Interview: Eric Bellinger
Mon, 26 Jan 2015 09:16:26
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As the West Coast enjoys a hip-hop rebirth, there's one cat bringing the spotlight to Los Angeles R&B. That's Eric Bellinger. The singer and songwriters flaunts a swagger and style of his own with a towering voice that instantly captivates. As a songwriter, his influence continues to permeate all facets of the industry, and he's even garnered a Grammy Award nomination for his work on Chris Brown's "New Flame." However, the world gets to hear Bellinger in all his glory on his long-awaited full-length debut Cuffing Season out soon.
In this exclusive interview with ARTISTdirect.com editor in chief Rick Florino, Eric Bellinger talks Cuffing Season, his latest single "Focused On You" [feat. 2 Chainz], movies, and so much more.
It feels like with "Focused On You" [feat. 2 Chainz] you maintain the spirit you set forth on The Rebirth, while still evolving.
Thank you so much! I feel the same way [Laughs].
How did the song come together and what does it mean to you?
Basically, I'd always loved the song as far as the sample goes. I had spoken with a couple of producers about it essentially saying, "I want to do this." A lot of them were like, "Cool, that song was a classic." I don't know what it is, but they didn't really get to it. I don't know if they were intimated or what. I asked my guy D'Mile. I was like, "Bro, I really want to do this beat." He said, "I got you!" Literally the next day, I went in and he had the beat finished and all tracked out. He used the sample. He took some things from it and made it his own so much. I really thought it was a beat I needed to jump on immediately. I hopped on it the next day, and it was history from there.
What's it about lyrically?
Lyrically, it sets up my album, which is Cuffing Season. The mixtape Choose Up Season was great. It was about the single life. It told the story of how it goes when you meet someone, you're just trying to have fun, and that lifestyle. "Focused On You" is the transition. There's a whole lot of chicks everywhere, and I'm just focused on this one girl. That ties into the story for the album Cuffing Season. Everything's making sense. I'm putting together a little journey.
Did you always know you wanted 2 Chainz on it?
That day I was writing it, I was like, "We really need to get 2 Chainz." I knew his energy, and I knew what he'd bring to the record. I didn't have any connections with him. I didn't know him. It was just a thing that I just put out there. As we finished the song and started to reach out for a feature, he loved the song, and it just worked out from there.
What's your vision for Cuffing Season as a whole?
Well, with The Rebirth, I felt like that was a lot of heartbreak with songs like "Drake's Ex" and "Gift & Curse." A lot of those songs were the prequel. Then, you've got the feeling of, "Okay, forget it. No more relationships. I'm going to do the Choose Up season so I'll be out here dating." The next album is geared more towards a love vibe. On each album, I want to take my fans and supporters on a journey and condition them. It's really just love, but it's not corny. I'm doing it in a way that a lot of cats aren't. I want to let people know you can make these types of songs and still turn up.
What's been influencing you outside of music?
I've been really paying attention the culture and the way everything's at with social media and things people are responding to. I'm trying to put them in the songs just to play into it. In a lot of the songs I'm doing, I'm throwing lines in there where people can make Vines or Instagrams because I can tell that is really driving music nowadays. "Focused On You" has the line from 2 Chainz about the "Three-hundred dollar hamburger." Everyone's going crazy tying the lyrics together. We're trying to do everything differently. I like everything my team is doing. We're winning off of creativity. We don't have the same things the majors have as far as their unlimited budgets so we're like, "Let's outsmart and out-talent everyone." We take our time with each and every one of our decisions.
Is it important for you to tell stories with the songs?
Because I'm a songwriter, I know people listen a little bit harder to my lyrics. It challenges me to make my songs different from everybody else. If I'm going to be the writer, supplier, and source for so many different artists, when it comes to my stuff, I really have to make sure I'm writing a story and a movie with the entire project.
If you were to compare Cuffing Season to a movie or a combination of movies, what would you compare it to?
I'd compare it to maybe Love Jones. The movie has a happy ending. At the end, he gets the girl. He keeps you interested for the entire film. It doesn't end bad [Laughs]. There's a positive feeling throughout the entire time. A lot of women love it. There's a lot of poetry in the film.
How different is writing for other artists versus writing for yourself?
It definitely took me a while to figure out how to do that. I'd write songs for other artists and after the session, I'd be upset like, "Why didn't I write that for myself?" Now, I really tap into the artist and try to cater something to what they will feel. It's about customizing the records. When I'm writing for myself, I'm writing about my life, and when I'm writing for Usher or someone, I'm writing about his life. I don't have any ties to the records. I'm not married to the records so it keeps things separate.
What have you been listening to lately?
I listen to Drake a lot. He's probably my favorite artist right now.