Recording - October 2015 - 64
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in a couple of cases where she'll be on a lyric and
me or the record company or whoever will kick
back, "Can it be this way or can it be that way?"
And I trust when she gets to the point where it's
like, "No, this is it. This is the line." I trust her.
A: You know, I've had that a lot of times when I was
just starting out when you should be super-intimidated by big record company people, where they
said, "No, that's not grammatically correct. It
should be 'Someday you and I.'" And I'm like,
"Well, that doesn't sing right," and I wouldn't
change it. Or, "I don't think people would do this,"
or "I don't think people would do that." And if you
feel it in your heart 100%, you can't change it. There
are times when you should be smart enough to
know if it's quite right, and you can test it out when
you play it with people and you see their reaction.
The reaction of people just doesn't lie; you can tell.
How do you test it out on people?
T: We play our music for everybody, and we have a
really amazing artist community. We have all these
different writers and artists coming into the studio,
and we have all different types of styles of music
going, and we play everything for everybody. And,
you know, it's a really interesting thing when you
have musicians in a room, they gravitate to what's
the best. You know, you start playing the music;
they're walking from room to room; they're all
hanging out, and it's like, "Oh, let's hear that one."
Sounds like the Brill Building.
T: Yeah! So in our building, the stuff starts to buzz.
And when it starts buzzing, then our attention goes
to that thing... It's a free-finding process.
A: Don't you notice that when you play a song for
your friends even, or you put it up and you get a
reaction. You know that there are certain songs that
you get this super-strong reaction from, and you
kind of go, "Maybe I do have something there."
And then it'll also play the other way. It's like some
song that you think is really great but nobody
seems to respond to it.
It's got to breed a certain level of competitiveness,
but a healthy type. Remember at lunch when we
were talking about when I worked at Criteria, and
you'd have Bill Szymczyk and the Eagles in one
room, and Tommy Dowd and Clapton in the other
room. There was an air of competition, but in the
healthiest way, and I think it made better records.
Do you see that with your "pods" of people?
T: Yeah, you're right. Everyone in those rooms is
doing something, but collaboration is what really
gets it going, right? So somebody walks in and just
has a suggestion, or another person just does a chorus. It's just so wild, and it's kind of like stacking up
better ideas on top of one another.
A: Even with "Love You Like a Love Song," I was
driving and that came into my head: "I love you like
a love song, baby." And I went, "Oh, that's cool, I
think that could work." And then as soon as I sang
that to Tim, he got out and...
T: But I really don't. I love radio.
T: Everything stopped and I said, "OK, no [studio]
room is doing anything but this. Let's figure this
Tonight's the night they're going to bed angry. [Audience laughter]
A: OK, maybe you don't care. I care. But there's a
whole thing with radio. That's also a game that the
labels have the lock on in a way. Like with "The Big
Bang." How many people know the song "The Big
Bang"? [Show of hands] OK, great. Because we
released that independently and we had a smattering of radio play, and others did it, and got more
radio play. But we sold over a million copies of that
A: Sometimes things just hit you over the head, and
then we're here to kinda help each other out.
Because otherwise what would have happened was,
"Oh, that's a good idea," and then... That's what
makes it so great to have a partner, because you
T: We call it urgent. If she has her tape recorder and
I have mine-and everybody at Rock Mafia kinda
does-and it if something goes off, we go, "That's
urgent," and that becomes prioritized.
A: And then you have to deal with the music business, because we all...
A: You totally care.
T: No I don't.
T: The point is, why I say I don't care is, let's be creative as a community; let's push the envelope; do it
for glory. You know what I mean? If we do it for
A: I agree with that, for sure. By the way, a lot of
times we're way ahead of the curve.
T: Which is more of like a music game.
A: Yeah. No, it is a game, but that's why I want to
be here to hopefully help people that are in the
room with anything question-wise, or anything
besides what we're doing. I just want to give information that's helpful to you, because it is hard. The
music business is pretty tough out there.
T: So hard. I mean, think about it. You get a thousand no's, and it's the one or two yes's you live off of,
right? So isn't that interesting? That's the game
we're all in. No different. You'd be surprised how
many no's we get. We just keep moving forward.
A: And we say, "no" to ourselves too! It's really frustrating when I think I have a great idea or
something, and Tim's like, "That sucks." You know,
I can't even get past him!
T: Well, yeah, but there have been times where
that's... Again, that's why we have a great environment. If it's something that I'm just not feeling...
You know, we all hear music and we're like, "Ah, I
don't know about that," and then four months later
the window's down and you're like, "I love this
song." It happens, so that's why we have that
How much do you strategize for the future? Do you try
and prognosticate? Because obviously if you're making
stuff that sounds like radio sounds today, that stuff
was written a year, year and a half ago. But yet if you
come up with something so wacky and so fresh and so
super-innovative, radio's not going to play it. So you
have to find the sweet spot of...
T: That's OK if radio doesn't play it. I really don't
A: Oh stop!
T: Which is just as bad as being behind, by the way.
You want to be on time.
A: I know, that's true.
But how do you self-edit to be ahead enough, but not
too far ahead. So you're working on something and
you come up with this really fresh innovative thing,
and you guys probably edit each other and edit yourselves and go, "You know, now that is just a little too
far." How do you know when to pull it back?
T: Without naming titles, I mean, there have been
songs that are seven years old that are happening
now, or three years old or four years old. Generally
it's not the case, but there are cases.
A: Let me give you an example of something more
current. A lot of times there is a method to the
madness. It's like a lot of producers-I'm not saying we don't do this, but we don't do it as
often-we'll listen to what's going on underground
or what's happening, and then they just twist it a
little and make it more commercial. Like this whole
sort of folk thing, like "Wake Me Up." Avicii kind of
heard a sound that was happening somewhere else
and sort of incorporated that and was the first one
to push it out.
T: He did a brilliant job, by the way. It's an amazing
A: Yeah, and Pitbull felt the same way, and that's
why he had the song with Ke$ha... All of a sudden
they hear something that's sort of bubbling under,
and then they make it a little bit more commercial,
something that would have more mass appeal. And
then suddenly they have a hit that other people like.
So there is some kind of method to it, and sort of a
Continued on page 67
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Recording - October 2015
Recording - October 2015 - Intro
Recording - October 2015 - Cover1
Recording - October 2015 - Cover2
Recording - October 2015 - 1
Recording - October 2015 - 2
Recording - October 2015 - 3
Recording - October 2015 - 4
Recording - October 2015 - 5
Recording - October 2015 - Contents
Recording - October 2015 - 7
Recording - October 2015 - 8
Recording - October 2015 - 9
Recording - October 2015 - 10
Recording - October 2015 - 11
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Recording - October 2015 - Cover3
Recording - October 2015 - Cover4