Interview: Producer Blac Elvis Delivers Hits Whether It’s Studio Sessions Or Skype Sessions
Blac Elvis splashed into the music scene in 2006 and created the Prince-influenced track we now know today as “Promise” by Ciara. The success did not stop there for the producer who frequently collaborates with Polow da Don. Elvis continued his success co-producing hits for Mario (“Crying out For Me”), Fergie (“Glamorous”) and Usher (“Lil Freak”). However, the song that solidified him as a producer is “Ego” by Beyonce which has enabled him along with hit songwriter Harold Lilly to launch their label Spin Music Group. YouKnowIGotSoul had a chance to speak with Elvis about his new label, his plans for 2012 and some of his his most memorable collaborations.
YouKnowIGotSoul: I know you’ve done a lot of work with Polow Da Don throughout the years. How did you originally link up with him?
Blac Elvis: This was back in 2003. One of the engineers invited me to the studio because Polow needed a keyboard player. I went out there, played the keys for him on a couple beats for him and the next day I was in LA.
YouKnowIGotSoul: One of the first songs you did with him is “Promise” by Ciara. How was that song created?
Blac Elvis: “Promise” was created at like 7 o’clock in the morning. Everybody was sleepy and we were about to leave the studio. We were in LA. I had these chords and I woke Polow up like “Yo you got to listen to this man.” He heard it and he started putting some drums to it and then I started doing the lead line. Two hours later we were on the phone with Ciara. We had no words or nothing, but we were like “We have your first single.” Mind you this was just a beat, but we knew we had the first single. We called it that morning.
YouKnowIGotSoul: A lot of people have said that the song reminds them of Prince. For me it reminds me of Jodeci. What was the approach for that track?
Blac Elvis: It definitely had a Jodeci feel, but then we took it back even further with Roger Troutman with the vocoder. We wanted that Prince feel, that whole Roger Troutman thing. We wanted a fuse between the two. I’m a super old school head, so I do a lot of talk-music and blues. A lot of my influences come from that.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Not too long ago, you and Harold Lilly came together to form a production team. How did you guys originally link up and what made you guys decide to work together?
Blac Elvis: We met once in LA at a studio. I was working on Brandy and he came in. We met, we didn’t really work then, but we exchanged phone numbers. I flew back to Atlanta and we decided to work. That week when we worked, out of the that batch of records we did, we got like two placements. Every time we worked together, we would get placements and sell records. We were like “This is crazy!” After working together for about 6 months to a year, we did “Ego”. That was history. We were like “We need to do this full-time” and that’s when we started Spin Music Group.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Of course you won a Grammy for working on “Ego”. Take me back to that moment when you found out you won a Grammy.
Blac Elvis: I actually didn’t know. People were calling me like “Congratulations on your nomination” and I was like “Nominated for what?” They were like “You’re nominated for Beyonce” and I didn’t even know. Of course I didn’t know we were going to win so when we won, I was like ecstatic then. Everybody was calling and it was just overwhelming. I was really thankful and appreciative.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Take me through the creative process with yourself and Harold in the studio.
Blac Elvis: Honestly, I sit at the piano and he sits down beside me and we just start from scratch. It’s me playing some chords and ideas. That’s pretty much it. He’s humming melodies. We do it old school. I sit down at the piano and create. He’ll just sit down and write with the microphone in the room. We’ll just be humming ideas and eventually it’ll hit us.
YouKnowIGotSoul: You’ve won a Grammy award and you’ve been in the industry for a while now, are you more selective of the artists you want to work with or are you open to everyone?
Blac Elvis: I’m trying to keep an open mind because there’s a lot of new artists and a lot of different talents coming throughout. I try to keep an open mind and music has to evolve. Once the music evolves, I want to be a part of that. With the young kids bringing the new elements to the music, I don’t want to be like “Naw, I don’t want that.”
YouKnowIGotSoul: One project I know you’re heavily involved with is the Ruben Studdard project. What can you tell us about the work you did on that album?
Blac Elvis: A lot of the songs are going to stand out. One that really stands out to me is “Her 4 U”. The song is about a guy who is with a girl and the girl he’s with wants him to leave his main girl, but at the time when he’s with his main girl he’s thinking about the other girl. It’s real moody, but it’s so true to so many situations that people go through every day. That song is going to really stand out. Another record that I really love is “Twisted Love”. I mean all of them are special to me, I can’t really put one above the other because they’re all my babies. Also the Chrisette Michele record, that’s amazing. We were blessed to have her on the album. There’s a couple of jewels on the album that people are going to really love.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Give me the background on some of these songs that you’ve been involved with:
YouKnowIGotSoul: LeToya “I Need A U”
Blac Elvis: That record was special. That was on our first trip when Harold and I really started working. It was a great record. We were in LA I believe. Her A&R reached out to me and I was like “Yo I got one for LeToya.” We sent it right over and she loved it, and the rest is history.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Ginuwine and Brandy “Bridge To Love”
Blac Elvis: That record right there was special. It had to be 20 degrees in St. Louis and I was supposed to be working with Adonis, but he couldn’t make it. I went in the bathroom and I actually prayed. I was like “Yo Lord what am I going to do? I don’t even have a writer!” I’m out here in St. Louis and Ginuwine is expecting the record. I go in the bathroom and I pray, I come back out and I called Adonis. He was like “I can’t come out, but let’s Skype.” That was my first time Skype-ing doing a record. That record was done over the internet. I did the beat, I Skyped it. He demoed it and Skyped it back. Ginuwine learned it and cut it. We were like “We need somebody on this.” I had been working with Brandy so I put a phone call out to her and we were grateful enough to have her on that song. That’s one of my favorites actually. That is one of my all time favorites.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Who are you currently working with?
Blac Elvis: Everybody now. We’re working with Chrisette Michele. A couple of new artists like B. Smith. We’re about to start with Jennifer Hudson, Beyonce and Usher. There’s so many new artists right now so we’re just trying to catch that wave.
YouKnowIGotSoul: When you’re working with everyone, how do you decide on which song to give to each artist?
Blac Elvis: It depends on the feel. A lot of the times, we just go in and create. A lot of times, it comes out like “Yo this might be dope for her or him.” We sit in the studio and just play records all night. Sometime when they hear it, they’ll be like “This is it right here!” Sometimes we’ll go in and it’ll be specific for a person, but a lot of times it’ll be records that we’ve done over a course of time. We just believe in going in and doing great music. The songs will find a place and home. We never worry about where the record is going or anything like that.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Even though you’ve been credited with the hits you’ve done with Polow throughout the years, a lot of times I find general music listeners saying the song was produced by Polow and not the song being produced by Polow and Blac Elvis. How did that make you feel and did it ever bother you?
Blac Elvis: It never really bothered me. I guess it was a matter of getting the correct credit and as someone would say: “Paying your dues”. I believe I paid my dues. It was a situation that was big to me. He had the relationships and different things like that, so it was just me paying my dues at the end of the day.
YouKnowIGotSoul: You’ve worked so many big names. Is there someone you’re still hoping to work with?
Blac Elvis: The person I wanted to work with is dead now. I’ve worked with everybody else. We’re just trying to create our own superstars now. The person was Michael Jackson. We can’t get him back. Everybody else I’ve pretty much worked with. I don’t know who else there is megastar wise.
YouKnowIGotSoul: What do you see yourself accomplishing in 2012?
Blac Elvis: Just giving the world some more hits. Me and Harold and this company are really growing. Hopefully this year we can put out an artist of our own. Those are some of things we really want to accomplish. We have a lot of producers and writers right now that we’re signing. We’re just trying to get this company going and running.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Anything you’d like to add?
Blac Elvis: Be on the lookout for Spin Music. We’re doing a lot of good things and go pick up that Ruben Studdard project.