About two weeks ago, the London-based musician Beljune released his debut single, a soul-stirring and modern-pop ballad entitled ‘Poison’. It was mainly the artist’s haunting vocal performance that drew me in at first, but also the most delicate and fragile acoustic guitar you’ve ever heard. It’s truly one of the most beautiful tunes I’ve heard all year, and I was over the moon when Beljune took the time out to chat with us!
Taking us through some of his biggest musical influences, how he takes a simple idea and turns it into an actual song, and which of his lyrics he’d like to see printed on a T-shirt, please give a big welcome to our friend Beljune!
Hi James! It’s great to have you here! Firstly, a huge congratulations on your debut single – it’s absolutely beautiful! I know you’ve been singing professionally for ages now, but how did you decide ‘Poison’ was the song you wanted to introduce yourself to the world with?
Honestly, I wasn’t sure it would be! I sat on it for about 6 months before releasing it. I was writing other stuff with a different vibe and it felt scary to drop ‘Poison’ as my debut… I wrote it reflecting on a pretty dark moment and so it felt very vulnerable putting it out to the world and I was unsure if that’s how I wanted to introduce myself as an artist. But my producer, Zed, and mixing engineer, Jacob, kept pushing me to stop sitting on it and I’m so pleased it’s finally out there! With so many artists I love, I appreciate vulnerability and honesty so why would I be scared to do the same!?
I love how you landed on your new pseudonym. Could you tell our readers how the name Beljune came about?
I’m so close to both my Nans, Bel and June. They really were my first idols. My parents had to work a lot and so they, along with my Grandads, one of whom I’m actually named after (James), played a huge part in raising me. I knew I wanted a pseudonym to release music under and it just strolled into my head one day – Beljune. I just thought it sounded nice and for some reason, having a pseudonym feels so limitless artistically!
Who are some of your biggest musical influences? Who did you grow up listening to? And would you say that your tastes have changed over the years?
So many! The first CD I had for my Walkman was ‘The Parent Trap’ movie soundtrack – Nat King Cole, The Beatles, The La’s, Dusty Springfield, Ray Charles! And my parents always listened to Elton John in the car… ‘Rocket Man’ is my all-time favourite song and ‘Your Song’ is the first song I ever sang so Sir Elton has a very special place in my heart. At his Glasto performance this year, I cried buckets and was pretty sure I had some kind of spiritual awakening haha! And Amy Winehouse. Obviously. No explanation is needed. And then more recently, Self Esteem! I’m a STAN… I just really want to go for a pint with her, you can tell she’s a good-time gal and a grafter and her music is so fresh and exciting.
We’re always intrigued with artists’ creative processes, and how they take an idea and transform it into a finished product. Could you tell us a bit about your creative process?
‘Poison’ started as a hummed voice note of the first line and I came to Zed the producer with it and basically said I loved the idea of writing something high drama that really builds, like ‘Creep’ by Radiohead or ‘Happier Than Ever’ by Billie Eilish. I came up with the melody in a couple of hours and the lyrics wrote themselves really. I didn’t have to try that hard thinking of them, they kind of just poured out of me. It was then recorded quite quickly too, I didn’t do many takes really… and didn’t care that it didn’t follow a classic song structure. Bad episodes of mental health aren’t structured, they can come out of nowhere, sometimes with no explanation and you don’t know how they’re going to escalate, and so the unpredictability of the song without a verse, pre-chorus, chorus, bridge etc structure felt fitting.
What is the best piece of musical (or general) advice that you’ve ever been given that you’d like to pass on to others?
“Perfectionism is fear” – I wouldn’t say it relates to music specifically but I’ve struggled with anxiety and self-doubt so much throughout my twenties and felt I wasn’t good enough, that anything I did really had to be “perfect” or people would think negatively of me. Bloomin exhausting. But learning that nothing is perfect (other than Margot Robbie as Barbie and Beyonce’s ‘Renaissance’ obvs…), getting to a place where you can embrace the unavoidable (and important) failures, and stop caring what other people think is very freeing. Also, knowing that others don’t expect your supposed idea of perfection from you anyway! Just be brave and put your art out into the world. Also, Elizabeth Gilbert’s ‘Big Magic’ is excellent… I would recommend any creative to give it a read!
You’re allowed to collaborate with one musician or band. Who do you choose?
It would have to be Elton. Mind you, not sure how much work I’d get done. I think I’d be too fangirly and overwhelmed.
Which of your lyrics would you like to see printed on a T-shirt?
I think the ‘Poison’ lyrics are a bit too sad and deep to be on the front of a tee, to be honest! But if I had to choose, either “I roll another dice… but a gamble with what prize?” or keep it simple with “I just need to feel love…” because, well, don’t we all!
Thank you so much for chatting with us today James! I have no doubt that there are many more songs up your sleeve, and I truly can’t wait to hear what else you have in store! But, in a broader sense, what do you hope for in your musical future?
I just want to keep writing, learning and pushing my art out into the world. I’m directing my first music video for my next release (which I’m hoping to release by early October) so that’s my next challenge and I’m excited for the many to come!