Photo Credit: Jose Cardoza
Harmony Samuels’ impressive production resume is constantly growing. After working with the likes of Jennifer Lopez, Destiny’s Child and Brandy, he adds music icon Janet Jackson to the list of his high-profile collaborations. The London native is the genius behind the production of Jackson’s new single “Made For Now” featuring Daddy Yankee.
How did you end up collaborating with Janet?
Janet’s A&R is a good friend of mine — [ Jareiq ‘JQ’ Kabara ]. He’s a good dude. I’ve known him for about 10 years. He called me and was like, “I want you to come meet Janet and talk to her about her next record.” I was really intrigued because I just couldn’t believe that I would be working with Janet. Long and behold, she was preparing to go on tour last year and I got to meet her. I was in her room and she so elegantly walks in and as she comes in, she’s like, “Hey! Whose birthday is May 16?” and I’m like, “Me” and she’s like, “We share the same birthday.” I was like, “Yes, connection!” I never knew that her birthday was the same day as mine, which was great. I was really excited that we had something in common.
Then she starts to explain what she wants from her album and her record. And basically, she expressed she wanted a record that brought people together. She wanted to bring the world together. She wanted to talk about love — her having a son now she appreciates life way differently. With all the devastation and so much destruction happening in the world, she wanted something to bring people together. She wanted to see people dance. She wanted to see people happy.
What was the process of creating “Made For Now”?
We held a writing camp for ten days with four or five writers all from different cultural backgrounds and different history. When we started writing the record, I kept thinking I had to do something Janet hadn’t done before but still makes her feel like Janet. It was a hard task because she’s done a lot (laughs) — from Control to Velvet Rope to her last album [Unbreakable]. That’s a lot of music to try to find something that she’s never done before. So I’m sitting around and I was like, “What she hasn’t done? She hasn’t done anything Afrocentric. She hasn’t done anything with like Afrobeats.” So to make sure, I went and checked her song history and her number ones. I made a few records that have been successful in that world in the past— Destiny’s Child’s “Say Yes” was a huge example of that. So, I wanted to do that again. I wanted to bring the world together that way. And you know cultural stuff, when you go to carnivals and festivals, it always brings people together. There’s a colorless line that happens.
I was getting dressed one morning and the way the song starts, that exact line was playing in my head. I looked up like, “Jesus are you for real?” I put the melody on my phone and I rushed to the studio. Within an hour, I make the track and everybody is like, “Yo, this is crazy.” [Janet] and her brother Randy came to the studio and when they heard the record, they love it. They thought it was perfect. [Janet] went in the booth, added her own vibe and made the record hers.
We actually went into the studio to cut the record with another legendary producer Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. You can understand my excitement. Not only did I get to work with Janet but Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis in the studio She turned around and she said to me, “I really love this record. I believe it’s special.”
When did Daddy Yankee get involved?
A few months later as the song was being developed, JQ calls me and says, “Hey man! I’m going to put Daddy Yankee on the record, what you think?” And I was like, “Hell yeah.” I thought it was perfect because it now brings another world. I was really excited. Just working with him at the shoot and watching him perform, was an awesome experience.
How many different versions of the record were created?
Well, it was over a span of six to nine months of getting it all together. There were at least nine versions. We just tried so many different versions but this version felt like it kept everybody engaged. We were really, really proud of the outcome.
There’s also an EP in the works. What can you say about that?
I worked on most of the EP. Each song has a different feel. Each song has a different style. She bodies it! She does her thing.
Is there anything you discovered about yourself throughout the process of working with a legend?
Patience (laughs) and staying calm. When you’re working with icons, you move when it’s time to move. I felt like she was always willing to try different things. My patience allowed me to try different versions and try different things regardless if I felt like it was right or if I didn’t like the idea. It was just awesome to experiment and open yourself up for change and trials. And just being around someone who is so iconic, yet so humble. She’s so humble and so genuine.
Follow Harmony Samuels on Instagram @HarmonySamuels.