Technically, the singer-songwriter is just helping to keep the Friday night slot warm for Ryan Tubridy for the summer.
But the magnitude of a built-in post-news RTÉ One audience isn’t lost on the 26-year-old as she prepares to present new music show The Main Stage alongside Danny O’Reilly of The Coronas this week. “Well, there you go,” laughs Dubliner Erica of taking over from Tubs, albeit temporarily. “It’s like, ‘The Late Late — but make it music’.
“It’s a beast of a primetime slot to fill, but I’m very honoured to be doing it,” she says. “The Late Late has been on air for what — the last 60 years? — and to be taking over from them while they’re on a break for the summer is incredible.
“For me, it’s obviously a huge deal; it’s not every day that RTÉ comes knocking and tells you that they want to give you your own music show alongside the likes of Danny. I’m not going to lie, there’s definitely some imposter syndrome there.
“It really hasn’t hit me, to be honest. I’m the kind of person that when I’m in something I give it 110pc, and then think about it later. I’m just excited to be unapologetically me.”
Kicking off this Friday, The Main Stage celebrates the best of Irish music from rock to trad, and folk right up to R&B, with a host of both new and familiar faces. R&B star Erica is among the fresh wave of artists whose stock is on the rise since joining Irish Women in Harmony in 2020.
Together with a collective of female talent including Róisín O, the Queen singer helped raise almost €250,000 for domestic violence service Safe Ireland with their emotive cover of The Cranberries classic Dream during lockdown.
So could a duet with another of folk legend Mary Black’s famous family be on the cards during the live show’s run?
“There might be something,” teases Erica, explaining how the presenters will also show off their musical skill on The Main Stage. “He’s had such an incredible career.
“I’m honoured to be presenting alongside him, and then there’s me, who’s that new generation of talent that’s coming in.
“I think we’ve seen Ireland evolve in terms of music; we’ve gone from a very rock-indie heavy scene to embracing so many different genres that usually wouldn’t have been at the forefront.
"We’re not only getting established artists, but there’s a lot of emerging artists in the line-up as well, and rightly so because it’s important to hone our own [talent].
“Often what happens, we don’t really know how to celebrate our own when they’re coming up; and sometimes it takes for artists to go and break the UK or US to then come back and be like, ‘Oh yeah, we’ll jump on it now’, instead of doing it from the get-go.”
With family ties in South Carolina, where her former basketball player dad is from, it’s a route the performer admits she may yet go, appearing to confirm there’s been interest from across the pond.
“I wouldn’t say ‘advances’,” says Erica, who began writing songs aged just seven. “But absolutely that’s on the cards for me anyway. I’m definitely putting myself out there — I’d say that much.
“I always want to challenge myself and I always want to get better, so I think you have to broaden your horizons if you want to grow. I don’t want to just hit a ceiling and then never try and break through it.”
Baldoyle girl Erica called herself an “accidental activist” after speaking out about racism in Ireland amid worldwide Black Lives Matter protests following the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis in 2020.
Although keen not to “harp on about it”, the presenter told how she’s now proud to boost representation of Black Irish people in mainstream media here.
“Something that really hit home for me was when producers told me, ‘Erica, we’ve just realised that you’re the first Black Irish woman that’s ever had their own slot on primetime television on RTÉ’,” she tells.
“I’ve always talked about representation and how important it is. To now see that I am that representation is really mad. I truly believe ‘be the change that you want to see’, but sometimes you just don’t think it’s really going to be you.”
Dancing With The Stars alumna Erica shone on the channel earlier this year when she made the final of the celebrity groove-off with partner Denys Samson.
And she told how she’s no longer bothered by an online minority, apparently triggered by seeing a woman of colour thriving on the national stage.
“I’ve always geared myself up for the fact that people are always going to have different opinions and not everybody’s going to love you,” she shrugs.
“Now it’s at the stage where I’m like, well, only I can dictate my own happiness. I can’t really let other people’s opinions dictate how I feel. “It took me a long time to learn that, but a lesson is a lesson. I’m very proud of how far I’ve come both in my career, but also mentally. I treat people how I want to be treated, and that’s with respect.
“At least when I go to bed at night I know that I’ve been a good person — for me, that’s enough.”
The Main Stage starts on RTÉ One this Friday at 9.30pm