Eamon 2004: Mark Mainz/Getty Images

Welcome to the fifth installment of Fuse's newest column, Then & Now! Throughout this interview series, we chat with some of your favorite artists from the '90s and early aughts about their careers' biggest highlights and what they're up to today. This week, we spoke to Eamon.

Eamon first burst onto the music scene in 2003 with his debut album I Don't Want You Back, which featured the wrath-filled single, "Fuck It (I Don't Want You Back)." Since then, the Staten Island native released a follow-up sophomore album Love & Pain in 2006. The singer has laid pretty low over the past few years, but he is now signed to a new independent level and is ready to make a proper comeback with his first album in 11 years. Golden Rail Motel, which is out today (Sept. 15), finds Eamon exploring the sounds he loves best—doo-wop and classic soul. 

Read on for our chat with the singer, who has experienced many ups and downs throughout the past decade (addiction, marriage, changing record labels, etc.) and is back on a steady musical journey.

FUSE: What do you think people would be most surprised about when they hear this album?
Eamon: Let’s be real—most people know me from the “Fuck It” song. I made a second album, which I thought was a step up musically from my first album. But I think most people don’t know my history. I grew up in a music family and I sang doo-wop in a group with my father. I’m a singer! I think most people look at me as a dude who just made a song and he didn’t care about anything. I think they’ll be surprised like, “Yo he can really sing!” And that I’m capable of doing different types of music as well as produce.

Even with the Love and Pain album, you kept growing. That was more soulful R&B and this new album is a lot more classic. So you’re pushing yourself more as an artist.
I’m not even saying this to kiss your ass or anything—excuse my language—but that means a lot to me! This is what I do it for. I want people to have an experience and really feel blessed by the music, so it’s amazing that you like it.

What do you have to say to the people who thought you would just be a one-hit wonder?
That’s just something we’re taught and it’s so often said about people. When you call someone a one-hit wonder, you just discounted that person. Like you might as well say that person is a piece of shit or like that person didn’t do anything special! Even if there’s people who just make one album or one song, that’s more than 99.9 percent than other people in the world will ever do—to have a hit song! Something that’s so interesting about music to me, is when people troll me online and leave a comment on YouTube like “This song is wack.” I’d rather let someone take a shot at me or my personality, because I can defend that. But when you take a shot at someone’s artistry, that’s subjective. So it’s hard to fight against that because it’s their opinion.

Did you think that song was going to be such a hit? It was on the radio all the time and even went Gold.
When I first made the song, I remember telling the producer that guys are going to like it but girls aren’t. I’m getting on a girl about being unfaithful, how can they like it? He was like, “Yo you’re bugging. This song is gonna be huge!” I wrote it when I was 16 and almost every label was like “We want to sign you but the music will never get played on the radio.” I remember Star and Buc Wild played it on Hot 97 as a favor, and all the record labels who said it would never work wound up calling me back. I thought it was bonkers, the song says “Eff you, you ho!” I think people were hungry for someone just being real with how they really felt. It think it opened the door for a lot of artists too. Nowadays people are just going off on a track with unapologetic lyrics, whether it’s vulgar language or not. That was unheard of on Top 40 radio when I came out! [laughs] I think it’s cool that it allowed other people to not play by the rules.

I’m going to bring it back to your new album now. You said you played in a doo-wop group with your dad. Was that a major influence for the record?
It’s pretty easy for me to write different types of music, but what comes out of me naturally is this—late ‘50s/early ‘60s soul. I grew up listening to doo-wop groups like Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers, The Students, The Coasters. Also Sam Cooke, Otis Redding, The Temptations, Joe Bataan…these are the guys who were engrained in me. So when I write these songs, that’s the type of feeling and melody that comes out of me. So I wanted to do an album that I’ve always wanted and not write a song thinking “Is this going to work on radio?” I just wanted to write a song that’s real. About what I’m going through, what I’ve been through and let it come out through old-school soul. Because that’s what I am, you know?

I think sometimes when artists immediately think of writing a hit record, it doesn’t come off as genuine. When you go in the studio and kind of let yourself go, the outcome is a lot better.
Yeah, it doesn’t work! Let’s be honest. We’ve heard a lot of artists in the past where you can tell—I don’t wanna call out any names. But there’s times where I’m like, I know you got with certain writers in the business and the label put you in the studio with them and you tried to make that first single. It’s obvious! I don’t even have to look at the video. I can just hear the first few bars and I’m like, ahh you went there? You didn’t have to! But that’s the game when you’re with major record labels.

What’s the meaning behind the album’s name, Golden Rail Motel?
One of the producers and I kept going back and forth with titles. I’m in recovery for addiction, and my of my story is being in a situation where I’m locking myself in a motel and being cut off from the world because I didn’t want to be bothered. In that situation I went through a whole bunch of different thoughts, memories and experiences in my life where I was able to come out of it. It was a turning point in my life where it was the end of me being at my bottom just being sick of life and thinking that it was over. At the same time, the producer of the album had an experience at a hotel with his ex-girlfriend. So combining the two together he came up with Golden Rail Motel. I thought it sounded really trippy, like a place where thoughts come about it. It sounded like a magical place.

Would you say recording this album was kind of like a healing process? I read previously that this fame came with a lot of personal struggles. Did the music help?
I don’t know if it was the music that helped me recover but it definitely helped me share my story. When you’re going through hurt and pain and you wind up getting into addiction or whatever the case may be, you just don’t hurt you—you hurt other people around you. So it was a process to write songs like “Mama Don’t Cry” and “You and Only You.” I wrote “You and Only You” because I needed God to get me out of this, no other human could save me from it. So a recovery process? I guess it was. After being away for so long I finally got to accomplish something that I always wanted to do. I got a lot of stuff off my chest.

I wanted to get the story behind your “Be My Girl” single. It’s so great!
I wanted to take it back to an era where it had Motown-type of lyrics. Kind of like “My Girl,” those type of poetic lyrics. I wanted something like those really catchy, old-school choruses—like a “Be My Baby” by The Ronettes. I had just gotten married too, so that was a major influence. I had never thought that was gonna happen to me and I was filled with lies from my neighborhood like “You’re never gonna get married!” All that crazy stuff. But I got blessed with a wife and it was the perfect timing. Like man, I’m in love and the lyrics just come so easily when that’s the reality for you.

“Everyone’s a victim at some point, but at what point are you gonna take responsibility and say 'I gotta step up and man up in this situation.'”
-Eamon

It’s funny that you’re on the set for the “I Got Soul” video right now, because that’s one of my favorite songs on the album. There’s a lyric where you say “I don’t got trap beats with mumble raps.” With hip-hop now, it’s all about Percocets, Xanax and Molly—there’s nothing really substantial.
Yeah! [laughs] I just wanted to make a song where it’s like, yo if that’s your thing that’s cool. But it’s never gonna be my thing. I’ve had people say that I have to do an album that’s got trap beats and I sing with some Auto-Tune. That’s really been suggested to me! When I first came out, a lot of things that I was talking about like chains and popping bottles…that was stuff that was fed to me. That’s what cool looked like. I guess the whole Instagram and social media culture puts out a portrayal of what’s popping or what successful looks like. That song [“I Got Soul”] is just about, “Nah, if that means successful I don’t got it.” But what I got is soul. I got something different, something real and true. And I hope it’s offensive too! [laughs] I hope it makes people feel uncomfortable. 

Are you nervous at all with making this big comeback? This is your first time in 11 years!
I don’t know if I’m nervous about putting it out, because it’s gonna do what it’s gonna do. That’s out of my hands. Me being nervous doesn’t help if people are gonna like it or not, or if it’s going to be fruitful. I guess the things I get nervous about are like…I hate doing photo shoots! Or making a flight after doing a late-night show. I’m responsible for the footwork and the results aren’t up to me.

How do you think you’ve grown both as a person since the last record?
Ah man. In 2006 I was kind of self-centered in the way that I moved and the way that I dealt with situations. My go-to was spending money, using drugs, getting drunk and being with different girls. I think I’ve changed in all those situations where I no longer have to go to outside things to make me feel different on the inside. I got a relationship with God and I respect women. Like what I was saying before, how self-centered we can get when we act out and go to a drug thing or gambling or drinking. It hurts everybody, not just you. So I think I’m more mature in a way where I know there’s real life out there and the decisions you make will affect the people around you. I think a lot of people—especially musicians who have had it rough or like you said “one-hit wonders” or people who have made a lot of money and a few years later they don’t—struggle with victim-itis. I know it’s not a real word but everyone’s always like “Poor me! Poor me!” Everyone points the finger. So check this out. You said how have I grown? In 2006 that was something I would dig into. It’s this person’s fault and that person’s fault. But never ever taking a look at me like how could I have done things differently. That’s what I do a lot today. This happened to my life but I allowed it to happen. Everyone’s a victim at some point, but at what point are you gonna take responsibility and say “I gotta step up and man up in this situation.”

You’ve been in this game for such a long time. But throughout your career was there anything he would’ve changed? Or are you satisfied with your journey?
If anything changed I wouldn’t be talking to you right now. For real, like how bugged out is that? I wouldn’t be able to answer this question if things weren’t going exactly the way it was going. I’m grateful. Sometimes the pain and the struggle build character. I’m grateful for the struggle, sometimes it hurt, but I’m here now. I’m making the music that I want and able to put out another album. You don’t understand how bugged out that is for me. There were times in my life where I thought I’d never make music again. So me being able to talk to you right now and talk about a new album is still mind-blowing for me.

What artist would you like to see in our Then & Now series? Let us know on Twitter @FuseTV or in the comment section! Next up, listen to the latest episode of Besterday, Fuse's nostalgia podcast: