The 25-year-old musician gives us a closer look at his debut album, “The Human Condition.”
Jon Bellion’s got an arsenal of musical talent under his belt. The singer-songwriter, producer, and rapper from Lake Grove, New York, has previously released several mixtapes like The Definition to create his signature sound, something like a cross between Death Cab for Cutie and J-Dilla or Kanye West. He has gained greater mainstream attention with his involvement in award-winning track “The Monster” with Eminem and Rihanna, but he is ready to bring bigger and better things through his debut album, The Human Condition. A hybrid of hip-hop, indie, and R&B, The Human Condition reveals Jon Bellion’s newer, fresher colors for 2016. Check it out as Bellion talks about his whimsical aspirations, creative process, and self-discovery through this uniquely-crafted album, dropping June 10th.
Who is Jon Bellion?
A writer, singer, producer, coming out with an album on June 10th that I’m insanely excited about.
What kind of place did The Human Condition come from?
I think it was just an urge to expose my vulnerability, to have people relate and listen to the lyrics on the album and a lot of the stuff out there that people might not want to admit or pretend they’re not struggling with. I wanted to show everybody listening to it that we’re all the same, you know, we’re all human. I really tried to make every record on the album relate to everybody. And I think it’s most important for this album just to realize and show the world that I’m just human. I struggle with the same things everybody else does every day. And people might not want to talk about it, but I’m here, and I’m going to admit my flaws and hopefully that helps somebody out there that’s struggling with that too.
You write and produce your own music. Take me through your creative process or any rituals you may have.
My first three albums were borderline one hundred percent me, mixing, mastering, writing, producing, everything. But this album, I actually brought in a bunch of different people and I did a solid, maybe I’d say eighty percent of the production myself and wrote everything on it. But the process was more of getting down a bunch of ideas and having a skeleton of a beat and then whatever kind of feeling a vibe or color that comes from that beat, and I write accordingly. I’m not one to usually write songs before I have a beat, but I usually make some sort of feeling or vibe, write the whole song, and then after the song is written I’ll go backwards to the beat and finish that up.
I think of all my songs as like potential iPhones. I know it sounds weird but I always say that I hang a giant sign in the studio that says, “Is this an audible iPhone?” It’s super accessible, it’s super easy to listen to, very artistic, and anybody can use it, anybody can listen to it. I always use Steve Jobs and the iPhone as kind of like my criteria for making a record.
What was hip-hop’s influence on you as a musician?
I grew up in the age of mega hip-hop producers going pop, like Timbaland and Pharrell, or J-Dilla, which was one of my favorite producers. You know, like Kanye. I grew up in an age where these producers were rock stars. My brother is older than me, so when he listened to hip-hop, I thought it was the coolest thing in the world.
I started listening to Death Cab a little bit after my hip-hop phase, but I still had all these hip-hop influences when I was discovering rap and making beats. So long story short, it turned into this hybrid of like really swung, heavy kicking snare conversation and then it was with these really indie lyrics over it, so hip-hop had a huge influence on my album.
Yeah, it’s really interesting because when you sing you have almost a folksy tone, but when you rap it’s like listening to a totally different person.
(laughs) The real New Yorker comes out of me when I’m rapping, I don’t know what comes over me.
So you have a lot of sick artwork for your singles and album on your Facebook page. What kind of vibes or themes were you going for with your artwork?
To me, I can describe [my sound] by saying “J-Dilla makes a Pixar movie.” Long story short, this album is basically—it’s one of my dreams forever to score an entire Pixar film. You know, like The Incredibles or something like that because they’re my favorite kind of movies. So this entire album rollout, I’ve looked to the visual development artist named David Ardinaryas Lojaya. He’s from Indonesia, and he’s worked for the past six or seven months on making scenes from a movie people will never see. So all these cool pictures and artwork that you see are themed from the movie, “The Human Condition,” which is a pretend Pixar movie.
Long story short, my debut album is basically just a business plan to present to Pixar in real life, to prove to them that I could possibly score one of their films. So when Jon Lasseter or, you know, all these different people at Pixar see these images, they’re gonna go, “Hey, that’s not our movie. What is it?” And then maybe they’ll be like, “Wow, this kid is dedicated, he’s projecting this business plan through his debut album, that’s a smart idea.”
Of all the tracks on your new album, which one is the most meaningful to you?
I would say “Hand of God.” I actually got to work with the same choir that worked on “Man of the Year” with Michael Jackson, so it was an amazing experience, but also the lyrics are just super human, and super vulnerable and honest and naked, in a sense. I guess this would the record I would want the world to hear, if I had to pick one.
As a final note, if you could do a collaboration with any musician or producer, dead or alive, who would it be?
I would want to do a record with Phil Collins, and have Kanye and Mark Ronson produce it.
The Human Condition is available for pre-order through Jon Bellion’s official website and will be dropping on June 10th. Bellion will also be traveling the United States from June 20th to the end of July for The Human Condition Tour.
“The Human Condition” (Tracklist):
1. He Is The Same
2. 80’s Films
3. All Time Low
4. New York Soul (Part ii)
6. Maybe IDK
7. Woke The F*ck Up
9. Weight Of The World feat. Blaque Keyz
10. The Good In Me
11. Morning In America
13. Guillotine feat. Travis Mendes
14. Hand Of God (Outro)
Check out the music video for “Guillotine” featuring Travis Mendes below.