You’ve written for everyone from Michael Jackson (“You Are Not Alone”) to Celine Dion (“I’m Your Angel”). How do you get in the mind frame to write for acts that differ so much from your style and sound?
I really know how to tap into certain characters and artists. Like when I did Michael Jackson, to prepare for writing [“You Are Not Alone”], I put all of his pictures on every wall in my studio. I had Moonwalker playing on all my screens. And I didn’t listen to any other music but Mike’s. I would ask, “What would Michael Jackson say?” Not what would R. Kelly say. And it just felt like Mike would say [Kelly does a spot-on MJ impression], “You are not alone, I am here with you, though you’re far away, I’m here to stay...”
Now an example of you giving away material that seemed perfect for you is Maxwell’s “Fortunate.” When you were penning that song, did you think, Man, I might have to keep this one for myself?
No. And I’ll tell you a quick little story about Maxwell. I had to actually talk him into taking that song. He really wanted to do another song on that Life [soundtrack] album; the title song that K-Ci & JoJo did for the movie. But I was like, “Nope, I don’t believe you did one day of jail, ever.” [Laughs]
“When a Woman’s Fed up” is one of your finest creations. From where did you pull the line, “she was raised in Illinois, right outside of Chicago... some of the best cooking you ever had”?
I knew people would love it. My mother always told me if you write about life you will always be in the game. Just don’t write songs... write life. I decided to take her up on that. That lyric is a part of real life.
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