Erica Falls grew up the youngest of 8 children in New Orleans’ 9th Ward. Her mother was a school teacher and musician who sang and played the piano and organ at church. At an early age, her parents passed along their love of classic soul singers and exposed her to a variety of music styles that began the foundation for her love of music.
Eventually, Falls was singing at church with her family, and it was then that she discovered her musical talents.
By the end of high school, she began singing in bands around New Orleans and people were taking notice of her voice. She was being booked for back up vocal gigs with some of the biggest names in the music industry – Dr. John, Sting, Jennifer Hudson, No Doubt, John Fogerty, and the man that would become one of her biggest supports and mentors, Allen Toussaint. In 2013, producer/director, Lee Daniels, cast her as a singer in his critically acclaimed film, The Butler, starring Forest Whitaker and featuring Oprah Winfrey, Cuba Gooding, Jr, and more.
Throughout her musical journey, Falls worked on her own solo music but it was always on the back burner so she could continue to back up other singers or be the dynamic front-woman for the New Orleans power-funk band, Galactic. During her time with the band, in 2017 she released her own album Homegrown – which was nominated by Offbeat magazine for one of the best R&B albums of the year. The magazine also nominated her for Best R&B Artist and for Best Female Vocalist – which she won in 2017 and again in 2019. That drive to focus on her solo career began to boil over, and in 2019, she stepped down as singer of Galactic to put her own music first.
But music isn’t all she shares. Her other passion is cooking. In 2018, Falls started Hen.E Sweets and sells cupcake-sized Bread Pudding and creamy Coconut Pralines. The cupcakes are based on her grandmother’s recipe that her dad taught her to make and she sells them throughout New Orleans.
With her powerful voice and soulful New Orleans spirit, she has been crowned the Queen of New Orleans Neo-Soul. And with all of her attention and focus on herself and her own music now, she has been working on more highly anticipated work to share with the world.
“If red beans & rice could sing, they’d sound like Erica Falls”
– Cyril Neville
Who makes the best Red Beans and rice?
The answer to that is my Mother. They were always seasoned perfectly and creamy.
When did you learn to make red beans and rice?
I learned to cook red beans around the age of 12 or 13 watching my parents. They both cooked extremely well, but I learned in stages. My Mom would start the beans and from there instruct me of what seasoning meat to put in next or to taste the liquor (bean juice) and see if any more spices needed to be added.
Eventually, I was putting on the beans on a Sunday night for Monday all by myself.
What do red beans and rice means to you?
Cultural Tradition. You can walk into any home, Black or White in the city of New Orleans and there will be a pot of red beans on the stove on a Monday.
Are there any special memories that are brought up when you think back on it?
Yes, it makes me think about dinner time growing up as a kid. My parents, siblings, and myself all at the table enjoying a plate full of red beans & rice, baked chicken, and homemade cornbread.
Do you only eat red beans and rice on a Monday?
Most times I do but if I get the urge to put on a pot of beans on a Saturday while I clean up ..I will.
What’s your process for cooking a pot of red beans?
I rinse my beans in cold water. Then I add water and chicken stock to the pot with all of my spices, seasonings, meats and let it cook on a medium fire until they are creamy and the meat is tender.
What do you serve with your red beans and rice?
Chicken breast pan-seared in whatever spices I have a taste for and cornbread from scratch. My Mother’s recipe.
What are you currently working on?
As far as new projects, I am in the studio working on some new tunes that I‘m looking to release early in 2021 and I’m excited about that. I have also been baking, I have a small dessert company Hen.E Sweets and I make individual cupcake sized Bread Pudding, and Coconut Pralines. These are my Grandmother’s recipes taught to me by my Dad. This has really been helpful in me staying above water during this pandemic.
You can more information on Erica Falls on her website https://www.ericafalls.com.
To stay up to date on everything Erica Falls is doing, you can follow her on Instagram @ericafalls, or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/ericafallsmusic.
If you would like to order from Hen.E Sweets, follow the link in the bio on the Instagram account, @henesweets. You can also find Hen.E Sweets on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/hen.esweets.
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Keep the red beans cookin’!
Eric Olsson is the food blogger of RedBeansAndEric.com. He publishes new recipes and interviews weekly. He has developed recipes and written articles for the famous Camellia brand in New Orleans, Louisiana. He has been mentioned in Louisiana Cookin‘ magazine and has had recipes featured in Taste of Home magazine – with his Creole Turkey recipe being runner up in their annual Thanksgiving recipe contest. He lives outside of Detroit, Michigan, with his wife and four children.