When I joined the virtual call with Eric Bellinger, I immediately felt his warmth. You often get false realities of who someone is with social media, but this wasn’t the case with the Los Angeles-bred crooner. He was able to float between goofy and serious while this light aura radiated from him.
Bellinger—best known for his award-winning pen on hits including Chris Brown’s “New Flame,” “Fine China,” Wale’s “On Chill,” and Selena Gomez’s “Intuition”—also has a plethora of his own projects under his belt. From his first mixtape series, Born II Sing Vol. 1-3 (2013), his debut album, The Rebirth (2014), to Cuffing Season 1-3, the Eric B For President series, The Rebirth 2, and a few Christmas projects, Bellinger has allowed his personal journey in life, love, and career to play out in his music—all of which led up to his latest album, New Light.
On the eve of the release of his latest studio effort, he took to Twitter with a prelude. Bellinger wrote, “Five years ago today, I released my biggest selling album, Eric B For President: Term 1. On the eve of what I know for certain is my best work to date, New Light. I reflect on what it means to be a legend. With 3 GRAMMYs, over 2 billion career streams, more than 20 platinum and gold plaques, and writing for some of the biggest names in music. I still believe, I haven’t even come close to reaching my peak yet! New Light is the re-introduction of Eric Bellinger and I want to thank the R&B legends that have come before me and who inspired the music you will hear tonight! Tell your favorite R&B singer, I’m coming for his spot!”
I caught up with the crooner and chart-topping hitmaker to discuss the meaning behind his new album, along with his faith, whether he prefers Eric the artist versus Eric the songwriter, and how one of his songs ended up on the Insecure Season 5 teaser.
VIBE: What’s the meaning behind New Light?
Eric Bellinger: It’s been a long quarantine. We’ve been in isolation and the world has become a lot different. Over the past two years, between the economy, between the government, between the CDC jobs (chuckles), businesses, money— it’s just crazy. And I’ve been able to have time to actually reflect, look in the mirror, and do some inner work. As I [underwent] that process, I didn’t realize that it would actually affect the music, but it did. [By] not eating meat for months at a time and meditating, it really cleansed my mind internally and it made me write music that was just as pure. The songs and the album being called New Light…it was pretty much a metaphor for the metamorphosis that I was going through during the process.
With features including Brandy, Kierra Sheard, Teedra Moses, and Sevyn Streeter, what led you to choose these artists?
A genuine love for the artist. Genuine relationship. I’ve worked with people in the past where it’s like it’s tough to get videos. It’s tough to get them to support or [we’re] just going for the name. This time, I really [went] for not only people that I’m big fans of but people that I genuinely am cool with or always wanted to work with. I look at this project like it’s a legacy project for me. You know, a stamp in my career where people will be able to look back, so I was going for legends on here and making sure all the songs just made sense.
What’s your favorite song off the project? Which one is most personal to you?
Favorite song? (Grins widely before answering without hesitation) “Euphoric.” Featuring none other than Ms. Brandy. Man, that’s a long time coming. I think with her […] the love has been there and it was like time to turn in the album and I was like, “Man, Imma just try to ask her.” And she was like, “Sure, no problem, let’s do it next week.” So it’s definitely moments like that that just let me know man, like keep going.
My most personal song could maybe be “Backwards,” the last song on the album. It’s just a song about how you work so hard and you grind so hard to get notoriety and to be able to afford nice things and then they gift them to you [and] I just look at it like, “Man, life is so backwards.” I was able to translate [that feeling] and articulate it into .mp3 form and we ended the album with it because it’s such a powerful statement.
“Count Your Blessings” practically drove me to tears. Have you ever considered doing a gospel album?
Now, I have. I grew up in church and it’s something that’s always been in me. It’s definitely my first love; my first home, so I just wanted it to be natural and organic. So, when it did happen and the way it did and then we got Kiki on the song. It was like, “Alright God, you came with the super stamp and I hear you loud and clear.” So let’s keep going.
Do you ever feel torn between choosing your faith and choosing your gift?
Nah. I think my gifts are able to intermingle because my truth is in my music. I’m singing about love and God is love. I look at my experiences and my relationship as me being an example of positivity to world and what I stand for. What me and my wife [actress/singer La’Myia Good] bring to our platforms and the love that we showcase, there’s no doubt in my mind that God is saying, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”
“Counting My Blessings” that song, I cried several times to that song. It’s like moments like that when I know it’s bigger than me. It’s deeper than me and the moment I’m writing a song, I don’t realize that God is speaking through me. I’m just in the booth like “Let’s say this, let’s say this.” And then later on, when I listen back, I be like, “Yo, do y’all hear that?” And I don’t be saying it like, “Do y’all hear what I said?” It’s like, “Do y’all hear what God gave us?” You know what I’m saying? This ain’t me. I’m the vessel and he gave me a voice. I perfected my craft and here we are.
What are you more focused on now: Eric, the artist or Eric, the songwriter?
Right now, I’m deep in my Eric, the artist bag. I’ve gotten the placements and I love ‘em, but it’s just something about being on stage. It’s something about singing songs in a way that I intend them to be heard, felt. From the cadences to the melodies and like aggression, but still passive. I’m really intricate with music, so it’s just fun to give it my vision, but this bag—(mockingly sings “you gotta secure the bag” before turning his camera to showcase a wall of gold and platinum plaques). But I love being an artist. I really do, but you gotta continue to do what you did to get here in order to stay here. I believe that.
Tell me how you ended being featured in the Insecure Season 5 teaser.
The tweet happened and she just put that like, “Yo I’m listening to Mint Condition and R&B needs [this].” And I responded to her and [first] I talk to anybody like that. People be like R&B is dead and I be like, “Are you listening to my 45 albums?!” (Laughs) Stop playing with me. R&B has never been dead. It’s alive and well. When I tweeted her and was like, “Are you not listening to me?”, I didn’t know what was gonna happen. I left it at that and then, when they did the trailer, it was like, “Boom.” This was months later. Like [I don’t] know if it was God or already planned, but I do think me being a ripple in the sea and putting it in the atmosphere had a lot to do with it coming back home. It was just a full-circle moment.
Are you not listening to me? I’m mad dramatic and semi desperate. ? https://t.co/1DvDfHKYQT
— Eric Bellinger (@EricBellinger) July 19, 2021
What do you want fans to take away from New Light?
I just want people to be themselves. The more they stop looking left and stop looking right, they’ll find and embrace their own uniqueness and that’s what makes each of us special. Like when I started the album, I unfollowed everybody on Instagram and it was interesting at first because I would go to my Instagram and it’s like no feed. At first, it was boring and then it became empowering. I be so caught up in the entertainment ‘cause it’s so good. But I’m like at least I gotta fast during this process, so that I can give people all of me.
New Light is available on all streaming platforms.