Acclaimed songwriter, producer and singer Keith Andes has sold more than 150 million records and worked with artists from Michael Jackson, Prince, Lionel Richie, Boyz II Men, Aaron Neville and Kitaro to Toni Braxton, Mary J. Blige, Deborah Cox, Diana Ross just to name a few.
Monday, March 14, 2022
Keith Andes Interview: New Single "My Life", Songwriter for Lionel Richie, En Vogue, After 7
TERRANCE: Introduce us to how you got your start in the music business.
KEITH ANDES: I'm from New York City. Born and raised in New York. I came up doing sessions as a session player in New York City. Nowadays, the young people don't realize back in those days, we didn't have Pro Tools and all of this stuff. We had live musicians, so all those records that they grew up listening to were live players and that's what I did coming up. I was a piano player. I grew up in the Church playing the piano in New York at the Antioch Baptist Church of Corona. So I would go to sessions at 16 and 17 years old for different records. The first big record that I played on was Tom Browne's "Funkin' for Jamaica". I played piano on that. That was my first record that I played on that got notoriety. Then I just got phone calls after phone calls. That's how it started.
TERRANCE: Who were your musical influences growing up?
KEITH ANDES: Oh man. Let's go way back. My first musical influence was The Beatles. I used to love the song "Rain" with Paul McCartney and John Lennon. Then I became a Holland-Dozier-Holland fan and Elton John & Taupin fan and Gamble & Huff fan. I'm an R&B guy so I love all of those songwriters and great records. And what got me into production was when I heard Earth, Wind & Fire for the first time. I was inspired by Maurice White and Charles Stepney. I really didn't know what a producer was at that time. You're talking about a kid that was 14 years old in junior high school. And I would say, Producer? I don't know what that is but I want to do that. It was those records that made me start paying attention to production. Of course everybody grew up with Jackson 5. I was a Jackson 5 fanatic. So those were my heroes coming up.
TERRANCE: Talk about the inspiration behind your new single "My Life".
KEITH ANDES: Well, it's funny looking at as you get older and you look at everything with social media. Everybody's a critic about what you should be doing. You're too young to do this, you're too old to do that and you're too this to do this. I was just like, this is my life and I can do what I want, when I feel like doing it. If you don't like it, that's fine, you don't have to agree with me, but respect my life. This is what I want to do. You do you and I'll go do me and that's really what the emphasis of the song came from. I think it's a song that everyone can relate to. That's how it came about.
TERRANCE: What has been a career highlight thus far that has stood out?
KEITH ANDES: There's been a few. One of them was when I got the opportunity to work with After 7 for the first time. I did the song "Gonna Love You Right" for the Sugar Hill Soundtrack. Wesley Snipes was in that movie. I did that song and it went to number one. Then Kevon Edmonds calls me and says, hey man, my brother Kenny "Babyface" wants to meet you and that's when I started working with Babyface. We worked together for Toni Braxton, Jon B., En Vogue. We just went through a run of songs. Waiting to Exhale Soundtrack is another where I did all of those songs with Babyface. Then I wrote songs for Lionel Richie. That was really the beginning when I was doing a lot, a lot of work. I was writing and producing songs while I was living in Los Angeles for over 25 years.
TERRANCE: You mentioned En Vogue. I know this year marks the 25th anniversary of their hit song "Whatever". Talk about the process behind writing that song.
KEITH ANDES: There was this guy named Giuliano Franco who had this beat for the track. I was in another studio working on Toni Braxton and he came in the room and he says, Kenny wants you to hear this beat. So I went in and listened to the beat and I said, I like the beat, and then I came up with the hook. I told Giuliano that we needed a bridge and so I sat at the keyboard and wrote the bridge and then Kenny came in and did the lyrics to the verses. That's how that song came about and when that song came out, it went to number one right away.
TERRANCE: If you could describe your life in five songs you've written, what would they be?
KEITH ANDES: "How Could You Leave" by After 7. I went through a divorce and I'll say that all divorces aren't bad. The wife called back and said, baby I messed up. So I wrote that song with Ricky Jones for After 7 on their album. "Last Night" by Az Yet was written about a night with the ex-wife in Miami. That's a personal one. From my catalog, I would say the song "Magic". I was walking down the street looking at this girl and she was gorgeous. Her hips were swaying back and forth. I was like, that girl is Magic. "All I Want Is You" is a song that came about listening to a friend that lost his wife because he really wasn't paying attention to her the way he should've been paying attention and it made me reflect on me and all I wanted was her, but I didn't do the right thing to keep her. "No Need to Complain" is a song I wrote when I was in a very dark place in my life. The melody woke me up in the middle of the night. I sat at the piano and that song just poured out to me. That song came from a very personal place.
TERRANCE: One of my favorites you've written was "How Do I Say I'm Sorry" by Tami Davis.
KEITH ANDES: Yeah, I wrote that one with Deborah Cox. That's a special song. Tami Davis. That girl can sing.
TERRANCE: Was that song originally for Deborah?
KEITH ANDES: It was originally for Deborah and she did the demo. Then Tami calls me and says, I need some songs. I didn't pitch it to her, she overheard it and she went, I gotta have this song. I said, let me check with Deborah. I called Deborah and she said, okay go ahead because I don't know when I will be doing my record no way. Deborah's original background vocals from the demo is on Tami's song. So that's how Tami got the record.
TERRANCE: You've written and produced for many artists over the years, so are there any in particular that you would like to work with that you haven't already?
KEITH ANDES: I would love to work with Bruno Mars. I love Bruno Mars and I'm a fan. He's really gifted and he can sing his face off. He's a person I would love to be in the studio with and work with.
TERRANCE: Any knowledge or advice you could share with those who aspire to do what you do?
KEITH ANDES: Be yourself. In the business that everybody says, this is the new hot thing. But the new hot thing isn't who you are. You're just being somebody else. You're being a carbon copy. What we need is for people to be original and do what it is that you do, so everything on the radio doesn't sound alike. I'm thankful that I grew up in the times when we were making music, if we made a song that sounded something like somebody else's, we would be like, no we can't do that, they're already doing it. It wasn't cool then to sound like somebody else. We didn't want to do that. So I would say, be who you are. Be original. Be unique. And you will find your audience. The other thing that I would say especially to young people is to stop worrying about being famous. Let the music speak. Don't worry about the fame.
TERRANCE: What can we expect in the near future as far as music and production?
KEITH ANDES: I just produced a new song out right now by Crutchfield Jones called "Crazy Ass". That's all over the radio. I produced it with Ricky Jones and co-wrote it with Ricky, Shireen Crutchfield & Michael Crudder. I have more music coming with Ricky Jones and I have more music coming for myself. I worked with the late great James Ingram who was a personal friend like a big brother to me. I have a song that I wrote with James & Ricky Jones called “How Much I Love You” that will be coming out soon. I'm also producing a couple of new and young acts, so just constantly making new music.
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