Jon Bellion joked about what he would do if he sold out his first concert ever at Northwell Health at Jones Beach Theater.
“I said I would get a bunch of food trucks and just hang out in the parking lot with everybody,” says Bellion, calling from Lincoln, Nebraska, at a stop of his “Glory Sound Prep” tour.
“I've been going to Jones Beach my entire life,” the 28-year-old Lake Grove native explains, adding that 311 was the first band he saw there. “For me, this is Madison Square Garden. Being from Long Island, that’s where I've seen my favorite bands – like Dave Matthews Band and Rage Against the Machine and Weezer and all my favorite bands growing up.”
Bellion knew that he could join the ranks of Jones Beach headliners someday, especially after his major-label debut “The Human Condition” (Visionary/Capitol) hit No. 5 in 2016 with help from the pop radio smash “All Time Low.” He also knew that last year’s “Glory Sound Prep” album didn’t have the same pop-leaning, hip-hop-tinged sound of his radio-friendly debut. It was an album “to really challenge my fans and bring them with me,” he says.
“A lot of these records are seven minutes long, eight minutes long and for the fanbase to keep growing and the ticket sales to double and triple and keep moving in the direction that they have,” Bellion says. “I just feel honored.”
In fact, if ticket sales keep going the way they have, Bellion may seriously have to think about how he wants to celebrate a Jones Beach sellout, when the “Glory Sound Prep” tour arrives there on Aug. 10.
“It's been such a fun time,” Bellion says. “I've had the best time on stage I've ever had on this tour for sure.”
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Part of the enjoyment comes from Bellion’s new approach to touring. “This time around, it’s all about the freestyles,” he says. “I think me and the band kind of reached a new expectation of what we want as a band… So it's been fun to just kind of see where the show goes and feed off the crowd and use a lot more crowd energy. And I think the freestyle aspect of it keeps people on edge. People don't know what to expect.”
And part of the thrill comes from Bellion seeing that his unorthodox approach to his career continues to work. “I feel like my fanbase is like the golden ticket,” he says. “They allow me to move in any direction I want with my career… This is crazy that people are still buying tickets. I don't need radio. I don't need a label push. I don't need awards at a fancy show. I'm doing quadruple the numbers of what somebody who's all over radio does and I don't have to play the game. So it feels really good… For me to take two years off to have a balanced life and to write for other people and do whatever and then come back and they are still showing up? I am so grateful.”
Richie Cannata, owner of Cove City Sound Studios in Glen Cove, where Bellion recorded “Glory Sound Prep,” says it’s understandable why so many people are drawn to the singer-songwriter.
“There should be more people in this business like him,” says Cannata, best known as the saxophonist in Billy Joel’s original band and now in the Lords of 52nd Street. “He is a pure artist. He's articulate. He's talented. He can sing. He can play. He's a family man. He's a Christian boy. He's all of the above for what you want your children to be listening to and, for that matter, what all of us should be listening to. He's making great music.”
Cannata says he was so taken with Bellion’s new music that he was thrilled to play on the album. “I played on 150 million records with Billy and that's great,” he says. “But it's also really great to play on some new guy's record… His music is played like Billy played his music. Like the song ‘JT.’ There are these sounds in the beginning that are his water bottles that we filled with water and recorded them. We used a trash can, filled it up with percussion instruments and dropped it on the floor and he used that sound and weaved it into the music. All unique sounds, all unique playing. That, to me, is different. That's original music. That, to me, is coming from his soul, his heart, and from God, you know, the God-given ability. And that is something that's not around much these days.”
The admiration is definitely mutual. “Just hearing all these different things that go on in his life and to see the legendary work he's done with Billy Joel – he's an incredible dude,” Bellion says of Cannata. “He's such a nice guy. He's been looking out for us and I love the vibe at his place.”
One of the things Bellion admires in Cannata is the way he has stayed true to Long Island. “I’d really just rather be on the Island, especially as my parents get older,” he says. “All my friends from high school, all my friends from elementary school, they live on the Island. It's just me being raised here. I'm never leaving here. It’s in my blood, you know what I mean?”
But even though Bellion is happy with his surroundings, he is always looking toward the future. He currently has two singles out – his own “Crop Circles,” which he released before the tour started just because he liked the song, and “Good Things Fall Apart,” his collaboration with Illenium that is already a dance hit and is now heading to the pop charts.
“Somebody sent me the beginnings of the song, super-unfinished and unpolished and, and I realized, ‘It's been a while since I've heard that Taking Back Sunday vibe on a record,’ I thought this could be something great and I've never done something like that for my career,” Bellion says. “Once we finished it, it turned out really well… It's shaping up to be a pretty big deal for the summer, so I'm excited about it for sure.”
Bellion says he’s looking forward to celebrating at Northwell Health at Jones Beach Theater. “I see it as a giant thank you to that entire community for raising me,” he says. “I'm just happy I don't have to go back to the catering hall to work anymore.”
WHO Jon Bellion
WHEN|WHERE 7 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 10, Northwell Health at Jones Beach Theater, 895 Bay Pkwy., Wantagh
INFO $35-$105; 800-745-3000, livenation.com
NEW YORK SOUL
Though Jon Bellion is still building his reputation as a performer, his success as a songwriter and producer was set years ago. Here’s a look at his biggest songs to date:
“THE MONSTER” (2013)
CREDITED TO Eminem feat. Rihanna
CONNECTION Bellion co-wrote the Grammy-winning song with Eminem, Rihanna, Bebe Rexha, Aaron Kleinstub, Bryan Fryzel and Maki Athanasiou
CHART PEAK No. 1, 4 weeks, 2013
CREDITED TO Jason DeRulo
CONNECTION Bellion produced the double-platinum hit and co-wrote it with DeRulo.
CHART PEAK No. 14, 2013
“ALL TIME LOW”
CREDITED TO Jon Bellion
CONNECTION Bellion performed and produced the triple-platinum single, which he co-wrote with Raul Cubina, Travis Mendes, and Mark Williams. – GLENN GAMBOA