Ep. 59: And The Writer Is…Priscilla Renea



welcome to season four of an the writer is I am your host Ross : I've written with hundreds of artists and writers over the years and my favorite part of each session is the first hour when we catch up about life the industry politics composition whatever so this is a journey of learning why people write songs how people write songs and most importantly who the people are who write the songs I'm producing this with the great Joe London big deal music publishing and mega house music management if you want to listen to the songs we discussed in this podcast follow us on our social z' find out about special events or by some of our merchandise go to our website w-w-whoa and if you enjoy in the writer is please rate and subscribe to us on Apple podcasts and Spotify or whatever your preferred podcast is in the sidekick welcome to and the writer is I am your host Ross : today's number one worldwide hit songwriter has written defining and redefining songs for artists like Rihanna pitbull fifth harmony and Kelly Clarkson she's cross-genre from Miranda Lambert to Iggy Azalea and crossed generations from Madonna to Nick Jonas but that's not all folks she's an award-winning independent artist who continues to write record and release music by her own rules this Floridian is strong in her religious convictions and has integrity few people in our community have there's always a kinship between writers sign not just to the same publishing company but signed to the very same an hour shout out to Ryan Press and the writer is my publishing sibling Priscilla Rene hola thank you for having me um hi that was an amazing intro by the way I'm like Oh uh-huh everything you say it's kind of right but they're all true it's all factual is that me I know well let's sort of figure out cuz I've got a few things that are kind of fun to talk about as we go but I just want to do like a little bit of the introduction you know how are we in the same room at the same time and it starts with you and on YouTube in yes 2004 2004 you're on YouTube mm-hmm so how does that get you to here you know when you say it like that it does sound pretty far-fetched but back then I just didn't have any other way of I mean you know that was during the time that you had to like be on a on a TV show like American Idol or you had to be in a bar and get discovered by an A&R so when YouTube came along it was like aha somewhere I can sing and somebody will see it I don't know who it's gonna be and and honestly I just started out doing it as an outlet were you were you writing before that I mean how oh yeah I've been writing songs since I was eight this is your eighth oh yeah what's your first song funny I was vacuuming the floor and we're living in Jacksonville Florida I was eight years old and I just had the smell and it was like walking down the highway looking at the Skyway and my brother was like what song is that I'm like I made it up he goes no you didn't I'm like yes I did so then he's like mom so we go in the living room and I sing it for her and she goes it sounds like she made it up to me I never heard it and so I mean we that was a thing in our house though where my mom would put on music and we would like freestyle over the top of it so we would always take the words the same melody same kind of cadence all of you guys were doing in the car yeah that was just normal that was something we would do who started that my mom she would just be like okay here we go Rhett think you stink tell me what you think is going on and then we'd be like I mean I need a drink I want it to be pink you know like we would just do that in the car did you want to do music or she just naturally would just loved music um if I'm being honest I think that's something that happens in black culture a lot in the black community freestyle like somebody just starts it in the car you know your song comes on you'd be like ah ah check it you just do it it's not even or like somebody else make a beat start clapping you know lunch table yeah it just is the thing and but we would do it a lot in our car road trips we you know my dad was in the Navy so we would drive from wherever we were at the time which at this point was uh we know when we used to do it a lot we were living in Maryland and DC and we would drive down to Florida which was like 14 hours so we had different games we would play you know punch buggy having your home punch bike having your dad be in the military was he was he creative or was he or is he was he strict I mean what it was kind of crazy but my whole family was creative my dad played the trumpet he also sang so he played taps like in the revelry he played that and that was his job you know not that that wasn't he was like a lieutenant but you know obviously they need someone to do it and he was the one that would do it um but he would also like do that in our room in the morning dad we are not in the Navy stop but he could sing too his voice sounded like um the guy from The Temptations always have amantha so he was very high-pitched soft voice and my mom's voice was very like mm-hmm you know she's saying like Patti LaBelle so music was just in our house all the time did you guys go to church mm-hmm was there a lot of church music involved in that or was it more contemporary music when you're in when you're listening the car what kind of music were you so resounding right right getting ready to go to church you know he's blasting I'm I listen to a lot more gospel and spiritual music that my parents ever did my dad wasn't super spiritual was my mom my dad was from the north so Niagara Falls like more City and my mom was from the south and so I always remember my mom's side of the family being way more dominant in my childhood which consisted of like the farm you know family gatherings music cookouts running around in your bare feet you know very very real I don't know it just was like when you go to Grandma's how she go to church and you know it's like we knew that that was gonna happen in our regular everyday life not so much we we just kind of like chilled on Sundays and when did you start writing songs I mean eight you wrote that song and you still remember it would you repeat that song a lot when were you thinking oh you know what I should write verses and a pre-chorus were you what did that have a prize two bars but I did after that my mom bought me a composition book and I just used to write lyrics in there and that's one thing about me this is why if you ever write with me you cannot lie and say that you wrote more than you actually did because if I actually wrote the lyric I remember the melody and I remember something everything that I did if I can't remember you're probably right you probably did write that part you know but that's just something that I think maybe I've developed that skill over years because I never had music – right – until I was about 16 I finally got a guitar but I just used to write lyric and melody all the time and all I have to do is read the lyric and the melody comes back sure so I've had that fight with a couple writers I'm like bro does it matter it doesn't matter for real but if you try to make it but if I say hey I wrote that and you're like night well okay for example so we won't say names because I think we all know these when this person knows who they are where I walk into a room the artist is not there yet there's a bunch of people in the room I'm one of those kinds of people that's like I'm not gonna hang around if I'm not supposed to be around so there's like six people in the room I'm also not I'm kind of like a person who's I just let it be like cool whatever I'm not super I'm not a diva like I'm not gonna be like excuse me we need to clear the room whatever all right in the corner you know I can write my song in the corner and go in the booth and do whatever I need to do and you guys you know can just be around to see it happen so artists finally comes in and we're here the whole time she's whispering in my ear it's impossible for you to have contributed the same amount as I have because she's whispering to me and you understand sure so at one point this person does change a word literally one word and it wasn't even her word it was like two syllables I'm not even being funny it was like extremity remedy right so we're like oh great the artist liked it we kept it comes time to do splits the artists like this is an artist and this is another thing that I don't think a lot of writers pay attention to is that once you write a song you get a placement unless those songs are licensed unless the album is fully licensed it may not count towards your pub so just to explain what that is because I don't think people really understand that who are even professional writers that even if it even if an album comes out that if not all the writers agree to their splits from song 1 to 14 or whatever even though songs you had nothing to do yeah totally not nobody gets paid they don't release any of the mechanical royalties so there are some hit albums that have sold 2 million 3 million copies I think I'm allowed to say there's a confessions is one of those albums for example where there's disputes so as long as there are disputes people aren't getting paid even those kinds of albums that are diamond albums and you wrote the song that you're the only writer of clearly you're the only writer you should get 100% 9.1 cents per song times 10 that's not you know that's a lot of money that's nine hundred and ten thousand dollars just for your you know for your publishing on that it's all sitting in the middle of dispute this is some disputed you know Bank right so this artist does not play that out she licenses her stuff as soon as it comes out so in in in an effort not to ruin my relationship which by the way was very smart cuz me and this artists are very close now because I'm like you're not gonna ruin my relationship with this amazing incredible woman because you're you know you're greedy so long story short we end up getting on the phone cuz I'm nice I'm like I really don't have to talk to her cuz it is what it is but I'm gonna down and be nice so we're all talking long story short this person goes I am NOT settling until I leave with the same amount of publishing as you get and I'm like you know this doesn't really sound like a case of you want to do what's right it sounds like an ego thing and because I think the price of this relationship that you are bargaining it's clear that you didn't do what you think you did but I'm gonna let you have it because this is the price that you're gonna pay for this relationship and in the grand scheme of things I think I made the right decision because that song didn't do what everybody thought it was gonna do a lot of times the artist that you're working with if it's a huge artist it kind of like blinds you and you can't see the bigger picture and I think that's what happened there but I always try to tell writers man like don't don't scrape for scraps like don't do that don't like try to get all you can cuz but that's the wrong energy to have you know like if it's a if it's about being fair and if it's about you know if we're going back and forth in the room and the whole time even if nothing you said goes in to the song that's a co-write we're bouncing ideas of each other but if you sit there in the room the whole time and you might say one or two things and then you want to equal split now I feel like you're gaming everyone in the room you know it can also be a detriment to the song when you have a co-writer who is not responsive or who is just like no I don't like it no I have that rule like you're not allowed to say no if you don't have a better suggestion you know you can just be like yeah be constructive you can say no as long as you say no but what about or how even if it's okay better right um oh maybe I think we can beat it that's that's Mozilla favorite thing to say yeah no I think we can beat it I think we can beat it because you always want to be encouraging and forward moving you know you never want anyone to feel like their ideas are stupid right sometimes the stupid ideas are the hit ideas yeah um I don't know for example Timbre I was just being stupid I was literally like just being an idiot and Brian was like you're laughing but that's actually pretty dope I'm like really seriously all right okay let's do it I'm gonna say two things about that song which I know we'll get to but these are important one is when you say that make up songs in your your house and you're like you know how you were vacuuming yeah yeah yeah alright so like I don't know why this is and you know my pug Peter Peter so for whatever reason around our house that song was really big right when we got Pete and we would be like I got a pug his name is Peter he likes to move you guys say dance I got a pug yeah and we move his arms you know they're dancing and it's like for some reason like I think of timber and that song is played in our house in our heads it was still now multiple times a week you know it's just how it works so that's one of it that's once you get a giant shout out for that because I think whenever you write us on that's in the zeitgeist enough where people can change the lyrics to fit their home that's like that you did something like so I'll call it a time capsule record it's like I remember being in my living room one one time watching So You Think You Can Dance Brandon Lee I know I never watched that show but I get a lot of licenses and sync requests basically at people asking for permission to dance to my songs on that show and world of dance and things like that which by the way writers is another way to have a hit song it's not just on the billboards if you have a song that is getting heavily synced and license you can recoup your deal you can like make like millions of dollars just off of TV and film placements like worth it was not a huge chart topper but syncs and licenses it was in like for movies like video games so you think I mean I saw you thinking in just dance dance dance revelution at one point I was getting like three or four requests a week just off of that song so I think I was watching So You Think You Can Dance and just randomly I had like stopped on the channel I'm cooking dinner and the guy on the team was like if we don't get this pyramid right they're doing like a pyramid if we don't get this pyramid right it's going down I'm yelling timber I was like Oh rewind it and I like you know recorded I'm like this is how you freaking know that you are doing some amazing things when you are just randomly living your life and people are quoting something that you wrote like this is something that that line literally came from my brain uh-huh and now I'm hearing it back to me if weird feedback yeah that's a weirdest feedback that you can it's so awesome man cuz it just really means like you're tuned in your vibration is right you know is this awesome here's my other story about timber is that uh I think first time I rode mozella was right in the room next door to where you Umbreon were at Atlantic yeah and they I had a hemorrhage my vocal cord the day before and I didn't know it yet my voice was just so sore and I was something's wrong and I showed up to to this dance I don't I don't know what I want to you know pit bulls there and who's a very nice guy very supers gentleman super gentleman like he's the kind of artist that that shakes hands of all the the you know the assistants and second engineers and stuff and then waits till there that he can say thank you to all of them for for working for him for that day so you know super nice guy and I just wanted to go you know who wouldn't want to go in a session and at that time you're trying out one of the biggest artists in the world if not you know he's mr. worldwide so he we get all these tracks and this one track that they're like this one's a hit and there's a harmonica all over it and there was the song whistle was a hit and this is the problem when you chase hits is that we're sitting in the room trying to write a song where we I think we called it harmonica and try to do like something that was like you know like blow my boy yeah blow my harmonica or something like that the way that like the whistle thing was an innuendo meanwhile the guy who's who you know I'm friends with brown too and I was in the next room who wrote whistle is not writing the same song but I'm sitting there being like I don't know this is a great idea like whistles big so then harmonicas got to be big too let's just do that and we're sitting there writing that and I'm you know I'm just like just remembered writing to this track that I think miles beard maybe found it or was it I don't remember who found the track was it miles or was or as Mike Karen there's one it was someone in that world when we got it though we I don't know we tried our best we wrote the wrong thing you know I always find like you're right when I tried to when I'm when I feel like I'm under this intense pressure and I've been a nard to pieces you know the anti comes in he's like we need we need another work from home you need you know just simple beat with the melyandd it I was like okay and I've just over the years I've learned to translate that into oh you want to hit right you don't want you don't want I rolled you want to hit right you want what that song produced for you which is a lot of money right um but every time I've allowed myself to get sucked in to the energy of other people you know like because they're not creating right they don't understand what it is through that channel I mean I'm sure for you anytime you've ever written one of your crazy huge hits you were not thinking about let me please this ANR you were thinking no I don't want to speak for you but no no I mean literally if it's a it's all been the ones that I was pretty sure we're not hits when we wrote I think one of them I really like the other ones were could have you know people ask me that all the time like did you know that this song was gonna be a hit when you were writing it and I can't say yes to that but what I can say is that every song that was a hit for me I had a lot of freaking fun while I was doing it or I was comfortable yeah and I was like not under pressure and I didn't have somebody breathing down my neck you know like when you just give me the guitar or give me whatever you're gonna give me leave me alone let me do what I'm doing that's the ones that I've had success with I think it was the timber one was really strange only for me only because I had never I guess there was maybe one of two times where I've written to a track where the song became massive usually when they're like this tracks a hit that doesn't mean anything because the song is always the hit track is just the track if you want to do music then it's perfect then it can be hit music but it's not gonna be a hit song right it's so rare that somebody's able to make a hit song off of an existing track as right as sovereign says it's like writing a screenplay to special effects yeah and I love that you know it's really hard to write a hit song two tracks but did any of your other songs come from that no I mean that's really just that because it's like your example worth it was like three different songs that that I had written two different Stargate tracks and then they just took the acafellas and chopped him up and made one song and then so they took the verses from one and the hook from another and the verse from kidding from another song and then they remade a different beat so that one I didn't even know like it was like number 10 on iTunes and I got an email from Mikkel like congratulations I'm like for what he goes for our hit song I'm like huh he's like it's number 10 on iTunes so I go look and I see number Tanner I click it and I'm listening and I'm like okay this doesn't sound familiar but then the verse comes and I'm like oh okay I did write that I do recognize that and I'm like this is crazy what how did you win when when did this happen what you know I'm sure maybe not a lot of writers have experienced this but it's been I've had to change my energy around this because for some reason the majority of my career songs have come out and I had no idea I think I just had so many songs out there written with so many people that I would look up and have a placement on Monica and like I have no clue that it was even out crazy so going backwards you know this 2004 and you're telling younger you that's about to do YouTube like yeah trust me it's gonna work out you know like what would you how would you explain to that kid that like what their career is gonna be like and what I was like what advice do you give to that kid who's about to go put their face all over YouTube I would say go watch behind the music every that you can find and go watch every documentary and every everything that you can find on these people who go into the music industry because it's real you know like you you watch those and you're like oh that'll never happen to me no I'm smarter no no no I'm nice people they wouldn't do that it's real it really happens people really do get taken advantage of people really do get robbed you know they really do let go crazy I had I had a moment where I was feeling like mm-hmm like I was in the twilight zone I mean it's a I would say well tell me this tell me this story I mean we made you jump forward with timber but there's so much story between getting the deal with capital and and releasing music and the deal with Warner Chappell and yeah yeah exactly welcome to mornings with bagel yeah yeah so let's I don't know let's go from all right so you to 2004 upload started uploading videos they're like crappy Walmart webcam you know $24 webcam quality where it's all grainy and you can barely see like it's all digital so I'm uploading videos and I think like one blog that's really popular now started posting my stuff and 2006 you know it was like two or three years before I started getting crazy crazy traffic by 2006-2007 and I started getting really popular and when I would upload a video I you know over night I get like 10 20,000 views so I started attracting the attention of industry professionals and mind you this is way before people were going online to find talent I mean this was literally like the first you know Justin Bieber was about to get a deal like two years later SME denters marié digby you know these kinds of people if you are on YouTube and you were watching back then you know who I'm talking about I think on the movie crazy rich Asians during the wedding scene they had a performer she he came from YouTube she was around on that I can't remember her name right now but she's an Asian American woman and she's amazing but she started on YouTube as well so at this time I think I might have had like 300 videos up I would come home every day after school after work after college you know I obviously I've evolved I've started in high school now I'm in college and I'm still doing this and I would upload a video every day and then my my stepfather bought me a guitar so I started posting my own music and then eventually I wrote my first full song on guitar which was hello my Apple and that was the song one of the songs that got me my deal at Capitol Records at the time I think it was Chris Hannon coûte or somebody showed my videos to him and he took it to rob stevenson or whoever he took it to at the label and they decided they wanted to sign me there was a couple other people who they were looking at this was around the Katy Perry hot and cold time where they had like Feroz was was my label mate as well a couple other people who can't remember right now I can see their faces clearly but I can't remember their names and uh anyway signed to Capitol Records immediately and what's crazy is now in hindsight I didn't realize that I thought it was my choice signing the Capitol but really it was like a political thing because at the time the people who were managing me also were heavily involved in Katy's project so it was just like uh here you know take this alley-oop cuz we're gonna have we're gonna you know do the same thing we did with Katy with her except for this time we own everything so you know same producers same mixer same management same everything it was it was crazy and me being this 18 19 year old girl from dirt road country I'm like yes I'm kinda countin Florida at the time no I had moved to Atlanta to live the people who I assign to the production company so I was living in this big house with all these dudes I was the only girl one of the guys that was in the house with us was honorable sino who now is like huge super producer in the hip-hop world he produced a couple of songs and helped EP my album that I just put out so we're still really close but I was living in this house with all these dudes 18 19 years old and signed to Capitol making this album that was like pop folk you know kind of had some nuances of what I'm doing now but my theory back then was like I could be an asshole and be like no this is the album I want to make is I really wanted to make like some Corinne Bailey Rae find frenzy you know very like eclectic Imogen Heap kind of stuff that's I'm weird like that like I'm the I used to listen to panic at the disco and like I was the weird black girl that in high school or like she thinks she white you know she's smart she get aids in school like no seriously I just do people's homework like I would charge $20 like that was me I was the nerdy I watched anime like that was not cool where I'm from so going into this music I really wanted to make some like earthy artsy shit and that just was not you know I just kept hearing you'll get no money they'll put no money behind you if it's not pop it has to be pop and so I did this thing and how much of a mind was fart was it that I'm walking into these places in like Iowa where the song was pretty much like a hit I just went back to Iowa ten years later and there's the line of people like oh my god doll house like I'm singing in there singing the words I'm like this is crazy this song was really a hit up here it's like you know so I'm going to places like that Iowa you know Kansas and I'm walking in and they're expecting to see a white girl so I have places where I walk in and I remember this one grandmother was sit there with her granddaughter and I walk in and immediately she's like we're leaving and the daughter is like no you know she starts crying that's one place and then another place I walk in to the meet-and-greet and I walk in the conference room with my guitar and everything and the father's face immediately turned red and he's like get your stuff and like just took his daughter they left you know that happened and people they don't want to admit it like even now with the country music that I'm doing and we know that Nashville there's Darius Rucker there's Mickey guy and there's Chuck Berry and Darius Rucker are the only two black people hanging up at the Grand Ole Opry backstage so we know that that's not a space that is predominantly brown it's just not so I've had to have this conversation where it's like look there's just some spaces where when there's not a lot of people who look like me it makes people uncomfortable when I show up so I had to deal with that at 19 I'm walking in I'm just trying to live my dream I'm having a great time I walk into these pop offices in the radio station and the PD is expecting to see it's funny because Kesha's tick tock and my song we're out at the same time they thought she was black they thought I was white well so when when I would walk in there expecting to see Kesha and when she walks in there expect to see me like literally this is what I was hearing at the radio stations I would leave and go in the car turn the radio on to see if they played my song what do you think about Priscilla I thought she was white you know how did that affect you to see I mean I don't know had you experienced racism before that oh yeah in Florida but it's a little different it's more like are you lost honey you know it's more like you know everybody gets quiet when you walk in the room and you walk right back out or like you just don't go over there or you see like a certain truck with the flag the Confederate flag or you see like the guy Harvey shirts and the you know the Taiji the mud boots and you just like okay I know not to go over there you know it's just kind of a unspoken thing whereas they were actually saying it and I was actually seeing it you know did the did you feel like the label or your management once they realized that there was kind of some sort of is something of a racist backlash and they didn't realize they never realized it no because I think it's hard when you're not experiencing something or when you believe that it doesn't exist to evening all you have to acknowledge at first you know they just believe that the record didn't work right they didn't realize that no it's when I show up they don't want to play it anymore that's what it is you know it's not there's nothing wrong with the song if if Katie put that out to be another hit but they just didn't press they didn't want to believe that they didn't so what happened after you released the song so we went with a more soulful song next would have been lovesick and we have b.o.b on it as the future and they just didn't put it out they paid for it and everything and they just would like they just took their hands off they're like you know what this right the record isn't working we tested it it's not working yeah but you're testing it in the same markets you know it's an old system and I think it was like the will was like beginning to fall apart at that time and I was in the transition of like things falling apart because right about that really weird time because that's that's like piracy it it's kind of at its peak pre like just when mp3s are big if you're at the top but there's there's really no room to there's not a lot of investment yeah going on in the music business mean I had I had they shot a quarter million dollar video for me like I think I was like right at the end of the big budgets and the big you know I had like I had a crazy video effect special effects of my video like tiny people and you know I was like a giant it was a cool video but yeah it was like right at the tail end of the lights camera action and then that's when am i was getting sold so I was in limbo for like two years trying to get off the label and then I went through like four different regime changes where damn maccarrol came in and you know Rob left and no Nick got field left Rob took over then Dan McCarroll then Ron fair and Ron Fair is an old friend so he is the one who he gave me my first placement and I met him when I was 17 hi my first music industry experience with him so he helped me get off Capitol Records and he basically was like well don't let her drown here just let her go like yeah I couldn't do anything with you don't know what to do just leave her alone and we had I made three albums I never came out and this final one was like more of like a soulful R&B one and which I loved by the way and when you're doing that because that's what you wanted to release at the time oh yeah yeah I mean I wanted to like this was um before you know R&B hip hop became the number one genre which it just felt like the right thing to do at the time which I'm glad I didn't because I think it's you know I hate to say this but I think once you go into the R&B realm it's very difficult to depart from it's very difficult to go do pop it's difficult to go and make a country record you can come from almost any other genre and do R&B but once you do that it's very difficult to go anywhere else so I'm glad I didn't do that even though the songs were amazing like Fantasia ended up with a song when I met you that was gonna be my first single I ended up giving that away to her how did it feel that have her sing it well it didn't feel any kind of way because I mean I was happy Ron asked me for it cuz normally I wouldn't have if it was a song for me I don't shop those records unless I really love the artist and I like really feel like they're gonna do okay with it because there's just some songs that are not for sale like this is my story I'm not giving this to you because I didn't write it for that purpose you know I'd rather have its it didn't have somebody sing my story you know and it's not right right I mean I've had I've only had like two songs come out that um I didn't want the artists sing it I was so bad when I asked you I don't want to insult no no that love this artist and it wasn't her fault sure it was a producer that was when did you start writing for other people within the label fell apart when when things that the label started falling apart I went on to resign the warner/chappell already at that point I've been signed to Warner in my whole music existence yeah he actually and I don't know if he will admit this or if how true this actually is but he got hired after our first meeting so we he was not at Warner Chappell when I first started he came on to Warner to be my darson Scott Francis was the head of it yeah yeah so he he came on to Warner to be my person blue Hamilton was my blu-ray yeah but he went to pursue music yeah pursue being a song about me yeah at all like it was so funny because we had the same last name my maiden name is Hamilton oh we have this thing I was like yeah you're my cousin whatever but then like like we had this big meeting was at Gregg Souders and like blue and Brad Aaron's was there and yep yeah this is before Big John and Katie Oh Jason Boyarsky so yeah Jason and Scott they signed me they and the energy was crazy like everybody was so happy we're like yes this is awesome and then nothing like not Jason or or Scott like they were awesome and so Ryan came in to be my person and then immediately we just like started grinding like I remember we met I met him in New York after Regina Spektor concert and I forced him to eat a piece of my carrot cake he didn't want to eat it it's really good right here hey he's like no I'm good I'm like eat the freaking cake wait it was it was it was awkward I admit now I was I was like I was an awkward child anyway after that like we just kind of hit the ground running we would talk every day like he would be the first person I talked to and the last person I talked to at night like yo what's up what we doing today that okay what'd you do today who'd you work with or whatever and we just was like he would just work that he would work a shit out of me like I would be doing at least five sessions a day at one point two songs in each session just I remember one day I had the whole street at Glenwood so I had both rooms at encore and all the room I think at like four or five rooms at Glenwood and you would just go be like right next one I was working with Melanie Fiona and Salam in one room jean-baptiste on like some Beyonce stuff that never placed in another room Jesse McCartney in another room and then I had like a con in another room and just like a random session in the other room just like literally running from from room to room was like cool you guys are okay you're gonna cut that heart I'll be right back were you cool not being the artist at that point well that time it was fun that's what I'm saying the energy was fun yeah I like music and I like creating and sometimes there are things that I need to express my stories as an artist and sometimes there are things that just need to be heard by the world and they need a vessel that is not me because some things I'm just not gonna say and I'm not a dancer like that either so like if I write a fucking dance song I'm not gonna be like this is for me like I've never I know there was a rumor going around about that like she's trying to keep every song for herself but that's like me coming in your house and trying to take one of your guitars in me like why are you trying to keep all these guitars for yourself you know like if it's yours it belongs to you doesn't belong to anyone else until you say here you have this so my guitars I mean they're pretty awesome yes thank you but no I've never I've never been jealous yeah to not have it because that's as odd right that's an odd perspective to have that I would be jealous of something I created what's the first song that you really realize the difference between you have a record deal and record deals seem like the goal until you have a record deal and then you've finished the record deal and you realize that was never the goal this is what 90% of people get signed go through on some level you know just that the record deal is not the point right it's what you aim for when you're younger because that's what everybody tells only yeah it's sort of what you know but it's not the thing to aim for I think once you see a song really travel around faster than you can that's when you realize the weight of what music really is and I assume that's the Rihanna song is that the first one that really kind of like no it was funny as I just had this realization maybe like last year and it was with timbre and I went to Bali for a riding camp and it was incredible Peter tailored and you know oak yeah hosted it incredible was amazing time like awesome and me being the big dork that I am and like Mother Teresa and I share the same birthday so which is in like seven days and so thank you or late birthday by the time this comes out yeah Robbie I'll be aged by the time you guys hear this but yeah so I was like I really want to use my day off my last day in Bali to go to the orphanage and so we went and of so the kids were in school it was a basically all the kids were not there some of the kids that were able to go to school were at school but the disabled children were still there and so that's who we were visiting with and when I you know we took I took my guitar and you know I wanted to like film me interacting with the kids and like singing with them and doing some music things it didn't really turn out how we thought it would but we still filmed it anyway I thought they were gonna be like I thought I was gonna be able to like teach some of the kids how to play or whatever and capture that kind of thing but long story short I end up singing timber and immediately they start clapping and they are singing the words and I'm like wait y'all can't even speak English this is crazy and you're supposed to be mentally disabled supposed to be but you're not you're you are singing these words let anybody tell it these kids are unintelligible but they're singing these words and they're clapping and they're happy and I'm like this is crazy because music is able to reach not only through a perceived mental barrier or a handicap or a disability but a language you know and and the other thing is this was in a remote village like we had to literally walk through back alleys and drive through the bushes to get to this place but they're singing the words and these kids aren't that old either they're like 5 so I'm like yo this is crazy flight from Florida to Bali Indonesia which is like an 18-hour journey from Los Angeles and they just blew my mind I was like wow why did you start working in country music it's just so easy for me to write a country song why it just is it's a story it's like I mean it's just like I don't know every song I've ever written is a country song timbres country California king bed is country it got Rihanna on the wanted to say AMAs or something like that was Genet with Sugarland she sang it literally every song I've ever written is in the country format style just the song when you strip away all the instrumentation and all that other stuff you can just play it with a guitar or a piano and it's a story do you feel like Nashville because you were alluding to it on some level before I mean obviously there's it's not particularly racially diverse certainly on the charts and it seems like it's maybe in the last couple years is starting to have more women and on the charts but it was obviously a really male-dominated industry in the last five years do you feel like the you know working with Miranda Lambert or pursuing what you've been pursuing as an artist that that they're accepting and that they're excited to have you there I think good music transcends all judgement and I think we're living in a time where I don't have to ask permission from any of the gatekeepers in Nashville I mean if I want to get myself on radio maybe and there's different ways that people can try to hold you know hold back the flood so to speak but there's so many people out there men that love country music I just did the Bill Pickett rodeo this summer which is the black rodeo and literally I mean there's dudes out there with full body tattoos baggy jeans cowboy boots buckle and and a hat like this dude looks like he is straight out of Compton but he's a cowboy there's a whole market of people who are like oh my god why haven't we had a black Carrie Underwood like people were buying my CDs left and right just coming out of the thing like oh my gosh is this you were you the one out there singing yeah let me get two of those so I think there's a whole untapped market but I think the difference between my music and a lot of maybe artists of color in the country space before me is that I'm actually bringing my culture with me when I write it's not like I can't lay on the bed of a truck and look at the stars because without somebody coming up to me and asking me what am i doing well so I'm not gonna write about that but I am gonna write about you know the backyard the cookout you know that you don't hear those kinds of stories from country radio you hear walking through the park or those are not things that I do so I don't drink beer drink Hennessy or like but it's not that that's confined to you it's the massive massive demographic in the south I'm just wondering where where do you think all those brown people went after the patient do you think they just went poof no they still live there you know they still live in the same area as you while you're listening to your country music I'm flying walking around with your Confederate flag flying there's still brown people in that space just visually when you think about Nashville you don't think black people I have to admit when I went I was surprised I was like oh there's black people here somebody said this one I first went to Nashville one of the first times that I had spent serious time in the south because I'd toured through the south and a bamboo year one day new city one day new city you know maybe two days in one city but it's pretty quick you know and going to Nashville I was assuming that coming from the north that the South would be still very segregated and one somebody said this to me that that the South has been forced one way or the other to try to in a lot of places certainly in Nashville where there's been some effort to integrate in the really municipal parts like the really urban areas versus where I grew up in Chicago where there is a clear line where north of this line is white and south of this line is black and it's almost more segregated in parts of the north where they're never they it's like it's it's I don't know why on that part you just don't go on yeah and I don't know I don't know why the even LA like there's la the parts of LA you don't see a fact that that 46-person though because like honestly when you you know when you think about real estate and you think about job opportunities and you think about things like that like I don't know music has allowed me for a certain privilege where when I go home I could stay closer to my parents but the hotels in that area are not nice they're cheap they're just not nice I can go to the beach where I'm paying 300 bucks a night you know to stay at Gloria Estefan's hotel but that's 15 minutes away from my parents and it's across a bridge across the railroad track you know it's just different whereas like here if I want to go and be around people who look like me I have to drive an hour from where I live which is Calabasas you know it's a quiet neighborhood we don't have any like after nine o'clock it's literally quiet you can hear the dogs barking and the birds chirping there's no trash on the street like it's an amazing neighborhood but if I want to go and there's no one who looks like me even my neighbor makes a joke about like the property value going down because we live there despite the fact that my house is the nicest one in the neighborhood you know like so things like that where it's just like black people just don't live in the nice areas they live in the cheap areas that that's just the the thought process and it's actually if you think about it it's true you know there's not very many people who look like me in the places that I've lived even out here I had a penthouse in Sherman Oaks I was the youngest and I was the only black person in the building I lived in Glendale I'm a very very nice apartment complex before it started like it was a condo before it started getting gross in that area the youngest and one of two black people but families in the building it just is it's you know it's not just a statistic it's a reality where systemically the places that people who look like me can afford are in areas that are not so nice like even my pastor lived in Compton in Inglewood area for a very long time because that's what they could afford with three kids there was um an actor friend of mine who has become really successful in the last few years who he's from Oakland and he was talking about survivor's guilt it was a musician he's a rapper he's a muse you know an actor really successful and talks about feeling bad like really bad yeah I mean he's it's it's he writes about he just had a movie come out where that's really honest about growing up in Oakland and it's not pretty you know I mean he's bringing his past with him but it's interesting the idea of I think a lot of artists regardless of their race have some sort of survivor's guilt when when they become somewhat successful because everyone becomes successful in their own time yeah everyone has a different definition of success and all the other things but financially speaking you know it's it's so sink or swim in this business do you feel any survivor's guilt um I'm glad you asked that because I've kind of been having like a recap of my life recently and I think it's because I'm reaching like a milestone birthday I'm gonna be 30 this year and congratulation thank you I look at it as freaking awesome like I'm like oh yeah just wait adults the day you turn 30 all of a sudden people are like wow I trust you yes it's so weird cuz there you made it yeah if you can make it to 30 in the music business it means you didn't give up it means that something went your way I mean I started when I was 18 so to still be like I mean I've had a hit every year since I started even the year one year only had one song it was hit it was the Carrie Underwood Miranda song so it's like I've actually and I just recently went back and looked like you know be like you should really not be complaining about anything because you have had even with all like the tumult in your life or the perceived hardships that you've had you really have been doing well and so I said all that to say like coming from where I come from and my humble humble beginnings I mean like literally growing my own food and going outside to pick oranges off the tree if I wanted something to drink like that kind of thing there have been times where I felt bad where I felt like I've got to go back in help which is why I have always been very involved with ASCAP and like advocacy and doing the the Expo is often as I can and teaching and trying to like drilling into people's heads but what I have come to realize is that whenever I was having a bunch or multitude of success it was when I was happy carefree went out when I was vibrating at like the highest level of just like I'm happy to be alive I'm happy for existence I'm happy that I don't have to sit behind a desk every day I'm happy that I didn't waste four years in college you know not saying that if you don't you know if you go to college that's great but my parents tried to force me to go and I almost let them and so I'm glad I did not do that I'm glad I followed my heart and I've come to realize that everything bad that has ever happened to me it's because I was it was like that's so raven self-fulfilling prophecy oh my god I just really don't want him to cheat on me oh my god I just really just hope they're not stealing from me you know like think every time something happened it's because I brought it into my situation with my thoughts and nobody wants to really admit that like well I got in a car accident dude you drew that I'm sorry like all the car accidents that I'm in and I'm thank god I haven't been in any in recent years but when I think about the events leading up to it dude I brought that into my set so I've had some pretty awful things happen to me in my life people take advantage of you mentally physically you know emotionally all of those things I brought on myself and the same way I brought those negative things you asked earlier how do you go from dirt road town in Florida to Hollywood and writing and being friends with you know people who used to watch on TV I drew that into my experience as well I didn't have any contacts in the music business I didn't know anyone I didn't know that 10 years from you know when I started on YouTube that I would have number ones and be traveling around the world to places like Indonesia and London and France writing songs for other people is you yeah performing in front of 30,000 80,000 however many people that performed in front of in arenas and stadiums I had no idea but I continued to put that energy out there and I continued and this is for anyone when you're talking about survivor's guilt that what you are doing is taking on other people's issues you're taking on the fact that that person doesn't have as much as you have and you feel bad for them but what you really should be doing is encouraging that person and putting light and hope into that person and telling them hey you could be anything you want to be man like it's really difficult when you are in a community that is constantly every time I go home I have to tell my parents like mom dad I'm sorry I have to stay in a hotel I can't be around all this I need not to say negative energy I try to phrase it like I need to be in a positive environment because culturally and where I'm from and and like those small towns not even just like it's a black or white thing but in small towns people Oh so-and-so died today oh you know my back hurts oh you know such-and-such daughter got pregnant it's like it's just like bad news bad news bears and when you're passing that around there's a big tornado of negativity and you just it's a cycle and nobody's saying Oh my god you know my check was $20 extra this week or I had a full tank of gas like nobody's talking like that down there so it's really difficult you know if everybody looked at me like I was crazy my boss I'm not worked in a barbecue restaurant he used to be a tour manager I told him I was gonna make it big in the music industry he's like ha ha ha good luck with that I'm petty so I went back and I had I was on Queen Latifah and it was airing that day and I went back and I turned the TV at the bar to it and I didn't say anything I just was drinking my sweet tea and I'm like hey Brian come here he goes I go he's like what's up and I pointed at the TV I was like look who's that and he's like holy shit that's you oh man that's awesome and like he completely forgot about all the negative things that he had said to me before but I don't think people can help it when you're when you're in that blender every day you're hearing negativity and it becomes a part of the fabric of who you are and how you talk and how you even perceive the world so now I don't feel guilty I feel an obligation to share and to help people wake up and to help them become aware you know you hear people like they win their Grammys and they get on stage and they like believe in yourself you can do anything and it sounds so cliche no but it's just once you if you have a little bit of success selling air for a living you can relate there exactly the final scene of hoop dreams you know hoop dreams it's like a documentary in the 90s of these two high school basketball players in Chicago that you know want to go pro and amazing documentary about living in the south side and being world a world-class athlete from junior high forward but one of them like the end of the movie he says something along the lines of you know people always ask me if I'll remember them when I get to the next level and I always want to ask them will you remember me if I don't mmm and you know so many people in this industry are you are driving for a recognition from people who won't remember you that is so true and you know in you know my priority my first priority is always gonna be my wife you know and it's just that's just what it is if she needs me she comes first I always gonna remember whatever song I write next yeah but my wife's gonna know what you wrote they just know that yeah but I think I think you mentioned your wife I think me getting married was another huge pivot for me because I was one of those people who was looking for recognition from I mean I thought I thought I had friends I thought oh my gosh this person loves me no they don't they just want the photo op you know they just want the opportunity for somebody to be like oh you know P you know cuz I was a very as outro not that's not a word is extraverted as I am I still am but I've learned to like temper it I mean I used to wake up and have random people on my couch like that's how way dressing ready yeah I mean people drew that my door they knew which door was unlocked yeah to come into my house and sleep and is not even an exaggeration like I woke up one morning B Howard was on my couch I don't know if you know who that is but that's like the guy that looks like Michael and talks like him and says that he's his son like his unacknowledged son just google it B Howard that he was on my couch one day I'm like what he's like hi Priscilla but um yeah like getting married I got married at 26 I was like wow I only need to care about this person this is awesome I don't have to care whether or not you're my friend or whether or not you're upset cuz I didn't let you you know come to my house or drive my car you know I was so nice Ross like unbelievably nice I would give people shoes cars clothes I here take my car no it's fine I'll get it I'll get it right they were taking advantages absolutely that was the rumor about me Priscilla is so nice she'll give you anything like when I heard that it actually hurt I was like oh oh you know like normally like you know if I had heard like oh she's she's a slut I probably been like oh whatever this is not true but it was so true that I was just like this gullible cesspool of just like here take publishing there's a there's another expression that's if you don't prioritize your life someone else will that was me for a long time I mean but but I was so happy that I was not in college or behind the desk cuz I had had those jobs before yeah I worked at a CVS distribution center in a warehouse clocking in at 7 o'clock hang out at 5:00 you know I did that at 18 I was like the boss of people then I hated it I was like this is terrible I don't want to eat cup noodles every day hey we're gonna go to the next segment which is going to first of all we didn't even talk about half the songs that you've done so you know you know just just to give a quick shout out to a couple of them you know this last year obviously love so soft for Kelly Clarkson's a really big record but going backwards you know just having the Carrie Underwood and Miranda Lambert record you've you've had so many big songs and to be honest I think worth it being the the song that kept fifth harmony alive there's no work from home if there's no worth it if worth it didn't happen that band is in my opinion they're done but they'd been looking for hits releasing songs that were not hits over and over again you know I know Joe had a record with them they've had records that were legit records that just didn't really react and worth it really reacted so you know you you helped define them I imagine that there they should be very thankful for where that comes from but we're going to do the segment 5 4 5 where I'm going to list five things and you tell me the first things that come up here top of that we're gonna go with first a good friend of ours bran Isaac Briana's crazy okay I have never met somebody with a more twisted mind I mean the you know brand he makes me so happy it hurts like he like he's been a rare person yeah I hope he's listening to this I hope so too he's like so unexpected he's like you know if you get a Marten if you like have a a toasted marshmallow and then you break it open and there's like meth inside okay let's do it let's do somebody's got crazy style Ron fair oh my gosh pimp oh gee Ron fairs and A&R guy who signed people like Christina Aguilera back in the day right yeah I mean literally his glasses would cover this yeah entire room floor to ceiling no space and going back you know brands is five to ten number-one songs and also just cool dude yeah I'm gonna do a city Nashville shrimp and grits biscuits and amazing amazing talented and this is not an insult bar musicians you know the best bar musicians in the world their bar musicians and songwriters are better than some of the best people in LA I mean you can go into any random bar and hear a ridiculously good song we reformed impeccably by our random person who doesn't even want to be in the industry yeah they just do it because they love it love it it's crazy Stargate Oh Stargate Hit Factory yeah they did the same thing for same old love which we've talked about another ones that that worth it happened whereas you know they have this ability to hear hit songs and not be Precious about any of the production throw away everything start over move things around until they make it a hit and then they make it a hit and you walk you the next time you hear it it's not what you left with yeah they definitely have a formula yeah I mean not very many people have that like I think Max Martin they have there for me they have their formula that works for them yeah you know don't try to do what they do because only they can do that yeah they're brilliant I gotta go with Ryan Pres we have to do oh gosh pain in my butt no honestly Ryan and I have had a very long there's not very many people in this business that I can say that I've known for ten years and still talked to them um so he's one of those people we've definitely had our ups and downs but I think some people man you just kind of like tied to like I think I think we're sewn together I don't think even if we don't work together I think our stories are just meshed and I think we had a time where we really did a lot of good things together and I think both of us were able to build our careers off of each other so um what's advice I mean given a lot of advice for up-and-coming writers and I think you can kind of lump this into advice you would have given younger you you know I followed this advice so I would say read read a lot and always keep searching never think that you have all the information always keep reaching you know into the ether like what more can I know and if you have a question if something doesn't feel right and this is something that was confirmed for me by Stevie Wonder if it doesn't feel right it probably isn't and if the answer doesn't satisfy you is probably because it's BS so continue to ask and continue to seek answers until you get something that satisfies you and if somebody is hesitant to answer your question then you know there's probably something up never feel never feel obligated to keep quiet you know ask the questions you have a right to know what kind of deals you signed you have a right to know what your commitments are you have a right to know what people are expecting of you you ask ask the worst thing is that you find out the truth and you say no but think sometimes people want to avoid the truth so bad that they're willing to not ask the question sign the deal and walk away knowing that they got screwed somehow but they don't want to know they'll just find out someday yeah when they find out they're never happy you're better off knowing upfront how you're getting screwed and deal with it ahead of time and so that way as you're getting screwed you're like screw it I sign this and I got to deal with the consequences but whatever positive came in your life came because of this deal and to say that these offset each other and our balance you know one thing that I always hated and I'm so glad that I've liked shaking it off now is this thing that you have to be on your best behavior right because you're in the music business but this is the most unform –all unprofessional profession where like you're in a pub company and they're having a party on Friday and they're drinking beer you know at the inside the office but yet you go in there and they expect you to like mind your P's and Q's and have your hands crossed like no screw that be yourself be who you are when you're with your friends talk to these people how you would talk you know to your brother or to whoever like I don't care if this is the CEO of the company be like yo man check this out this is what I was thinking you don't have to be like so you know I put together this declaration no bro that's this – that's the wrong approach and when you're when you're trying to be in this business be who you are you can't try to be professional because as I said this is the most unprofessional profession so the more well behaved you are the less of a star you are that's the funny part it's like if you're not jumping on tables and I'm not saying do this if this isn't you know who you are if that's not how you're feeling at the time if you're not jumping on tables and banging shit and like tearing up hotel rooms and you know putting on a show all the time normally people tend to overlook you which is why people like Takashi and and all you know these artists are Azealia Banks get so much attention because that's quote-unquote star quality so yeah it's either that or write your way out of it too I mean there's a way to probably write and be a rebel by the way you write or there's a way you know it's same thing with even a bone Iver or comedy you also have to be the artist oh yeah that's the thing like I've written so many edgy records and people want to cut them both in they're like oh but can we edit this part I'm like that's right if they get scared absolutely yeah they get scared well thank you for doing this you're very smart and you're wise and at you know a lot of times we do talk a lot about songs but I want people to hear real humans talk about humanity and the music business because well both of us have talked a lot about is is the future of what we're doing and that just because the system was set up this way doesn't mean it always has to stay this way and that we can change how the industry perceives songwriters and how songwriters can take control of their future and take control of the decisions they're making and you've always been vocal and you've been an advocate for songwriters to do what's right for themselves you're not shy that's not like I don't think you know you've said a couple times that you think people perceive you a certain way I perceive you as somebody who's not shy who says what she wants and thank you and you you've seen my real side most people don't well I like your real side and I applaud you in your career and I know you're just starting and I also just sent you a new mix of a song that we did in Vegas because I just I forgot to send it to you before so don't fault me but it's yeah I didn't want to just leave everybody with this man like you know I know you've been super involved in the MMA music matters it modernization act up in an epic way you know just like forcing people to pay attention and I'm like applaud the crap out of you for your approach and how you like made it cool to to fight for this because it wasn't cool you know a couple years ago when we first started people are like what you're gonna Washington DC for what you know yeah are we writing songs there but you know I believe it was Albert Einstein said that a problem can't be solved from the same plan on which it's created and I think that the way we're going about it now yeah you know it's it's definitely been a fight and it's work to a certain extent but I really believe that songwriters producers anybody who's composing who would benefit from the the revision of the music modern um you know of the copyright law I think we have to have the gonads to unplug from this system you cannot say Warner Chappell Universal Spotify you suck but they're not on Tuesdays I'm listening uh-huh you know I'm still getting my check from you right um you have to be willing to lose that you have to be willing to be like this is what I'm fighting for guys and if you don't want to if you want to drop me all right that's fine that's cool you know yeah take that next step is going to be you know we've got healthcare we've got things that songwriters are gonna have to fight for we're one of the few are artists in the world that are not protected in any sort of union and I don't know if we'll create a union or a guild but I know one thing is for sure is that I was looking at is next this next fight is going to be is that you know by the time this gets aired we'll know what the music Modernization Act has done but there will be more money in the music industry and there's no excuse anymore for them not to them being these companies to not help provide health care at least basic health care to the creators that are keeping them in business I think we should I think we should use the Trump administration as an example a lot of people chose and chose that side because they thought it was going to be profitable yeah and I think after a year or two they realized that maybe they made the wrong choice and I think if you choose you know the side of profitability money money changes in value the dollar you know the the value of a dollar changes but creativity and like invention and on Genuity that comes every time there's a new birth of a new person and in a new desire for somebody who was not in music to come into music there's an opportunity you know if I write a song Timber we wrote in like 20 minutes that song generated millions of dollars so if I can do that over and over and over in an hour there's more opportunity from a creative standpoint to be profitable than it is to Bank on what's already there that's just you know pick the right side don't don't think about what's available now think about what's out there we're gonna this generation is already you know a little more communal and I get the feeling that the now that the people who are running these other record labels are of the same generation I think that we're more likely to find solutions that take care of the community as a whole and let's go change the world do it thank you thanks for listening to this episode of and the writer is if you want to hear music from this songwriter I just interviewed be sure to check out our Spotify playlist or visit our website and and the writer is calm if you like what we're doing please subscribe to us you can also like us on Facebook and Twitter and the writer is is produced by Joe London edited by miles bergsma and published by big deal music a special thanks to david silverstein from mega house music and michael white until next time this is Ross :

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