Thursday, 12 January 2012

#FindOutFriday with Kevin Writer!

   Kevin Writer 

It's not very often that I'm thrown.

But when you accidentally get the time difference from our little Island to the big ole' US of A off by oh, I don't know...180 minutes or few (yeah thanks for that there's not much you can do, but hope that 'Wing and a Prayer' thing is more than a concept reminiscent of Meatloaf (the Singer. Not the food).

And so it was that I found myself, face-to-malfunctioning Skype screen, with Mr. Kevin Writer. You may not be familiar with the name in the UK just yet, but that is something that is about to change. From Producer Extraordinaire, to one former third of the hugely talented RnB group RydazNrtisT (managed by Nick Cannon), to producing for TV film soundtracks and now scoring for them also (which was exactly what he was doing when I caught up with him).

Kevin Writer is a very funny font of talent that you can't help wanting to get to know. Find out what happened when he stepped out of the studio where Connor Cruise was tinkering (yes, the DJ-son of a Mission Impossible Agent), for a gracious chat with Yours Truly...

1. So Kevin, thanks for interrupting what sounds like a busy afternoon through these speakers! Let's start off with your mixtape. 'Before the Ink Dries' sounds like a title with a story to tell. What inspired it?

I asked a lot of fans and friends and a lot came back with some clichéd answers around my name. Then someone said something about 'ink drying' and I added the 'Before'. When I thought about it, this was really a passion project for me; it was my opportunity to put all of my thoughts and the things I feel passionately about on wax. It was my chance to speak to the fans that I have right now and that I have had up to this point, before things blow up, before the hype that's coming really starts, before everyone else was a fan. This was about connecting with them.

2. You're managed by Nick Cannon, who we know found his start on Children's TV Channel, Nickelodeon. From the UK looking in, it seems to be the norm, that a lot of stars find their start there, through Disney or like shows. Did you have a similar starting point?
No, I came from a Church background, my Father is a Minister, my Mother was really involved in the Church also; so that's what I was really exposed to as a child. I came through with the help of a lot of lucky breaks, I was also Blessed enough to meet some cool people...I gave away a lot of free music (laughs), and did a lot of Internships. They paved the way for me to produce and write for some very cool people like Akon. So no TV shows, but I've had a couple of good shots!

3. Definitely can't deny that! So staying on the Production side of the Street, if you had to pick one, which do you find easier, being an Artist, or being a Producer?
Well I don't think it's a matter of being easier, because they both come naturally, but I would say that I definitely prefer being an Artist. Music is one of those rare things that, no matter your race, your gender, your job, what you do, or where you are in life, everybody can relate to, because it's universal.

4. You mention a memorable moment during the track 'I Got U'. Flashback to the 'Angels Advocate' Tour, 2010. You're opening for one Ms. Mariah Carey, and about 30 rows back, you see a group of fans singing every song in your set, word for word. What was that experience like for you?
Madison Square Garden on New Year's Eve...that was my biggest show to date and an experience I will never forget, for so many reasons but specifically, for those fans. 11,000 people plus...It was pretty hard to see from up there, but somehow I could see them!  We got to go down and take pictures with them after Mariah's set,  talk to them and just enjoy that interaction - it was incredible. After such an unbelievable set, to get that love and talk to them directly? The whole thing just left me so truly humbled and thankful.

5. We've talked about some of your Production credits briefly; can you share the story behind your most challenging track yet?
Honestly, it's rarely ever the music itself. The real challenge is the business side! I'm Blessed to have been able to create a culture around myself where most of the time, it's just been a lot of fun! 'Famous' with Akon and Nick (Cannon) was good example of that. It's probably the most fun I've had working on a record. It really wasn't about the song; the most memorable thing about it was the experience itself.

6. Let's fast-forward to 12-months from now. How have you established yourself within the current music climate? How will you have set yourself apart from the crowd?
By making good art. For a long time now, the truest, most honest people who were producing art at it's very core, were undervalued in modern culture. I think that with certain artists though, the potency of their bodies of work meant that we're starting to see a value shift. Adele, Michael Buble, John Meyer, Kanye...what they have given us has a value higher than the standard that is overpowering the current market. I hope to show that same creativity...
The hardest thing to do in this climate is be yourself. I plan to continue on being myself, because I truly believe that when you do that above all else, the commodity of You becomes infinitely more valuable. I love music in general; but because there is this belief in the Industry and our culture overall, that you have to be this way, look like that person, only make this or that type of music to be successful - the content that makes it's way to the mainstream seems much more manufactured to me. There's nothing wrong with that, but I think that if you commit to keeping that realness and stick to making your best art, then you can't hide your honesty. By just being yourself, you will always have something unique to add to the market place.

7. I want to go back to that young Kevin. On your mixtape, you mention your Mother waking you and your brother with songs every morning; can you tell us about one? What memories does it evoke for you and why?
Well as I mentioned, I grew up in a devoutly religious household, so before the age of 10 years old, I was not allowed to listen to anything that didn't come from the Church. There was this one though, and it wasn't even really a song as much, it had like four lines! They were:

"God put a rainbow in the Sky,
God put a rainbow in the Sky,
When it looked like the Sun wasn't gonna shine any more,
God put a rainbow in the Sky."

I still look to it for positive reinforcement. There's just something in the simplicity of the whole thing that, when you're really bummed out it just takes you back to that lowest denominator - the things that make up who you are, and you find your way back.

8. What do you do when you're creatively stumped? How do you handle it?
There's a great quote that I once heard from Quincy Jones. It was from an old interview, when he was talking about working with Michael (Jackson).

He said something like:

You just have to let the negativity flow through you, then get away from it. Sometimes you will find yourself inspired by things you didn't expect to be, purely because you took yourself out of the environment.

9. I can't not talk to you about your projects because I know you have some amazing stuff coming up. Can you tell me what you are working on? What should the UK be looking out for, from you?
I'm going on a College Tour around Southern California very soon. I'm really looking forward to connecting with the fans on that. I have a lot of parent label showcases coming up (Sony, Columbia, Universal). They're always a great opportunity and platform to do some really cool shows. I'm scoring for some TV shows and films;  the fourth School Gyrls movie is coming (Cannon's teen girl group who's début film starred some kid named Bieber?).

There's the Wonder Girls tour in Japan...

OH, and another mixtape (laughs), yeah that too! But I guess the most immediate thing though, would be that I start working with Mariah on her new album, next week. 

10. And finally, just to take things a little 'left of the middle'...I know you love your Sports. If you had to describe yourself as one, which would it be and why?
I would have to say...Golf. I'm a very specific person; I like to have my own way when it comes to making music and golf is a solo sport, you have to be focused on Self. When it comes to my music,  it's not about the love of coaching in teams - my only goal is to keep beating myself at every turn.

I have to say that Kevin officially became my 'Quote Prince' during this interview (Quincy took your 'King' spot afterward, I'm sorry)! We had such a great chat, I honestly struggled to pick my 10 favourite answers, so thank you Sir, for making my job so hard!  

This is a hardworking gentleman who is destined to be everywhere before long. Put him on your radar NOW by checking out his works, connecting with him directly and finding out for yourself why we had so much fun talking...

Don't forget to check out the first video from Kevin's mixtape, a remix of T-Pain's '5 o'clock':