Some people become artists because they seek fortune and fame. They believe that somehow, performing, writing and producing will bring them the accolades and acclaim they feel theyve been missing.
And then there are the people who have no choice in the matter - artistry has chosen them. They are compelled to write, perform and record the way the rest of us are compelled to breathe. Whether they sell five million records or just five, some folks will always create.
Jon B. is one of these rare individuals.
Jon B. was born on November 11th, in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. Jon grew up in Pasadena but spends holidays in the South Bay. His father's family has roots in Campbell and his mother's in Los Altos. He grew up surrounded by music. His father, David , is a conductor for the Los Angeles Symphonic Camerata; he was recently guest conductor for the Shanghai Opera. His mother a piano teacher and performer. His brother, Kevin, plays cello and bass in Jon's band. His sister, plays violin in the critically acclaimed Quartet. Jon's grandfather owned Town & Country Music Center, the Palo Alto record store near Stanford University where Jon B. spent many afternoons. David jokes that Jon B. is the only family member to go into music without training. `He took three lessons, learned how to bow and then quit,'' Buck says. Jon, himself, was only nine years old when he learned to play the keyboards and started writing his own original songs. He was also soon proficient on the bass as well as the drums.
Jon attended Eliot Middle School in Altadena, CA, as well as John Muir, and L.A. County High School for the Arts. By his teenage years Jon had recorded dozens of demo tracks. While still in high school, Jon had been urged by to contact Tracey E. Edmonds, the President & CEO of Yab Yum Records at the time. "I came to Yab Yum with my tape and played it for her and everything and she loved it" Jon says. Jon was then contracted as a solo singer and songwriter and signed to Yab Yum Records.
Jon started writing and producing music for various artists. Some of his first work included two remixes he produced of Michael Jackson's single "You Are Not Alone" as well as music for artists such as Az Yet, Color Me Badd, and Toni Braxton. He also wrote and produced four songs for the After 7 album "Reflections". Jon's first single was a duet with Babyface entitled "Someone To Love". The song was featured on the Bad Boys soundtrack and later on Jon's debut album "Bonafide". The single was a number 5 hit on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay charts, and later earned a grammy nomination. In May of 1995, he released his now platinum-certified album "Bonafide." Jon B. wrote, produced, and arranged all except two of the songs on the album. Jon played instruments on every single track from the album. He also solely handled the drum programing on all except two tracks on the album.
In 1997, it was time for Jon to release his sophomore album, entitled "Cool Relax". "My first album helped me find my own style and my own voice. Now I've found my niche and the new music reflects it. This record feels natural. When I was writing, the music just flowed out" Jon explains about recording the album. "Cool Relax" later went Double Platinum and became Jon's most succesful work to date. Indeed, Cool Relax shot to the Top 5 of R&B charts upon its release in 1998, fueled by the success of They Dont Know, a platinum-certified single and a number 1 R&B hit. A highly melodic offering with an ultra-romantic vibe, They Dont Know cemented Jons reputation as a balladeer with real heart. Are You Still Down, the B-side to They Dont Know, peaked at 2 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles and Tracks. The follow up "I Do (Whatcha Say Boo)" reached No. 19 becoming another hit, as well as oter singles released from the album - "Don't Say" and "Cool Relax."
He continued his mission with Pleasures U Like, which rose to number 3 on the R&B charts in 2001. The first single, the hit love-at-first-club-sighting anthem Dont Talk single-handedly pushed the album past 400,000 units sold. After the release of this album, Jon started experiencing many new challenges in his life. "My last album [Pleasures U Like] kinda fizzled out, We did a gold album, which is really cool, off of one single, but I just felt like [the label] should've released more than one single. I worked really hard on that album... I think that it was just a matter of promotion", Jon says about the album. Jon eventually left Epic Records and Sony all together and signed to DreamWorks Records. Unfortunately things fell apart at DreamWorks Records as well as Interscope Records bought the label out and it became a subsidary company of Interscope.
These weren't the only challenging situations which took place around this time. "I lost my entire recording studio in a fire, which was devastating. Then I went through a divorce, which was horribly painful", Jon describes. "The fire was too tremendous for me to be sane. I completely broke away from the world. I went through a four-month period where I lived in Venice Beach by myself in a furnished apartment that the fire insurance paid for. And I was able to get my whole life together down there, with a completely new outlook on life."
These situations inspired the music for Jon B.'s fourth album "Stronger Everyday". The album was originally scheduled to be released on November 25, 2003 on DreamWorks Records with the title "Everyday Struggles", but it didn't hit stores until October 5, 2004, on Sanctuary Urban Records with the title "Stronger Everyday".
"Stronger Everyday" is the most personal work fans have heard from Jon B. "Yes, I'm a grown man, but that doesn't mean I don't have any feelings. Men can express what's going on in their hearts; we don't have to keep everything inside all the time. In the years since my last album was released, I've been going through some extremely rough times" Jon says. "Everything on this album is based on real experiences. These are literal statements - I'm putting my life and soul into this music. An artist can have hot tracks, but if youve been through some rough times and we all have then I want to feel it in your music. I believe you must go deep and really tap into your emotions before you can speak the truth about anything.
The album deals with the personal setbacks he faced when his high school sweetheart divorced him and his studio burned down. `I ran into the cyclones in my life,'' Jon B. says. "A huge wall of destruction came into my world." Though the dissolution of his marriage and the fire are at the top, his list of misfortunes also includes the label mergers in the record industry, losing his recording deal and living alone for the first time.
"I'm somewhat of a romantic,'' Jon B.says. `It's not like I'm looking at taking women out all the time, going to clubs and all that, but I'm the walk-around-barefoot type romantic. When I have a beat going, the beat itself makes me think of something romantic to say.'' Jon B. aims to be `that voice for men,'' articulating their emotional side. He cites Mario Winans' single, `I Don't Wanna Know,'' about a man who prefers to remain ignorant about whether his girl is sleeping around, as an honest take on the male point of view."
And though some might argue that Jon has vintage soul singers like Marvin Gaye and Donny Hathaway on his mind whenever he steps into the studio, he has long been a fixture on the hip-hop scene, having worked with Tupac (R U Still Down) Nas, (Finer Things) Cuban Link, (All I Want Is You) AZ, (Layaway) Eve, (Hot 2 Nite) Jay-Z (Keep It Real) Guru, (Cool Relax - remix) Kurupt, (Summertime) among many others. Everytime, was produced by one of hip-hops hottest names, Just Blaze (Jay-Z, DMX, Fabolous). Hip-hop has always been an important part of my life, Jon affirms. I came up at a time when kids were banging on tables to make beats and break dancing in the street, so it just feels completely natural to incorporate hip-hop into what I do. I dont view it as a departure; its an extension.