In the cavernous gloom of a Hollywood recording studio, Ricky Reed is genial and reflective behind impenetrable dark glasses. “I have a nice handful of records that I believe are going to hit this summer,” begins Reed. “But part of what’s so insane about this industry is that you don’t have a song out until you have a song out. If I had a nickel for every time someone said they have the first single or a guaranteed smash…” But two of Reed’s recent songs, “Talk Dirty” and “Wiggle” by Jason Derulo featuring 2 Chainz and Snoop Dogg respectively, are undeniable smashes indeed for this songwriter-producer.
As a recording artist, Reed gained notoriety with his raucously sardonic project Wallpaper. Songs like “#STUPiDFACEDD,” “FUCKING BEST SONG EVERRR” and “Puke My Brains Out,” were showcased by the artist on high-profile tours and in eye-popping videos, movie trailers and television placements. “When we first were placed on Jersey Shore I had to take a step back and think, ‘What are my goals? Who am I speaking to?’ And I realized my music was going to be familiar to a lot more people in Middle America, not just artsy folks in the big cities who are in on the joke.”
The former Bay Area resident says that mistrust of the music business is characteristic of many NorCal creatives. “Not just the music or movie industries, but people feel that Angelenos are two-faced and shallow. Before I came down here to do a lot of work, I held a lot of the same prejudices. It’s really opened my eyes, meeting other musicians, producers and artists, and even people outside of the music business, small storeowners and others who come here to work hard. There is a cheesy pocket in West Hollywood, but there is also the Marina District in San Francisco. The music industry is the same thing: A good number of snakes and a good number of super heroes.”
When Reed envisioned crafting beats for rappers he cold-called BMI and spoke with Casey Robison, formerly the company’s Director of Writer/Publisher Relations, and now at Big Deal Music. “Casey asked me, ‘Do you have a band or something?’ and I said, ‘Yeah, Wallpaper.’ He asked me to send him some CDs. I sent him 10 and a month later he called and asked if I wanted to meet with Evan Bogart (hit songwriter, manager and publishing executive at The Boardwalk Entertainment Group which now represents Reed) and Mike Caren (songwriter, producer and president of A&R, Warner Music Group) to pitch to Lil Wayne. Casey was the first guy. He’s one of the sweetest, most feeling and real dudes in this entire city. When you start with a good core of people who care about you, the branches and roots that grow from that are all part of the same tree.”
“Talk Dirty” features a distinctive Middle Eastern horn line appropriated from a song titled “Hermetico” by Balkan Beat Box, a Brooklyn-based, Israeli band. Miles Beard, an A&R operative (and former KISS-FM DJ) heard the song in a club in Tel Aviv and asked Reed to “flip it,” as he remembers. This unusual track signified a 360-degree departure for Derulo according to Reed. “My impression of Jason was that he was a pop guy. Turns out, the whole world had Jason Derulo wrong. He’s musical and interesting and wants to do unique things.”
As a songwriter and a producer, Reed explains that the lines between songs and sounds are often indelible. “It comes down to taste. There are a lot of big writers who may not be the greatest singers––I’m definitely not––but they know what feels good. One consistent thread of all writers I work with is that they’re feeling, sincere dudes. We talk openly and honestly and dig in before we write, sometimes as long as an hour. I think not coincidentally, those are the songs that are the most sought after by artists and A&R’s.”
Reed says that this real emotion is what makes the most powerful impact. “Those guys who have those exuberant, beautiful and honest approaches are making the best records.”
Contact The Courtney Barnes Group, 323-466-9300, SCB27@aol.com