On the morning of the 57th annual Grammy awards, SESAC held it’s 11th annual brunch at the Four Seasons hotel in Beverly Hills. Hosted by songwriting powerhouse, Bryan-Michael Cox, this year’s brunch honored T.I. and Jason Jeter for their business contributions to the music industry.
We caught up with Bryan on his thoughts about this year’s nominees, the evolution of songwriting, and his plans for Grammy night.
It’s Grammy day. What are you looking forward to seeing tonight?
B: I’m really looking forward to seeing Rihanna, Paul McCartney, and Kanye … I think everyone is going to be talking about that, the importance of that collaboration. How important Paul McCartney is to music history and culture and what that means for Kanye and Rihanna, who you know has been a part of culture for over 10 years. Being with Paul McCartney really shows an amazing process of who we are now.
And what about artists who came up in 2014. What new artists are you rooting for?
B: I think Sam Smith is a easy win. He’s like the golden child, made a soul record. He has a hell of a voice and you know, he has an incredible story, so I think Sam Smith is a shoe-in. But you never know with the Grammys. You never know. Iggy’s nominated for best new artist, I think there’s some competition there.
Songwriting is always evolving and changing. What do you think it’s going to be like in 2015?
B: Songwriting is evolving but you know, it’s the same. Lyric and melody. You know what I mean? I think that … technology evolves, the way people make records evolve, but that the song is the same no matter how you chalk it up. You can tell. Like Sam Smith’s record, it’s Tom Petty’s “Won’t Back Down.” A song is a song. You got a song / lyrics that someone might sing along to, and relate to, something that touches their heart. If it touches their heart, if it touches 3 or 4 people in the room, most likely it will touch the world. If it gets out there. So to me, I don’t think songwriting evolves, I think that the way we make records evolve now, but that’s just the way of the world. A hit today could be a hit in the next two years. Like John Legend’s “All of Me,” that record is timeless. It’s piano and vocals. Music and lyrics, one of the biggest records of the year. I think it’s just, a song is a song. That’s all, no matter what year it is.
What are your plans for the after the Grammys? Any post parties?
B: Oh yeah, I might do something. Puff Daddy’s doing something at some club, I might go turn up with him.
What does it feel like to be back at the Grammys this year?
B: We come here every year. It’s always fun. The whole purpose of coming down here is to reconnect with people … start on the right foot, hopefully get some business done with the people you reconnect with. That’s why it’s good that the Grammys are in February.
Why do you think it’s important to writers to join organizations like ASCAP, BMI or SESAC?
B: I think it’s important for songwriters all across the nation in ASCAP or BMI, SESAC. The pros really do this like this because this is how we stay connected. This is like our union … And most importantly, they pay us … And you know, it’s really about the relationships … It’s about the writers, the songwriting community, relating to one another, and the relationships turn it into business. You know what I mean? So you know, I come to the ASCAP brunch, and some writers that I haven’t seen in a year or two, I say “hey listen, I’m in town for the next week, come to the studio.” And that turns into copyrights. And next thing you know, all the promotions. The pros are sharing copyrights on a big record. So it’s really about unifying songwriters. That’s what I’m about. That’s what I’ve been about.
You’ve seen a lot of artists come and go, you have had a lot of longevity in this business. How do you feel about the state of music right now, what we’ve got going on?
B: You know what man, it’s all about perspective. I think that for someone to say, “I think the music business is dead”… I mean, the music business as we knew it coming up in the ‘90s — it’s different. It’s evolved, technology … I’m 37 years old, so there’s definitely a 20 year gap between the generation coming up and the culture. So it’s a matter of understanding what that is. And you know what? Instead of me saying, you know what man, that’s all sh*t, everything they’re doing now is sh*t …understanding what the culture is now, and trying to help guide, and make it better and guide the young people through the business, you know what I mean? They’re creating their own business model too, by the way, I gotta learn that too!
So, I don’t know if the state of the music business is as bleak as everybody says it is. I think that the people who say that are older and have experienced a different music business. They experienced the time when they were giving out 2 million dollar checks just because, and Ferraris and all that because they wanted you to do a record on whoever. You know that don’t happen no more. These kids, working, making their own money, they’re making money from record one, too. So it’s just a matter of understanding what that is and how to maneuver in that. So I don’t think it’s in a terrible space, I think we’re just in a weird mental space. We’ve got to reinvent who we are, and evolve and quit talking about the past.
We also caught up with singer Chrisette Michele at the SESAC Brunch.
At the BMI Panel Rick Ross was talking about how you came into the studio, picked up a pen and that was it.
He talked about me?! That’s nice!
He did! So, was “Aston Martin Music” that easy?
It was, but at the end of the day, there were like 85 cars outside of the studio door, so it was literally in cars the whole weekend in Miami, what else are you going to write about?
Who are you looking forward to seeing perform at the Grammys?
I’m excited about Hozier, I love, love, love Hozier. But today, I’m excited to see what Damon Dash has to share with us, I really, really think he’s special.
What are you working on right now?
Always on tour, the Opus tour for my last EP that I just put up. Then I’m working on my album which will be released this summer, but I’m taking it easy. I’m here in LA and my TV show, “R&B Divas LA,” starts again February 11th.
We also spoke with artist and songwriter Raja Kumari.
What are you nominated for today?
I’m a songwriter on Iggy Azalea’s ‘The New Classic’, and I wrote the song ‘Change Your Life’, it’s featuring T.I., I’m doing a lot of the background vocals, so if you here my voice and know me, you’ll recognize!
Where did you get your start in songwriting?
Oh, I’ve been an artist, I’m an Indian classical dancer so I just started doing music when I was 13 and I realized there are so many songs that other people can sing to, you write a song a day, that’s too many for yourself, so I just learned you can emote through different expressions if you work with other people.
What was your big break?
Iggy Azalea! That was my first placement and to have that nominate for a GRAMMY – and that was two years ago when she first took the song.
How did that happen?
I wrote it, and I got signed to my publishing company at Pulse with that song, and my publishers played it for her management and they got so excited, and it was a process. Actually, the other writer is Nasri Atweh, the lead singer of MAGIC!, which is so random! So, himself, me, and Lovy Longomba wrote the record, then Iggy did her verses, her thing.
What are you wearing to the show?
I kind of want to keep it Indian designers, so there’s this peacock dress that I’m obsessed with. My stylist is Robert Bircoch, he’s Persian so he brings all those elements so we might do something vintage.
What do you have going on next?
We are doing a lot of listening sessions for my project, I’m about to put out an album, it’s called ‘The Come Up’ and it’s a mix of Indian folk melodies with acoustic urban production, it’s really cool, it’s produced by a producer from Denmark, and I just got signed to Tricky Stewart, so I’m his artist now and so we’re super excited about this new thing and Tricky has been really supportive so this year it’s going to happen.
Guests enjoyed a full buffet lunch of scrambled eggs, assorted pastries, and waffles served with fresh berry compote and of course whipped cream. The mimosas were flowing as Bryan introduced this year’s honorees who both spoke about staying patient and thanked their friends and family for their support.