INTERVIEW by GARY GOLDMAN |PHOTOGRAPHY by KEITH MAJOR
Producer and songwriter Lil’ Ronnie Jackson has been singing and playing instruments ever since he can remember. From his early days singing at local churches in Missouri to recording hits for the likes of Lupe Fiasco, R. Kelly, and Britney Spears, he has maintained an exceptional level of energy and high expectations for himself. Two things stand out when speaking with Ronnie: his ability to hop from one music genre to the other (R&B, pop, country…) and his unconditional love and respect for the people he works with. This came as a surprise to me, but the community of people manufacturing today’s Top Ten hits is very exclusive – a small group of brilliant songmakers. For someone able to write a #1 hit in less than ten minutes, it should come as no surprise that today’s BR!NKer can now be added to that family of individuals. In order to showcase his work, we decided to ask him about some of the great songs he has worked on over the past few years.
Lupe Fiasco – Outta My Head
I produced this song along with Miykal Snoddy and Jerry Wonda, and I wrote the hook for it. It happened really fast: from the moment we got in the studio with Lupe and the beats started playing, I got into it and wrote the rest in five minutes. I found out that the less time it takes, the better the work will be, because you won’t have to overthink it. This was one of my first times working with such an impressive artist, so I came in extremely intimidated. After a bit, those people become like family and trust your opinion on their songs.
R. Kelly ft. Usher – Same Girl
A great song that was actually written for a group called Nephew. I can’t even tell you the number of tracks that are originally written for an artist and end up on someone else’s record. The song was done and produced when I played it to R. Kelly, and he went nuts. I had already written I’m A Flirt for him, and he just wanted to know what else I had. We got Usher to feature because this song was originally meant for a band, more than one voice.
Britney Spears – Lace and Leather
I wrote this song and it was produced by Dr. Luke and Benny Blanco, one of my great friends. I always tell everybody that one of my dreams is to have written songs in all genres. A lot of people in the industry want to put you in a box, but what I do is music, not just rap or R&B. Dr. Luke came to me and said, “Yo, let’s work on some Britney.” For this song, we really wanted an old-school seal, with a kind of retro sexiness about it. Luke got on the guitar, I got on the keyboard… and that’s the best part about working with your friends: you’re just not intimidated. Britney was so cool to work with, very down to earth with her family. We all sat down together and talked for a bit. It just amazes me – such a normal girl who can’t even go to the grocery store.
Ciara – Tell Me What Your Name Is
Man, this is one of those songs you want to fight for and say, “This should be a single!” It was another collaboration with Dr. Luke and Benny Blanco. The whole process of writing the song took about ten to fifteen minutes only – when it comes it comes. The great thing about creating as a producer is that you don’t really get to write anything down on paper – the melodies are already in my head.
I’ve known Ciara for a long time, we had a personal relationship before she even became famous. On top of that, she happened to be dating one of my friends, Bow Wow. I knew her in a different light, so it made working with her on Tell Me What Your Name Is really special.
Scott McCreery – I Love You This Big
To be honest, I wasn’t familiar with Scotty; I hadn’t watched American Idol this season. I was talking to a couple of publishers at Warner/Chappell Music, and they were asking me what I wanted to do next. When I said “something different,” they joked around and said “country music,” which I immediately said yes to. I’m from Kansas City, Missouri, so I’m definitely a country boy. My cousins and I had horses and listened to country music whenever we went out or to the rodeos. You know, country is actually a mix of R&B, blues, gospel, and lots of other things.
The timing for this song was crazy. I had to have a track within two days, sent it on Friday, and it was live on American Idol that Monday night.
Upcoming Cher Album
Me and Jo Dee Messina wrote a couple of great songs for her. We’re planning to meet and record in the studio fairly soon.
I love challenges. The next thing for me is working on movies and TV shows. Writing the score for that format is really interesting, and I have some great projects coming up…
How can Daily BR!NK readers contribute to your success?
I’m looking for music endorsements. Let me know of any new upcoming equipment – I’d love to try them out. Who knows, it might end up in a song!