In my many years of doing interviews with people in and out of the music community, one division that I never really focused on are the producers, songwriters and remixers that can bring certain songs to life. Historic people in the industry from Diane Warren (Unbreak My Heart, How Do I Live) to Ryan Tedder (Halo, Bleeding Love) have all shaped music in one way or another. There have also been times where remixing a song turns out to be better than the original, most recently with hits like “Cruise” by Florida Georgia Line which was remixed to feature hip-hop icon Nelly and historically songs like “I’m Real” remixed with Jennifer Lopez and Ja Rule and pretty much every Lana Del Rey Song.
Cue in Paul Andrews, who is a quadruple threat all wrapped in one cute and handsome frame! Paul has been in the industry for many years now, and has credits to his name from being a producer, songwriter, remixer & arranger. Even though Paul and I both reside on Long Island, I didn’t meet him until this past summer at Provincetown’s epic Bear Week with his equally as awesome partner Tom. I later saw Paul post a ton of songs he was remixing and I didn’t want to miss out on a chance to interview him and get to know him better. A walking Billboard Magazine of musical influence, Paul Andrews is the real deal when it comes to his knowledge and experience in the industry. Did I mention cute already? Just look at the pics. I sat down with Paul recently to discuss his history in the industry, some of his favorite songs he has worked on and remixed, and plans for the future. Take a look!
Hi Paul! So tell me what got you into producing, remixing & writing in the first place?
Hi Ryan! Without a doubt, I would have to credit my mom for getting me into music. She offered my brother and me piano lessons when we were very young and then kept on encouraging me in all my musical pursuits. She also played a lot of music while we were growing up, from classical to R&B to pop. My mom has great taste in music and I developed an ear for good songs and full musical arrangements because of her.
In school, I played in band, jazz band and orchestra and I sang in the choir. I ended up getting a degree in music theory and composition. It just seemed natural for me to write and produce music since music has always been a part of me.
Did you have any huge inspirations growing up that led you to doing this?
I wish I could list everyone since I was constantly being influenced and kept in awe by so many great musicians. There are different aspects of record making, so I drew different inspiration from each part. My biggest classical influence was and still is Claude Debussy. His use of harmony was ear-opening for me. It has stayed with me my entire life. I drew inspiration from incredible songwriters like Carly Simon, Brenda Russell, Burt Bacharach, Rod Temperton, John Farrar and Antonio Carlos Jobim who wrote great melodies with interesting harmonies.
Producers and arrangers like Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, Trevor Horn, Arif Mardin, David Foster, Narada Michael Walden and Walter Afanasieff got me into the production aspect of music. And artist like Chaka Khan, Donna Summer, Basia, Swing Out Sister Out Sister, Sade, Tears For Fears, Oleta Adams, Everything But The Girl and ABBA knew how to deliver the entire package.
You have done a ton of great remixes, one of my favorites being Mary J. Blige’s song “Just Fine”. What is your process when remixing a song that is already exceptional at the level it is at?
Thanks! Part of the process is just finding the vocals to work with! Sometimes I am afraid of touching songs that are considered “classic”, but then I think that I’m offering something unique to the listener. I had to let go of the fact that some people just won’t like what I do, and that freed me up. Why give people what you think they want when the best you can offer is what you uniquely have to offer?!
The term “remix” might confuse some people in regards to my work since I’m not necessarily making a club version of a song. When I remix (or rearrange), I try to take the song in an entirely different direction. I challenge myself to see if I can capture the style or the sound of other periods. I tend to keep the tempo of the original song and not alter the speed of the vocals too much. Harmony is really important to me, so I usually start my ideas by getting a new chord progression down (and seeing how far out of the key I can go!) It can totally change the feel of the melody.
I like creating moments in songs where things just open up or quiet down. I know I’m onto something when I get that “chill” factor. Surprisingly, a lot of my arranging is done in my head when I’m away from the studio. I constantly have music going in my head. Sometimes I’ll start singing to myself and not even realize it. I have had sleep issues when I can’t turn off the music in my head.
Do you have a favorite remix that you have done so far and why is it that one?
One?! But they’re all like children to me! I can’t say that I have a favorite, but I do have some favorite aspect of certain mixes:
Seal “Crazy” – I felt like I got a classic sound of it. I wanted it to have that grand sound and feeling.
Kylie “Slow” – This was the first mix where I just let go of expectation and did what I wanted to do. I love samba and apparently, a lot of other people do to.
Donna Summer “I’m A Fire” – Right after her passing, I did this mix out of my love for her (I was devastated). I really felt my sincerity came through.
Adele “Rumor Has it” – Pure orgasm when I got that bridge to work!
Adele “Set Fire To The Rain” – First mix where I didn’t go for a club tempo or feel and where I went to an older 80’s style.
Adele “Someone Like You” – I really like how I completely changed this song and got that 60’s orchestral feel.
Madonna “Lucky Star” – I imagined what this song would have sounded like had Madonna recorded it a few years prior with the same producer.
Hall & Oates “I Can’t Go For That” – I like that I created a funky thumper, changing up a lot of the chords while making it feel familiar.
Pet Shop Boys w/ Dusty Springfield “What Have I Done To Deserve This” – This was pure 60’s fun!
You get some pretty big artists retweeting the remixes you do, Kylie Minogue was recent. Have you ever had the ability to meet any of these people and work with them?
Yes, Kylie liked my mix and tweeted it out. I got a bunch of plays from that tweet! She actually called our house once, but that’s another story…
I love the internet and social media because I’ve been able to connect with people who I’ve admired for so long. I feel very fortunate and humbled to have received compliments from some of my idols like Brenda Russell, Jimmy Jam, Steve Anderson, Nile Rodgers, Danny White (Basia), Mike Stock (S.A.W.), Andy Connell (Swing Out Sister), Lisa Coleman (Wendy & Lisa), Jody Watley… And then I felt beyond ecstatic when some of them actually posted my work. I was lucky to have met some of them, but haven’t worked with any of them… yet!
One of the most memorable compliments came from Sebastian Morton who cowrote and produced “I’m A Fire” with Donna Summer. He heard my mix and wrote to me saying that the way I arranged it captured the essence of what they were going for when they wrote the song. He also said that he knew Donna would have loved it.
When I first moved to New York, I was fortunate enough to become friends with Toni C. (Whitney Houston, Deborah Harry). We wrote and produced a few things together. We had such a blast!
Do you have a dream artist that you are dying to work with on a remix?
I really felt that I connected with Adele’s voice on the 4 mixes I did. Or maybe it’s just that her voice has so much character, it sounds great on anything! I would definitely love to work with her. I wish that could have worked with Donna Summer. I guess the next best thing would have been to work on her posthumous remix album. I’d still love to get my hands on some vocals to give it a try. I definitely have this thing for female voices.
You have been in the industry for quite some time now. What are your thoughts on how the industry is today compared to how it was when you got into it?
It’s changed a lot. But it’s not just a change in the industry: the way we make music and the way we listen to it has changed too.
Back when I first starting remixing, record companies really worked an artist. They developed them, found the right songs, built a name for the artist… Now it seems that these companies want a finished product, complete with a fan base, all wrapped up nicely and ready to sell with a bazillion remixes (all done on spec) on the side. There’s no development. Basically, the A&R man has gone away.
Because of technology and the internet, so many people are now making music and sharing it. It’s great to have so many options, but sometimes things get lost. Some computer programs are basically writing and producing songs with a few clicks of a mouse. The craft is missing. The public is eating all of it up, but they want it NOW and they want it for free. Meanwhile, so much of what they’re listening to is all frosting and no cake. They get bored quickly and move onto the next flavor. One friend told me that her daughter was playing song in the car through her iPhone. She would listen to each song until the end of the first chorus, and then skip to the next song. Finally, my friend asked her daughter to “please let one song finish!”
On the other side of this, the internet has allowed older artists, or artists that don’t necessarily do popular music, to release material on their own without a recording contract. They have an outlet and can do the kind of music they like without any input from the record companies. I love supporting the artist directly.
What are your plans for 2015 and beyond for Paul Andrews?
Well, I’ll continue to do the mixes, but I want to start collaborating with other musicians, get involved in some projects… I definitely need to concentrate on original material. I tend to like so many different styles, I’m just going to see what comes out of my head!
Want to know more about Paul Andrews? Check out his official site’s below!