Editor's Note: This story first appeared in its original format in the Winter 2014 issue of Variance. Click here for the full version.
Jon Bellion is a young voice already making a big impact with his skills and creating some impressive opportunities for himself. His fearless mindset and numerous talents have capture the attention of many in the music industry, as it’s becoming increasing clear that Bellion is an artist on the verge of something new.
“I produce and I write, I mix and I master everything myself,” he tells Variance on a cool winter morning. “I produce and direct all my videos and all that stuff. The blogs just thankfully kind of picked up on it and dug what I was doing. Therefore, it kind of spread on its own. It’s been really good.”
Most people at 22 years old are still looking for a clue as to the next phase of their lives that might hopefully lead to another. Bellion, on the other hand, has been sure of himself for some time now. He isn’t anxious trying to figure out who he is or how he would like to present himself and his work.
“I started rapping way before I was singing,” he explains. “So I kind of wanted to do a record that’s reminiscent of something super urban or something that shows the side of me that tells you, ‘No, I’m not just a kid who writes pop records’ or ‘I’m not a kid who your girlfriend likes.’ I’m a dude at the same time. I also have testosterone. I’m not just thinking about happy-go-lucky type things. I’m not afraid to be the cool kid. But I also want to let kids know you don’t have to stay in a box.”
Listen to Jon Bellion's 'The Separation'
Kanye West's 'College Dropout' Turns 10
Bellion has confidently allowed his influences guide him toward a more active approach to his passion and away from theory. As many liberal arts students are beginning to realize, he found it was important to weigh his drive and ability against an all-too-formal pass at his craft. And for that, he cites Kanye West’s debut album, The College Dropout, released 10 years ago this month, as one of his greatest inspirations.
“College Dropout is the reason why I literally dropped out of college,” he reveals with a laugh. “I went to college for about a year, and I’d kind of reminiscence on when that album came out. I was listening to it one day and literally there’s a couple of skits in [it] where this guy is talking about going to college and racking up debt, so then [he] can pass it on to [his] kid when he dies.”
And that’s when it hit Bellion. That’s when he realized what he needed to do, admitting that West’s record “struck a chord” with him.
“I’m like, ‘You know what? I’m in a music school [but] I’m learning what I already kind of know,’” he recalls. “Because I had already started years before I went to college, so I was like, ‘Maybe it’s time for me to move on.’ I didn’t really have a plan or anything, but I just had a feeling to kind of – whatever. Exactly one year later, that’s when everything started really picking up. I got a full-time job. It was actually the best decision ever because that year, all I really did was work at a catering hall and just made beats for like a year straight, seven days a week, eight hours a day. It was going to work and then work on beats. So that album (Dropout) actually inspired me to really go for it, really chase the dream.”
Exercising one’s talent and realizing its life-altering potential are two very separate things though. Bellion may dream big, but he also stresses that his ultimate message is a humble one.
“Music is just going to be a vessel for me,” the young multi-hyphenate explains. “I feel like once I have the masses – and I know I’m talking really insanely prophetically, and I sound like a nutcase right now, but this is kind of just to get people to listen to what I’m saying. I have something to say. Music’s just my medium. One day, I want to tell 4 million people that compassion is everything. There’s a bigger picture, and it’s all for God. It’s not really for me. I could show people that you don’t have to be dirty and disgusting or completely negative and dark. You can still be dope and still show people that it’s cool to be kind, that it’s cool to be nice to people, to be good to them.”
Beyond that lasting message, Bellion feels that his efforts will continue to be appreciated long after the radio cycles and bloggers have moved on.
“I think people will look back on the records I’m making right now from an eclectic standpoint and it’ll still sound good,” he predicts with an unusually confident sense of humility. “I feel like that’s what can separate me. I think my records can stand up against what’s out right now, and they’ll see the time that was put into the lyrics or the production, and they’ll see the growth from album to album, to the care that I put into my music. And I think it’s starting to catch on.”
Watch Jon Bellion's 'Jim Morrison' Video
He’s right about that. Following the debut of his mega-hit “The Monster,” made famous by Eminem and Rihanna but written and produced by Bellion, he released his own free album, The Separation. And with it, he hopes to grab the attention of the masses and compel them to listen to what makes him stand out from the crowded pop music scene today.
Even after accomplishing what most artists might consider a breakthrough, Bellion carefully proceeding onward, stressing the importance of refining your skills and growing as a serious artist.
“I’m still perfecting my craft,” he admits. “I’m still getting better at what I’m doing. I’m still getting better at relaying messages through music. That’s what the craft is. And you’ve got to work on it. But when you know what your message is and why you’re doing it, when you have that vision, you can’t fail.”
For the latest updates from Bellion, follow him on Twitter: @jonbellion. Expect a full-length album from him later this year.