RedOne producer Crosstalk - photo by Jiro Schneider

Producer Crosstalk: RedOne

Ten years ago, producer, songwriter and now label head RedOne (Nadir Al-Khayat) found himself relegated to a blowup mattress in a one-bedroom apartment. His circumstances have changed markedly—from cramped quarters to creating hits in his eight-room Los Angeles studio. Commensurate with his fortunes, his credits have shot to the top of an enviable cross-section of charts and he’s worked with artists including Nicki Minaj, Lady Gaga and U2. Such a transformation demanded equal measures of dedication, hard work and hope.

Born in Morocco, RedOne took his first steps into the music business as a teenaged guitarist and singer, following a relocation to Sweden. He was inspired to begin writing songs after he heard Europe’s “The Final Countdown” at the age of 16. In 2007 he emigrated to New Jersey. Despite his sharpened focus, things didn’t go well initially and he ached to return to Scandinavia. But his wife persuaded him to continue the fight for a further three months. The choice to stay proved pivotal and ultimately he was tapped to produce Kat DeLuna’s “Whine Up,” which landed at the top of Billboard’s U.S. Dance Club Songs chart.

crosstalkinsetThough he faced hardships in his early years and it’s easy to lose sight of career objectives, he found a way through them. “I didn’t know anybody,” RedOne recalls. “I couldn’t get by. But I concentrated on success and kept believing. The struggle gave me energy to keep getting better. I loved music and I dreamed big.”

His hard work and dedication paid off in perspective and wisdom. “You learn to be patient,” the producer says of writing and breaking a song. “I have a better understanding now of what it takes to craft a hit. You have to have a great song, a great artist that can take it all the way and you need a partner—indie or major—that has the patience to grow and develop it. If you’re an Ariana Grande with millions of followers, you still need a good team to make it happen. It’s hard work and a struggle for everybody. For example, [the Lady Gaga song] ‘Just Dance’ took a year to happen. A lot of people didn’t believe in it because it was so different. If we didn’t have a team to keep pushing, it never would have hit.”

In 2014 RedOne Records was launched. Distributed by Capitol Music Group, RedOne finds that running a label comes with unanticipated complications. “Understanding the business side was a challenge because it was the first time I was doing it,” he recalls. “The projects I’d had success with were through the major label machine. But it’s difficult when you do it on your own; it isn’t as easy as it sounds. To be independent, you have to work three times as hard because you don’t have the structure [of a major]. You have to figure out everything from scratch. Sometimes you don’t have the support of your partner label because they already have stars in line. But it is fun. The passion is still there.”

RedOne’s L.A. studio was launched about a year ago and is his primary creative space. There he works with established artists and continues to develop emerging talent. His schedule is more packed than ever as he labors on several solo singles. “Don’t You Need Somebody,” for example, dropped earlier this year and has earned more than 11 million YouTube views. He’s also in the studio with Republic Records’ artist Roya while he continues to work with Lady Gaga and Enrique Iglesias. Lastly, he’s producing for rising Warner Bros. jazz trumpeter Spencer Ludwig and singer Noah Cyrus, younger sister of Miley Cyrus.

Photo by Jiro-Schneider

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