Jon Bellion is the consummate artist. Visionary Music Group’s very own singer/songwriter is a monstrous threat with the pen. His ability to script songs makes him one of the better young songwriters in the game, with a style that can’t be replicated. Need proof? You remember Eminem & Rihanna‘s infectious banger “Monster” that clawed its way to the top of the Billboard charts? Jon Bellion wrote the record.
Rather than gloat and parade on Front Street, the effusive artist has diligently been working on creating a monster of his own. With projects like The Separation, and his most recent endeavor, The Definition, Jon is creating a cult-like fanbase that salivates for new music. (Having released on September 23, you can download The Definition for free at jonbellion.com.)
The artist who opened up for Kanye West in London is now headlining his own tour, aptly entitled, “The Beautiful Mind Tour.”
With everything leaning Jon’s way, it appears he’s on the verge of becoming something special. He sat down with us to discuss his basketball days, his favorite players of all time, why he would take LeBron over Jordan, his favorite sports movies, and why he thinks Visionary Music Group is the Cleveland Cavaliers of rap.
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First off, gotta ask, what was your reaction to Derek Jeter’s game-winning hit at Yankee Stadium?
Jon Bellion: You wanna just crucify me right now?
Let’s hear this.
JB: (Laughs) I was at rehearsals all night from like super early to super late. Like I literally just woke up like 10 minutes ago. We’ve been rehearsing for this tour. It’s my first nationwide headlining tour. So I kept seeing on Twitter everybody talking. Jeter is such an amazing guy. I could only hope to go out — like if I ever “leave” the game and people respect me like that — life would be good. He seems like such a good guy. It’s crazy.
I know coming up you used to play basketball in high school. When did you fall in love with hoops?
JB: Man, I was playing hoops all throughout elementary school, middle school, and high school. I played on state teams. I played on varsity. I was thinking about playing in college. I eventually chose to do the music thing instead of playing. But, I’ve played A LOT basketball.
What position did you play?
JB: When I was in 10th grade I think, I got moved up to varsity as a point guard. But I didn’t really play as much. In 11th and 12th grade, I was a shooting guard.
Who would compare your game to?
JB: I was a phenomenal jump shooter. Classic suburban kid, classic suburban game. Just running off of picks. Just running the whole time. Don’t leave me open.
Sounds like you were a Richard Hamilton/Reggie Miller hybrid or something.
JB: Yes! Definitely. The pull-up [jumper] is incredibly real to this day. [Laughs]
So you just go and light kids up at the park for fun?
JB: Yes! I’m trying to.
Which did you prefer more: volleyball or basketball?
JB: I mean with volleyball and any sport, man, it was just a lot of the athletes that played or used to play — at least at my school. Like the kids who played basketball would play volleyball during the offseason. For me, it was just a bunch of really athletic kids playing volleyball. So a lot of other schools used to take it super serious. Like they had kids playing club and what not. So we had a really good team. We actually made it to the playoffs and what not. So it’s cool because we used to see teams get frustrated because we were just a bunch of kids who didn’t really care that much about volleyball, but who a ton of fun playing it. And we ended up getting pretty good at it over the years because we all started super young like from eighth grade and on. So I love volleyball a lot. But I love basketball too, man.
That’s dope. Top five favorite players of all time?
JB: Oh man. Kevin Durant because he’s just a specimen. I saw him play Brooklyn at the Barclays Center. Just seeing him move was like watching a movie or something. He’s so tall and weirdly shaped and technically skilled. It was just like the weirdest experience. He’s a specimen. He’s like a test-tube player. It’s bananas. Then, LeBron James just because I think he could be the best player of all time.
He’s a specimen, too. The guy is like a linebacker. It’s almost insane. The guys look like children next to him. It’s just bananas the way he was designed. I think Derrick Rose, when he’s healthy, is like the most explosive, quick, lighting fast, fun guy to watch playing basketball. That guy is unreal to watch. Chris Paul is like one of the most composed, phenomenal skill-wise basketball players I think I’ve ever seen. The basketball is on a string when he dribbles.
He’s a maestro.
JB: Yeah he is. And his confidence, aggressiveness, and passion for the game is crazy. Who else? Blake Griffin is really fun to watch just strictly off of dunking on people and just doing ridiculous things. I just think he’s so fun to watch, like his highlights on SportsCenter. I’d leave the studio at 5 in the morning and I would either be creating for myself or other people or whatever. I’ll always check SportsCenter and it seems like he would be on there like twice a week for something crazy.
Definitely 2-3 times a week. I’m curious, if you had to pick you favorite sports movie, which one would you choose?
JB: Ah! Favorite sports movie? I probably have a top three favorite sports movie. They would be White Man Can’t Jump, Hoosiers, and Space Jam.
That’s a great three right there. I wanna revisit your top five favorite players. I noticed you didn’t pick any classic ’90s players. Do you prefer this generation over the ’90s?
JB: You know what it is, man? If you say LeBron James plays better than Jerry West, that doesn’t necessarily mean that Jerry West was a bad basketball player. It’s a development of the sport. It’s human nature. It’s progression. It’s advancing. Guys are doing football workouts for basketball. So it’s not that I don’t like the ’90s era. The ’90s era was incredible. But watching the guys now, I’m just a fan of the game. There’s so much adoration for these dudes. They’re so incredible and fun to watch. It’s so much faster and longer and more athletically dominant and superior than past generations. That’s just where the game is at. That’s where the game goes. You know Magic Johnson was the borderline LeBron James at one point or even Michael Jordan. But when you look at the comparisons of athleticism and size, it’s just such a difference. So yeah, I kind of like the new generation just because naturally they progressed athletically.
So let me pose you this: How do you think Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson would fair in this era?
JB: You are springing on me the classic bar conversation that there’s fist fights over. (Laughs) Like you’re really just sending me to the wolves by asking me that. I think clutch-wise if you wanna put the ball in someone’s hands in the fourth quarter, I’d rather have Michael Jordan. But as far as who I just overall think I would rather have on my team, it would probably be LeBron. And I don’t think Magic and Jordan would be as effective if they played in today’s day in age. AS EFFECTIVE. As effective, I mean they literally might be 10 percent less on stats and 10 percent less from what they’re doing. They were incredible basketball players. I just figured that it’s just a different beast. It’s a different beast now. I don’t think I’m really to off by saying that, or bias, or not realistic. You know what I mean?
What are some of your favorite video games of all time?
JB: I’m a huge epic video game player. I love Zelda, God of War, or you know, the classic Mario 64, or Mario Sunshine. I love epic games. Sports games — two of my homies actually live with me. One of my homies is obsessed with FIFA. My homie doesn’t have the new PlayStation. So I haven’t played it yet. But that’s all he does at night. I’d call him and hear him from the studio and hear him yell, “What do you mean that’s offsides?!” (Laughs)
Let’s talk about the music. Headlining your own tour is very different from opening up for other acts. Talk about how you’ve been preparing for “The Beautiful Mind Tour.”
JB: Preparation-wise, I went from making music all the time for people who are interested to playing shows. So I’ve only played three shows so far, which is really crazy. My first show I did at SOBs, we sold out really soon. We sold out way before the show, which was crazy. And then, my last show was at Toronto University. The show before that was an opener for Kanye West at the Wireless Festival in London. So yeah, it’s just been a ton of practice. It’s a whole new land for me. Live is a new experience.
So just like preparing for basketball, it’s like taking millions of jump shots and running the play back. Run the play back. Get jump shots up. Six hundred a day. Get ’em up, get ’em up. You know? That’s kind of what we’re doing. Just run the set. Run it again. Run it again. Dribble with your weak hand. Brush your teeth with your weak hand. You know? Write with your weak hand until you could just dribble and crossover both ways. So as a band, that’s what we’re trying to accomplish. It’s just a matter of becoming so smooth and just natural with the performance that we can do it with our eyes closed at any venue.
You’re a very talented song-writer. Do you prefer penning records for other acts or being your own artist?
JB: I love it all. I just love making music. As long as I can keep making music and people are interested in doing it, whether it be for myself or other people, or whatever, it’s amazing. If the songwriter goes well, I could fund my own artist. That’s what enables me to put out stuff for free. With that being said, I just love making music in general.
You guys at Visionary have a very young and solid core consisting of you, QuESt, and Logic. What sports team would you compare Visionary to and why? What roster?
JB: (Laughs) You know, as respectful as possible, I don’t want to say we’re the best. The fans are open to their opinion and whatever. But as far as what I believe, as far as what I think, I’d say Cleveland.
Wow. You have to make sure you say the Cleveland Cavaliers. People might think you’re talking about the Browns.
JB: (Laughs) I’ll take the Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love, LeBron James three. I wouldn’t mind being any three of those guys.
Follow Carl on Twitter at @TheRealCL24