BMI recruited some of the hottest Latin artists to speak at its annual ‘How I Wrote This Song’ series on Tuesday, April 4th.
The BMI ‘HIWTS’ panel was created 10 years ago to serve a medium through which talented songwriters could share the thought process behind writing their music and bringing it to fruition. It celebrates and shines the light on Grammy nominees, giving them a chance to give insightful advice to young, aspiring musicians who wish to refine their songwriting and production skills. The format of the event is generally as follows: the moderator plays snippets of the panelists’ songs and spends a couple of minutes understanding how the song was conceptualized into the finalized product. Then, at the end of the panel, the audience gets to throw a couple of questions at them.
Broadcast Music Inc.®, (BMI®) Latin teamed up with the Apollo Theater Education Program to host an open-to-all edition of the panel. The moderator, the multitalented Anna Isabel, enhanced the panel with her charismatic persona. It featured 24 Horas, El Dusty, A&X’s Xtassy, Pinto “Wahin” and David Escobar – an incredibly musically diverse and talented group of artists. Despite coming from different musical backgrounds, there seemed to be one common denominator that bound them together: an insatiable drive to hustle. Scroll down to get the low-down on the panelists and to read a little more about what they had to say about their songwriting and production habits.
A bachata duo – comprised of Mickey Then and Joell Jaquez – from NYC who began topping the tropical charts with their debut single, “24 Horas” in 2010. Their album debut ,‘Los Inolvidables’, was released on Machete Music spawned a pair of chart-topping tropical smashes “24 Horas” and the Top 30 hit “Mami Dame un Beso.” The one-off single “Duele Duele” followed in 2011. Their new album TIEMPO marks their return and already two singles “Aun Me Perteneces” reached Top 10 on the Billboard Tropical Airplay chart and “Por Tu Culpa” reached #1 on the Billboard Tropical Airplay chart.
- On the inspiration behind “Por Tu Culpa”:
“ To clear the air, almost none of the songs that we’ve written were necessarily inspired by events that happened to us directly because, wow, that would be a depressing life to live. After about 2 years of making music we decided that we wanted to try our hand at producing bachata, which is a genre that is synonymous with drinking to numb your pain.”
- On the process behind producing “Por Tu Culpa”:
“ We mixed the song 4 times in total, not because we didn’t like the first, second, or third cut but because we kept feeling like it was missing that extra something. Sometimes, as artists, we ask 110% of those we work with because that is what we want to deliver with every song we make.
- On reaching #1 on the Billboard Tropical chart:
“It was a great blessing for us, especially because we’re an independent duo and not signed to a label. However, we’ve always had over 1 million hits on Spotify and YouTube, which really motivated us to keep going and delivering to our supportive fans.”
Founder and lead singer of Latin pop-rock band, Zona Rosa, David has performed absolutely everywhere: prolific venues including the Prudential Center and Radio City Music Hall and small bars and nightclubs alike. He’s worked alongside legendary Hispanic artists including the likes of Ricky Martin, Juanes, Juan Luis Guerra, and Alejandro Sanz. In 2012 David teamed up with NY’s La Mega DJ Alex Sensation and wrote the Spanish version of the Brazilian song “Balada Boa” by Gusttavo Lima, which went on to become Alex’s first radio hit, “Noche de Placer”. His true breakthrough, however, was with Alex Sensation’s latest hit, “La Mala Y La Buena”, which reached #1 in the Billboard Tropical Songs chart.
- On the inspiration behind writing “Asertijo”:
“This was actually the first song I ever wrote. I wrote it with my cousin after people kept telling me that I had a good voice but that if I wanted to take my career anywhere I had to start putting out my own material. The funny thing is that not many people know what “Asertijo” even means! It’s basically like a riddle, something that you have to find the answer to.
- On his hustle:
“I came to the US to fulfill my American dream. I’m here writing songs and working with artists like Romeo and Alex Sensation in the studio, but I also have a daytime job because I have to pay the bills. It’s not easy but when music is your passion and you let a month go by without forcing yourself to create something, you get depressed. I’ve always fought to network and make connections in the industry – it’s key. Be humble and take whatever opportunity comes your way.”
- On devising the perfect song title:
“It has to be something that really resonates with me. I always leave the title for the end because I don’t want to limit myself in the process of creating the actual song.”
Deemed by some to be the inventor of Cumbia Electronica, Dusty began merging the distinct sounds of cumbia and electronica before it became cool. He has appropriated the traditional sound of cumbia and combined it the sound of hip-hop, trap and Latin rhythms for something a little more rhythmic and modern. The Corpus Christi born producer is a hip-hop enthusiast as well as an avid crate-digger.
- On coming up with a cumbia electronica fusion:
“I come from a rap production background, but my parents would always put on latin music growing up. Their music taste stuck with me and inspired me to create something that reflected on my hood, but latino personality.”
- On his production habits:
“I was making hip-hop productions a while ago and I inherited a record collection from my uncle and my mom that consisted of about 20,000 records, which I sort through and listen to for inspiration.”
Wahin took a somewhat unconventional road toward the songwriting field. After undergoing a successful and fruitful career as a professional soccer player for FC Barcelona, he decided to try his hand at becoming a record producer. In 2000,he assumed the musical alter-ego of “Wahin”, and he founded his own label, Wahin Makinaciones, which was also the name of his first release six years later. His track “Havana” was number 13 on The Fate of the Furious soundtrack and his latest hit, “Papi, Papi” was included in the movie Ride Along 2 starring Ice Cube and Kevin Hart.
- On finding the vocalist for “Papi, Papi”:
“I like to produce and write with different artists, perhaps due to my team-driven philosophy. I love sharing special moments with people because I think it’s wonderful when someone who is physically close to you shares an idea with you and you get to develop it together. One of the producers I worked with to create “Papi, Papi” – Ricky Luna – and I were looking something urban and with a particular ambience for Ride Along. We created a demo where we needed a female vocalist, so I asked my wife to lend her vocals for the demo. We sent over the demo to the movie producers, who then recruited an actual singer to replace my wife’s vocals. Funnily enough, when the finished product was sent over to Universal, the music director told us that he liked the vocals on the demo better! So my wife’s vocals stayed on the final recording. Personality is everything.”
Juan “Xtassy” Abreu is one-half of the Dominican Republic-born production team A&X, the other being Milton “Alcover” Restituyo. Together, they have are widely recognized as one of the top songwriters and producers in Latin Music. The pair began working together in New York and have since then worked with several artists across the globe. Their musical ‘hustle’ has helped them to gain producing and songwriting acclaim – including a major collaboration with Don Omar, his #1 hit “Dutty Love”.
- On opening for Don Omar:
“I started out as a DJ and eventually I met up with a Alcover in high school and we started experimenting with production and it’s gotten us this far. We wanted to make our faces known because the producers are always in the background and the artist gets all of the recognition. We did a little bit of touring on our own, and it was great, but it’s an amazing feeling to know that we’ll be opening for one of Latin music’s greatest. He’s always been so supportive in everything that we do – he’s even helping push off Alcover’s singing career.