When singer-songwriter-producer Eric Bellinger learned he’d received his first Grammy nomination as an artist — best progressive R&B album for New Light — the first thing he did was scream. The second thing the Los Angeles native did was release an acoustic edition of the album on Wednesday (Nov. 24).
New Light: Acoustics features four of the album’s fan-favorite singles: “What About Us” featuring Sevyn Streeter, “Tired of Waiting,” “Go Get It” and “Euphoric” featuring Brandy. Initially released in September through the label YFS (Your Favorite Song) and distributor EMPIRE, New Light is Bellinger’s eighth studio album. In addition to motivational lead single “Shine on the World” and guest appearances by The Game and Kierra Sheard, the 15-song set marks the next chapter in Bellinger’s artistic journey.
Prior to launching his solo career in earnest in 2014 with the single “I Don’t Want Her,” the prolific Bellinger racked up numerous writing and producing credits. Grammy-nominated for the first time in 2014 for best R&B song for Chris Brown’s “New Flame,” Bellinger has also collaborated with Usher, Justin Bieber, Brandy, Tank, Trey Songz, Teyana Taylor and, most recently, Love aka Diddy.
Says Bellinger of his latest career achievement, “It’s awesome to be doing what I love to do and then get this type of recognition.”
Where were you and what were you doing when you heard the news?
I’m in New York rehearsing for a show I’ll be doing with Alicia Keys. So yesterday, I was trying to be super quiet during the rehearsal while I was watching the nominations announcement on my phone. When the category came up and I heard my name, I began screaming. People [in the room] were saying, “What are you talking about?!” But it was a great moment.
You’ve released a host of albums, mixtapes and EPs over the last several years. What is it about New Light that made it click with voters?
I just had a feeling from the beginning. My intention from the first session was to go extra hard on this album, to go crazy musically with everything from the harmonies to the transitions to post-production. I’m a singer who grew up in the church and a songwriter that’s a perfectionist when it comes to articulating my thoughts. We also did camps, bringing in so many different, incredible musicians — the most I’ve ever collaborated with on an album. I went into the project thinking that if this is the last you’re ever going to hear from me, I want this to be the time. And I knew that once we did that, then God would do the rest.
What does it mean to be recognized in the best progressive R&B album category, which formally debuted during the last awards cycle?
There are so many different worlds of R&B. Melodies have become so monotonous and so easy to knock out on Auto-Tune or find a beat on YouTube. So it’s very possible for all to have the same sound. I like to call my music the evolution of a classic. That’s always been my thing like with uptempo R&B club song “I Don’t Want Her” [featuring Problem], working with samples and trying different things with drum patterns. I’ve always stayed in the streets to see and hear what’s going on so I can put it in the music. I feel like because I’m able to tap into the new frequencies that the youth are doing, it’s automatically going crazy because I’m combining it with classic soul.
With this new slate of R&B nominations, do you think voting and other changes implemented by the Recording Academy are working?
I do. It’s especially dope because they’re shining a light on artists through different categories that are so broad across the spectrum, and now there are so many more voters that are urban who are more involved and more aware. I was on the board when the last Grammy voting was taking place so I was able to soak up a lot of knowledge while we were going through that and other [Academy] processes. And that’s important. Instead of complaining about why we aren’t getting this or that, we have to take the necessary steps to do our part as well. So I do see a lot of people becoming members and voting and artists being nominated as we celebrate R&B and music in general.