If I can help someone avoid a pitfall that I’ve fallen in, or I know about something, then we have that responsibility. Myself and my cousins and my brothers we still give back to that same community, and not for accolades, it’s just what we need to do, because we see the state of the world and the state of these young men out here. With a lot of absentee fathers and no body to give them a positive example, like we’ve got to step up! So I take that very serious and not only that, I do career days at the elementary schools and junior highs, just wherever I can I can lend something. Because I know I have a voice and that’s going to ring different than a police officer telling a kid not to do something. I have a certain influence, and I know it, so I try to use my influence in a way that I can help somebody.
Do you think that those in the industry need to do? Is it Important to give back? It’s important to give back, but I think it’s only important to give back if you have the mind set to give back, because you could do further damage if you’re giving the wrong thing back. Everybody doesn’t know how to give back.
Do you ever regret taking that leap of faith, getting into the music industry? Never, not one day. It’s either sink or swim with me, you know what I mean. So have some swimming trunks on right now so just in case I sink, I’ll swim!
What’s next? What will be Ervin “EP” Pope next greatest accomplishment in the next two to five years? Next two to five years from now…The goal is to make my Production Company/ Label a household name. I have four artists signed to me currently, I have a team of producers and a team of writers, which I consider family. We have a work ethic like no other, and very shortly, hopefully it will be a worldwide situation in which everybody will understand will know who THE FURNACE is and what we bring to the table.
So how do our readers follow the musician, the producer and community leader?
Very simple, I’m around!!