One guy who has had a ton to celebrate in 2010 is Tricky Stewart. The famed producer was busy in the 1-0 crafting songs on hot releases by Rihanna, Michael Jackson, T.I., Jessica Simpson, Christina Aguilera and Beyonce.
So, naturally I thought this was the perfect time to catch up with him and thank him for the memories.
UsMagazine.com: What a year! First off, you wrote two songs for Christina for Burlesque. It’s a lot like Back to Basics. Is that what you were going for?
Tricky Stewart: No, I didn’t work on Back to Basics, but overall I always talk about the theory, which is that every artist has a sound no matter what producers they work with. With Christina Aguilera, I tried to embody what she has done, and that is why there may be some similarity.
US: You really pulled some emotion out of her on this album How were you able to do that? I know she was going through a divorce at the time. Was that a key factor?
TS: The emotion is there because she knows how to put herself in a position to deliver a song from that place. That’s one of the greatest things about working with great artists — they always know how to pull emotion from a real place so people can identify with it.
US: Did you talk to her about anything going on or anything like that?
TS: No, we pretty much keep it to the music. Obviously you can tell when there are better days than others, but at the end of the day we show up ready to work. We only have so much time to do what we have to do, so we don’t spend a whole lot of time talking about everything to go on in her world.
US: And Jessica Simpson was the other album you did. You produced and wrote for her Christmas album, right?
TS: Yep! Jessica brought us in and was really excited. and it was really, really fun because I’ve never done a Christmas album and I’ve always wanted to have that body of work. You know, to have that thing out like the Christmas albums that David Foster, Quincy Jones, or all the other producers that I look up to. Jessica gave me that opportunity, and it was a really great time. I was really happy about being able to make that happen.
US: Are you planning on working with her again on more music?
TS: We have actually have. I was so pleasantly surprised and happy with how everything came out! She is a gem just waiting to be rediscovered, so there is a definite possibility of us working together again in the future.
US: What was she like in the studio?
TS: She is fun and lighthearted but very serious about her singing. She is a little bit of an over-thinker sometimes because she puts so much pressure on herself. But, overall we had a great time making this record! We had to do it super fast — we started the negotiations and everything in October, which is really late for a Christmas album. But we got it done, it came out, and it’s great — everyone loved it.
US: She also got engaged. Was her new fiance around the studio?
TS: He wasn’t around the studio. Artists don’t necessarily mix that together, but, I went to their engagement party and it was very, very nice. You can clearly see how in love they are. I am married myself, so it’s great to see people in love and they are super duper happy!
US: Obviously you produced two songs on Michael Jackson’s new album that just dropped. I heard you really turned down the instruments so you can just hear his voice on the productions?
TS: I produced these songs as if he were there and we had an interaction. With Michael, there was always a certain amount of excellence expected of you. But with him not being here it became a challenge to govern yourself and that excellence and make sure that you hit the level of success that he achieved and of what he would want you to do. It was a lot of pressure. We just sat in the room and turned the album music off and just listened to the essence to the man and what his performance level in these records. Even if these weren’t finished vocals they were so intense and so much presence in them. I instantly heard his body: what his hands do, when his fingers snap when his foot stomps. And listening to all those thing isolated is very intense and you can hear the intensity in who he was as a person. Even if he could never dance. if he never did the moonwalk, Michael Jackson had one of the best voices in music.
Us: How about Loud, Rihanna’s most recent record?
TS: The song I produced on there is called “Complicated,” and I’ve just seen her grow tremendously. “Complicated” is a difficult song to sing — it is very high and pretty intense and she really showed me a lot by singing that record. People never think Rihanna is a great singer, but I promise you there is not a better person to deliver a great song and it doesn’t matter how high it is or how low it is — she can just get in there and rally make a record her own. The beauitful thing is even when we did “Umbrella,” everyone thought that song was for Britney, or this person, but after she sang that record it could absoultely be for no one else. The record is hers and she puts it right where it needs to be.
US: And she’s got a boyfriend too Matt Kemp. What was it like with him around?
TS: He wasn’t around, and there is a reason. I don’t do well with boyfriends coming to my sessions. I want to be the only man in the studio when it’s my girls. (laughs) Whether it’s Katy, Christina, Rhianna, Beyonce, I don’t want to see nobody’s man.
Us: I know you can’t talk about working on Beyonce’s upcoming album but I heard it through the grapevine. But why do her and Jay-Z make such a great couple?
TS: I just feel like they had it figured out. Relationships are between two people and not between you and your family or anybody else and by them being huge stars, relationships can become about you and the world and that is something that I have never seen them do. They just really carry themselves a certain way and their relationship is their relationship and that’s pretty much it. It’s so private and it’s so quiet, and that’s why people have the respect not to talk about them. They are unbreakable.
US: And finally T.I. You recorded his new album with him, which was obviously before he went to jail but when he got out the last time. So what was it like working with him during that time period?
TS:I have known T.I. for probably bout 10-15 years now, and it was different because of the elephant in the room. When he was working on an album, he definitely kept his positivity and was himself. He really didn’t put the mental stress out there. I felt sorry for him being put in that situation with his kids and his wife. I just wish him the best of luck.
US: Anything else you want to bring up in wrapping up? Anything I left out?
TS: The one big thing I probably want to say is that I will be launching my record label, Red Zone Records in early 2011 and we are really, really excited about that. I’m just really looking forward to writing more great records and being a part of the next generation’s greatest songs and just working our asses off.