When you’re touted by an r&b great like Tyrese as the next big producer in r&b, you know you’ve got a good thing going for you. Brandon Alexander had been on our radar after helping to create songs like Tank’s “Amazing”, Joe’s “Dear Joe” and “Tyrese’s “Stay”, but we quickly developed a great admiration for him when we heard Tyrese praise him recently at a listening session for his album. We were happy to catch up with Brandon Alexander and help deliver the story of his rise to success. In this interview, we discuss his first major placement, the work he did for Tyrese’s new album, his placements on Joe’s new album, competition between producers, being a producer vs a beat maker, what he’s got lined up next, and much more.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Tell us the story of how you got a break as a producer and what led to your first major placement and what that placement was.
Brandon Alexander: Back in 2009 I reconnected with these guys called who I used to play for their artist back in 2006, Javier. I was a bass player and I toured since I was 18, but back in 2009 I reconnected with them and I sent them some tracks and they liked what I was doing. They had an artist named Hal Linton and they sent me an acapella and they wanted me to redo the beat so I re-did it and they loved it. So we were talking and they wanted me a publishing deal between us and Universal. To make a long story short, I started the process in July 2009 and signed. My first placement was a remix I did with Ryan Leslie called “I Choose You”. That’s pretty much how I got started.
YKIGS: You mentioned Javier, is that Javier Colon?
BA: Yes sir.
YKIGS: We’re big supporters of his. I know he’s from out there in Connecticut, and I was reading you’re from the Hartford area as well. Is that how that connection came about?
BA: Well it’s interesting because right after high school, I decided I wasn’t going to go to college. My parents told me I had to make this music thing work. A friend of mine was putting a band together for Javier, and my friend is a bass player as well, he asked me if I wanted to do the gig and I agreed to it. That’s what kinda got my career going as far as just being a professional as far as music. I went in and I did the gig and we did a tour and just built a relationship and friendship between me and Javier. One thing led to the next for Javier, and I give a lot of credit to him because he was my first gig and gave me my first chance. He’s a huge talent that now is finally getting the recognition he deserves
YKIGS: I was at a Tyrese listening event for his new album last week and he gave you a huge shout out for the work you did on his new album and he mentioned you’re the next big producer in r&b, which is a great accolade coming from him. He talked about an r&b boot camp he put together to create his album, can you talk about that?
BA: It was fun. It was a time that I’ll always remember. The way that it happened for me, I was in L.A. working on another project with another friend of mine and then I talked to one of the writers which is one of my writing partners Aaron Sledge and he told me that he was coming out and it was a group of people coming out to work on Tyrese’s album. It just so happened that the song “Amazing” that I did for Tank, Tyrese loved that song! Aaron Sledge told Tyrese the producer of that song was in L.A. so he connected me to Tyrese. That night, I went over to Tyrese’s house, met him, and played him some records. There were a few that stood out and it was this one I played and that was it, he told me I was staying. I didn’t leave the house and ended up staying for four weeks. We did the bulk of the album.
YKIGS: You did the single “Stay” which Tyrese just released a video for, and then you also did another song “Too Easy” which he also said he’d shoot a video for. Those songs are completely different in style; one’s an adult contemporary song and one’s a commercial club type song. Do you think that show’s your versatility as a producer?
BA: Absolutely. I like to be able to switch it up and I’d like to think I have the ability to play different instruments. Drums were my first instrument, then I went to bass which is my main instrument, then I play keyboard and a little guitar as well. I try to use that to my advantage in my production because some producers can’t really play and that have to bring other musicians in and I think that I can do whatever it calls for on a record by myself. I have a good vocabulary of music where I could do a soul record, I could do a country record, I could do a pop record, and I could do a hard hip hop record.
YKIGS: Talk about the work you did on Joe’s new album. I know you did the song “Dear Joe” which I love and I think is going to be the next single. How did that opportunity come about and what was it like working with him?
BA: First and foremost, Joe is very underrated and one of the best to ever do it. It was a pleasure to work with him. I was in Atlanta with a writing team that we formed working with Tyrese. We were in Atlanta just working on some other records back in March. Me and my partner Aaron Sledge got a call from my manager to go out to Jersey to work with Joe. So we went out and me and Aaron played Joe a bunch of records. I believe Joe picked about two or three right there, and then we did one from scratch which is called “Time of Your Life”. After that I did “Dear Joe” with my cousin Big Mike Christian who is an incredible writer, and they picked that as well. I ended up with four songs on that album.
YKIGS: I’ve heard a few of them so far and looking forward to hearing the rest.
BA: I appreciate it.
YKIGS: Have you seen the type of thing between producers where it turns into a competition to try and get placements on an album?
BA: Oh my God yes. I was just talking to my cousin about this the other day. It’s not like rip your heart out type of business, but I put things in perspective and I try to be realistic. There are a certain amount of records that come out every year and let’s say there are 13 slots on every album. There are a lot of top name producers that are trying to get on those records. Then, there are hundreds and thousands of other producers that are just as good trying to get on the record. So you’ve got thousands of people competing for 13 slots. So it’s very, very competitive. But if you align yourself with the right people business wise and the right writers, because at the end of the day if you don’t have a great song over a dope track you’ve got nothing. So it’s very competitive, but if you’ve got the right pieces in place, you give yourself a chance. All you need is an opportunity for your song to be heard.
YKIGS: Who else are you currently working with?
BA: Right now, I’m pretty much finishing up on Tyrese. I’m about to start working on some records for Plies. Earlier this year along with Lil Ronnie, we did a couple of records for Mary J. Blige. She cut one of them. I’m hoping everything goes well with that. I really believe it’s a great record and a good sound. I’m also trying to get on Tank’s new record. I think we have some good records for him.
YKIGS: Take me back to another song you had a hand in, Jahiem’s “Other Half”.
BA: I was the writer on that song. I went to Jahiem’s house because I go back with him to about 2006/2007 and I toured with him as a bass player for at least 2-3 years, so me and him had that relationship. When it came time to work on that album, I went down to Jersey and we went to the house where we did a couple out there. That one had some things changed at the end, but I’m glad my work was able to stay and be a part of that record. Also, a big shout out to Ice Cube. I did a record on Ice Cube which was a single called “Drink the Kool-Aid”. I don’t know how I forgot to mention that. That was a single and a big deal for me.
YKIGS: Have you seen yourself getting more calls to do songs and gaining more recognition in the industry since you’ve had all of these placements?
BA: Yeah, slowly but surely. It’s a buzz going around and I’m just trying to show up. My thing is, every time I get an opportunity, I just want to show up and hit it out the park. I want to be known as somebody who can deliver. So when the calls come, the opportunities and the relationships come, I just try to be consistent.
YKIGS: We speak to a lot of producers. One thing that always intrigues me is the beat-maker versus producer type of style of doing things. I hear a lot of times, the producer just sends the beats off to the artist and the artist tries it out and see how they sound on the song. In the past, it was a real producer thing where they would be there with the artist. What side are you on?
BA: I would definitely call myself a producer. I don’t knock a beat-maker, but I think the word “producer” goes further than what the average person thinks. It’s more than just making the track. If you’re the producer of the song, you as a producer are leading. Even with the writers and the vocal production, the producer has to have his influence and has to somewhat be a part of the vision. The outcome has to be what you want it to be, and if it doesn’t then you have to do what you got to do to make it that because that’s your name going on that and you want people to hear what they want to hear. You don’t want to send off a record and when it comes out, it’s totally different from what you anticipated.
YKIGS: You’re a musician and you can play instruments. Do you think that kind of gives you an advantage over a producer who just uses a beat machine? Does it give you a better ear?
BA: I think musically it gives me an advantage because I believe I have a vocabulary of music and knowledge. On the other side, business wise it’s a disadvantage because it’s hard to get the respect of a manager or A&R or somebody you may meet with these big artists because they look at you as a musician, which isn’t a bad thing, but you work with them as musician. It’s hard to get the same respect as a Timbaland or Kanye if you’re just looked at as a musician. It’s kind of hard to get that same respect, but I think you have to separate yourself to some degree to show them how serious you are and then, I believe things always come full circle. You circle back to them and they see what you’re doing, it lets them know that you’re bigger than just a musician.
YKIGS: Do you have a wish lists of artists you’d like to work with in the future?
BA: I’ve been trying to work Chris Brown. I would love to work with him. I would love to work with Kanye. A big dream of mine was to work with Mary J. Blige because I played with her as a musician and I just always wanted to play with her again, but play her my records. Jay-Z and Busta Rhymes as well. Just artists I grew up on, even Diddy. Diddy is one of the tops for me because he just has such a big influence on music as a whole, so I would love to be a part of some music with him. Just a lot of artists like that because I believe that these artists have legendary careers and I just want to be a part of it. I don’t have to have the single. I would love to have the single, but just to be able to look back like how I look at old records now and to be able to say I was a part of that career, that’s a big deal.
YKIGS: Your man Javier needs to get you for his new album that he’s doing.
BA: Man I would love to. I actually did a record and I’m waiting to see how that’s going to go. I would love to work with Jav from day one, even when I was just in the beginning of the stages of wanting to be a produce, I always wanted to do music with him. That would be great. I’m definitely working on getting that done.
YKIGS: Anything you’d like to add?
BA: I’m ready for the next challenge. My thing is work hard and play later. My friends somewhat look at me like I guess I take things to the extreme like literally all I do is work and that’s all I want to do. I don’t feel like I’ve made it to the point where I can take days off or a vacation because the next man is ready to take my spot and try to move up. I just want to work.