Beginning at age 5 or 6, Eric Bellinger dreamed of becoming a professional football player and spent his entire adolescence working toward this goal. However, athleticism wasn’t the only talent he was given. As a kid he was always singing in the church—not because he wanted to, but as he put it, “If you can sing, they just throw you up there.” As his love for music grew over time and he had the opportunity to pursue singing professionally, it was clear that R&B would be his future. “I love that it makes you feel something,” Bellinger explains. “When it’s written from a place of emotion, real-life stories and pain, you can hear that in the music when it’s the right song.”

Bellinger was set to begin his football career with a scholarship to USC, but an injury during a high school all-star game cut that dream short. However, as fate would have it, Bellinger would soon be given the opportunity to tour with an R&B group and later join the prestigious songwriting collective, The Writing Camp. “The Writing Camp really got my foot in the door and I got to work with so many huge artists,” Bellinger shares. “I gave it a shot and started getting hella placements. It’s really about who you know and it took off from there because my talent actually matched my work ethic.”

From The Writing Camp, Bellinger met some of the biggest artists in the business, including one of his heroes—Brandy. And despite earning a Grammy the previous year for his contributions on Chris Brown’s “F.A.M.E.” album, he was still in fan mode during his first session with the singer. “I remember one time I was working with Brandy and I was vocal-producing her in a studio session,” Bellinger says. “A lot of the time, I’m telling the person in the booth, ‘Do it like this, do it again, do it like that.’ But when it came to Brandy being in the booth, I vividly remember telling her everything she did was unbelievable. She had to stop the session and tell me to get out of fan mode because I was here to do a job and I was here because she was a fan of me too.”

Photos by Sergio Barron

Photos by Sergio Barron

Despite a few moments of being starstruck, Bellinger prides himself on being a perfectionist, and when it comes to writing for other artists, he takes his work very seriously. While he’s capable of churning out a good song for anyone, he follows a process that allows him to truly get to the core of what that artist should be saying in their next single. “It’s great to have a one-on-one conversation because I actually get to pick their mind rather than me just shooting in the dark,” Bellinger says. “One thing I’ll always say is, ‘How are you feeling right now? What’s on your mind lately? What vibe have you been in?’ From those questions, I get so much. We all have the same 24 hours in a day, but everyone has a different way of spending them.”

Bellinger is a lot more than just the guy who pens hit songs for other people, he’s also quite the performer. He’s released music on his own over the past six years, but it wasn’t until two years ago that he truly understood the importance of being real with his fans. “I used to try to be someone that I thought people would want to hear from and I could never really get it right,” Bellinger explains. “But people broke it down to me that you have to be yourself and people like that. It was maybe two years ago when the switch flipped and the less I had to try, the more the fans could connect with who I am.”

From that moment on, Bellinger has lived fully in the spirit of R&B, not only through his soulful lyrics, but in every facet of his life. At the end of the day, anyone can release beautiful music that speaks truth, but those who find true success in this industry are people who make you fall in love with every aspect of their story—even if you’re sharing your deepest “Confessions,” feeling “Brokenhearted” or “Just Want to Turn Your Lights Down.”

Photos by Sergio Barron

Photos by Sergio Barron