[INTERVIEW] A NEW LIGHT ON ERIC BELLINGER

When talking about the greatest R&B singers of this generation, there’s no doubt in my mind that Eric Bellinger should be at the top of that list. The west coast native has been serenading us with his incredible vocal talents for nearly a decade and his projects show no loss in quality. Eric Bellinger’s latest project, ‘New Light’, gives me hope for the future of R&B. On this project Eric clearly took his time with each song, making sure each track was crafted exactly the way he wanted.

Dropping songs for the majority of the past decade, Eric has proven that he is the cream of the crop. On ‘New Light’, he gathered what feels like the R&B avengers, to make this project as great as it could be. He tapped artist such as Sevyn Streeter, Brandy, The Game, Dom Kennedy, Hitmaka and more, choosing the single ‘What About Us’ with clear purpose and the belief that it would be the leading one of the bunch. As an artist that only delivers high quality music and high-quality projects, it’s clear that Eric worked this album as hard as he could. Make sure you tune in to Eric Bellinger’s album ‘New Light’ and read what he had to say in our interview…

How dis you approach this album differently to your others?

For ‘New Light’, it was more personal for starters. Coming out of quarantine and isolation, it was a time of self reflection and just inner healing. I feel like the songs I was creating had to match the frequency that I was in, just the purity and everything that I went through on the cleansing and the songs have to reflect that. You got songs like ‘Backwards’ and ‘Counting My Blessings’ because the state of mind that I was in was just different.

Why did you choose ‘What About Us’ for the single? 

For ‘What About Us’, that was actually one of the first songs that I felt really gave me the sound that I was going for on the album. I went to Atlanta and recorded that one and when I did it, I immediately sent it out to people. I normally don’t do that, I’m the guy that’s old school, you’re not going to hear my music until it’s out because somebody might take it and you didn’t register; you know what I’m saying? So I don’t really be posting music like that but this one, I just felt real special. I sent it to Tyrese, Tyrese immediately sent it to Jermaine Dupri. Jermaine Dupri heard the song like “ok get him down here.” I was down there the next day and I feel like that song was essentially a calling card and a quick resumé to let people know what I was on while creating. After this album came out, it just stood the test of time; it’s still the one.

I feel like you summoned the R&B Avengers for this album – a lot of crazy features, a lot of crazy producers on here too. Obviously this album was made during a pandemic, was this project something that you took song by song or were you in album mode and you knew that all these tracks were going to go towards an album?

Yeah, in all the sessions we were creating intentionally for the album, we knew the whole time that this is what it would be for. I did multiple camps, I did a camp in Orlando, I did two camps in Atlanta, I did two camps in LA and when you say R&B Avengers, that’s literally what it was. I took the idea that bringing so many writers together from all the people that I’ve written for, Chris Brown and Usher, whenever we work on their albums it’s camps and they’re flying in writers from all over the world. Normally for my albums I just do them by myself. But I was like, why not call in all the cheat codes, get everybody together multiple times and have the best of the best to choose from, the same way the majors do it?

Do you plan on going on tour to perform this album? 

Yeah, I definitely want to hit the road and perform the songs. We’ve got a nice little set that we’ve been preparing, already performing, since it’s been a pandemic we’ve still wanted to get content out. We practice with the band, we’ve practiced with dancers. I have a full show, full set, ready to go just because we’ve been doing it virtually. So now I look at it like “yo, as soon as everything is ready to go, we’re ready to go.”

What are some things that you have started to look at in a new light?

I think lately I’ve been able to pay more attention to what’s going on around me. I’ve always been in the studio creating or on the road, or just busy writing for this person or trying to learn a movie script. With everything shutting down and with me having so much time, I’ve literally been able to look around and tighten up everything around me. I think that’s been the the best part about slowing down is that you get to actually take a look in the mirror. I was not necessarily running from the mirror, I just didn’t have time to stare into it. Now that the album’s out especially, I got nothing to do but reflect.

With some of your past projects like ‘Eric B For President’, you went back after the albums and you did acoustic versions. Is this something you plan on doing with ‘New Light’ too?

Nah definitely, we already have five of the acoustic versions done also with live performances of them. So I feel like we’ll be releasing that soon, but I kind of want to make that part of the extension of the album and make it a deluxe. Give people some of the favourite songs but just different variations and different versions. I got some some really cool piano versions as well as guitar versions and we recorded live videos of all of them as well. 

I feel like you spent more time working on ‘New Light’ than you have on other projects.

Yeah, I know in the past people have known me to drop like four albums, maybe even six in a year. I think that’s because, like you said I’m a songwriter; my hobby is to go to the studio. With us having this catalog, it was just like, “let’s drop.” I feel like with ‘New Light’, it shows such a different part of me that I want people to focus on and make sure they don’t miss the album.

It shows you in a new light.

Yeah so I’m like, all right, if they can focus on one album out of all of the albums that I have, I would love for them to hang on to ‘New Light’ and let that be the calling card for “which Eric Bellinger album should I listen to?” I think once we do the push with ‘What About Us’, I plan for that one to be super successful. Shout out to Sevyn Streeter for just going crazy, the video’s crazy, the vocals are crazy; that’s my real family. With ‘What About Us’ I look at it like, that’s going to open so many doors and there’s a lot of other songs on ‘New Light’ that still deserve some videos and things to be highlighted.

Whats your favorite thing about performing? 

Oh man, we talked earlier about the two different types of performances, you’ve got stage performances where there are thousands of people in the crowd but there’s also 10 to 15 feet of barricades between you and the crowd. Then you’ve got the intimate setting where there’s maybe two hundred or five hundred people but everyone’s right there. You’re touching fingertips, you jump in the crowd and you just feel it a lot more. The connection is what I’m attracted to the most when it comes to music, especially nowadays. The artist relation to consumer has been just cut in half since all the social media platforms. So I feel like when you’re on stage, it’s the same feeling and I really enjoy it. Being right there with the fans, they feel me more and I feel like when you have that moment, it creates a bond that could last forever.

What were some ways that you feel like you’ve stepped out of your comfort zone lately?

I think on this project the vulnerability was something that I normally wouldn’t have done, records like ‘Tired Of Waiting’. These songs are true stories – it’s like I’m frustrated, agitated, maybe I’m busy, maybe wifey is busy – but whatever the case, we’re unable to connect, we’re unable to link. I’m tired of waiting but I’ma wait, you know? ‘Euphoric’ or ‘What About Us’, all those songs are so true to me, very honest. ‘Counting My Blessings’, that’s the first song of mine that I’ve cried listening to. I think just being able to tap into those emotions, I think it allowed the people to connect on a deeper level as well. 

What is your dating life like and how has it been affected by the pandemic?

I’ve got the cheat code to all dating issues but you got to get here. I’m married right now, we’re going on seven years; this is my best friend I’m locked in with. We can’t go nowhere, let’s go upstairs and we’re good. We’ve known each other for over 20 years and it’s a dope vibe, dope connection. I think that’s one thing that really gives me that advantage, that edge of already knowing what I’m fighting for. It’s a different fight when you know you’ve already won the battle.

Life’s a lot less stressful when you’re not dating.

I don’t know about that, I can’t imagine. I was seeing it coming though. I was like “yo things are getting a little crazy out here in these streets, I might need to lock one up.” Then I started seeing the things that were going viral were getting more degrading, more violent, more disrespectful. I’m like, “is this what they’re really on here? This can’t be, let me break it down for the dating vibes.” I feel like that’s an important topic and for me to just be like, I got it all together is not the vibe. To everybody listening, I look at it like, “if you have somebody that you do feel special about, you got a good vibe from them when y’all hang out; it’s fun, everything is cool. I say keep it like that as long as you can, cherish that and don’t rush to the bed, don’t rush to the intimacy because it definitely taints it. I know we all want that but really connecting with somebody starts in conversation, starts over dinner, starts over Netflix. You know, really getting to know somebody, I feel like once you can gain someone’s actual attention, even just that – water the attention, even that’ll grow into something great.

Most of your music is primarily based on love and emotions and everything that comes with that. What has recording these songs been like with your wife? Does she ever get in the booth with you? Is she there for the process or does she ever comment about your verses? 

Yeah, it’s different with La’Myia, she used to do music and she was signed to a big label. They won music awards and they were signed, touring and recording. I think that taught her the music industry as well, to the point where she understands that I’m out there working, really working. I’ve had chicks in the past that will pull up to the studio and be with me. But if you’re here, you’re not out there going to get it, you know what I mean? So I started to see a pattern and it didn’t really work out. Then when she came around but didn’t want to come around, I was like, “yeah she gets it.” I think it’s just out of respect, I think the trust that she gives me it, it only makes me want to make sure that I don’t hang myself with the slack on the rope.

That’s great having a partner that works in music and knows how that life works. 

She’s actually in Atlanta now, doing her thing, acting. She’s on a TV show that’ll be coming out soon and I’m doing my music. We got a fire little village set-up at the crib.

Do you plan on continuing the ‘Eric B For President’ series? 

I think that was it. I think we already killed them with the three terms, like you’re only supposed to do two. We did term three but I do feel like some of the other ones can get some maybe some trilogies, maybe a sequel. ‘Eazy Call’, ‘1-800 Hit Eazy’, or ‘Cuffing Season Four’, that sounds doable. All of my fans and supporters know, if there’s anything they can count on it’s new music.

I have to ask you about the hottest song in New York this Summer. ‘Gyalis‘ by Capella Grey. What are your thoughts on him and that song. 

I think it’s dope. The first time I heard it I’m like “yo what’s this?” Crazy vibes, crazy flow and I actually did more research instead of just leaving it at. Because you don’t just come out and then that’s it, you know? I went to his page heard some of the other songs that he’d been putting out, I heard some of the new songs that he’s going to be dropping. It’s like, oh yeah, all right, we got another one. I’m somebody that’s just a lover of talent, I think he got talent. It’s dope to be able to listen to more music and have more options when it comes to, what should I listen to today?

Are there any other artists that you are excited for or anyone that you’ve been listening to lately? 

Man, I like SZA. I was just listening to SZA’s song yesterday like, ok we’re getting some new heat from her. I definitely feel like her character that she adds to the music and her tone and just natural instinct when it comes to melody, you can hear how she’s just unafraid to try new things. I think that comes from being around Kendrick, that helps things out. I feel like he’s about to come with something so crazy, Keem and him just dropped some crazy shit. Yeah, Kendrick about to smack the game.

Why did you choose to do a joint project with Hitmaka? 

We just got a different sauce together. It’s the best of both worlds. I feel like with what he’s doing and what I’m doing, he brings the the street element, the hip hop element and you mix it with the R&B, the soul, the bounce and it just creates something that listeners ain’t getting nowhere else. We already have another project done together and we’re still cooking up for it. These projects are passion projects, like y’all need to hear this just because ain’t nobody doing this. I think our work ethic is the determining factor of why, we just love to work. Nobody else loves being in studio as much as me besides him, that’s it. When you work that much you get more songs, more shots up. 

I really like that project, it’s reminiscent of like nineties R&B but with a new twist and it works very well.

That’s it. That’s what we was listening to before I came here, like “yo this is crazy.” That’s why I be talking crazy in interviews now. Nobody’s doing this, I think when it’s the music, that’s just my lane, I’ve been doing it and I have the proof to back it up and the unreleased music to back it up even more. When it comes to everything else, I definitely want to speak on how I respect the other route of doing it too. My thing is, I’m going to throw out music, my fans know they can expect great music from me and we’re just going to keep the party going. But other people, their thing may be more strategic – less songs, focused songs and now you have a better potential chance to go number one because everybody’s focusing on that one song. I feel like there’s different artists for different things, for me it’s like yeah, I’m going to provide music until God lets me know to do something different. Until then we’re having fun.

When you’re done recording a song, what’s your process for going from the recording studio to the iPhone or to the speakers? 

That’s a lot, that’s like, “OK everybody, I recorded a hundred songs come to the studio.” We’ll do it in bulks of people, we’ll have papers with the titles written on it – real old school, pass them out, give people pens. You don’t have to write your name, real anonymous and then we look through. I really take the time and say OK, people love this, then I condense the list a little bit, let’s do another one and then I condense it. Then I have this private SoundCloud link that I asked people to listen to and I listen to it in the car and man, we really put those songs through the ringer. They are FDA approved by the time it’s released; say something I don’t care. 15 songs, go to number 13, banger. 

You’ve been in the game for a minute, you’ve seen lots of artists, trends, and genres come and go. What’s a way that you’ve seen the industry change for the better over the years.

I think the platforms like distrokid, YouTube, because you don’t have to wait for nobody to be an artist. You can create music, you can put it out, you can tell which ones the people like immediately. Even if it’s just tester songs, or you just want to see what people think. You can put it out there and that’s how you can find your sound before you get to the major label, then they’re throwing out a bunch of money and gambling over you. With me, I look at it like, all of the trial and error that I’ve done hasn’t cost me anything; it’s only been profit. With the ability to take advantage of social media, plenty videographers out there are hungry to shoot a video. If you’re hungry, if you want something, you can really get it done. Everything is there right at your fingertips with the technology and if you do it yourself, you own your masters which is big.

Do you own your masters? 

Yeah I do. Like we got thirty five albums, but we also have thirty five albums that are mine. That’s just a different thing. 

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Interview and photos by Calvin Schneider

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