Interview: Kevin Rudolf — "I try to do everything"
Wed, 21 Jul 2010 10:09:23
Kevin Rudolf is as dangerous behind the board as he is behind the mic.
In between churning out massive anthems like his most recent hit single "I Made It," he's been spending a ton of time in the studio with pop, hip hop and rock 'n' roll's brightest stars. Recently, he's offered up his unique production talents to Jesse McCartney, Selena Gomez, Fefe Dobson and Hollywood Undead to name a few. He's been hunkered down in the studio, pulling out incredible performances and bringing these artists to the next level like only he can.
Kevin Rudolf sat down with ARTISTdirect.com editor and Dolor author Rick Florino for an exclusive interview about his production style, why his new album To the Sky is like Back to the Future and so much more…
Do you feel like you add a distinct edge to the pop artists that you've been producing?
What I'm really adding isn't just edge. It's a certain sensibility that comes from working on a lot of hip hop records—Cash Money and Timbaland—and my whole history. I feel like I can add a real musicality and hook sensibility that ties it all together. The Selena Gomez record that I produced, "Round and Round," just came out. We've got another version featuring Jason Derulo too. It's really cool!
Is there a certain story behind "Round and Round?"
It's actually a song I was writing with Fefe Dobson. We played it for LA Reid [Def Jam CEO]. He thought it was great but it was too dance-y for Fefe, so we gave it to Selena and she loved it. She cut the vocals in Budapest and sent them back. I like Fefe a lot! She's a good writer, and she's got a great voice. I also produced Fefe's single "Ghost." We had the song sitting around, and I thought it might work for Rihanna at one point because it was a lot dancier. It wasn't as rock 'n' roll as it is now. We played it for Fefe and she loved it though. We added some rock drums and guitars, and it worked for her.
You have to play it live together.
We'll do it! When she has a show in L.A., I'll definitely jump up there [Laughs].
How has your experience been with Jesse McCartney?
I've spent a lot of time with Jesse. We've done two records together so far. One of them is a huge summer anthem. He's having a lot of fun on it—kind of making himself. It's really cool to see him do that. He's a really fun dude, and he gets to show that side of himself on this record. We did one more record, which is big global beautiful song. I'm excited about both of those.
Then you're able to hop in the studio with Hollywood Undead…
You guys are such a perfect fit.
Yeah, because they're rappers, and they're rock…They're looking to branch out and do something different too. They want to grow and change and keep evolving, which is cool. I'm really versatile; I like to work on everything from Leona Lewis and Lifehouse to Hollywood Undead to hip hop to straight rock. I try to do everything.
What instantly resonated with you about Hollywood Undead?
It was just awesome because they have this huge fan base and they've got a really crazy cult following. They have a story behind them and their own mythology, which I love. No one really has that anymore. Musically, they gave me free reign to do whatever I wanted to do. The combination of those things made it really exciting for me.
Is producing similar to being a movie director? You're pulling in all of these pieces to make one cohesive body of work.
It's like being the director, the producer, sometimes the actor and other times the writer. It's all of those things. In this day and age, at least in the pop, hip hop world, the producer is often playing all of the instruments and co-writing the song. It's definitely like wearing three hats. You're a business person, a writer, a visionary for the record and a player. Many times, I play all of the instruments, write the song and the singer just cuts it.
How do you pull performances out of artists? Do you have certain techniques to get the best takes?
Yeah, I do. I usually let the artist run the song a couple times, and I find out what's working and what's not. Sometimes, they need to get more comfortable, other times they need to step up the energy. Or maybe they're trying too hard and they need to relax. It depends. It's an individual process each time with the singer. I just try to find their sweet spots vocally and also where they are as far as getting the right energy out of them. We work on each part individually or we get full takes depending on the song and just pull it together from there. There's no right or wrong way. You have to be in the moment and make it work for that singer.
What's up with "You Make the Rain Fall?"
Honestly, "I Made It" came out, and I was like, "I've got an album together because this record is going up the charts." I had some ideas, and "You Make the Rain Fall" was one of them. It just had the hook. I built the song around that.
If To the Sky were a movie what would it be?
Back to the Future [Laughs]! It's got a little something from the past, a little something from the present and a little something from the future all in one [Laughs].
You and Rivers Cuomo should cut a whole album together. You sound great alongside each other.
That'd be sick. I'd love to do that! Everyone says we sound the same on that record. It's so weird! I was a fan. Being in the room writing with Rivers was so much fun! I really enjoyed it. I was like, "I've got this song on my album. Do you want to jump on it?" He said, "Sure, I'll do it right now." That was it!
Who should Kevin produce next?