Long before Justin Timberlake and Robin Thicke, Jon .B was the white boy making waves in the rnb scene. The platinum-selling artist is undoubtedly one of the best rnb stars of the late 90s, and one who was criminally under-rated. But you can’t keep this good man down, as he returns stronger than ever with his fifth album, Helpless Romantic.
It’s been a long time….what have you been up to?
Raising my daughter mainly (smiles), touring and recording this next record. I just finished working with DJ Quick and Timberland is also involved with my new project and will be in other stuff I want to do…I also have my own record label called Vibes Select.
Vibes Select , did you say?
Yeah, well actually, ‘Vibezelect’. It’s all about the vibes you select; it’s all about the vibe in life. If you don’t have a vibe and you’re just kinda drifting through life, you don’t really have something that represents you. I think it’s a defining factor, you know what I mean? This is the vibe that I select, this is who I am – do you know what I mean? But at the same time it’s about a bunch of different vibes, not just one, so that’s why I called it Vibes Select.
People can expect to hear on this album a return to the same feeling that they got from the music that I was putting out back in the 90s. but I think one thing I have done is that I’ve managed to stay up with the times…I’ve always managed to adjust to where radio is, and be able to find a way to fit in nicely with the movements that are going on….
Okay, so on that note, what’s your opinion on the whole use of auto-tunes that everyone seems to be into the days?
You know, I think auto tunes is a tool, if it’s used in the right way. Because intonations has always been a problem for me…people may not think so, but when you’re coming from different backgrounds and certain things, there’s a certain texture that you can get from auto-tunes…It’s not that I don’t like my voice, so I put auto-tunes on it, it’s a certain, soothing texture that I get.
What would be your fantasy group?
Wow, man, fantasy group?! Hmm, it’s gotta be me, Justin Timberlake and Robin Thicke. Yeah, I’d put us three together just because, I mean, it’s really scary our similarities. Not just in terms of our taste in music, but our clothing…just as men to have that much in common and not know each other, is just kinda crazy to me, so I feel it’s only right. You gotta get it in; we gotta get that collaboration together.
You were one of the first white artists to do real credible rnb that was embraced by black audiences, but with lots of other white artists coming up in rnb, how do you feel you can separate yourself from them?
I think the fact that I write and produce my music, I think that definitely puts me in a lane of my own because I don’t believe there’s another artist out there right now in the game who does that. I know for the most part Justin has Timberland – although he has produced some stuff and it’s hot- he got to work with one of my favourite bands, Duran Duran on their last album, so hat’s off to Justin for that – that’s always something I wanted to do. It think there’s a certain texture to my style. It’s not so much about separating yourself, as it is just being comfortable with being different.
I heard you worked on a Michael Jackson track….
Yeah, I remixed, You Are Not Alone, which was written by R. Kelly. That was one of the big things I got to do when I was signed to Sony – produce Michal Jackson’s voice in the studio. Just to work with his vocals, breaths and snapping just every take there was just so much energy and there was no track playing ah man, it was so hot! That energy – that’s real singing, real rnb. Everything right now is super held back. Everyone’s just really swagged out – they got all the right clothes on, got the auto-tune, everything’s neat, it’s great, but I don’t hear nobody really given me their inner gut – I don’t feel that from really right now. I mean, I feel that from certain artists, but the majority the game I feel like we just need to dig inside ourselves.
So, what can we expect from Jon.B?
Just expect someone who’s willing to show every single side of themselves. I’m completely comfortable with my personality. I’m a helpless romantic. I love making people feel good. The next album is called Helpless Romantic. I mean, all of my albums have been romantic, but I’ve had Naz, Jay-Z and people like that featured in the past and so each one had its different elements. On this one I had collaboration with Paul Wall, an MC and that was it. For the most the record the whole vibe is like, very beachy, airy and smooth, mid-tempos.
Helpless Romantic was at the time of press unavailable for sale in the UK but can be purchased on iTunes and import.
Words by Chanel Williams