By most, if not any estimate, this past year, life has been quite pleasant to Jon Bellion. The 23 year old rapper/singer/songwriter/producer, who is a part of upstart management company, Visionary Music Group, happens to be the man who penned the chorus to the most omnipresent radio hit I've heard in quite a while.
And though it would be quite easy to ask the young musician about the story of how the words he mumbled in a studio almost two years ago went onto become the song '"Monster" by Eminem featuring Rihanna, one of the biggest radio hits of the past few years, it would be a discredit to Bellion's talent to focus on a novelty story instead of delving into the man himself and his music. The latter which is hard to describe, given that his sound is a genre-bending vision that he firmly believes without a shadow of a doubt will allow him to follow in the footsteps of his heroes, musicians and producers such as Pharrell, Timbaland, and of course Kanye West, who have created and defined the songs that redefined what music was, who listened to it, and even who could listen to it.
Jon knows such dreams and ambitions are likely to elicit sneers of disapproval from those who believe such statements and thoughts are bred from arrogance rather than inspired by confidence. The victim of just this Catch-22 being someone you and I are both well aware of. And a man who happened to also perform, rather, go on a rant, at the Wireless Festival in England this past week. A festival which speaking of, was also the venue for Jon Bellion's most recent performance. Coming off of his biggest showcase, with a new album in the works and an ambitious plan to follow it, Bellion seems to be on the verge.
Although it's always difficult to put into words how you feel about music into words, it's almost impossible to do so with Bellion's sound. Sonically, he draws and combines a varying number of inspirations from the life and culture he has experience, he defines it perfectly himself:
"I'm just a product of the 90's to be honest. I was raised on TRL, and listened to every genre that sounded good to me, from Sum 41 to Jay Z, to Band of Horses to J. Dilla, to Deathcab for Cutie, to Pharrell. I just never really though you could or couldn't listen to a certain type of music. I loved everything but it was Kanye West who really changed everything for me."
It was with the discovery of College Dropout that Jon himself decided to drop out of college, choosing instead to learn and grow from experience than to learn his passions within the confines of a system. Since his decision to pursue music fulltime as a career, Jon has released two full-length projects, his debut, Translation Through Speakers, and his sophomore album, The Separation. Each project saw a young musician finding both his voice and attempting to define his sound, with the goal to make his music organically unique as possible. The result finds Jon bridging two different worlds of music, the soft hum and melodies of musicians such as Bon Iver and Miike Snow, with the hip-hop infused production of Timbaland and Pharrell, and to round out his renaissance qualifications, the ability to rap a few verses that are well up to chalk.
However, although he finds himself back in New York a few hours removed from returning from his concert in London, Jon finds himself at peace, situated in his favorite sanctum, the studio, hard at work on his new album, a project that he knows will make some noise in the industry and change of some of the preconceived notions of what music can sound like. A musical concept that he hopes to follow up with an equally ambitious plan to release the studio-quality album as a download, free of charge, on the Itunes music store. When asked how it would profit him to give away his content, Bellion responded,
'I've really been blessed by God to have the opportunity to write a few songs that charted highly on charts and the radio. And humbled really, to just be able to be part of the industry and to have had some success to be able to make music for a living. And by being independent, I've been sort of freed from the monetary pressures record labels put on artists.There shouldn't be a barrier to anyone to listen to my music. If they support my dream, it means more to me to give it to them. Absent that need to make money, I believe God allowed me to make possibly the best free release anyone has heard and gives me the platform to display the high level of taste and quality I'm always obessessing to deliver.'
In the same vein as Radiohead's attempt to shake the pay-model of the music industry with the pay what you want model for In Rainbows, Bellion's plan to release this free album comes with an overarching vision. Bellion hopes to use the album release as a chance to stage a campaign to be nominated for Best New Artist at this upcoming year's Grammy Awards, a feat never before accomplished for an album free of charge and solely digitally released. A campaign that would be hard to ignore given Macklemore's success at the most recent Grammy's as an independent artist who broke new ground in the music industry.
As he patiently awaits his time in the spotlight, which given his track record should happen sooner than later. I ask him if he can define for me in one word how he feels about the radical transformation his life has seen over the past year. Jon takes him little to no time to respond.
Seems that even the thought of being a worldwide star, Jon's feet will be on the ground.