18 years ago, ivory-soul singer, Jonathan "Jon B" Buck brought a distinctive sound to R&B music when he released his debut single, "Someone to Love," featuring Babyface. From that point on, the singer, songwriter, producer, and instrumentalist recorded a number of singles including his biggest hit to date, "They Don't Know," from his double platinum album, Cool Relax, in 1997. Jon B. also collaborated with the late rap legend, Tupac Shakur, on the classic song, "Are You Still Down?"
On June 21st, Jon B's fans recognized his dynamic stage presence at Stage 48 in New York City. After his amazing performance, he took the time out to speak with Singersroom.com about why his music matters nearly 20 years later, what makes him different from other artists, and more. Check out our exclusive interview.
Performing in New York City at Stage 48: It's a serious energy out here. It's crazy because here it's like the song, if I can make it in New York, I can make it anywhere. It's real talk. People don't give you props out here for being famous. You know what I mean. You gotta be good at something. They gotta respect you from the grassroots of it. They want to know, what do you do? Are you talented? The most fashionable, intelligent, like you know the most artistic people live here. So they are only going to recognize something that they feel is extraordinary to them. So I feel like that the art is so concentrated in NY, the fact that I can get props out here is just incredible. So much East coast music is so influential to me. So many artists that I respect come from New York City. When I get down here, I just feel like there's kindred spirits. We come from the same place and I speak the same language as the people from here. We have great communication and I just love it.
Being an Independent Artist and Cons of the Music Industry: The industry changed so much throughout the years. I remember back in the days when fans used to stand for hours and hours to get your CD in stores. Now, with the internet, your lucky enough if fans heard one or two tracks from your album. The industry is hard and it can be a bitch. That's why it's so important for fans to continue to support independent artists. Labels don't do what they're supposed to do; they want to charge you for the money for them for messing up your career. Labels don't have personal interest in what's going on or not necessarily artistic interest. Their interest is, you know, it's a business, dollars and cents. It's units out, units in. They don't have an emotional commitment and connection to it. And if they do have a commitment to it, let's say, they don't exactly execute the promotion of the album properly or they can't get a hit from an album. At the end of the day, it's a write off, it's a tax off for them, so they don't lose anything in signing an artist like myself. I put it out all on the line to sign to a label. I'm like here's my song, here's my year off; instead of being with my little girl, I'm hopping on the road and you're telling me where you want me to go. It's like they control you, but instead of being a slave for 18 years man, I said you know what, I'm gonna go a head and emancipate myself.
New Project, B-Sides Collection Compilation: That's my effort to keep up with the times. Keep current styles and blend hip-hop with the R&B and kind of making it like 2013. I do it all; upbeat songs and slow ballads. I write the tracks, produce it, sell it, play it, and all on my record label, VibeZelect Inc. I have all of the creative freedom I want and deliver my new project to my fans. There's a song for everyone so I encourage everyone to buy it.
Family: Wife, Danette and daughter, Azzure Luna: Family is everything. I wouldn't trade my wife and my little six year old baby girl for anything. They are my biggest priority. Before the concert, I took my daughter to Central Park and we just hung out. I brought her along with me on the road. She's starting to play the piano like daddy and hopefully she can take over so I can retire (laughing). I'm just blessed to have my daughter and wife in my corner.
Recognizing Younger Artists' Contributions in Music: You know what I'm excited about right now, Chris Brown's new single. It's my hook, "They Don't Know," and incorporated with an Aaliyah tribute. And that's huge for me. I mean that's like reintroducing me to a whole new generation that might not know my music. I mean, these kids, you know when they were five and they were listening to my third album, they grew up and said cool. And now those people are all grown up and they're here to see me tonight. So, I think about it happening all over again, a five or ten year old kid heard the Chris Brown song and he don't even know that's my hook. And then his mama goes like, yo you know who sings this song? That's originally Jon B. And that's where my name comes up. It's a natural thing, I didn't tell him to do it, he did it on his own. So it's a huge honor for me.
Still Relevant After 18 years and Musical Influences: I think people picked up that I really love my music. It wasn't about being famous for me. Like I have no problem giving it up to my forefathers of R&B music. My favorite influential, Babyface influenced me…. Michael Jackson, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, and the list goes on. In all of my interviews, I give it up to 'Pac and anybody who collaborated with me on my records. And because of that, I feel people know that I'm coming from a genuine place. And as long as you're genuine, genuine doesn't go away. That's always in style. That's something that is not a fad, that's a standard. That's real and I like to be real, you know what I mean. The real deal. I take a little bit everywhere I go with me. I take that energy, I use it like taking a battery and putting a strap on my back and charge the battery. And I'm back at it again. I have a battery on my back and I'm taking you to the next level.
Encouragement for Upcoming Singers: Don't hire your friends to do business for you. That's the biggest rule you have to abide by. A friend will turn into an enemy when it comes to money. Enemies happen, burned bridges happen because people get personal with business instead of keeping business business. When you cross personal with business, then there's a lot of confusion and a lot of boundaries that are overstepped. I've experienced a great deal of grief in my career from hiring my friends, putting my friends in positions that they didn't deserve.
The Fans: I love my fans, without them I can't continue to make music. I thank them so much for following up on my music. When I started in this industry, I was a boy and my fans watched me evolved as a musician and recording artist. Each time I perform, God put this sincerity on my heart to appreciate my fans for coming out to my concerts and performances. It feels good that your fans know your music, other than my song "They Don't Know." I am passionate about my music, and I believe that is the big reason why I'm still relevant in the business.