Mike Del Rio has written and produced for and with artists including Christina Aguilera, CeeLo Green and Kylie Minogue. Some of the chart-cracking singles he’s had a hand in include Aguilera’s “Shut Up” and “Make the World Move” (featuring CeeLo Green) as well as Cheryl Cole’s “Under The Sun.” Originally from New York City, Del Rio relocated to Los Angeles in the fall of ‘11 after releasing a number of EPs and securing a publishing deal with Alex Da Kid’s label, KidinaKorner (they share the same management). In the first week of his deal, he wrote several songs, one of which went on to be used by Eminem and Skylar Grey.
The ways he approaches a new project are as varied as the songs that he helps to create. “Sometimes I start with a beat to get inspired, sometimes I’ll wake up in the middle of the night and sing into my iPhone if I have a melody in my head,” the producer explains. “Depending on who’s in the room, usually I’ll put a synthesizer on. I use [Spectrasonics’] Omnisphere a lot. That’s probably my favorite soft synth.
“I believe some songs are given to you,” he continues. “Some people can tap into a higher place; summon the spirits. The process depends on who I’m writing for. The music that I love most—and [much of] my stuff that’s gotten placed—is usually created between 10 at night and four in the morning. There’s something about working in the middle of the night: there’s no phone ringing, there’s no Facebook or Twitter updates. It’s just the music and the moon.”
Like any producer, his career has been replete with challenges. Amongst the biggest he’s faced was when, after establishing himself in New York City, he decided to relocate to Los Angeles. It wasn’t the easiest of transitions. “I came not knowing a soul and that was humbling,” Del Rio recalls. “I had to remind myself of my reasons for doing music. Paying attention to that 13-year-old kid who picked up the guitar and fell in love with writing songs was difficult for the initial 18 months. But in the first year we made close to 500 pieces of music—song ideas or beats. I was determined to take over LA. You have to have that mindset, although I may have burned myself out a bit. But being humble and self-aware—that’s the key.”
With respect to changes Del Rio foresees for the industry, it comes down to equity for music creators. “It’s ridiculous that we still have the same royalty rates as we did in the ‘70s,” he observes. “The people in the creative community are the ones that are getting shortchanged. Film and television have both changed their business to fit the times. The music industry is the last to make adjustments to the way it works.”
Together with bandmate Crista Ru, Del Rio is half of the pop duo POWERS. The duo is considering a number of major labels. But why in the age of DIY do they even need one? “Crista and I both work in the business and we see how labels operate,” he explains. “What a major still offers is major-label radio-power. It’s also about having a home to work from for the next 10 years or so.”