By Krystal Roberts

On any given night, you’re likely to find Atlanta’s diverse group of musicians playing in restaurants or lounges around the city. But as local musician Eric Thomas pointed out to me when we sat down to discuss his new album, Take it Easy, many perform with cover bands that rarely allow them to share their original music.

“I think there’s a problem with everything sounding the same,” Thomas said. “Atlanta has so many talented cats. I don’t understand why more of them aren’t out there playing their [own] music.”

Thomas is the creator and front man of his own jazz, hip-hop, R&B, funk and soul collective, Elevate the Quest (ETQ). His goal of the band is to, “Elevate The Quest for life through music.” His new album, a unique brand of jazz-fusion, intends to accomplish this with its backbeats, live re-imagined version of Nat King Cole’s “Nature Boy,” and saxophone.

“Feelings, memories, and experiences go into creating music,” Thomas said. “And when it’s played, those elements get elevated and have the potential to affect an audience.”

However, Thomas has found it difficult to find live local music in Atlanta that truly “elevates” in this way.

“As much as we love the classics,” Thomas first qualifies, “when you go out to catch live music and that’s all bands are playing, it takes away from the individual artistry of the musician.”

Even on the traditional jazz side of live music in the city, things are not much different, according to Thomas. “Someone can sit up and swing to all the [traditional jazz] tunes, and that stuff is awesome for jam sessions, but those tunes [are heard] all the time too.”

From his own experiences, Thomas believes that people in Atlanta are in fact interested in hearing good, live, original music.

“Sometimes people will see me out playing at a restaurant, and they’ll come up to me and request songs from my album. They’re like, ‘Man, Eric, let’s hear some of your stuff.’”

But that has only happened because he’s put on his own shows and taken every opportunity to play his own music. He acknowledges that there is always the thought that people may not be as open to listening to original music as they are to the popular covers they’re accustomed to. Yet, Thomas insists that there needs to be balance.

“[Atlanta] would really expand culturally because the diversity of the music would give people a wider variety of music to choose from,” he said.

Though the city’s live music scene faces challenges, Eric’s optimism becomes clear as he expresses his appreciation for venues like Eddie’s Attic in Decatur, fellow Atlanta-based artist and saxophonist Dee Lucas and an organization called Harmony Jazz Alliance, whose focus is to strengthen the jazz community. All three are seeking to “Elevate the Quest,” for more live original music in Atlanta.

Thomas’ sophomore album, Take it Easy, is currently available at Amazon, iTunes and CD Baby.

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.