Interviews

Rodney Jerkins: Innovative Stamp On Music

Rodney Jerkins has been crafting hit records for over a decade and he has become a go to guy for album singles. The pressure of producing a mainstream radio record pushes him to fabricate high quality songs. Now Rodney is looking to take his musical career a step further by creating the next superstar female group. After contributing to the success of Destiny’s Child, The Pussycat Dolls and Spice Girls, Jerkins plans to fill an industry void of a strong female group since Destiny Child has retired and the Pussycat Dolls are on hiatus. Singersroom spoke with Rodney on a developing female group, concept to making a successful song, and Janet Jackson’s upcoming project.

Singersroom: You’ve written and produced so many records, what is your production process like?

Rodney Jerkins: The process for me starts with really whatever comes to me. I’m a melody type of person. Whether it be: sitting at the piano coming up with a progression for the melody line or if it’s just me humming a melody idea down and building around it; I always start with the melody first, because I feel like melody is key; melody is what people remember. Once I get the melody locked in, then I’ll create a concept around the melody, whether it should be built like a love song or a pirate song, whatever it is, going with the concept and the title to premiere. Musically I’m always working on the next thing. From the conception of the song all the way until it’s mastered I’m always retouching, adding stuff, that I think make it better. I’ll do a track, an artist can come in and sing a whole song to the track, but then I may change a track after they sing the whole song, I might build around their vocals even more. So, it’s just whatever I feel is needed to make it better I’ll keep doing it.

Singersroom: Do you ever feel pressure to create songs that get radio play or crafting unique material?

Rodney Jerkins: You know I don’t really feel pressure because I’ve been doing it so long. Actually, I kind of like pressure; I like when someone tells me “we’re closing the album and we’re looking for a first single for ’em…” or something like that. I’m like ‘okay cool’…I got that kind of attitude and confidence like Michael Jordan used to have where if you gave him the ball with two seconds he’s going to the shot and most of the time he’s going to make it. That’s kind of like my attitude, it’s like you know if I’m doing a record and someone says you know, “we need this record…we need a single” or whatever it is that’s when I perform my best I feel. I really don’t feel pressure like other people. It becomes my reality; it comes natural for me. I like the fact that my phone really doesn’t ring for album cuts, no one is really calling [saying] ‘Yo I want you to do an album cut’ or we got this album to work on…we want you to work on this album. Most people call me for singles, “we want you to deliver us a single…” and I guess that’s pressure in itself, because I don’t think that every song a person writes is a hit. It takes a lot just to get that monster smash and sometimes you write ten to fifteen songs to come up with that great one. I guess that’s the pressure a person can deal with but I kind of take it in stride, when dealing with it and try to perform to the best of my ability.

Singersroom: What is your favorite genre to write/produce for?

Rodney Jerkins: I really don’t have one to be honest. You know I get frustrated that sometimes the music industry puts us in a box creatively. In that, people will say you know, I need a record for Beyonce, so if I do a record for Beyonce then automatically every other R&B act will want me to do a record for them. I feel like I can do anything. I just did a record a few weeks ago that was on some Latin/Pop [sounding] stuff, then turned around and did a record with Robin Thicke that was straight Soul music, then had to do a record for Lady Gaga, which was straight Dance music. Those are three different styles and I was able to do all three in three days…that’s me though I just like that. There’s no particular genre that I’m locked into, I really like the challenge of being challenged to do any kind of genre. I would like for John Mayer to call me tomorrow saying I want you to do something…it becomes more of a challenge for me to go outside the norm, what everybody wants or what everybody thinks I can do.

Singersroom: In regards to Janet Jackson’s new album, what new direction are we going to see?

Rodney Jerkins: We’re really playing around and trying to really target her fans. You know old school Janet is what we as fans knew her as, so we’re really trying to target that sound. While still trying to mix it in with something new; be able to touch it to different world types of sound like: Brazilian music, Latin music, you know just different sounds from around the world; there’s one that’s African inspired. Just real high energy for Janet, some soul…it’s a real tight project.

Singersroom: So, tell me about Darkchild’s Girls, What attracted you to assembling a female group?

Rodney Jerkins: Pretty much, I feel like I’m co- responsible for some of the biggest selling projects like Spice Girls, Destiny’s Child, and The Pussycat Dolls. I just did a single on them that helped them sell a lot of records; I feel like why not have my own [group]. I’m basically doing this competition; I started one in L.A., where I’m looking to put a girl group together. I had my first competition out in California, it went really well, a lot of girls came out, some real good talent. I want my girl group to be different. I want them to be able to sing and dance versus just some group put together with a bunch of girls that can dance. I’m focusing on trying to find, the perfect four to five girls that can sing and dance. I feel like I’ve been successful on that side, and I feel like I can do it on my own.

Singersroom: So, are you planning on going to other musical cities, like here in Atlanta, New York, etc?

Rodney Jerkins: Yeah we’re going to go to Atlanta. We talked about Atlanta, Miami, New York. There is no date set in stone yet, we’re still working on it. I have another baby on the way, so we’re trying to set the schedule around when my baby’s due; after that. I’m excited about it because I feel like there’s a void right now. You know, Pussycat Dolls they’re not doing an album again, and with Destiny’s child talking about they’re not going to do anything, I feel like there’s a void for a female girl group, hopefully we’ll be able to deliver one to the world.

Singersroom: From your perspective how has beauty or attractiveness affected the process of finding new a artist/group? Is that more important then talent?

Rodney Jerkins: Naw, it doesn’t play a big role; it is about talent. At the end of the day if they’re not talented, then what do we have? We have another group to come out and sell some records then we don’t hear about them anymore. But if we build it around the talent, focus really on the talent, and then we might have something that will be around for a while.

Singersroom: Do you have any interest in scoring movies?

Rodney Jerkins: I would love to…it’s just a matter of when. I’ve worked with a couple of movies, just working on like spots in the movie. Movies are very time consuming; I can’t see myself doing a movie, scoring a movie and also working on musical projects. I would literally have to shut down to focus on a film. I definitely see it in my future I just don’t see it right now unless a crazy opportunity happened. But when the time is right I’ll know and I’ll be ready for that time.

Singersroom: So, what movie that’s already completed would you have scored?

Rodney Jerkins: You know there’s a movie coming out, called ‘Precious’, with Monique and Mariah (Carey) in it… it’s kind of a drama, I would have loved to score that one. I feel like sometimes, Tyler Perry’s movies; I love his movies but I don’t love the music in his movies. I could take his movies to a whole different level, if I were doing it I would bring a bit more emotion to the actual film.

Not only do I want to score but eventually I want to produce films. I want to produce urban musicals and stuff like that. I’m kind of getting to that now…talking to some film companies and possibly me and a studio doing a deal, to bring something like that to the table. I feel like there’s another void in the urban musical market. I feel like that would be fun to bring and put some artists on camera, and let them showcase their ability and talent on camera…through great songs and a great script.

Singersroom: You’ve already done so much in the music industry, is there anything that you still aspire to do, that you haven’t gotten to yet?

Rodney Jerkins: Nah, I’ve been blessed.. It’s not work for me anymore because I love it so much. I’m just taking it in stride, making sure that I’m working with the artist that I choose to work with and not just taking anything and everything, but really picking and choosing the right ones. I want to hopefully one day look back and be like: “yeah, I did everybody that I wanted to work with…” I’m close to that already, but every time I get close to saying I worked with everybody, somebody new comes along. I’ve been doing it for fifteen years and I think I can go another fifteen years; I think I can be successful so I’m going to keep going.

Singersroom: When it’s all said and done, what legacy would you like to have left on the music industry?

Rodney Jerkins: First, just my love for God. How I was able to encourage a lot of artists and a lot of people that love music. No matter how much you are successful you got to keep God first. Then musically leaving a stamp, a real defiant stamp in the game like knowing that I was able to change cultures a couple of times. Being able to step out the box and reinvent myself and being innovative, so people can go back in time and be like wow, this dude didn’t stop. Hopefully we’ll be able to accomplish that.
—— By: Interview By Lauren Walker

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