As Posted On VIBE.com
Eric Bellinger Talks The State Of R&B, Winning A Grammy, New Fashion Line And Penning New Music For Usher
Only four years in the game and already an impressive number of hits under his belt, Eric Bellinger is definitely a name you need to remember. The Compton crooner has written songs for the likes of Chris Brown, Usher, Jennifer Hudson, Justin Bieber, Fantasia and TGT to name a few, including Breezy’s ‘Fine China’ and ‘Love More’. He was scooped up by Sony straight out of high school and was enrolled in a competitive writing camp, which is where he gained attention for penning Usher’s ‘Lemme See’ record featuring Rick Ross.
Coming from a musical family (his mom sings and his grandfather Bobby Day wrote for the Jackson 5 and was responsible for ‘Rockin’ Robin’), it was inevitable that Eric would also develop a passion for music, which he discovered singing in church. As an advocate for ‘real R&B’ growing up he was inspired by artists like Tank, Brandy and Kim Burrell. As a solo artist he’s had success with his ‘Born II Sing’ mixtape series and Christmas album ‘Your Favorite Christmas Songs’ and is now putting the final touches on his upcoming album ‘The ReBirth’, which drops February 11th. Vibe caught up with the cheeky singer/songwriter to talk about the state of R&B, bagging a Grammy and writing new music for Usher.
VIBE: What can we expect from your upcoming album The ReBirth? Is it sonically similar to your Born II Sing mixtapes?
Eric: Yeah, very similar as far as the vibe and sonic of the whole sound. R&B to the fullest but this one I’m going to have more hip-hop songs, couple more up-tempos. I’ve been doing some shows and I just see the reaction in the crowd so it’s allowed me to set myself up for the shows. When I’m in the studio now I write more for performance just because that’s the time when I’m able to connect with my fans. I kept a lot of the songs from volume 3, added some songs from volume 1 and from volume 2. Just to make sure that people really know who I am and what I’m about and the message that I’m trying to deliver. The new music that I have is crazy. I’ve got features from Kid Ink, features from King Chip. It’s just some great material, just solid, R&B, classic, timeless music.
You mentioned your new album having a more hip-hop influence this time. Do you see there being a return to R&B artists collaborating with rappers again? It’s something we haven’t heard much of in the past few years.
Yeah, I think that’s where it’s headed, especially for R&B artists if you want to get your songs heard and spread to the masses. It’s a great way to reach people by being in the club, when people are in the club that’s the time a lot of rappers are broke in the club and R&B really doesn’t get the same respect, so I figured let me try to infuse both sounds with the R&B and the hip-hop. I think I did a good job of blending the two sounds.
Where does your inspiration come from when you’re writing a song? Have you been in a lot of serious relationships?
Yeah, everything is personal. Anytime I’m in a relationship, like right now where I’m at in my career my relationships are just kind of in and out and I’m just capitalizing on the situations. Like if a girl will hear a song that I wrote and be like: “wow for real? You’re just going to tell all our business like that?” I’m like “man they don’t know its you, it could be the last one or something”. I’m just taking chapters right out of my life and turning them into songs.
When you made the decision to follow a career in music rather than accepting a full scholarship to play football at USC, what was the deciding factor in your thought process?
I had to make a logical decision, what would be more long term, what would have more longevity and best for my family. When I look at it, the position that I was playing was running back, you could get injured and if you get injured what are you going to do. For singing, it was crazy because I got a record deal right when I graduated from high school so I was trying to do both. It just made more sense to just do the music because I was missing practice.
What went through your head when you first found out that you’d won a Grammy for your work on Chris Brown’s F.A.M.E album?
I was actually at the studio when we were watching the Grammy’s, I was there with Usher. When he went up and they were like ‘and the winner is’ I was like yo please, please, please and then they said it. That was the defining moment for me, I’m in alignment with my calling, I’m in alignment with my purpose. In any job or any career you say this is what I’m going to go with and you put your best foot forward, you just do the best you can. With that situation I was like wow this thing won a Grammy and I’m in the studio with Usher right now. That was the moment when I was like I’ve got to go all out. If there was any doubt that I had, I can say that I’m successful in this field, rather than just striving and striving. I’m so hard on myself and I want to get so far. There’s so many different goals and accomplishments that I want to make that I’m always like ok I’ve got to get there, rather than wait a minute but I did just do this. That was the time when I was like we onto something, let’s just keep going, stay persistent and keep working hard.
With alternative artists like Jhene Aiko breaking into the R&B world, do you feel as though society’s definition of R&B is changing?
Yes, definitely. I think it’s a lot of the timeless sounds, but I think it’s just wordplay that people really are paying attention to now. Just because everything is so edgy, I won’t necessarily say ratchet, but it’s really edgy and if you want to get your point across you have to say it in a way that hasn’t been said. Now it’s 2014 there’s been 20 million songs, so it’s like whoever’s the most clever, whoever can come up with the best way to say it is going to win. I think with the harder beats to make the fellas feel it, but with the sweet lyrics that the ladies wanna hear, you’ve just got to master both of the sounds. It’s not the old school Temptations ‘I know you want to leave me, but I refuse to let you go’, it’s not that anymore.
You previously collaborated with Jhene on ‘Ex Again’, is there a possibility of another collaboration in the future?
Yeah, definitely. We’re both from LA and we got a lot of the same friends, the circle is really, really small in LA. I definitely look forward to working with her more, we’re big fans of each other and we’ve watched each other grow for the past ten years.
With the influence of EDM music on R&B, do you think the concept of R&B is going to change or do you think there’ll always be true R&B records?
Man, the EDM I think that sound is never going to go nowhere. When you go to those parties, the raves or when you go to Ibiza out there with David Guetta, that’s a world of it’s own that’s never going to be taken away. I feel like a lot of it is just music, instrumental not much lyrics to it. But when there is lyrics, for example like with that Avicii song, it still has to be something that has that one line like that Rihanna ‘We Found Love’. She said that line over and over and over again throughout the song, that was just a catchy line “we found love in a hopeless place.” I really pay attention to lyrics and I feel like Rihanna, and Drake especially, does a phenomenal job of finding that one line that everyone wants to sing.
With your interest in fashion and work with Thousand Ms, do you see yourself branching out to create your own clothing line at some point?
Yeah we’ve already started that up. It’s super dope because it started off initially with the ideas that I had and reaching out to different people and giving them my ideas. Like yo this is what I see or I want to do this here or I want the link to be this or I want a zip here or I want a buckle here. Being in LA there’s so many different fashion companies and they’re always like yo I want to style you and I want to do this. I’m like you can do this, how about I’ve got this idea and you can help me bring it to life. So we’ve been working with a lot of different fashion companies, it’s been fun and now I think we’re ready, let’s get our own off the ground.
You’ve already worked with the likes of Usher, Joe Budden, Jhene Aiko, Justin Bieber and Jennifer Hudson. Who else would you like to write for or collaborate with in the future and why?
I definitely have worked with a lot of people on their projects, so really it’s not even too many new people that I want to work with. Now I’m just trying to get the favorites from my projects, like I did for them. I’ve got songs with Chris and Usher and Bieber and to have their songs is great, but to have them maybe feature on some of my songs would be incredible. It’s just about reaching out. I feel like the relationships that I have it’s all about timing and I want to wait and reach out at the right time when it will be most beneficial to both parties.
Do you know anything about Usher’s new music that’s supposed to be dropping this year? Have you written anything for him recently?
Last time I told everything he was about to do he beat me up. Just some great music, of course R&B. Usher pretty much is to the point in his career where he has no ceiling and he can pretty much do whatever he wants to do and I love that about him. I think that he put in the time and the work to now be able to set his own standard. He definitely has done a couple of the songs that I wrote. I’m just excited to see how they’re going to choose the actual songs because he has so many records. We definitely have already started for the new project.
You said in the past that you don’t enjoy being single and your latest single with Problem is all about getting a girl that every guy wants.
For that one it’s just basically self-explanatory. I was out with a girl and everybody was looking at her and normally people might have a problem with it or feel insecure but to me I thought it was dope. I was like yo you’re feeling her and that’s like complimenting me. I was like this is a song. Same thing, just life experiences and how can I make it cool? How can I make it to where everybody loves it? Lets take an old beat that everybody already loves and lets take a great rap, Problem killed his verse. He really took it there and then when we reached out to Riveting for the video they really, really delivered visually. So everything just kind of lined up for the song and I’m super excited that everybody is receiving it so well and everybody is loving it. It’s like a one-time listen people tell me, as soon as they hear it they love it. That’s a great feeling as a songwriter and you know in any field of work when you do something and people love it whether it’s art, whether it’s fashion that’s just a great response and a great feeling.
Check out Eric’s Valentines Day date ideas here:
R&B fans can also check out my interview with Daley: