Interview: Davion Farris Discusses The Woodworks Writing Team, New Mixtape, Working With Bryan-Michael Cox & The song “Echo” by Usher
YouKnowIGotSoul had a chance to talk with Davion Farris of the writing team The Woodworks, which consists of family members D Smoke, Sir Darryl, T-Gooch and of course, Davion. He has worked with the likes of Bryan-Michael Cox, Usher and Ginuwine and shows no signs of slowing down. In this interview, Davion gives us a perspective on what it’s like writing with family members and explains why “Echo”, which is a fan favorite, did not end up making Usher’s “Here I Stand” album.
YouKnowIGotSoul: I had a chance to interview Kendrick Dean a couple months ago and he told me that the Woodworks was comprised of family members, so how did you guys all decide to do music together?
Davion Farris: It started way back when we were kids. Our parents all are in music one way or another. My mom being a ministry lead of the church and my Uncle is a musical director. He’s played for anyone you can name pretty much. We were brought up in it and once we reached the aging maturity, we already kind of knew what we wanted to do.
YKIGS: You guys are a group of writers, so what is the writing process is like?
DF: It depends. Sometimes we might go in and somebody might already have an idea. A lot of times we go into tracks that were either produced by T-Gooch, D Smoke or one of our other affiliate producers. We kind of brainstorm and then start out with the concept, then lyrics and melodies start to fall along. Sometimes we might start out with a complete idea. One person might come with a complete idea with a hook and a verse, and then whoever else would like to work with it would go on it and come up with the best material that they can.
YKIGS: A lot of songwriters don’t like co-writing. How are you guys able to work so well together?
DF: Part of it is that we’re family. When we were coming up in the industry, it always started as a team. That’s something that was always preached to us. Just sticking together and working as a team. So when it comes to the writing thing, already being family and growing up that way, it wasn’t really hard.
YKIGS: How did you guys come up with name “The Woodworks”?
DF: Well we’re from Inglewood, California. It kind of spawned from that. It’s pretty much straight forward. *Laughs*
YKIGS: What can people expect on the mixtape you guys have out “The Catalogue”?
DF: They can expect good music. That’s the general view that we keep on giving. They can expect nice, hard hitting hip-hop. They can expect the smooth R&B if that’s more of their style and everything in between. What they can expect from a family of musicians is that they’re going to get some genuine music and not the poppy, trendy stuff.
YKIGS: How do you balance between poppy, trending stuff and music that’s real to you guys?
DF: First off, we don’t try to listen to listen to very much radio, if any at all really. We stay self-contained. We know what kind of music we like. We know what inspires us. I know for me specifically, a lot of Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Donny Hathaway. I know everybody says those and of course Michael Jackson. Those are my biggest influences growing up and still to this day. We decided to reach further back than what’s going on right now.
YKIGS: A producer I know you guys have worked with extensively is Bryan-Michael Cox. What has that experience been like and how did you guys link up?
DF: First off, it has been awesome. Bryan is a real humble dude. To be as blessed as he’s been in the industry and the success, he’s still a down to earth kind of guy. He’s a mentor so to speak. I know I’ve picked up a certain amount of things as far as work ethic, and what it takes to really keep yourself going in this game. The relationship started because we were working at the time with Shani Gonzales. She hooked it up. She is now at Def Jam, but she was formerly at Atlantic Records which is under Warner Music Group. We’re signed to Warner/Chappell which is where Bryan is signed to as well. We did some good work for the first time. We did stuff that would have been on Usher’s had it not gotten leaked. Since then, we got the Ginuwine placement. We just talked with him to work on Keyshia Cole and Trey Songz. Hopefully both of those go.
YKIGS: I wanted to ask you about the songs you mentioned. The first one is “Echo” by Usher. Take me through the creation of that song.
DF: I remember my brother actually coming to me with an idea that he and our other writing partners Moses had started working on. I loved it. Bryan sent the track over. He sent out a few tracks, like a short playlist and that was one of the tracks that stood out. As soon as my brother came to me with the idea, it was a no-brainer to just finish it and we started recording it. The only part that sucks is that the first time I got to hear Usher’s version is when it leaked. *Laughs* It was still a cool opportunity. It helped us keep our buzz up as far as the industry was concerned, which gives you more opportunities to work and make connections.
YKIGS: Talk about the song you did with Ginuwine.
DF: The “Frozen” record. We were actually flown to St. Louis by Warner/Chappelle to work with Bryan. He called us and set up the trip. That was the third record we had done in three nights. That was one of the nights where we were in the studio just recording until six in the morning. My brother Smoke came up with the chant (“Frozen Over”) which became the main line In the song. That was kind of history.
YKIGS: The last song I want to ask you about is Jahiem’s “Never” which was one of your major placements.
DF: That was another one that came in big from my brother Smoke. He came to us. He already had half of the song written and had the track produced. I was just fortunate enough to get on and write the bridge and help arrange the record. That one really took off for us. That was our first moderate success in the industry, so we’re just hoping to go from there.
YKIGS: Who else are you currently working with?
DF: I’m working with a new cat named Julius Holiday. He’s from St. Louis. He’s a young cat, he’s kind of dope. We got a couple records with him. We’re working on some stuff with Brandy, and Trey Songz of course. There’s also T-gooch out of our camp. She’s a young producer. She had some stuff on Missy Elliott. She has a song called “Hip-Hop Don’t Die” which has already been locked in. They already pulled that one. We’ve been working. Just continuing to go and push forward.
YKIGS: If you had a chance to work with someone, who would it be?
DF: There are a bunch of people, but I’d say Jhene Aiko. She’s a new artist, but she’s really dope. I like her stuff. It’s not that trendy, poppy stuff but it’s young and fresh. She can really sing, so that’s somebody I’d definitely like to work with.
YKIGS: I read in your bio that you guys have a really strong musical background. Do you think having that gives you an advantage over a writer who doesn’t?
DF: Yeah, it speeds up the writing process. It helps you the flush out the bad ideas more quickly. Everybody comes up with them no matter who you are. The quicker you can get past them and start getting to the good stuff, the better your work will be there.