Songwriter and producer Stephan Moccio ignited his career within shouting distance of Toronto. He began piano as a child and studied composition and arrangement while earning side cash as a session player. It’s also when and where he acquired workstation knowledge. The transition into production came as a natural extension to capture sounds that lived and sang in his head. In 2014 he was tapped by fellow Torontonian, The Weeknd, to co-produce Beauty Behind the Madness. Other artists he’s worked with include John Legend, Celine Dion and Skylar Grey. He also co-wrote Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball.”
Challenges are attached when working on major records such as Beauty... For Moccio, that included coaxing the best from The Weeknd, A.K.A. Abel Makkonen Tesfaye. “Listening to Abel’s vision and getting everything out of him—he’s as meticulous as I am—was tough,” he recalls. “We have strong ideas of what music should sound like, so the challenge was to keep my head down, buried in the song. It sounds easy but it’s not. Listen to each other; respect each other. When you trust the person, they take you to a place you’ve never been before.”
Working on a high-profile record invariably comes with highs and lows. One of Moccio’s favorite memories was when he and The Weeknd connected musically on one particular song. “When we first did ‘Earned It,’ right from beat one, I started playing the string section,” he recollects. “That section is what I do typically because it’s who I am at heart: a classical musician. Abel’s reaction was pricelss. Something similar happened with the bridge of ‘Real Life.’ The biggest risk was to bring in new artist Maty Noyes for ‘Angel.’ I hadn’t discussed it was Abel previously. It was special when I first played that for him. It was a unique moment.”
Most producers find that every new project demands a different approach. Each one blossoms in its own unpredictable way. “Sometimes an artist will walk in with a clear vision,” Moccio explains. “Other times they may not come in with anything. Occasionally I’ll arrive with an idea that may not work immediately. I’ve also had moments when artists have shown up with half-completed songs and I’ve been called in.”
Helping craft hit records hasn’t been his biggest challenge—Moccio was enlisted to score the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. “Not only did I have the opportunity to co-write the theme song,” he explains, “but also compose the cues based on elements of the theme as well as new ideas. That was a year and a half of my life because I had more than 250 pieces of music to write and compose for orchestra. The Olympics was a new thing for everybody. No boundaries; no framework. It was all uncharted territory. At the end, I felt I could get through anything.”
Currently Moccio is recording with Noyes—a singer who seems to be his protege—and he’s composing for films. He’s also collaborating with other artists. He and The Weeknd constantly toss around ideas for the Platinum-selling artist’s next album.
Contact Chloe Lauter / Press Here; James Porter, RAMJAM Management