BY: JIM VILLANUEVA
If passion, persistence and patience are three prerequisites to eventually becoming successful in the music business, clearly Grammy nominated producer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Brody Brown didn’t have the patience to adhere to the third. The 27-year old Compton, CA native deposited his first music biz check at the astonishingly young age of just 14, when R&B star Bobby V tapped him to hold down the beat as his tour bassist. Soon after getting off the road – roads, mind you, he was too young to even drive on – Brown continued his accelerated path to success by becoming a member of the band and top tier production unit 1500 or Nothin’, which boasts writing, production and playing credits on records by superstars such as Justin Timberlake, Jay-Z, Kanye West and Bruno Mars.
Fast forward to 2016 and Brown can already count on having additional all-star names such as Cee Lo Green, Snoop Dogg, Lionel Richie, Lil’ Wayne, Timbaland, Wiz Khalifa, Ludacris, The Game, B.o.B., Lupe Fiasco and Chris Brown on his resume. And as if that hits-filled list of chart topping names wasn’t enough, Brown can boast being the co-writer of Adele’s “All I Ask,” one of the stellar songs found on the current chart champs worldwide smash album, the 7.5 million-selling (and counting) 25.
So what lies ahead for a guy who has already accomplished so much? Well, frankly, so much more. Brown’s calendar is already filling up with upcoming projects with Mars, Alicia Keys and Young Jeezy, among others, plus he is currently working on his own artist project, with a lead single out possibly as soon as later this month.
Let’s get started talking about a bunch of stuff that you’re up to and have been up to. You’ve been in the music game professionally since you were about 14 or so, and since then you’ve worked with a ton of folks. How important is it for you to continue to tear down musical borders, working with folks from different genres?
It’s a part of why I wake up in the morning; it’s that important to me. I’m speaking on any job that I’m blessed with from the man up above – to take that gift to another level – and not to just stop right here because you can only play bass, or drums. While you’re at it, learn four different genres of music. Like from the Latin Grammys to The Grammys (laughs)…the whole nine is where I’m trying to go.
You’ve said that you love everyone from Dr. Dre to Queen. Where does that love of so many different genres of music stem from? Growing up, was it your parents? Siblings? Family friends?
It actually came from my mom. When I was growing up around good music as a kid she wouldn’t have too much rap music around, but more like [jazz artists] Boney James, Fourplay, the Yellowjackets, [R&B star] Toni Braxton; just a variety of genres that people from Compton usually don’t grow up on. Then I started playing in different bands – rock bands, jazz bands, salsa bands – at a young age. And even playing in the band at my school, you know, though of course I didn’t learn anything there (laughs). So yeah, it starts from there and my mom had a big part in that.
So you grew up with a lot of different types of music, but did you have the proverbial “big bang” moment? Can you recall the moment when you actually decided that you wanted to make music your profession and not just your obsession?
Right! My big bang came from actually being around it in the studio versus the stage.
So when was your first studio experience? Was it with an artist?
Actually it was with a friend. I would go to different studios, like you know when you’re in a studio and they say that you’re in room A, or room B, or room C, and you walk in and the doors are like 100 pounds (laughs). So it was that time when I was like, okay this is for real. It’s not just about playing the music, it’s about actually writing, producing and actually taking it to another level.
Yeah, so you were right there and you said to yourself that you want some of this, right?
Yeah, I want it all! I used to always ask my mom, is Michael Jackson rich? And she used to be like, “Boy, yes, he could buy this whole block (laughs)!” And that just inspired me to see how lucrative it could be, because growing up in Compton it was six people who stayed at my house, and so like you always wanted to make it out and then when you made it out you wanted to become somebody. Those people inspired me, at the time, to actually become somebody.
Did you ever entertain a plan B? Was there ever a fallback position if the music thing didn’t work out?
Good for you. Well you did it. So in addition to his incredible music, the legendary Duke Ellington was famous for many of his insightful quotes, including my favorite: “There are only two kinds of music: good and bad.” In another one, he said, “The most important thing I can look for in a musician is whether he knows how to listen.” As a multi-instrumentalist, is there a particular instrument you listen to the most when you’re playing, or does it depend on the song?
It actually depends on the song because I love different instruments and different genres of music.
I remember talking to Eddie Van Halen one time and he said that he didn’t really listen to guitarists that much when he was growing up, and instead he listened to singers, which I found interesting. Can you relate to what he’s saying there?
Of course. People know me as playing bass, or a little bit of keys here and there, and I play a little bit of everything, but I was a drummer at first and now I’m known for contributing some of the hottest bass riffs, so yeah I feel him.
So let’s move forward on some of the many things you’ve done and have been involved with. Now I could talk to you about Bruno Mars for hours, and I’m sure most people could; he’s that amazing. Here’s a quick anecdote: I got married two and a half years ago and I put together a 20-song list to hand out at my wedding, which of course I called my “Wedding Album,” and two of them were Bruno songs. Of course out of the thousands that I could have picked.
Pretty much the obvious one: “Marry You” and “Just the Way You Are.” Tell us why Bruno Mars is what I call a current classic? I just think the guy is talented beyond belief. Why is he so damn good?
Yeah, current classic is perfect. That’s what he is.
You grabbed a Grammy nomination (Song of the Year) for Mars’ “Grenade.” Tell me about working with him. What makes him a current classic? He is certainly a throwback guy. Is it his work ethic? Is it the writing? The voice? The performance? What makes him so damn good?
I believe it’s the school we come from as writers; always digging, never stopping. We’ll do 12-hour shifts a day and in those 12 hours it is non-stop work. You know, we might eat (laughs) but his work ethic is out of this world. We’re never comfortable.
That’s good; your never comfortable. That’s cool. And I imagine in the other 12 hours when you’re not working, you gotta live life in order to have stuff to write about, right?
In my mind, and I guess more importantly, in my ears, someone else you have recently worked with, Adele, is another current classic. “I don’t need your honesty, it’s already in your eyes.” That’s a great line from “All I Ask” and of course you had a hand in writing that. Talk a bit about the writing sessions for that song.
Well it was co-written by the four of us – Philip Lawrence, myself, Bruno and Adele. Bruno already had the idea down in his phone; he played it on the piano. He had the verse part already. We wanted the song to go like a classic ballad with just vocal and piano. Nothing to overproduced or anything, you know just real classic, like you said, a current classic. Something you could sing at a graduation. You need the four knockouts; something you could sing at a funeral, something you could sing at a graduation, something you could sing at a wedding, you know, you need those knockouts. If you got three of four of those, you’re straight. And that’s all, you know, we just took it down to the simplest point. We were just like, let’s just do something great. And Adele and Bruno and Philip wrote the s**t out of it.
Yeah, I guess you just used the old K.I.S.S. method: keep it simple, stupid.
Man, it works. I watched the Adele [NBC Radio City Music Hall special] concert and that song was definitely a highlight. You could hear a pin drop at Radio City Music Hall, so that’s a good thing. Now speaking of current classics, let’s focus on what I suspect will be a future classic and that is your own solo debut project, due later this year sometime. What can you tell me about it?
It’s actually called The Groovy Maniacs. The name of the album is gonna be called A Blast From The Past. We’re doing like 80s music, similar to like Scarface, Miami Vice, with a little Rick James, Prince; basically an homage album, but in our way. We’re doing the type of songs that put you in that mood where you wanna wear your pink suit, you know (laughs), very bright colors. It’s all fun music, where all ages can enjoy it. I’m looking to drop a single mid-January. I’m getting it together right now.
Any special guests that you can tell me about?
(Long pause) There’s a few (laughs).
(Laughs) Alright, I won’t push it (laughs). We’ll look forward to it. You’ve also got upcoming projects lined up with Alicia Keys, Young Jeezy and that Bruno Mars guy again. What can you share – if anything – about those future releases?
Well as of right now, Young Jeezy is out. That was co-written with my partner Charles Hamilton, Larrance Dopson and myself and it’s featuring Monica and it’s called “Forgive Me.” That’s on Jeezy’s album [Churches in These Streets]. There’s an Alicia Keys song that should be coming out in the spring.
You’re still a very young man, yet you’ve accomplished so much in such a short span of time. What piece of advice would you give any young person who was interested in following their own passion, whether it be music, medicine, acting, academics, sports, science, or whatever?
Don’t be scared to make mistakes. And what I mean by that is you have to fail to succeed.
It’s been said many times that failure is perhaps the best teacher.
Yeah, it is. And if you’re tired of failing, what are you gonna do? And after that question is asked, what am I gonna do after I’m tired of failing, you keep going! Keep going until you don’t fail no more. Duh!
Good advice. You obviously made a life-altering – and quite possibly life-saving – choice early on in your life. While your friends were shooting hoops – or each other – in the streets, you were creating loops at home. To whom, or what, do you give credit for your decision to stay off the streets in favor of making beats?
I give credit when I’m on my knees at night, when I’m crying and I’m praying to God, help me know how to hold myself up in public. I was praying about this at a young age, and I’m still praying on it. That’s actually what got me here. [Also] my mom actually praying for me. She didn’t raise me around nuthin’ negative. So her, the Lord and that’s it.
You reached for a higher power to get to incredible heights with what you’ve done so far, and there’s so much more to come. Thank you for your time, Brody. Good luck and we look forward to the new album coming out and all of the other projects that you’ve got in store and congratulations on everything that you’ve already done. Take care.
Thank you. Thank you so much.