RedOne: It takes one yes to change your life
The Grammy Award winning record producer, songwriter and singer tells City Times about the music industry and the special friendship he shared with the King of Pop.
Sometimes we forget that behind the great singers and artist we love, there is a whole team of people creating their look and sound. By far, one of the most relevant record producers, singers, songwriters and record executives in the world is Moroccan Nadir Khayat, better known by his stage name RedOne.
The man behind the success of Lady Gaga, has worked with some of the world's most high profile artists such as Akon, Nicki Minaj, Jennifer Lopez, Pitbull, Enrique Iglesias, Shakira, Wyclef Jean, Mariah Carey, One Direction, Marc Anthony, U2 and Michael Jackson. Yes all of them. RedOne has also been nominated for ten Grammy Awards and won three.
Born and raised in Tetouan, Morocco, RedOne is the youngest of nine children and always had an incredible passion for music. So much so that he decided to leave Morocco for Sweden to pursue a music career. He started out as a musician preforming in a few rock bands but decided in 1995 to turn his talents to produce and write songs for other artists. The career change has definitely been fruitful.
Given his incredible story and insight into the music world, City Times caught up with RedOne when he was in Dubai to discuss his road to musical success.
What are your thoughts on Dubai?
I've been to Dubai many times and I always enjoy it. This is a beautiful place. I always find myself coming back and I have a lot of friends here, I love it. With this visit, I had an appearance and performance for the Global Teacher's Prize, which is such a beautiful thing - to help education and to make teachers feel special because they are the foundation of all of us.
Who have been your biggest musical influences?
I'm the ninth child from a big family. So, growing up in a big family, I had so many different influences, each of my siblings liked a different type of music. That was my first education in music. I was listening to rock, jazz, pop, flamenco, African music, Middle Eastern music, Umm Kulthum, Abdel Halim Hafidh, Indian music, Bollywood - everything. That's my first school. I'm also a huge fan of Stevie Wonder, I'm a huge fan of Bob Dylan and Europe the rock group.
Was there a defining moment when you knew you had to be in the music business?
There were two moments. When I was sixteen, it was the first time I heard the song, It's the Final Countdown by Europe. And that was the song that changed my life. I know it sounds weird, that a song can change your life. Nowadays, kids come up to me and say when they heard Just Dance by Lady Gaga or Poker Face or Bad Romance, all these big songs that I've done, they say those songs changed their life . . . Sometimes I tend to forget the feeling - I think, how did my song change your life? But then I remember that a song changed my life. When I heard It's the Final Countdown for the first time I felt a very special feeling - I just felt like this is a calling that I need to do - music. I knew I wanted to be a musician. I realised what I wanted to do. Then there was another point when I was 25. I was studying and doing music at the same time and I had to make a decision. I was studying programming and I had to decide, is this what I wanted to do or is it music? I left my home, my family and everything I knew to pursue music so when I was 25, I decided it was music and I became a professional.
You've been nominated for many Grammys and you've won three. How important are awards such as the Grammys?
Awards are good but every achievement is great. Even the small number one hits I had in Sweden before I went to America were special and important to me in my life. The Grammys are the equivalent of the Oscars . . . a lot of people have many hits in their life but never were lucky enough to win a Grammy. In my situation to win a Grammy felt special. I was lucky to win multiple times, it was a blessing. It's the ultimate achievement.
Who are some of the coolest artists right now?
There are so many. I love Bruno Mars. He has an incredible voice, incredible musician, incredible songwriter, producer. Everything you want in an artist and a humble guy. There are a lot of great artists.
You've worked with so many amazing artists, who has been the most exciting to work with on a personal level?
I worked with Enrique Iglesias, I created the sound of Lady Gaga. Enrique, Jennifer Lopez, Nicki Minaj, Marc Anthony, Pit Bull, Usher. every time you work with someone like that it's exciting. But on a personal level, it's Michael Jackson and U2.
What can you tell us about your time working with Michael Jackson?
From the musical aspect, he's a genius. He knew everything there is to know about music. A lot of times, I tend to direct the artist, but with Michael, before I was about to say what I was about to say, he knew what I was going to say. The second part of him was the human side. What a human being. What a humble person. He didn't care how talented you are, he cared about how you are as a person, he wanted to know about your brothers and sisters, your mum, your country. He told me he'd been to Morocco, he loved Morocco. He told me he loved Moroccan food and wanted to meet my mum; he said he wanted to meet the mum who made this person, because (he said) you're a beautiful person and he said he wanted to taste her food. So, after London, where he was supposed to have a concert, he was supposed to come to Morocco to visit me and my family. But unfortunately that didn't happen.
What are you working on at the moment?
I'm working with this guy who has the most incredible voice in this universe - Jordan Smith. He's a winner on The Voice US, we did the album and it sounds incredible and I think the world will love him. Just hearing his voice is amazing but we also did some incredible body of work.
What advice do you have for young musicians in this region?
The advice is to always work on your craft, be the best you can be as a musician or as a singer or whatever you want to be. Become the best and more. And second, research all the people - the successful ones and the ones who failed. Research everything others have done before you, why? Because you learn. It's almost like you have a mentor and now with social media, it's like you have mentors online. The more research you do, the more you're prepared for the ups and downs. For me, I've had so many people telling me 'no' more than 'yes'. People only see the success but 90 per cent of my history has been a no - 'no, this is bad', 'no, you're not good enough'. So, if I was a weak person I would give up. They make you upset, they make you sad and they make you believe yourself. Believe in your dream and be strong in your head because it takes one 'yes' to change your life.
There is always controversy when it comes to this idea of singers lip syncing when they are performing live. What are your thoughts on this?
A lot of these artists are incredible singers, not everybody but a lot of them. Some of them are more entertainers, it's about the show, the visuals, the dancing and stuff like that. When you are on tour you have a muscle, it gets tired - this is a fact. Either you cancel on your fans or you have a prerecorded, live version of you singing. It's still you - people want to see you, feel your energy, so if you have a prerecorded thing and you can't sing why cancel the concert? People bought that ticket, they want to see that artist. For me, its OK to lip sync to a recording that is your voice and a lot of time they have live recordings. I prefer that than cancelling. Artists are human beings. I mean it's impossible to do 300 shows live. there is something people don't know about artists. They wake up at 7 or 8 in the morning or 5 sometimes for radio shows. The worst you can do for your voice is talk. Talk all day, being nice, giving your energy away the whole day and then you have to perform and be at your best and after your performance you have 50 special fans you need to meet in the meet and greet. So, you don't go home until 2am and you're tired. They are human, it's tough out there.
Message for Khaleej Times readers
"Spread love. Be good human beings. Life is too short. Be positive and always change the frequency that is negative to positive. One Love!"
"I want to give a special thanks to my dear friend, Suhail Galadari because he's a good friend, a good human being and for his incredible job... for everything he does. I love you brother."