YouKnowIGotSoul had a chance to talk with Edwin Serrano, better known as Lil’ Eddie, about some of the music that’s he’s had a hand in creating including JoJo’s upcoming “Jumping Trains” album. He also talks about his own solo career from starting out with Mario Winans to his career currently in Japan.
YKIGS: You were originally signed to Mario Winans’ label back in 2004. How did you get a chance to meet him?
ES: I met Mario through a couple of people that knew him. I originally got discovered coming home from Starbucks when I was working at 15. I was coming home on the train in New York and someone kind of followed me and he was like “I know somebody who could help you out.” I was like “Yeah, whatever.” They asked if I had any demos and I was recording at the time, so I gave him my demo and they passed it onto someone to this choreographer Eddie Morales. He came in the Starbucks one day and he was like “I don’t believe it’s the same kid on the demo.” I sang for him and the demo eventually surfaced to Bad Boy and Puffy. That’s how I met Mario.
YKIGS: What do you remember about creating your first album “Nobody’s Fool”?
ES: I remember I was very young. I feel people had seen a great potential at an early age because I really didn’t think I was as good as people thought I was because I didn’t really know what I was doing. It kind of all happened so fast and it was a great experience. It was one of those moments in life that kind of make you who you are now. It was like building a muscle.
YKIGS: Unfortunately your debut album didn’t get a chance to come out. Why do you feel the album never got a chance to come out?
ES: I just think we probably all had some differences. Me and Mario were on the same team, but other people who were part of the project, we just had creative differences. It was beyond me why it didn’t come out, but I think it all worked in my favor so I’m not complaining.
YKIGS: What is your writing process like?
ES: I do a lot of the lyrics outside the studio. A lot of times they come from conversing with people or watching real life scenarios or things I went through. So daily, I just jot things down in my head or in my phone. Most of the lyrics come beforehand. When I go in the studio, I kind of find the marriage with the music.
YKIGS: As both a writer and an artist, how do you decide what you would like to keep and what you’ll give to another artist?
ES: It’s always difficult. I’m starting to now differentiate the sound of my stuff and stuff I would give away because the music I’m trying to do now for myself is a real story. Even though it’s still relatable music, it’s a story and record that not just any artist would want to sing.
YKIGS: A song you wrote that I enjoyed is JoJo’s “Coming For You”. Give me some background on that song.
ES: I flew out to L.A. to work with Soulshock and Karlin and at the time, they were about to work on JoJo’s new album. It was the first time I ever worked with them. I was like “Okay, this is exciting. I definitely want to get on this project.” It’s weird now because JoJo is one of my best friends. I did a lot of work on her upcoming album. At the time, I was like “Man, I got to get this cut. I got to get on JoJo. I think JoJo’s a star and I want to be part of what she’s doing.” So me and the other co-writer kind of just came up with some ideas. It was strange because we didn’t get to record the song because JoJo had already came in the studio right after we started writing it. I remember I had to sing the song to them and that’s the way I sold the song and they loved it, so they cut it.
YKIGS: You mentioned you’re working with JoJo on her new album. What can the fans expect?
ES: Oh man, I think JoJo is better than ever. She has such a story to tell. It’s definitely quality, and there’s amazing vocals. There’s so much passion in what she does and the type of artist she is. She has one of those voices that come every two decades. I think you can really expect an album better than ever.
YKIGS: Talk to me about your new album “Already Yours” and how you would describe the sound of it?
ES: It’s great Pop-R&B records. They’re all heartfelt and relatable. For me, the title was appropriate because the first album I released was entitled “City of my Heart”. I felt like I got such a huge embracive response from Japan, so I wanted the second album to be like “I’m Already Yours”. That’s really how the title came about. The album is a journey of where I was at in my life. I think it’s just one of those relatable experiences throughout the whole album.
YKIGS: Talk to me about the song you have with Ameriie “Guardian Angel” and how did that song come about?
ES: I wrote the song originally a while ago. Happy Perez produced the record. He just did a record for Miguel and he’s done a lot of work with Frankie J back in the day. I wrote the record with my brother actually. One day we were in the studio writing. When I was doing my album and I played the record for my label, they loved it so much that they were like “We have to get another artist on here.” I did a version with JoJo on that record as well. The label wanted to get another version with me and Ameriie because I worked on Ameriie’s last album. I was like “Yeah that’s fantastic!” We got Ameriie to sing it and we kind of cut the record really fast and she really loved the record, so it was such an easy going process.
YKIGS: I’ve noticed you’ve only released your albums in Japan so far. How come you decided to start out in Japan first?
ES: Well it was interesting because I had the first deal with Mario Winans. After I did a couple of shows, the album kind of leaked overseas and did its thing in Germany. I got such a huge response over there. A few people were like “Man you have to tour in Germany!” These promoters reached out to me and I really didn’t know what was going on. They were like “We want you to do some shows in Germany.” I flew out to Germany and I mean the first time I went, the songs off that album were so popular. Even Mario Winans was telling me to go overseas because they knew my music and they were always asking about me. When I went to Germany, I had official club hits. I had records that were charting on the urban charts and records that people would know word for word in Germany. I toured there for about three years which led to other DJs that wanted me to tour in their countries. DJs from Dubai, London and different places. Then I had got all this response from Japan and I guess all the music made its way to Japan. All these Japanese labels were hitting me up and the greatest offer came from Manhattan Records and I decided to do the deal there. At the time being, I was kind of just writing and trying to still mold my sound for the States. All the other offers in the States I felt weren’t the best at the time. I thought “Why not build a fan base overseas? The music is already a little more popular over there and just kind of get that buzzing. Then come back when it’s all right and do a deal world-wide.” It’s something that I’m kind of looking into more than ever.
YKIGS: Who are you currently working with?
ES: I just did a record with Pink last month which was amazing. I’m working with K’naan. He did the World Cup “Wave Your Flag” record that he co-wrote with Bruno Mars. That was a huge hit in 28 countries. His album is definitely amazing. One of my works that I’m really proud of. I did JoJo. I did a lot of records with Cody Simpson. I did a record on Lalah Hathaway’s new album. There’s an artist named Jessie and the Toy Boys. She just opened up for Britney and Nicki Minaj. I wrote a record for her album. I’m actually doing a lot of work for Prince Roy’s album, which is another Latin star that is working on his American project. I’ve been in with a lot of Ne-Yo’s artists. Just a bunch of artists, I’ve been doing so much work. I feel like some of my best work ever is about to come up.
YKIGS: It’s kind of interesting that you named all those different artists. How do you kind of change gears when you’re writing different genre?
ES: Well it’s interesting because I currently have the Charlie Wilson single out and I did El DeBarge’s album. In a year of music, there’s so many different projects and it happens so fast, but I think those gears do switch. They kind of just turn on. Me growing up in Spanish Harlem, I grew up in a gospel choir, so I was always singing to gospel music. Then I would go home and listen to all my cultural music like Latin music. I was also still a Hip Hop fan kind of kid. That is what a Latino American is about. You still have your culture, but I know just as much Biggie and Jay-Z as the next man, but I still have all this culture and Pop sense. It all kind of works when I do music. It’s really strange. It’s definitely a gift from God.
YKIGS: Anything you’d like to add?
ES: Follow your dreams and believe in yourself and perfect your craft. For me, I always put God first so I recommend the same thing. Anything’s possible.