At twenty-two years old, Ron Bultongez’ life has been a series of long journeys. From the Congo, where he fled as a child refugee to a new life in Plano, TX. From living in homeless shelters and foster homes, to becoming a new father and guardian for his teenage brothers. From a college football scholarship derailed by injury to the national stage of ‘American Idol,‘ winning over Katy Perry , Lionel Richie and Luke Bryan with his soulful performances.
All of those paths have lead Bultongez to this moment, as he prepares to release his new EP ‘Learning to Love‘ on August 1. Each of the six songs on the EP represent an experience he’s had during his life. Despite the years of turmoil he faced, he says, all of these events ultimately taught him the importance of learning to love.
Bultongez immigrated to the US as a refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo as a child. His native language is French along with Lingala and Swahili. Living in Plano, TX, his life continued to be full of turmoil, as he ended up separated from his family, shuffling between shelters and group homes.
In high school, Bultongez excelled in two seemingly disparate areas – choir and football. A talented quarterback whose star was rising in the competitive world of Texas football, Ron earned a scholarship to play in college, with the goal of playing professionally. After several injuries and concussions set him back, his foster mother encouraged him to pursue a career in music instead.
Bultongez honed his live performance by playing hundreds of shows, wherever he could find an audience. That work paid off when he tried out for season 16 of ‘American Idol.’ An early standout, Ron caught the judges’ attention with a soaring performance of “Let It Go” by James Bay , and made it to the Top 24 with his takes on “Home” by Phillip Phillips and “Dancing On My Own” by Robyn , along with a collaboration with BANNERS on their hit single “Someone To You.“
Bultongez was invited to record the new EP at Warner Bros Studios in Nashville, where he teamed up with producer and songwriter Zac Maloy ( Carrie Underwood/Tim McGraw/Blake Shelton ), along with an all-star backing band that includes drummer Miles McPherson ( Paramore/Kelly Clarkson ), bassist Ethan Pilzer ( Big & Rich ), Grammy-winning keyboardist Jordache Grant, and guitarists Carl Miner ( The Greencards ) and Justin Ostrander ( Cody Johnson/Dustin Lynch ).
For Bultongez, both the pain of his past and his dreams for the future inform who he is as an artist and a person. Now twenty-two years old, he is raising his two younger teenage brothers as their legal guardian, along with his own baby boy. He prides himself on creating the safe, loving home for these kids that he never had. That gratefulness and dedication to helping others shines through in his music, along with his work as a public speaker, meeting with students around Texas to spread a message of “life, love, hope, and perseverance.“
Bultongez’ community work has been recognized by the International Student Foundation, who honored him with their Impact Community Award. He was also a finalist for the Immigrant Journey Awards in 2018, and received congratulatory letters from the US Congress for his work.
Ron Bultongez will launch a national tour this fall, including stops in Los Angeles, NYC and Nashville.