Winning a Grammy for songwriting credits on Chris Brown’s F.A.M.E. wasn’t enough for Eric Bellinger. With nearly a decade’s work in songwriting and recording, the California native is a known for being a staple with consistent R&B releases.
New Light, which was released on Sept. 10, features collaborations with Sevyn Streeter and Brandy on the 44-minute album. In comparison with his prior work, Bellinger said the 15-track project reflects his “deepest thoughts, emotions and growth.” “Shine on the World” proves that Bellinger can combine a vulnerable moment with his adoration for God, while “Only Fan” shares his love for a woman beyond her platform on the synonymous site, OnlyFans. Between these two moments of heartfelt and seductive energy, New Light will ensure fans that Bellinger is only beginning to dominate the R&B genre.
I hopped on the phone with Bellinger to hear about the release of his latest album and his evolution as a singer-songwriter.
Hi Eric! I’d love to know how your Rolling Loud Miami experience went, especially with such a large crowd.
It was amazing. It went from a dream to reality, literally, to be able to perform and look out into the ocean of people and to actually hear them singing along to my song. It’s honestly euphoria.
What’s been your favorite live performance since the start of the pandemic?
Rolling Loud was definitely the best. I’m used to doing a bunch of shows, and I’ve got a lot of fans that support me, so the shows are always sold out. I don’t even know how many people that were there.
You’ve been in the music industry for about 10 years. What inspired you to move from being one of the most accomplished songwriters for others to creating your own music?
I originally started off with artistry as my original passion, but I was in a singing group, and when I got out of the singing group, I needed to do something that would allow me to work under the contract that I was in. So it was like, “At least I can go write,” and the writing thing just took off like within no time. I was signed to Sony, and they were getting the biggest writing sessions that I had not expected but I was ready for. As time went on, ANRs and different artists would hear my songs. I’m going crazy on the demos, and they might have been a little intimidated. We got to the point where I needed to dumb down my lyrics and songs. I didn’t want to do it on certain songs, so a lot of people were like, “Man, you might as well just start putting these out yourself.” It started off as mixtapes and having an extensive catalogue, and I just released music and started gaining my own fanbase. I think it’s always been my original passion, but once I was pretty comfortable in the writing and the contract ended, that’s when I went harder with my artistry.
As a Grammy-winning artist and writer, how do you define your success?
I think it’s being able to wear both hats. People don’t understand what that means. So to [write] for myself and for other artists within my same lane like Justin Bieber, Chris Brown, Trey Songz, Usher, Ty Dolla Sign, Jeremih — it doesn’t even matter. I’ve been able to work on their albums, as well as myself, and that alone is enough to pat myself on the back. I feel like people get wrapped up in needing gratification from outsiders, and that’s where they mess up.
What’s your opinion on the way the genre of R&B has evolved while you’ve been in it?
It’s interesting to see what the kids call R&B. [R&B] is this mood music where the melodies aren’t monotonous. There’s not too much [music] that’s actually evoking a memory anymore. It’s something that I can listen to and forget about tomorrow as opposed to what I grew up on, like the classic [R&B] that you feel something from. I know my music will be amazing in 10 years, but I never succumb to the trends. I always went with my intuition on what would be innovative.
I noticed that you recently joined Symphani Soto and BJ The Chicago Kid on their tracks. What inspired the collaborations for New Light? Loved the bandaid in the music video for “Just a Moment”! It reminded me of 2000s-era R&B.
For New Light, I just kind of went for the people that were actually my favorite people in real life. I knew with this album that I was gonna chill from releasing music for a while, like, maybe the whole year. I know a lot of my fans know me to drop four albums a year, sometimes, but in this case, it’s like if you want new results, you got to try new things. I was asking people that I normally wouldn’t ask [to collaborate], and they were saying yes.
You recently collabed with gospel singer Kierra Sheard — can you expand on the gospel influence that’s in New Light, besides “Shine on the World”?
[Kierra] is definitely one of the ones that inspired me to keep doing more of the gospel elements. We got a choir on “Shine on the World,” and while we were there, it was like, “Y’all might as well hop on this other joint.” As we had that sound throughout the album, it made me want to hit up Kiki, since that’s somebody that I grew up listening to I grew up in church. It’s magical moments throughout the entire album.
Could you share more about the inspiration for the music video of “Shine on the World”?
I think I was just telling my truth and speaking about my story. We reenacted a moment that took place when I was younger in the beginning in a video. As I was finished singing in church one day, the church was aware that I was pursuing R&B music, and it was really frowned upon in my church, to say the least. I just sat there and endured the pain of people praying over me, and essentially, rebuking the desire to sing secular music as I’m a little kid. So I think the video showcases me dealing with what I gotta do to become who I’m supposed to be, and at the end, I’m still giving the glory to God in my way.
Have you experimented with different sounds between your previous albums like 1-800-HIT-EAZY and New Light? Not sure if it was related to the song lyrics, but I noticed that the beat of “Only Fan” sounds more sensual than your previous work.
I think it’s all conceptual. When I did 1-800-HIT-EAZY, that was a collab that I did with a frequent work companion of mine Hitmaka. The way we work is really incredible. We bounce ideas off each other, and we’re really driving the music towards culture and drive it towards what’s poppin’. We were just trying to be the voice of the culture. We weren’t making the songs only for me. We were just making music.
What’s the next thing you’re excited for/what can fans expect from you?
I’m about to build the craziest label that people have ever seen. I’ve seen so many people and so much talent, and I just want to be able to be able to give them an opportunity and to use my platform to break new artists and give them artist development. Some people just need a little shine on them, and I feel like we’ve been proven to be able to do so much for ourselves. I think we can do this and take it to the next level.