It’s just another Thursday night at the University of Nevada. Clicking of a keyboard and the occasional jingle from an iPhone can be heard through music playing through the speakers surrounding a young man engulfed by what’s on his screen. He brushes his fingers through his long hair, leans back in his desk chair, and takes a deep breath. Just like most Thursdays, the majority of students are finishing up assignments in preparation for the weekend’s festivities or kicking back to enjoy the night’s football games.
But Eric Brooks is directing his concentration on something much different than that. Even though Brooks attends the University of Nevada as a full-time student, it’s not his main focus. He chooses to invest most of his time and energy in his passion of being an independent hip-hop artist and producer.
“Music is my first priority,” Brooks said. “Everything in my life basically revolves around my music.”
Anyone who has ever spoken to Brooks can tell he doesn’t take his music lightly. Most of his time outside of the classroom is spent in his recording studio that he has set up in his house.
“I’m always in here,” he said. “And when I’m not, I’m just waiting for the creativity to start flowing again so I can just get back to work.”
He was raised in a middle-class family in small-town Winnemucca, Nevada, where his mother is a cosmetologist and his father is a school teacher. But despite having an ordinary childhood, Brooks was anything but ordinary. He had always been deeply interested in music. It was in middle school when his friend, Alec, brought him to the idea of rapping.
“He’d always write raps just for fun, and that kind of turned me onto it,” Brooks said. “I started thinking that this could be real. We could actually do something with this.”
Once Brooks hit high school, the idea continued to linger in his head. His brother, Joe, also had a large part in his need to pursue a path with music. His brother kept him in-the-know in terms of what was new and cool in terms of underground hip-hop. When Brooks was around 14 years old, he talked to Joe and his father about his plans for the future.
“I remember talking to him while we were on a fishing trip with our dad,” Joe said. “We were walking along the creek. He told me his goals. He told me his plan. I could truly tell he believed that at 14 years old.”
On October 3, 2012, Brooks was in his junior year, and nobody was expecting the event that was going to change everything. One hard hit at football practice was all it took to shove Brooks to the brink of death. His kidney had literally ripped in half, and his family was told to prepare themselves and say their goodbyes. But somehow, Brooks pulled through. He lost his kidney but he gained something that changed his life forever.
“I should have died that day,” Brooks said. “When I survived, it was a huge eye-opening experience. I kind of took an inward journey. Life’s too short to do anything other than what makes you happy. Everything else is just bullshit. I knew nothing made me as happy as making music, so that’s when I decided to take it seriously.”
His family was by his side the entire time, and they witnessed the huge change in Brooks’ view on life.
“His music became his therapy to move on from the trauma of his accident,” said Paige Brooks, Eric’s mother. “His accident was so intense and his pain was so indescribable. He listened to music and began to really use his words. That became his healing, and those became his songs.”
After he healed, he introduced the idea to his parents that he wanted to take on music as a full career, and they totally embraced it.
“When Eric puts his mind to something, the whole household has to embrace it,” Paige said. It’s a huge industry and Eric is so kind and sensitive, so it was a little worrisome. But his enthusiasm over his passion for music is so electrifying that you can’t help but get on board.”
Brooks immediately immersed himself into his music. He began taking his lyric-writing seriously and began to develop his own beats. That’s when things kicked into high-gear.
“When I wasn’t in school, I was either at work or I was working on my music,” Brooks said.
Everything in his life began revolving around his music. He blew off a lot of plans in order to create his music. Every birthday or Christmas, he would request a new piece of equipment. Most of the money made at his job went toward his growing studio, as well.
“Let’s just say our entire upstairs became a recording studio trying to figure out how to soundproof rooms for all of his equipment,” Paige said.
After he began developing a voice and a sound for himself, he began creating his music under the name “Econic,” a name he found for himself.
“I always had the image of being an icon when I started making music,” Brooks said. “I always thought it would be tight to have that within my name or somewhere in my image. But then I thought of ‘Econic,’ because it was like being iconic, but with my favorite letter ‘E’ of course.”
Then in November of 2013, he dropped his first mixtape, “Creation of Purpose,” and aside from a few disapproving peers, he had a pretty solid support group behind him.
“My friends used to make fun of me and always told me how bad I sucked, but that’s because I was pretty bad when I first started,” Brooks said. “But now they’re super big supporters of me. That’s one of the hardest parts of making music is what people think about you. But after losing my kidney, I realized it didn’t even matter.”
He began attending the University of Nevada as a full-time student this fall studying business and music in order to expand his skill-set for the future.
“I’m not one to be able to sit in a desk for very long, but I know that it’ll help me learn new things and make connections I can use later on,” Brooks said. “Music is still my first priority.”
He’s already started making his mark on the city of Reno with his music. He had an interview with Talk Reno, and he just released his latest mixtape, “Metronome Thoughts,” on September 28th.
“I’ve generated more than 50,000 plays on SoundCloud with my first mixtape, so I’m pretty stoked for what will happen with this next one,” Brooks said.
His progress definitely has not gone unnoticed by his friends and family, especially by his brother.
“Honestly, sometimes I’m left speechless by how far he’s really progressed in the last two years alone,” Joe said. “He’s a dedicated artist and my entire family is proud of him for that.”
When Brooks relocated to Reno, he didn’t just bring a solid listener-base with him. He also brought his recording studio with him and is continuing to work on his music every day. His daily patterns haven’t changed much since moving from Winnemucca. He’s still a student, and he still uses his remaining time on his music. When he’s in the recording studio, there’s not much that can stop him.
“When I’m in the zone, I don’t like disrupting it,” Brooks said. “But sometimes, the creativity just doesn’t flow and you don’t want to force your work. Being in Reno makes it easier. When I’m at the house, I’m in the studio.”
Brooks worked himself silly in order to be able to have the studio that is now his safe haven. Several technical keyboards cover an old desk where an oversized computer monitor is also located. A standing recording microphone sits close by and expensive speakers of all sizes surround the entire desk area. Christmas lights lace the perimeter of the room which illuminates the many posters of other musical artists that line the walls. An old turntable is placed on top of one of the larger speakers, and at least a hundred vinyl records are stacked next to the office chair where Brooks sits, completely at ease. His eyes light up with excitement when asked about any piece of his equipment or about the process of recording.
“Recording is all about the vibe,” Brooks said. “Sometimes I’m all alone in here at 3 a.m., but sometimes when I’m making those fun tracks, I like to get some friends around me. But whether my friends are in here or it’s just me, I just have to have the right vibes flowing.”
He’s also recorded with several people over the years, all of whom have seen the inspirational process that Brooks goes through.
Brooke Westwood has both recorded and just been witness to the things that go on behind-the scenes. Brooks has also brought her into the music scene, as she was too shy to do so before.
“I’d always send him videos of me singing just so I could get some feedback,” Westwood said. “He was the only one who would really be real with me. It took me a while for him to get me in there, but when I did, he took me out of my comfort zone.”
Even sitting on the side watching his artistic process could be enough to impress just about anybody.
“Being in the studio with him was probably one of the coolest things I’ve ever watched,” Westwood said. “You can tell all of his passion is pouring out.”
Although his music and his fan-base are things he could easily use to impress, Brooks has other, more close-to-heart, accomplishments that he’s earned since setting out on this journey.
“The numbers and all of that are cool, but I’ve had a lot of people actually reach out to me,” Brooks said. “There was one girl who told me she was madly depressed, and to see me follow my dreams and the message I’m conveying made her an entirely different person now. Knowing that someone, whether it’s just one person or a million, is just connecting with what you’re communicating…now that’s cool.”
Brooks’ music, personality and personal story has also affected the lives several people close to him.
“Everything Eric talks about and the way he says it just makes you want to hear what else he has to say,” Westwood said. “You can hang on every single one of his words because he’s just so stoked on life, especially his music. The way he looks at things is mind-blowing, and his story is just super inspiring. The kid has changed my outlook on life 100 percent.”
Brooks knows he still has a long, unmapped and difficult journey ahead of him, but he, along with everyone else, knows that hardly anything will be slowing him down anytime soon.
“I know making it in the music industry is so unrealistic,” Brooks said. “This is what’s going to make me happy at the end of the day. No matter what, I’m going to have this. That’s all that matters to me. Yeah, it’s unrealistic…but what’s even the point of being realistic?”