British musical powerhouse Harmony Samuels goes beyond simply working as an artist’s’ producer, by relating to them to create brilliant musical masterpieces. After rising from the scene in his home of London, he’s come to America to create hits on another level. From Fantasia to Ariana Grande, Harmony Samuels has built a powerful resume , all while producing hit after hit. Rated RnB had the chance to sit down with the busy Englishman to dig into his career.
Five years ago, you were on the verge of quitting the music industry to become a music teacher. What kept you in the game?
Rodney “Darkchild” Jerkins (laughs). I was on my way out. I was like “I’m done. I’m fed up with the politics.” The music industry is not all about talent. It’s a business itself. It’s more about numbers, figures and who knows who. I was kind of fed up of years and years of trying. I was going to try to teach these kids how to keep going. In my final run, I came to America to finish up an independent mixtape. I ended up in Los Angeles from New York, which ended up with me signing with Rodney Jerkins.
How did you meet Rodney Jerkins?
He actually heard my music playing next door in a studio and came looking for me (laughs).
Rodney Jerkins once said (referring to you), “I believe that he will single-handedly bring R&B back to the forefront.” What does that mean to you to have someone like Rodney Jerkins say that about you?
I tell him often, “big bro there’s no need to put all that pressure on me” (laughs). I mean, it was an honor for him to believe that I had the capability of doing that. Whether I will do that, I don’t know. I’m just going to keep believing in the God that I serve and keep making great music. As long as music comes from the center of my heart, I’m never really going to have any problems. That’s what got me so far. I’m really passionate about music. It’s like my wife (laughs)…I think we’re slightly bringing R&B back (laughs) bit by bit. We’ve got “Without Me” by Fantasia, Ariana Grande “The Way,” Kelly Rowland “Gone” with Wiz Khalifa.
Being one of the hottest producers out right now, you are working on a lot of different projects at the same time. How do you keep your creative juices flowing?
My main way is church. I go to church twice a week. I’m on a worship team so I play with the worship band. That helps me keep a pure way of relating to music. I just work hard. I pay attention to a lot great people. A producer I’ve been paying attention to is Mike WiLL Made It. I think he’s doing very well for an up and coming producer. I’m attracted to people who do very well and know how to excel their careers. I like to read on people’s history — Quincy Jones, I’ve got like 18 books on him (laughs)…I’m really a down to earth guy. That’s how I get my inspiration.
You executive produced Fantasia’s “Side Effects of You.” Do you think an album with 1-2 producers is better than having an album with a different producer on each track?
I believe that if you want a cohesive album, yes one or two producers makes sense. There’s examples from Justin Timberlake’s three solo albums, Usher’s albums….going back to Michael Jackson’s album, Quincy Jones was the producer for him. I do believe it’s relative to have one producer but I do believe if there’s a mindset of people on the same page. If you put nine producers and make them have the same passion and have the same page, you can have that. You can get nine different producers to make a great album. One person who has done it is Jay-Z — “The Black Album.” There was probably like five or six producers — Kanye [West], Timbaland, Pharrell, NO I.D. — there was lot of producers. But because everybody was cohesive and together, he came out with a great album. I just believe that in this day and age everybody is trying to get on top and everybody is trying to be famous. In my field, [producers] want to be as big as the artist. It’s not a passion for music anymore it’s “I want to be seen, as well as heard.” We’ve got to find the balance.
It’s a throwback hip-hop record. It’s Mobb Deep meets Mary J. Blige, basically. There’s going to be a beautiful collaboration happening which I can’t disclose until we completely do it. It’s going to be an incredible record. I don’t think people have ever seen her in this light. The remix is amazing.
What are the ingredients to making an album great?
A great artist. When you have a great artist you can kind of go anywhere.
You’re working on Michelle Williams’ upcoming album, can you tell us a little bit about her direction on this project?
The same direction I took with Fantasia’s latest album, which was just creating great music. I didn’t generalize it to pop or R&B or dance. I just wanted to create great music. Yes, the lyric is about Jesus and the God we serve. It’s inspirational. It’s about the relationship. I think we are starting to break ground with it.
You once said, “I was brought into the industry to impact the artist and bring the greatness out of them.” How do you go about doing that? How did you bring out the greatness in Fantasia, Michelle Williams or any other artist you’ve recently worked with?
Time. It takes time. You have to be patient and watch. You have to know who they are. If you want to find out who they are quickly, you have to be silent and watch. You can’t be too loud. You can’t overly express yourself…you have to learn why. You have to understand why. I didn’t know Fantasia’s story when I met her. I didn’t know Ariana [Grande] could sing as well as she did until she came to my studio (laughs). I just knew that she was a Nickelodeon star. They eventually start opening up and then you’re like, “Wow! You guys are actually really special.” I think producers win more if they spend more time [studying]. Same with Chris [Brown]. When I went in the studio with Chris Brown and we did “Say It With Me” and “All My Love” that was the first session that we ever done and we wrote two hit records. People was like “how did you do that?” I’m like, “Dude, you’ve got to study the person…study who he is. You can get enough information on them.” That’s how I did it anyway and let God do the rest.
As the executive producer for “The Best Man Holiday” Soundtrack, what can we expect?
There’s going to be some collaborations. Definitely. Collaborations and just your favorites — Mario, Fantasia, Marsha Ambrosius, Anthony Hamilton…I can’t really disclose much but the story has a meaning and that’s why these songs go with it so much. I’m very excited about it and I’m sure it’s going to do well.
Tells us about your company B.O.E. Global. I heard it has different meanings.
My record label is called Best Of Everything. My production company is called Blackout Entertainment. We have a publishing house in which we just signed two producers — Moe Keyz and Big Mike. Real young kids like 22-years-old. Amazing producers…worked with me on the Ariana [Grande] album. They’re moving to LA next year. B.O.E. has its different branches.
When you aren’t in the studio, what do you enjoy doing?
To be honest with you, I like to go see buildings…that’s why I live in Hollywood. It’s amazing. I’ll go up the hills and just look at homes and architecture or the beach because the water hitting the sand is amazing (laughs). I really like peace because I’m always around noise — my speaker is on, my keyboard is on…there’s music playing somewhere. I sound like an old man, don’t I? (laughs).
Any other words?
I really want everybody to know that Jordin Sparks’ album is going to be amazing. I know people are sleeping on her. She’s got a big album. She’s got a great duet coming with her other half that we did. Keep an eye out for that. That’s going to be an awesome record.