Multi-Platinum Grammy Winning Songwriter Talks Songcraft
Many of you may not have heard of Jackie’s Boy – just like you may not be familiar with Poo Bear or BloodPop. Jackie’s Boy is Carlos Battey (One half of the hit song writing team The Jackie Boyz) and, after writing so many hit songs for other artists he is preparing to embark on more of a personal journey. APN talked to Carlos to find out more about the mind of a certified, hit songwriter.
Carlos Battey and brother Steven used to spend their days performing original songs and covers on the River Street Pier in Savannah Georgia to adoring crowds of locals. They enjoyed the small town fame but it wasn’t until the untimely death of their father in 2003 followed by mother Jackie the very next year that the brothers decided to leave town and head to the world’s most notorious music metropolis, LA.
Almost as a force of habit the duo found themselves playing regularly for local crowds again – only this time it was at Hollywood and Highland (on some days) or down at the much loved Santa Monica Pier on others. It was in this all-too-familiar setting that an Atlantic Records talent scout spotted them – offering them a writing deal, practically on the spot. The first artist? A relatively new rapper named Flo-rida.
Where does the name Jackie's Boy come from?
Well, the name ‘Jackie’s Boy’ comes from my mother, Jackie who sadly passed away back in 2004. She was always my true inspiration and my driving force – she was responsible for all of this – she inspired me to be who I am and stay to true to who I am. So when you see me now you can say “That’s Los, that’s Jackie’s Boy!”
What was your first big break with the music business?
Well, after my brother Steven and I made it out to Los Angeles we would spend a great deal of time singing on the streets of Santa Monica and Hollywood and Highland. We would often get asked if we wrote songs because we would perform some of our own material. It wasn’t unusual for some well-known musician to compliment us or ask if we wrote songs. One day we were performing in Santa Monica and an Atlantic Records scout had turned up (unbeknownst to us) and listened to everything we did for almost an hour. After a while he introduced himself to us and that become our Flo-rida ‘Sugar’ opportunity (Flo-rida ‘Sugar’ went to #4 on the US Billboard Charts). I guess you could say we’ve been a ten year overnight success!
Please tell us about your Grammy Win
Well it all started when we had a track called Revolver that we’d finished and it was being shopped around the industry to Rihanna, The Pussy Cat Dolls, Rita Ora – a lot of artists, and they all passed up on the song. Fortunately Madonna was looking to work on a greatest hits compilation and she heard the song and had the vision to go forward with it. We knew of the Grammy Nomination three to six months ahead of time but my brother and I never thought there was a hope that we’d win so we never even planned on going to the Grammy’s. We actually found out that we’d won on the way to a recording session!
Please tell us About the Major Surgery you Recently Endured
Sometime last year I had started to get a lot of headaches – they were bad. I initially thought it was my wisdom teeth but it wasn’t. After having an X-Ray a large tumor was found, growing on the inside of my jaw. It turns out that the cancer was an unusual kind known as Ameloblaseoma (it’s so rare, in fact, that it accounts for less than one percent of the worlds tumors – Ed.) I decided to go to Miami after finding a great surgeon and I had a 3 month recovery instead of the one year recovery being quoted in LA. I believe that experience led me to understand the true meaning of having just one life, just one voice and I realized that, whilst writing for others is great financially it was time to create music as an artist. I actually made a pact with God that I would never take those gifts for granted again.
What was the creative process behind your new track, Mad Love?
The song is a testimony to my wife, Sharyn, who stuck with me through the entire process. Shortly after my recovery I was in the studio and asked my buddy AK to get some tracks to me. Another good friend Kevin Hissing did the guitars and sent them over to me.
So how did you decide on just one Instrument?
I knew I wanted something that would display the natural raw power and emotion of instrument and voice without anything else in the way. At that moment, I needed the song to be simple, bare bones… Basic. There are a number of remixes on the way though.
What do you think music producers should know when working with songwriters?
From beginning to end there has to be a point. Research your favorite songs, find which writers like that style of music. If a writer isn’t feeling your production, because its not their style, that’s a difficult moment. For me, starting from scratch is good – building a track together. Try and be music-based rather than just sample based, to control the flow. I have the most success when I am part of the production process.
What do you look for in a beat production from a producer?
“Leave the track open. Don’t over-produce it. Make sure you leave room for the vocal. This helps the writer concoct a really good top line – it helps to have less music. Let the song breath.”
Do you work with unproven, young gun producers?
Absolutely. I honestly prefer new producers. They hunger for the music and they have great energy and drive unlike some successful, well-known guys.
What makes a hit song?
I couldn’t even define that! lol. In ’95 I would say great melody but now it could be anything. What moves you? It’s about what people can connect to the most and feel they can share with others.
What inspires you?
Many things inspire me. God inspires me each and every day. Secondly my family, my wife, my children, the memory of my mother…
The importance of formatting?
“For me, when I look at the formation of a song I already have an understanding that the hook is always going to be the hook – the verse will always be the verse. Typically I’ll start with verse, pre-hook, hook… My system is that I’ll go in and record melodies first – these are the backbone of the song. After that I’ll construct lyrics to match the feel of the melody. Melody is always King.”
Are there any hard and fast rules you stick to when songwriting?
“I try to stay away from extremely generic titles. I like to have concepts that are a little out of the box.”