Kevin Rudolf Talks "Don't Give Up", Favorite Rock Bands, and More
Mon, 04 Jun 2012 07:47:21
Kevin Rudolf opens up more than ever on "Don't Give Up".
His latest single is inspirational, invigorating, and infectious pop rock illuminating just how phenomenal of a songwriter he really is. With a shimmering acoustic guitar, hand claps, and an impressive solo, Rudolf tells a story of staying the course against all odds. It's an important message for this day and age, and it's also one of the best songs you'll hear this year.
In this exclusive interview with ARTISTdirect.com editor in chief Rick Florino, Kevin Rudolf talks "Don't Give Up", what's in store for his new record, and so much more.
What's the story behind "Don't Give Up"?
It's more organic. It's more guitar-driven. I want to show people my range as an artist on this album. I think there are two categories bands and artists get put into in this day and age. One is club and big radio records. Then, there's an album we're going to buy like Gotye, Fun., or Foster the People. I wanted to show people I make real music, and I take making an album very seriously. I have something to say, and I wanted to say it with this first single.
Where did the lyrics come from?
It just came through me. The song really wrote itself. I left Los Angeles, and I was coming to New York. I was working on writing and producing for so many other artists while I was out in L.A. I was so busy, and I was living in that other world. I felt like I needed to get back to my own music. I had to make another album. When I wasn't sure where I was going direction-wise, this was the first song I wrote. I told Ronald "Slim" Williams and Bryan "Birdman" Williams—a.k.a. "Baby"—"I really feel I have a serious record here." I played it for them, and they loved it. We decided to put it out right away. To me, it's a little bit U2 or Oasis in terms of vibe and feel. I can't even tell you where I'm coming from. I'm saying what I think people need to hear right now, which is what I needed to hear when I wrote it. It's very real, and it's got a life of its own.
It's just you too.
People associate what I do with having features. I never asked Lil Wayne, Nas, or Rick Ross. Those features just happened. Rivers Cuomo was in my studio, and we were working on something for Weezer. I said, "Do you want to jump on this song?" They were all accidents. They happened organically. I never tried to make an album and throw a bunch of features on it. I'm never going to force a feature onto a song. I want to make an album that shows what I'm capable of.
Is it important for you to tell stories with the songs?
Every song on this album is telling a story of its own. My message with "Don't Give Up" is if you believe things will happen don't let anyone tell you they won't. Don't let anybody affect your ambition.
Do you approach albums with one vibe in mind?
In the beginning, it's like sketching. You're throwing down little ideas and brainstorming, and you're seeing what's coming out of you, what feels good, what you want to move forward with, and what you want to eliminate. I used to draw a little bit. I'd let my hand go in any direction I wanted to and start drawing. Then, there would be a sailboat or a house. It's similar with music for me. I'll start playing some parts, sounds, and chords. I'll vibe over that, make lyrics, and see what comes out. If I start to see a theme or a thread form, then I'll follow that because I feel like that's the right direction and where my subconscious mind is telling me to go.
What rock bands do you always come back to?
I'd say Led Zeppelin, The Who, and Van Halen. I come back to "Jump", "Panama", "Dance the Night Away", and "Hot For Teacher". As far as the rock stuff goes, Guns N' Roses were huge for me. I always leaned way more towards Guns N' Roses than Nirvana. I love great guitar players. That was a big part of it for me. A lot of it was the actual guitar and learning how to master the instrument. In the rock world, those are the bands that really influenced me.
Is it easy to find places where genres merge?
It is. What I feel is the secret are the drums. Everything works in context in both areas—rock and hip hop—except for the drums. What's one thing that really defines actual hip hop tracks? The drums. If you use hip hop drums, you have to do this in a very clever way to fuse the genres. You can use rock sensibilities and rock riffs. You can take what works about that. If you have hip hop drums and do it right, that's what creates the fusion. You have to do it well. That's how you make it work though. It's about taking rock attitude vocally, hip hop drums, synths, and guitars and softening the edges of everything in a sense. You bring it together. That's how I do it.
What's your favorite guitar?
The only guitar I play is a Gibson Les Paul. I have a Telecaster. I have two acoustic guitars. I don't have a guitar collection. I don't collect. I don't have any other options but the Les Paul. First of all, it sounds fatter than any other guitar. We're not playing with amplifiers. We're using plugins on these records like Amp Farm or Guitar Rig. I love the way the Les Paul plays and the way it feels on stage. To me, that's rock 'n' roll.
What are you listening to?
Gotye's "Somebody That I Used to Know" is one of the best song's I've heard in a long time. It's genuine and sounds incredible. It's inspiring people are open to different things. If you can write a song, you can be in the game. It is a singles market, and it's about the best song. I like that.
Where does the record go?
It's more left-of-center vibe-wise. I don't have a concept for it. What I have so far continues where "Don't Give Up" will leave off which is empowering. One of my favorite bands has always been U2. I love inspirational music that makes you feel incredible.
Rock music is in a weird place right now.
There's not a lot of rock on the radio unfortunately. I miss hearing live drums on the radio.
Have you heard "Don't Give Up" yet?
Watch the video below!