Eric Bellinger is the epitome of a singer/songwriter. His voice has taken him on tour, and his pen has helped do the same for artists like Chris Brown, Usher, Teyana Taylor, and more. He’s been around all of the legends, but even he had to get used to being in those rooms.
“[Brandy’s] in a booth asking me, ‘How was that take?’ I was like, ‘It was incredible. It was perfect. It was amazing’ (laughs). Then, there was a moment when she said, ‘Hey, I’m going to need you to relax,'” Bellinger tells REVOLT. “’I understand you’re a fan, but I’m a fan of what you do, and I called you here to do a job. So, if I don’t hit the note right, you have to let me know.’ That was like the first time I had to understand I was actually one of them ones.”
In this installment of “Studio Sessions,” the Grammy Award winner explains how Chris Brown’s “Fine China” almost didn’t happen, how Usher helped him make Justin Bieber and Drake’s “Right Here,” and more. Read our exclusive interview with Eric Bellinger below!
What was your first studio session with someone you considered to be major?
Chris Brown was probably the first big session I was in with an artist who was going crazy. It was around 2012, and I was working with a producer from London named Harmony, and Harmony was working with a rapper named Chipmunk, who was also from London. I did a hook for the song, and then they went and got Chris Brown on the hook. They had him recut the hook. After he did the hook for Chipmunk, and the song went out in London, he said, “Yo, I need that same team working on my album.” He was working on his F.A.M.E. album. So, he called us back in, and we did a lot of work on the first album that got him his Grammy.
What did you notice about Chris Brown’s creative process?
Man, that was different. I’m somebody that’s focused in the studio. I only have a few people in the studio with me. But when I got to the Chris Brown session, it was a party (laughs). There were 25 people in there.
That time with him led you to your next big sessions, right?
Yes, sir. The Chris Brown sessions popped everything off. It was dope because Chris Brown was signed to Mark Pitts, who was the president of RCA, and he had Chris Brown, Usher, and Justin Bieber. With the success of the Chris Brown sessions, I immediately got invited to work with Usher right after. I went in there, and the first song I did was “Lemme See.” The first time going in, I’m knocking ’em out. I did Chris Brown’s “Oh My Love,” “Say It With Me,” and “Champion.” I played a song for Usher that I wrote for him, and he said, “This would be perfect for Justin Bieber.” He immediately slid me into the studio with Justin Bieber. I played the song for Justin, and Justin cut it immediately. I had quick success with the songwriting side of things.
Brandy was the first session I got in where I was starstruck. It was dope working with the fellas, but Brandy had always been my favorite singer, period. I remember having a moment when I cut her vocals, and she asked me how she did. She’s in a booth asking me, “How was that take?” I was like, “It was incredible. It was perfect. It was amazing” (laughs). Then, there was a moment when she said, “Hey, I’m going to need you to relax. I understand you’re a fan, but I’m a fan of what you do, and I called you here to do a job. So, if I don’t hit the note right, you have to let me know.” That was like the first time I had to understand I was actually one of them ones. After that, I told her, “Do it again. Do it again” (laughs).
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Were there any other songs you wrote that went to a different artist than you initially intended?
I had an older song of mine called “So Good.” That’s one of my older songs. That joint was supposed to be a Ronald Isley song. It’s a joint I pitched for people, but it was back in my earlier career because once I figured out who Eric Bellinger was, it was a completely different song from the other artists. For example, “Fine China” wasn’t an Eric Bellinger song; that was a Chris Brown song. Once I realized my sound, it was a lot easier to part ways with my “babies.”
Chris Brown’s “Fine China” is one of the greatest R&B songs ever. How was it created?
I was actually at a Chris Brown camp in LA. I arrived at seven o’clock or something like that, and we were writing all night. I remember it was four o’clock in the morning, and I said, “I’m leaving. We did four or five songs; I’m tired and about to drive home. I don’t want to drive home too tired.” Then, my boy RoccStar, who’s an incredible producer/songwriter, said, “Let’s do one more.” I told him, “I’m tired. We’re coming back tomorrow. Let’s do something tomorrow.” Then, he starts making the drum pattern. I told him, “Nah, bro, that’s not enough, bro. I’m going home, dawg.” Then, my man PK started playing the bassline, and I put my backpack down (laughs). I just started playing around. Then, everybody went crazy. We loaded it up immediately, I freestyled a verse, and then Sevyn Streeter walked into the studio and asked, “What y’all working on?” She came up with that hook.
We had a verse and a hook. Next thing you know, it’s five or six in the morning, everybody’s going crazy, and then Tina Davis walks into the studio and says, “What is this? This is the single. Let me go get Chris.” Chris Brown is in the other room. He walked in while everybody was going crazy. He immediately said, “This is the video: I’m gonna have an orange Lamborghini.” He explained the entire video, and I kid you not, we finished that song, and that video was everything he described the first time he heard it.
He finished the song that session?
We wrote the second verse, and then he cut it immediately. You have to understand, Chris was the first person I worked with that we got out of the studio the next day… in the morning.
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What’s the most memorable session you’ve been in?
Probably the one for Justin Bieber’s “Right Here” featuring Drake. Originally, I went to a session that Usher had, and I played the song for Usher. He says, “You should play the song for Justin Bieber.” Boom, I have a session with Justin Bieber, right? We cut the song, and then we’re supposed to be working with Diplo. Diplo is playing beats, we’re chilling, and then next thing you know, he says, “You know what, guys? I’m going to just go cook up some fresh beats. You all can work on whatever you want.” Justin Bieber says, “Yo, Hit-Boy just sent some beats. You want to play ‘em?” I said, “If Diplo’s cool with it, I’m cool with it.” Diplo said, “Go ahead, go crazy. I don’t care. I’m in here making beats.” So, he plays the “Right Here” beat. Justin says, “We’re going to load this up and work now.”
Hit-Boy pulls up. Now, Justin and I are working on the song. It’s a moment when Justin Bieber pulls the table up to the microphone, lowers the mic, and starts making drum patterns on the table to add to the song. So, now we have extra drums from Justin beating on the table. Then, Justin says, “Yo, bro, I love this song so much, I’m calling Drake right now” (laughs). So, he calls Drake, and Drake says, “I love it. I’m jumping on it.” I’m thinking, “What?!” The song was done, so I wondered if Drake would write a new verse or something. Drake cuts my bars, bro. Then, I think, “I have a song I did for Drake, my favorite artist.” Then he says, “Do y’all mind if I switch it up on the second half?” I tell him to go for it, go crazy. So, you got me, Justin Bieber, Drake, Hit-Boy, and Diplo all from that Usher session.
You never know what might occur in the studio. Have there been any sessions that really brought tears out of you?
I have a song called “Counting My Blessings.” I have a gospel song on my album, New Light, that I did with Kiki Sheard. That joint made me cry. I grew up in church, and my mom wanted me to make gospel music. She was still supportive when I told her I wanted to do R&B. I always appreciated her for that. That song brought so much out of me because not only did I just want to do a gospel song, but I think I was able to tap in with the spirit. I’m always trying to make it make sense. I dug deep on that one. And then, when I got Kiki on it, I was in tears the first time I heard it back.
Speaking of legends, there was a video of you in the studio with Snoop Dogg and Usher.
My bro [Larrance “Rance” Dopson] and I are childhood friends, and we had a moment where we decided to work together for a week. We did 15 songs that week. I just let the songs sit. I knew they were so special, and I just let ’em sit. One day, Usher called me, asking, “What are you doing? I got a session with Snoop. Pull up on me.” So, when I got in the studio, they went through so many songs because they were working on Snoop’s album, and Usher had me in the cut just in case. Then, four hours in, Snoop looked at me and asked, “What’s up? You got something you want to play? There goes the aux right there.” You know I went crazy (laughs). I’m a fly on the wall. I’m a genuine student. I know studio etiquette. I know how to chill and not speak until I’m spoken to. I know how to read a room on the highest level. So, I knew exactly what to play. He said, “This is crazy.” He stood up and started playing it over. He said, “Usher, what’s up? I’m doing my verse right now. Get your verse ready” (laughs). Then, he immediately goes into the booth and freestyles his verse. So, Usher and I wrote Usher’s verse right on the spot. So, then you had me, Usher, and Snoop Dogg on a song I premeditated and manifested six months before, knowing that it was bomb. I knew that song was crazy.
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What do you have coming up for the rest of 2023?
After [“The Obsession Tour”], I will get into my acting bag. I’m going to be on some TV shows and in movies. I’ll also be developing my label and releasing other artists. I got an artist named Dom Belli, and we just dropped her project called Stages. It already has 1 million streams on Spotify alone.