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April 18, 2022

Interview with Autumn Rowe

We had the pleasure of interviewing Autumn Rowe over Zoom video!

Autumn Rowe recently won “Album of The Year” for WE ARE at the 64th Grammy Awards! Autumn was also nominated for 3 additional award for her contributions to Jon Batiste’s WE ARE. Autumn...


We had the pleasure of interviewing Autumn Rowe over Zoom video!

Autumn Rowe recently won “Album of The Year” for WE ARE at the 64th Grammy Awards! Autumn was also nominated for 3 additional award for her contributions to Jon Batiste’s WE ARE. Autumn co-wrote five of the album’s 13 tracks, and received nominations for “Record of the Year” for “Freedom” (a track she also produced); “Best Traditional R&B Performance” for “I Need You” and “Best R&B Album” for WE ARE.

The legendary songwriter and woman of color has collaborated with some of music’s biggest name such as Dua Lipa, Pitbull, Zendaya, Nicole Scherzinger, The Knocks, Leona Lewis and Avicii! Autumn also wrote the dance anthem behind the 2011 FIFA World Cup “Happiness” featuring Alexis Jordan! Rowe isn’t just a talent songwriter, but also a celebrated vocal coach. She has appeared on season 2 of The X Factor, and as the only vocal coach on America’s Got Talent for five years, between the show’s eight and twelfth seasons. As if all of this wasn’t enough to keep her busy, Rowe is a talented DJ who is self-taught on turntables.

Growing up in the South Bronx, Autumn Rowe has cited her early musical influences as Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Mariah Carey and TLC. Currently living in Los Angeles, Autumn continues to write and mentor both established and emerging artists. She most recently collaborated with Jon Batiste, and Diana Ross while continuing to work on her own projects as an artist and producer. Her talents as a vocal coach have also been sought out by singing competitions including the Music Is the Universal Cure Song competition and the Ascap Peggy Lee Songwriter Competition. As a coach and advocate for artists and songwriters, Rowe took the position of co-director for the Coronavirus Songwriter Emergency Relief Fund in 2020, offering grants to support songwriters through the pandemic.

Her time as an accomplished songwriter has given her a platform to speak as an activist for songwriters. As a Black and Jewish songwriter with a primary focus on the fight against racism and antisemitism.

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Transcript

Hello! It is Adam. Welcome back to bringing it backwards. A podcast where both legendary and rising artists tell their own personal stories of how they achieve stardom. On this episode, we had the incredible opportunity to hang out with autumn Rowe over zoom video, just three days after she won a Grammy for album of the year album of the year. So incredible autumn was born and raised in south Bronx, in New York at a very rough upbringing. She talks a lot about that. She went to high school and times square was a part of this very famous choir in New York. She has an amazing story about meeting Jay Z when she was just, I think, 16 years old, she ended up signing a development deal with Swiss beats. 4 (2m 11s): We hear about that. We hear about the song happiness, which changed her life. Like literally changed her life. The song was used in the FIFA women's world cup theme song when it was in Germany, which led to a slew of other things. She was a voice coach for the X factor in the U S also a voice coach on America's got talent. We hear about the amazing nonprofit she started during COVID called songwriter fund and all about working with John Battista. Writing the record we are with John and winning the Grammy for album of the year. You can watch our interview with autumn on our Facebook page and YouTube channel at bringing it backwards. It would be amazing if you subscribe to our YouTube channel like us on Facebook, follow us on Instagram, Twitter, and TechTalk at bringing back pod. 4 (2m 58s): And if you're listening this on Spotify, apple music, Google podcasts, we would love it. If you follow us there as well, and hook us up with a five star review, 5 (3m 7s): We'd appreciate your support. If you follow and subscribe to our podcasts, wherever you listen to podcasts, 4 (3m 13s): We're bringing it backwards with the Grammy award-winning autumn Rowe. We talked about your whole, your journey in this music industry. 6 (3m 23s): Perfect. Cool. You for having me. 4 (3m 25s): Yeah, of course. I'm Adam. I don't know if I told you my name, but I'm Adam. So I saw you were born and raised in New York in the Bronx. Talk to me about being born and raised in New York. 6 (3m 38s): Well, Wow. 4 (3m 43s): I know it's generic, but eh, w what was it like growing up there? 6 (3m 47s): Oh, no, it was a, well, I grew up in the projects. I grew up very poor and I had a really, really difficult childhood. My father was a drug addicted to drugs. My mom raised me by herself without any family support. I had like, like, my childhood was so difficult when we saw will Smith and pursuit of happiness. We were like, oh, that was nice 4 (4m 19s): Because 6 (4m 21s): Our life was so much worse. So yeah, my life was pretty difficult, but I was very optimistic and it's so strange. Like at like six years old, I believe I would write something that would pull me out of whatever situation I was in. I didn't know. I didn't know. I would write songs. I didn't know that was a thing, but I knew I was a writer. So I was very convinced on my writing at six, but mind you, I just learned like, you know, how to write, 4 (4m 56s): I was going to say, I have a son that's five, or he's turning six, actually in about two weeks or listened to it. And I'm thinking like him being a writer, like he can get, he's still tracing letters. I mean, he is writing and learning to spell and everything, but to have that kind of epiphany at that early of an age, that's incredible. 6 (5m 17s): It was very bizarre. I look back and I'm like, where did I get that from? Also like, I, I was implementing what we now know as like the secret, remember the secret. 4 (5m 30s): Yeah. 6 (5m 31s): I w I was doing that around nine, 10 years old, Just naturally when that book actually came out, I thought it was so strange because I was, I was just under the impression that everyone knew how to do that. And I was like, why would they put this in a book? But, you know, yeah. I don't know. I was a strange child. Like I found a lot of, I found a lot of light in a lot of dark around. 4 (6m 1s): I was going to say real quick. So I had interviewed somebody that was a musician, but also a numerologist. I don't know if you're hip to numerology. 6 (6m 10s): I want to be 4 (6m 11s): Okay. So it's, it's, it's crazy. I mean, the whole thing is just so bizarre. It's all number base obviously, and you take your first, middle and last name, put them together and then your birthday, and it creates all these numbers. Right. So I felt as a kid growing up as well, that I kind of had like the secret in me, not that it, like, I thought it was gonna be a songwriter or anything like that. I just like, ha like I'll, I would see things. And then I became like, when I did the thing anyway, my wife and I both were an 11, which is some sort of, you have some like intuition and like the, in kind of like the predicting things before they happen. It's really bizarre. And I'd be very curious to see if you did it, and you were an 11 also, and I don't fully grasp any of it, but it just hearing you say that kind of just sparked my memory on like, huh, it's just such an interesting concept. 4 (7m 3s): And I kind of was getting that from your, your like secret vibe. And I wonder if the person that wrote that it was also that number, but I, I, again, I, it's not something I subscribed to, but it was just a very interesting conversation and concept. 6 (7m 18s): Super interesting. I would love to know how to do those calculations. I've never done that before. 4 (7m 24s): Google it it'll, it's, there's a beautiful website that's free and I'll just do it for free. And then it'll read you like the, your it's weird. I mean, to the point where I was like, this is strange, like I thought it was like, literally like AI in my social media or something and just spouting stuff out that it would assume of me. I don't know. It was just weird. So you should try it. It's just, it's bizarre. But that just kind of reminded me of that whole thing with kind of having that intuition of like, yeah, I think I'm, I know I'm going to write something. 6 (7m 53s): Yeah. I mean, I feel like sometimes when you are, when you have absolutely nothing, you, you start seeking things like from a deeper place and you really look like you are like, I mean, things are rough. I can laugh now about it. Cause it was so insane, but like, it's almost like you've got to operate a bit on a spiritual level, you know, because there has to be some sort of way out of this or some sort of faith, just you have to. So I feel like I looked, I looked in a lot of that and that's kind of where I saw, I don't know this, I had this, these like visions of things happening. 6 (8m 36s): It's just so strange though, because like, we didn't have social media, this was in the eighties, you know, I didn't watch TV much. Like I didn't have friends like my age. Like I didn't, I don't know where I got any of this from. It's very bizarre, 4 (8m 52s): But you were, but always, I mean, even at that young of an where being able to write and comprehend that is very, I mean, above any, I'm just going off of my son's experience. Like I couldn't see him writing. Like they're just learning that skill right now. And to have like, know that that's something that you are good at at that age and, and that you can kind of see it doing something for you in, in your life. 6 (9m 19s): Yeah, no, I mean, you know, I feel like kids kids know a lot more than we give them credit for too. I like riding with young people, like, all right with people, you know, as it was 12 or 13. 4 (9m 31s): Wow. 6 (9m 31s): And people always surprised like, well, what are they, what do they talk about? I'm like, they have so much to say. And to be honest, sometimes they have more to say than a lot of adults. You might get in a room with some adults. And they're just like, I don't have anything to talk about, but then you get some of these kids and, you know, they have so much to talk about, like between the bullying and, you know, friends and what it's like growing up right now. And, you know, just so many stories to pull from. So I feel like if we can tap into that, we, we learn a lot about what kids are going through 4 (10m 7s): And it's even, yeah. I mean, I grew up in the eighties as well, eighties and nineties. And what we dealt with is so much different than what's happening now, especially with how quickly something could take off within like a school or just one tax, one screenshot. Like it can ruin a kid's whole life saying 6 (10m 27s): I do not want to be dung again. Like 4 (10m 32s): I would never trade that. Exactly. Exactly. Well, so all your writing, obviously at a very early age, when did music kind of become a part of your life? 6 (10m 48s): I think it was always a part of my life. My mom said when I started to like talk, I was already singing in key. 4 (10m 57s): Wow. 6 (10m 57s): And she was that's when she knew I would, I had some kind of musical, you know, abilities because she was like, she's, she's like, ad-libbing in key, but doesn't speak words yet. Yeah. It was always a part of my life. I started singing in school choirs and like first grade just music was everything to me. I would take a theme songs from shows that didn't have lyrics and I would put lyrics to them. 4 (11m 26s): Oh, wow. 6 (11m 27s): Yeah. 4 (11m 28s): And like melody or sing along to whatever the melody of the instrumental part was. Wow. 6 (11m 33s): Going along to the melody and put my own words. I wasn't said like Stevie wonder Carol King, because we were really poor. So like, I, I only knew the music my mom listened to. So I would just know those songs, you know, I didn't know who's new, who's, who's older. Like, I didn't know any of that stuff. So I didn't know anyone looked like either. So I just listened to a lot of like older music. And then I learned a lot of music from, from the window, you know, you open up your window and there's always DJs playing in the park. So I would hear like, oh, that's where I got a lot of hip hop from and became super influenced by R and B and hip hop just from literally the streets. 4 (12m 19s): Wow. Yeah. And you DJ as well. Didn't you teach yourself how to like turntable, DJ? 6 (12m 26s): I didn't teach myself that. I actually went to a school for a year and a half 4 (12m 29s): Hours. 6 (12m 30s): Yeah. It's it's, it's, it's a lot of work. 4 (12m 33s): Oh, I know. It's not that I'm good at it, but I, I thought I could do it. I got turntables when I was younger and I'm like, oh, this seems cool. And I'm like, wow, this is way, way more difficult than I could even imagine. 6 (12m 46s): It's a scale. It's an instrument. No, I went to a school that does turntables. Cause I wanted to like properly learn a beat match by ear and learn from the greats. And the school was started by Grandmaster Jay and Yeah. Before he died sadly. And they just kept on with his legacy. That's our GMs. Yeah. And yeah, it's great. I had incredible teachers who have been playing for decades and you know, I only learned five years ago, but I just felt like I really wanted to expand my skill set and what was great about that school. There were eight courses in it and some of them were production. 6 (13m 30s): So it got me to learn Ableton and start playing with loops and, you know, gave me more confidence as a producer. So it was great. I like, I think awesome writers should have some sort of skills in this area. It just opens, it also opens your brain to like, what's new listening to music that you don't normally listen to. And you know, I wasn't really listening to that much current like trap music and stuff like that before deejaying. But then once I started deejaying, I was, I had to know, you have to know so much music. I mean, it's crazy. So I just had to like learn and learn and learn. And then it, it just expanded my mind a lot when it came to my writing, I'm like, oh, well this is, this would never work in a club or this would work or, you know, this is missing this kind of energy. 6 (14m 20s): Cause I could never play this song. You know? Like I just started looking at things very differently, which, which was great, but also sometimes frustrating because sometimes the other people in the room can't hear what you're hearing. 4 (14m 33s): Oh sure. And you're like, this isn't going to work or this is going to work. And they're like, no, it's not. You're like, trust me. Yeah. 6 (14m 40s): So there would be moments where it's like, oh wow, this is cool. But then it would be cool. Cause I could like put things in Serato, you know, Luke the beat section, put the song vocal in there and like say, okay, well this is the feeling I'm going for. And then they could hear it and I could do it so quickly just in like two seconds. So then, then they're like, oh, okay. I see what you're saying. You know, it's a great tool. It's really a great tool. And also like to compare BPMs, you know, and then you see like certain BPMs there's hardly any songs and you know, and you're like, well, the thing about that song is people will have a hard time playing it. Cause it nothing to play it before or after, you know, just so many different ways to look at music. 4 (15m 21s): Yeah. There's such a science to that piece of it. Just knowing like, oh, if it's not, this BPM is probably not going to work in this setting or it's not going to work like exactly what you just said as far as like, it'll be hard for somebody to be mad at or play something before to go into it. I would came from radio, did it for a long time and we would not look at BPM, but look at like sonically, how something would sound going into the next song. It wasn't just like an auto select. He was like, you had to have a, you know, somebody scheduling it. So it made sense in that, you know, capacity. It wasn't just like you wouldn't play certain song into another song. Just like if you were a DJ, but also looking at the BPM is just like a whole nother like level of songwriting and structuring a song. 6 (16m 3s): Yeah. I'm looking at BPMs a lot. 7 (16m 6s): It's time to get your checking account to zero with free checking from PenFed that's zero ATM fees, zero balance requirements. And zero time spent waiting for your paycheck to direct deposit because you can receive it up to one day early, open your account with just $25 and see how big zero can be apply online today at penfed.org/free checking early direct deposit eligibility may vary between pay periods and timing of payers, funding to receive any advertised product. You must become a member of PenFed insured by NCUA. 6 (16m 37s): And also when deejaying it's cool like keys Now, no better feeling when you can mix oh and same key and some other song and it just feels so fluid and it's like that. Ooh, magical. 4 (16m 52s): Yeah, that was, that was cool. 6 (16m 55s): Freaking great. 4 (16m 56s): Yeah. I love that. So you mainly grew up what, in the, in the chorus choir and before you started songwriting or singing or were you also like piano player or anything like that? 6 (17m 8s): No. So I was in the, basically the New York city housing authority, which is the projects there. They started acquire a while. My first year in high school, I went to high school in times square and Yeah, 4 (17m 22s): That 6 (17m 23s): Sick. Cool. And it was about, there were about 20 kids in the choir and it's crazy. Like the other two of the other choir members one was Claude Kelly. I don't know if you know Claude Kelly, but he's massive writer. He wrote like circus for Brittany Since you've been gone. He's a huge, huge, huge writer. And he's an amazing artist as well. Him and then another really successful writer, a little Eddie. He came out of that car. So we were all inspired together as kids and Wait, it gets weirder. We were also, the three of us were also coaches on the X-Factor. 4 (18m 5s): Oh, wow. Yeah. It's 6 (18m 8s): Crazy. 4 (18m 9s): So you all disagree? Did you stay friends like through the choir and then growing up or did you kinda like go your own path and then come back together on an X factor and be like, oh wow. Like we went to the same school. 6 (18m 21s): Well, I lost touch with Claude for a while for like 10 years. And once I started really dipping my foot in the writing scene, he already wrote, you know, these huge Brittany Kelly Clarkson songs. He was already one of the biggest writers in the world. And I remember being in the studio one day and someone sent me, I think he had a MySpace with these songs on them. And I was, I was asking like, why is Claude half Brittany Spears songs on his MySpace? And they were like, cause he wrote them as Claude wrote those big songs. Wow. I just was like, oh my goodness. I had no idea. 6 (19m 3s): And that was kind of like such an eyeopening and exciting things to see what he accomplished. And then once I got more into the scene, I ran into him like during a grimy week party and we reconnected through that. And then I, I got asked to coach the X-Factor season two and they wanted one more coach. And I brought in little Eddie from the choir and quad coach the year before us. So it just 4 (19m 35s): That's crazy, 6 (19m 36s): But it makes sense as well because our choir was incredible. And we learned, we had like so many, we learned so many skills from that experience. So we, between that and the song writing and being, you know, singers, blah, blah, blah. We had like a lot, a lot under our belt to offer. 4 (19m 58s): Okay. And from, from that choir, like once you graduated high school, what do you do next? Like how does the, how do you continue to pursue music 6 (20m 8s): By any means? After that choir, I connect, I made some, a lot of friends in the choir and four of us started a girl group and then it became three and then it became two and then it became one. 4 (20m 24s): Oh, wow. Okay. 6 (20m 26s): So we did not survive as a group. We tried for a few years and then I became the lead singer in the band and we worked with Swiss beats for a few years and yeah. And we performed all over like the tri-state area, lots of crappy clubs, bars, you know, nice. And we did our own songs and we did some co some clubs would only hire us with covers, but that's kinda where I really learned a lot of really like develop my writing because, you know, I wrote with my band. So, you know, I was like, oh, let's I would sing a baseline like, oh, play something like this. 6 (21m 7s): And like, or, or direct the guitar or, you know, the keys and we'd write all our songs that way. And it was so much fun. And then we get to perform the mile and see how, how people react to them. So I did this for years and I look back on that time, it was such a special time we made no money, but we were so happy, so happy. And I think those moments when they feel so hard and, but just enjoy them, like you can't ever get them back. And I'll, you know, I'll never be able to be in that place again, but it was really, really special. So I did that for like five or six years, 4 (21m 49s): Just writing with the band, basically. That was your full-time gig. I mean, you, you had to deal with slow speed. So this is The, the goal was to blow this band up 6 (21m 59s): Yeah. To perform. And you know, we just, so, you know, we, we didn't, we didn't get a break. Nothing really big happened for us. The coolest thing going to happen, I guess, was I did a song with bone fence at harmony at the time, Which is cool. It's called candy paint with bone thugs and Swiss. And that was so cool. Like, wow. You know, I thought was crazy when I, when I made me write that song. So this wrote it, he's such a genius. And I remember when it came out, I was convinced that's the biggest thing that I ever do in my life. I was like, I'm singing with both effects, 4 (22m 36s): But right. I mean, at the time it's still like, even nowadays, like if somebody had the opportunity to do something with them, that's massive. 6 (22m 45s): Yeah. I was like, this is it for me. 4 (22m 48s): Like 6 (22m 51s): I'm in here. It was so cool. So I did that and I really was getting into writing at this point, like really loving and enjoying the writing process. And Swiss played one of my songs for a stout. And she started to work on that song. And then it was another artist. I was working with a producer and Gary Haas and he played another song for, I believe it's billion man who gave it to an artist named Eva Simmons and she recorded it. It's called rockstar. So around this time, like two artists are not like playing around with the idea of recording my songs and playing them out and stuff. 6 (23m 34s): And I'm like, okay, wait. So this is a thing, like people could like record a song I wrote and maybe like put it out like, wow. That is a great idea. So When you're in the underground band scene, it's just, it's like a different planet. It's just, there's like, I don't even, you don't even think about those kinds of things. You're just, I don't know. It was like I was in another world. So 4 (24m 2s): Yeah. You could write a song and hope an artist that wants to do the grind will do it. And you know, it could, it could do something right. And you're just like, okay, here's a song. I'm excellent. I love writing these songs and I'm going to give them to you to birth. So to speak, like bring, bring to light. 6 (24m 19s): Yeah, exactly. So I started going to like all these random music submission events, you had to pay like $25 and then a music supervisor will hear your song and say that if they like it or not, if they might put it in something and I gotten up, like I never got anything placed. It was pretty discouraging probation. 4 (24m 42s): How do you keep going and finding the courage to be like, okay, here's another 25 bucks. Is this going to work out again? You just kinda knew. 6 (24m 50s): You just gotta believe, you gotta believe in your music. And you know, I always believe like I don't, I don't necessarily things. Things are no, I'm like, I think I just asked the wrong person, you know, 4 (25m 4s): Like, 6 (25m 4s): Yeah, 4 (25m 5s): Yeah. That's a glass half full type attitude right there for sure. 6 (25m 9s): But it's true. Like, honestly, most of the time you're not asking the person high enough, high, high up enough. And I noticed that. And I, every time, every time that they happens, I just keep getting reminded even now, like constantly, constantly, like I want to do something and I, I told no, but then I asked the very top tier person and then it's yes. You know, so it's more like, well, how do I get to these people? 4 (25m 39s): Because 6 (25m 40s): That's kind of the goal of it all. Just like cut out the middle and just go straight to the, 4 (25m 44s): And he goes straight to the person that, right. So you're able to kind of figure those people out, like, okay, I know I touched to this. Okay. 6 (25m 59s): I figured nothing out pressing nothing was happening for me. So I, I had so many jobs. I was working at Costco, selling karaoke machines. I sold shoes. I sold handbags. I wasn't a wedding bands. I had 1,001 jobs at my last job. I started reading a new earth by efforts LA and I, this book changed my life. It just changed the way I think about everything and 4 (26m 30s): A new earth. Is that what you said? It's called a 6 (26m 32s): New earth yet. I highly recommend it. And I have other creatives have read this book, all my recommendation and it's changed our lives as well, like severely in, in the best way. So I said, I need to write something that I can quit my job. Cause at this time I was working like 80, 90 hours a week. I was working a full-time job at a shoe store. I was in a wedding band and I was in my own band. And after work, mind you, I was assistant manager. So I've worked like even nine to six 30 or 12 to eight 30. After that, I would go to the studio about four or five times a week and record a demo. 6 (27m 18s): And like when I go to the studio, I write and record everything. Same day, you know, like within four or five hours. 4 (27m 23s): Wow. That's fast. That's really fast 6 (27m 26s): Songs. So I did this every, every week for a year and it was super duper, unhealthy, super stressful. I don't re I don't recommend anyone work to that extent. It's actually not, you know, sustainable, but I wasn't this, you know, this New York do or die mentality of, of, I gotta, I gotta do it now. I was 20, 28, 27, 28. And I'm like, I gotta do it now. This is this isn't for me. And after a year of this grueling schedule, I said, I'm going to write something. So I quit my job. So I got a hotel room near the studio, which was a two hour commute. 6 (28m 10s): And I wrote something that allowed me to quit my job. And I think it's really important to just say things and write them down your intentions and put them out there and manifest them. So I ended up writing a song called happiness, which I, which became the song of the FIFA world cup. Basically. 4 (28m 28s): That's so incredible. 6 (28m 30s): Yeah. 4 (28m 31s): The biggest thing on like literally on earth, right? I mean, shocked. I mean, football and soccer is so big outside of the United States and 6 (28m 39s): It's the biggest market in the 4 (28m 40s): World. Goodness, 6 (28m 42s): It's starting to catch on here, but it is literally yeah. The biggest sport in the world and, you know, it's, and that opened up a lot of doors. So now I started traveling for the first time in my life internationally. I've never been a year and started writing with different artists in the UK. And I realized, I, I really resonate a lot with the UK. I resonate with so much about the musicianship and the freedom you have created creatively in the UK versus the us. So, yeah, that's basically, 4 (29m 19s): Well, I want to back up for a half a second here. And if you don't mind talking a little bit about happiness, just cause I'm curious, like when the song you write the song and this obviously changed changes your life, you like, what was it like? Like you turn the song in, it gets cut. And then what is it like when you get these phone calls? Like, Hey, we're going to use like the songs are getting cut. I'm sure that was a big one. And then not only that it's going to be used in the world cup and like, what is like your, you know, what are your feelings and emotions you have going through this kind of crazy rollercoaster? 6 (29m 54s): Well, the song was a new song first single on a very new artist. So, and it was a new artist on a new label. So it was the first of the first of the first. So I'm a new writer on a new artist 4 (30m 6s): On 6 (30m 6s): A new label. 4 (30m 8s): He probably won't use nine out of 10 times. Won't become this gigantic hit, but it does. Right. 6 (30m 14s): Right. So I didn't know what to expect. You know, it was, everything was new, but Jay Z was behind it. So it was a JV with JZ and Stargate called star rock. 4 (30m 25s): Okay. 6 (30m 26s): So there was some great, great, powerful people who really believed in the song and Z personally set the song to radio. 4 (30m 33s): So, 6 (30m 35s): Yeah. And that's a crazy story. I just want to circle back to high school. So when I was in high school, I met Jay Z and street. 4 (30m 44s): You really? 6 (30m 46s): Oh, I went to school next, across the street from where all the jewelers work in the diamond district. And basically like all the, you know, successful rappers and everyone would go buy their jewels from this guy named Jacob, Jacob, the jeweler. It's like tons of hip hop records. And one day coming out of school, I see Jay Z just standing outside Jacobs. And I said, oh my God, it's Jay Z. I've got to go. I got to talk to him because he does music and I want to do music. I was so insane. So I got my backpack on I'm so nerdy. And I'm like, Mr. JZ, like I like, wow, you do music. 6 (31m 30s): I want to get into music. Can you help me? Like, do you know anyone that I could meet or, you know, I'm in, I'm in my school choir, I got an internship I'm working really hard and you know what? He was so freaking nice. This man stood outside the street and talked to me for like 10 minutes. He then gave me a real phone number of a real person at the record company to call. And, you know, I know that was a real number. This is so crazy. So I never called it because I realized I don't actually have anything to bring to the table at 16. I was like, I don't have any demos. I don't have any songs. So I never called him. 6 (32m 10s): But when I watched the Connie documentary a cup, whenever that was last month, month before. 4 (32m 16s): Yeah. The one that came out on Netflix. Yeah. 6 (32m 19s): The person's number he gave me was in the documentary. 4 (32m 23s): Wasn't really? 6 (32m 24s): Yes. So I just realized JZ gave me a real number to a real person. This guy's name was hip hop and I should have saved that piece of paper. 4 (32m 36s): I know. I was going to say, wow. Yeah. I mean, at 16 JZ is like, okay, I got this number for you. It's a guy, it's a person named hip hop. You're probably like, okay. Like, I mean, I, maybe you weren't, but to me, I'd be like, oh yeah, he's just being nice. Like, oh, 6 (32m 52s): That's his name is hip hop. Okay, sure. Yeah. And you couldn't, I couldn't, I don't know, like the internet wasn't really like past 4 (33m 3s): Fact-check what are you saying or anything, nor would you be like G Jay Z gave me this bogus number that probably let's wow. How cool to like be validated that really like, wow, that really was, 6 (33m 20s): It really was so, so late years later, you know, that 12 years later the same man, Jay Z believed in my first song, 4 (33m 30s): You have a chance to tell him that you ran into him at 12. 6 (33m 37s): I just want to be on sale though once, but 4 (33m 40s): Wow. 6 (33m 41s): And thank them for, I said, you know, your husband's believing in this record actually changed my life, but I haven't had a chance to talk to Jay Z. And I would love to tell him about, you know, to thank him for not being rude to a high school kid 4 (33m 58s): That just says so much about them. I mean, that's and the fact that he legitimately gave you a number of somebody that was there and could have, would have answered, you know, that's just crazy. 6 (34m 10s): And it also goes to show, go straight to the top. 4 (34m 14s): Yeah. Back to your original point. 6 (34m 17s): I had it and I messed up. Cause then I kept going back to about the top, but Who do you mean Jay Z? You know, like just go, go to the, go to the head boss in charge. So yeah, that was, that was really funny that I watched that Connie documentary. I, I was losing my mind when I saw him in that I said, oh my God, this all this time JZ was the truth. 4 (34m 45s): That's so crazy. That's so cool though. Oh, wow. So that, I mean, obviously opens up a bunch of doors. You get to UK, you said that that was just those, those times where you kind of fell into your own, like these are, this is what you just related, right. To the people there and songwriting there. 6 (35m 2s): Yeah. Working in the UK is just magical at, at, especially at that time, like, you know, radio is very different there. So radio plays, everything. Radio plays, drum and bass, it plays pop, hip hop, it plays spoken word. Like, you know, there, there aren't these John rhe restrictions as we have here, it's just so open. You can hear all kinds of music. So when you know that all kinds of formats are going to be played, your creativity is not limited. So I able to work with so many different types of artists and just explore, you know, which was really exciting. 6 (35m 45s): But then I'd come back to the U S and I feel like very limited, very limited, like working in LA, which feel like they only want pop 4 (35m 54s): Right now. 6 (35m 54s): And that, that for me, felt boring To stick to one thing. I love pop, but I also want to, you know, do other stuff. 4 (36m 4s): So when you came back to the states and worked in LA, would you just write pop and then kind of get your fix for everything else when you went back to the UK? Okay. 6 (36m 11s): I I'd write plop and then I'd play my sessions, music. I learned from the UK. I play artists that I was excited about, like dubstep artists and, you know, artists using like jazz chords with dubstep beats and just mixing of genres and stuff. And people's mind will be blown. They'd be like, whoa, I've never heard anything like this. And I'm like, trust me, there's some incredible stuff happening, you know, it's just not going to be on the radio here, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't work on it. It's incredible. 4 (36m 43s): No, totally, totally. Wow. Well, I don't want to jump ahead too much, but like obviously you did the X factor here in the U S is that a coach? And you're on, America's got talent also. And you did the TV thing where you always just, were you writing as well as kind of working on these, these shows? 6 (37m 3s): Oh yes. I was. I never stopped writing. I was writing less because the shows aren't incredibly demanding maybe right. Half a year, as opposed to a full year, but yeah, I never stopped writing. And then one of our winners, grace Vanderwaal, we ended up creating an EAP together. So I was able to combine the writing and coaching 4 (37m 29s): Was coaching. Was coaching something that you had done prior to the show or was that kind of a new territory for you? 6 (37m 38s): Coaching on that level was a hundred percent new. I mean, when you're in the studio with an artist, you coach them a bit, you know, you're like sing it this way and you, you did all the vocals and you're, you know, you, you kind of do a lot of coaching just naturally. That's part of the job. But my first day on the X factor, I was put in a room in Miami, in Miami five degree heat for the 120 singers, 120 singers and a full camera crew. That was my first day. 4 (38m 7s): Wow. That would have been so overwhelming. I'm sure. 6 (38m 10s): Are you kidding me? And, and I was still okay, coach, But there was no, no like methane, no, no, no, no clay nothing. So, so a little Eddie was there that day. So he took half that's a calf and we went into separate rooms. So he had 60 about around there at 60 and they gave us each a musician. So I had a guitar player I think, and he had a keyboard, that's it? And then we had six, you know, we had to create some content for TV show with people we never met during a job we've never done. 6 (38m 50s): And, and you know, like putting you in a room with six, like this, this being a vocal coach, and then there's that like, that's something else. 4 (38m 57s): Yeah. You can't really spend a whole lot of time with each person. What do you just say? What can you sing? Sing me something. And then the guitar player will try to fumble around and figure out whatever song they're gonna kind of show you, and then you can quickly help them. Like how would, what did you even handle that? 6 (39m 16s): Believe it or not that choir I told you about, I was 16. I used a lot of those exercises. 4 (39m 24s): Oh, that's brilliant. 6 (39m 26s): So I pulled from a lot of that and I, I just use my musician as a musician. So I'm like, you know, let's just do the scale, let's do the scale. And I remembered everything I ever learned in choir. So we had incredible exercises, different tongue twisters, different scales, all kinds of stuff. So I did that with the group and then we, and then we had individuals singing and then, you know, just ask them, like, what's the song about what does it mean to you? Why do you want to be at on the X factor? What would winning mean to you? And then just because of the, the, the, just because of what the nature of the show, you would usually get an emotional response, you know? 6 (40m 8s): And, and then that, and then you just carry on from there. So I figured it out, But I wouldn't do it again. 4 (40m 17s): Okay. And when you kind of wrapped up that world is just back to continuing what you did before. I mean, as far as just writing for people and songwriting. 6 (40m 28s): Yeah, I did it for six years. I did a X-Factor then AGC five and I'm on my last year of AGC. I knew that this was going to be my last year. You know, you just feel it coming to an end then, like you're not growing anymore. So that's when I started DJ school 4 (40m 49s): And I was 6 (40m 49s): Planning my next move. So I left and Yeah, started deejaying and getting into production and stuff and really just opening my mind. Cause at that time, like I, I felt like I was a bit, I was missing something with music. I wasn't, I didn't, I didn't have that spark in me. I felt a bit depleted, you know, just drained and it's, you know, just overworked. So I needed to find life again and find inspiration again and find something to spark me again. And deejaying did that. Like I started loving music, again, loving hip hop, loving all kinds of genres, just loving music, loving, listening to it. 6 (41m 36s): And then that ended up transferring into loving, creating it In a different way than I ever had. And then I became more creative and more confident than ever. And I actually started writing a lot acapella after 4 (41m 52s): That. 6 (41m 53s): Yes. I ran a lot at Capella a lot and 4 (41m 57s): Seeing the piece and the lyrics and send it, send it out to people and just say, Hey, this is like, from like that acapella piece, is that what you present to an artist or somebody in a song writing code? Right in the question 6 (42m 11s): I recorded on my phone or, or if I have time about our recording and logic, you know, with a click, with a click track and everything. And now I have a, I have a production partner cause though, so we, yeah. Just bring it to the studio. I'm like, bro, I got an idea and he's used to it now. Like he's like, okay. Some ideas are like crazy. Like I was one song. I switched four keys 4 (42m 35s): In six. So 6 (42m 36s): Yeah, it's crazy in the, just in the verse, 4 (42m 40s): In the verse alone, four different keys. Yeah. But that's different key per line almost 6 (42m 46s): Pretty much. 4 (42m 47s): Oh wow. 6 (42m 48s): But, but you don't really notice it in the melody. So I just, I just feel, I love the freedom of just being creative and just, just kind of like receiving whatever comes to you and just letting it out, you know, without overthinking it, just like, oh, this feels so good. So yeah, I write very differently than I did, you know, 10 years ago I write very, very free now. And, and, and a lot of it works as opposed to in the past when I was, you know, more doing, I feel like more of the chasing energy, a lot of the songs didn't work and now a lot, a lot of it happens, you know, like comes out. 4 (43m 31s): Sure. And then you score a Grammy and album of the year. And like, I want to talk to you about that and like working you. So you work with John <inaudible> like, is that a relationship that started pre pandemic? Cause I know you started this amazing organization that I want to get to real quick as well. But when do you start working with him on, on we are, which obviously you, you won a Grammy for on Sunday. 6 (43m 57s): So we started working together in 2019 4 (44m 3s): Pre pandemic. Is that when the record cause you what? Like five yeah. With him on the record. 6 (44m 9s): Well actually, maybe it started 2018. So the first song was a song called sing on the album. That was that I wrote that song. That was another acapella vibe. So I had that, it was a session with these guys called king garbage. And I just, I had an Uber ride on the way there. And the Uber said, the drivers said when I'm, when I'm really sad, I just like to, I have to sing and it makes me feel better. And I was like, wow. So I got to the studio and 4 (44m 38s): I want a deep conversation with Uber drivers to just drop on you. 6 (44m 42s): I know I can. I guess man, that's, that's a whole nother podcast. The deep conversations I've had with strangers. But yeah. So I, that just like really hit me when he said that. And I guess the studio, by the way, it was a last minute session I got called, like at six o'clock to come there at nine. It was so random. I never heard of these guys didn't know them. I get there. I'm not in the greatest mood. I'm kind of tired, frustrated with a lot of things and I wasn't feeling any tracks, nothing. And I said, I'm just gonna, I'm just going to say something in the room and then just like, follow me. If you can mind you. I had, I have never done that in a session. 6 (45m 24s): Never in my life, never like met in a pop session when my band, I would have done that years ago, but in the pop session now, and I just literally started singing the songs, sing, it just came out. It was like a spirit, like an outer body experience though. Like it just came out and I was leaving like, like it's coming down to your mouth. And you're like, I don't know what's happening. It's like the scene of like beetle juice. Like, you know, when they're just all at the table. So afterwards, like I was like, well, that was weird. Well, I don't know. Maybe the song sets, whatever it was to me, it was so weird. And so they, you know, they put some chords to it. 6 (46m 5s): I forgot about it. Months later, months, months, months later, I get a demo back with a guy singing the song with full-on production. Like this whole new Orleans. Incredible. I mean, I never heard anything like in my life, never. And I said, who is this? I asked him, this is the best song I've ever been a part of. I dunno who this is. This is the best song I've ever been part of. And whoever, whoever singing the song is my musical muse. And I need to know him. I need to find him who is this? And they were like, it's John Betsy's as a who's that I didn't know him. I didn't know him. 6 (46m 45s): So I said, I just had his name and I'm like, okay, I gotta find this guy. It took me months to track him down months and months and months, then I started messaging him on social media. He doesn't read, he doesn't see my messages. Finally, I fly to New York for 36 hours to surprise my mom for mother's day. The second I land, he sees my DM is I'm not making this up. This is crazy. Second I land. I get a DM. Hey, it's John. I just saw your message is crazy. Cause the last time I checked them, it was Madonna. And now it's you. I was like, wow, okay. I'm just here for a quick minute, but I got to meet you man. 6 (47m 26s): Like a hundred percent. I got to know you. So the next day I book my mom's lunch right next to Cole beer. So I said, mom, I got to just meet somebody really quick. I took her with her friends so that, you know, they had company just got to meet someone across the street. I'll be right back. I ran to meet John and the day I meet him, Mike, I don't know him. The dad meet him. He's dressed in the full prince costume Because they're doing a prince tribute. He's got makeup awake. He's already tall and thin. You got heels on This whole prince outfit. And this is my first impression. 6 (48m 6s): So I'm like, wow, like he's wow. You know? Wow. I said, wow, like, yeah man, I'm with it. You know, honestly like with that, what I heard on that demo, which is, which is exactly what, what it sounds like on. We are what I heard that man could have wore an egg costume and I would have been in it. I was like dope in, I don't, I don't care about any of it. I'm just so excited about this talent. So we play each other music that we liked. He played music he'd worked on. It was, everything was just incredible. We had so many similar influences and basically we just, then we started texting like about, okay, who are we going to work with? 6 (48m 52s): Like getting ideas of sessions and stuff. All that went out the window. A couple months later, I get a call from a black member on the Sunday, Sunday evening, Hey, I'm in town. Let's get to work. I'm like, who is, this is John, John Betty's. I was like, bro, it's like Sunday night. I was like, you know, I can't get any of these producers you wanted by Monday, this takes me months to book these guys. Like these are all huge producers. So luckily I was sitting right next to my now production partner, kids out. And we were already writing together loads and I play kids I'll sing. 6 (49m 34s): And I'm like, man, I got this artist and time. He's so incredible. Do you do this kind of music? And he was like, well, let's try it. John comes over. We spend maybe two to three days together. Second day we wrote freedom. 4 (49m 54s): Whoa. And that was also a record of the year. Nominated for, 6 (49m 59s): That was the second song we wrote together. Yeah. We were supposed to go to a barbecue that day. It was 4th of July. I think we supposed to go to barbecue and yeah, we did it. We said, you know what? Let's not go. Okay. And we didn't go. And 4 (50m 21s): So for the July 1st, 2019, yeah. Okay. Yeah. 6 (50m 27s): We didn't go and glad we didn't go because Look what happened. So we then, cause when I would like, you know, we, this guy is really good. We don't know if he has a record deal. We don't know if he has a manager. We don't any of this stuff. We just really like making music it. So we're like, let's just go to New York and make songs with him. I'm like, yeah, let's just do it. So we book our own hotels, flights, everything, go to New York for like a bunch of days. And we just make a studio in his dressing room at Corvair and we make, we start writing the bed of we are, we write, we are right. 6 (51m 11s): I need you show me the way. 4 (51m 14s): So he, it was working on the show, I guess. I don't know his backstory when it comes to the Kobe thing. 6 (51m 19s): Yeah. He's the house fans. 4 (51m 21s): Oh, okay. Okay. That makes sense now. 6 (51m 24s): Yeah. He's the house band and you know, it's a job. So in between tapes where we're just coming up with some ideas. So that's basically like how, you know, John, John is the thing is John has wanted to make this album way before he met us. But it kind of like sparked it all when we met, you know what I mean? Like He, it was, everything was already in him. It just needed like, I don't know it was already there. Cause it the way that this all flows so quickly, we really wrote most of the album in, in like technically a week. 6 (52m 9s): Yeah, Yeah. Mind you the production and all that. After a really long time, like choirs and all the instrumentation and this took a really long time, but the actual song writing up it didn't. 4 (52m 27s): Wow. And then, so the pen and then after the, the bulk of that's done right, the pandemic hits and then it's okay now everyone's kind of sitting on their hands waiting to see what's going to go on and you decide to start this amazing fund. That's going to help people and songwriters that are in these positions. I don't have, you know, the, the income that isn't, it's not coming in anymore. Right. 6 (52m 56s): It's not coming in anymore. COVID was devastating for songwriters, you know, because like we only make money from radio and from sinks really. Right. You know, there's no money in streaming for us. 4 (53m 12s): No one's making movies, making television shows to get your songs sinks in and the radio. I mean, how many people weren't like actively driving around? Not a lot. I mean, it was just a whole crazy world. 6 (53m 26s): It's crazy. Like people don't realize this and as TV production stopped, that meant, you know, we weren't getting the big commercials. We weren't getting the Netflix thing. So we weren't getting all these sinks that we need to make a living. We're gone. I'm, you know, very early on in the pandemic, I saw my friends were already struggling. Like my friends that were musicians, you know, that were gigging. So I started just raising money for my friends and on a very small level and giving it to them. And at the same time, Sona songwriters in north America received money from John Platt at Sony to help songwriters. So he gave, I think it was like $125,000 or something like that to Sona and I, and they needed someone to help run that organization. 6 (54m 14s): So I'm like, well, I'm kind of doing that on a very small scale. So why don't I just join you guys and do it better, bigger, you know? And that's basically what we did. And we started raising more and more money and just giving it to songwriters. So we gave out over $500,000 in grants 4 (54m 35s): Since 6 (54m 35s): The letters to COVID. Yeah. And now Thank you. And the fund is, is still here, but we're working on transitioning it to a mental health. 4 (54m 49s): Well, 6 (54m 50s): Yeah. So we want to give mental health grants and help to songwriters. Next. 4 (54m 55s): That is amazing. That is so amazing. I love the logo that they came up with through, or I dunno if he had a part in that with the it's like two earbuds that make a heart, did you really, 6 (55m 4s): I made the logo. That's 4 (55m 6s): Such a rad logo. Really. I thought I had to be done by like a S you know, full on graphic designer, but wow. You have a career in that as well. Not only songwriting. And you know, 6 (55m 22s): I went to one of those websites where you can like use some templates and move things around. 4 (55m 29s): That's so creative. I love it. Yeah. I think that's so awesome. And I mean, everything you're doing is amazing and so much, you know, congratulations times a million on the Grammy and just being a whole part of that. I'm sure that I had just had to be again, another overwhelming out of body experience to just, 6 (55m 50s): It's still really, really overwhelming it really, when we made the album, we said it in the dressing room, we said, we're going to get a Grammy for this. 4 (55m 60s): Wow. 6 (56m 0s): But saying it and it happening. 4 (56m 4s): It's the secret comes back to when you were six years old, I'm telling you you're probably a number 11 on the numerology chart. 6 (56m 13s): No, but it actually happening. There's nothing to prepare you for that. Even if you believe as much as you can believe you still can't prepare for it. And it's a historic when John is the first black artist to win album of the year in 14 years. 4 (56m 29s): Wow. I didn't know that that is massive. 6 (56m 32s): And I'm the first, I'm the eighth woman to win album of the year as a producer. 4 (56m 40s): Wow. 6 (56m 41s): The eighth woman in history. 4 (56m 43s): And what is the 60, 60, 60 fourth year of it. I mean, 6 (56m 50s): And I, and I, out of that eighth, I'm the fourth as a non-artist I'll be album. 4 (56m 55s): Wow. That's so huge. Congratulations. Again, times like a million for everything you're doing. And when you get that, like I said, when you get the actual Grammy and whenever it shows up, like out, it'd be walking around with that thing, 6 (57m 13s): I'm going to sleep with it. 4 (57m 15s): I would or lock it in like some super thick glass case. But knowing that nothing would ever happen to 6 (57m 22s): Yeah. For sure. 4 (57m 23s): What a validating moment for you. I'm sure 6 (57m 27s): It is. You know, I, I didn't think we were going to winter Zen cause you know, I, it was a, it was man. It was a long day. It was a really hard day. Sunday. I I've lost like five pounds for me, weekends. 4 (57m 40s): I just stress. 6 (57m 43s): I'm not saying I'm not joking. I actually have, I looked in the mirror and I was like, whoa, you, you look different than when you left Thursday. So I weighed myself and I'm like, oh my God, because there just was no time to eat. You're walking through this casinos is hot, You know, it's just like, it was nonstop. So Sunday was a grueling day, beautiful day. But really long red carpet was two hours in the sun in Vegas, hot sun. 4 (58m 10s): Oh man. And just constantly smiling and pictures and no, my, I can't even imagine 6 (58m 17s): Wedding. Like I was sweating under my gal. I felt my gout like wet. 4 (58m 22s): Oh wow. 6 (58m 23s): And I'm like, I think I'm like not well. So by the time now, by the time they are category came up, it's now been like 12 hours since I was been getting ready for this day. 4 (58m 39s): Right. That's the last one they do. I bet. Right. 6 (58m 42s): Last the word of the night. And I was like, you know, we ain't got it. We, you know, we didn't get it. It's okay. I'm happy. We're nominated. And then when he said we Lenny Kravitz, we are, I was like, what's what what's happening? Like, no, I started crying. 4 (59m 4s): Oh 6 (59m 4s): Yeah. I posted my reaction to my own Instagram because my husband recorded me crying. You recorded the whole thing and I made a little like, montage about it, but 4 (59m 15s): Oh, okay. I saw the video posts pop up and I didn't click on it yet, but I'm going to write here in a second. 6 (59m 21s): It's a, 4 (59m 22s): Where all my friends 6 (59m 24s): Have been crying, but, you know, I just didn't expect it. And at that point it was just such a long day. And like, you know, but wow, it's, it means so much because album of the years, you know, it's a body of work and it's it. That's what it was like for songwriters. We're not encouraged to make albums. We're encouraged to make singles encouraged to make things that stream well, but I have been preaching and preaching. I feel like to myself really only because I don't know if anyone listens, but about no, let's make albums. Let's make bodies of work. If we make it people, people will listen. 6 (1h 0m 6s): But if we're not even giving them the option, you know, we gotta, we gotta still stay true to the arts. And I'm just so happy at work. Thank you, God, people are like, how do you feel? I said, not crazy because I feel like I've been looking crazy for Vasco for years talking about all this stuff. And I'm like, gosh, birth to actually happen. I finally don't feel crazy anymore. Thank you. 4 (1h 0m 36s): I mean, I have five, I mean, helping them pretty much write the whole record five songs on the album and then it wins out of the year. And the second song you guys write is also up for record of the year and that just speaks to the album and the talent behind it. It's so incredible. 6 (1h 0m 55s): He's the greatest. He really is. I got to say, like, I prayed for an artist with a message for a long time. I really did. I worked with a lot of artists, a lot of artists, and I just always wanted someone to just really say some stuff that I think the world needed to hear. And I couldn't find that artist. And then I met John. So I'm just really grateful. 4 (1h 1m 20s): Amazing, amazing. Again, so many congratulations. And thank you so much, especially, you know, three days after you win album of the year, you're chatting with me. Like I can't be more blessed. I appreciate you doing this and thank you so much, autumn for taking time today and 6 (1h 1m 38s): Thank you for having me. Thank you so much. I'm really glad that you're doing something that's, you know, cover songwriters. So thank you. 4 (1h 1m 45s): Of course. I have one more quick question before I let you go. I want to know if you have any advice for aspiring songwriters. 6 (1h 1m 53s): Definitely! If they're aspiring songwriters, from what I say like right from right from your truth, right. From reality, right? From something that you know about, figure out kind of like, don't forget why you're making music and what you, what's your goal. You know, like I think it's good to have a goal. Like is your goal to make pop music is your goal to what, what is success to, you know, my, my, my idea of success is to make music. I love every day, you know? But some people I know some really successful people, that's not their goal. Their goal is to have big hits. And some of those people are really unhappy with some of the biggest hits in the world.