During Grammy weekend, BMI presented “How I Wrote That Song” a panel with four superstars including Faith Evans, REDONE, Mark Batson and Tory Lanez – held at the iconic Apollo Theater.
The panelists engaged in incredible and enlightening conversation, ranging from their most notable works, their creative process and inspirations.
Grammy-Award winning Mark Batson is one of the most legendary music producers in the industry. During the panel, there was a discussion surrounding one of his most timeless songs “Charlene” by Anthony Hamilton.
When discussing the story being “Charlene”, Batson said that when writing the song with Anthony Hamilton, when they were writing the words “Come on home to me…” they didn’t know what to say after that. At the time, Batson knew a girl (who he dated for a while) but then went on and had a fiancee. Her fiancee happened to be one of Batson’s friends and oddly enough during the session the only name Batson could think of was “Charlene” and he just put it in the song. Batson ended up bringing the girl to the studio, just to sit her down and let her know that the song’s name is “Charlene” but it’s not about her.
This was a story that left the audience laughing but struck at the same time. Many people are fans of the song “Charlene” but it’s only during an open conversation and a panel like “How I Wrote That Song” – where the listener can have a little backstory, and go beyond the final master of the song and dig into the nuances and process.
We caught up with Mark Batson before the panel and got to learn a little more about his backstory and journey with music.
The Knockturnal: What inspired you to get into music? How did you start?
A: Oh wow. I started playing piano, I took piano lessons from maybe 4-5 years old. My father was an Opera singer and during the 70’s we lived in the Bushwick projects. So it was kind of difficult for pops to go to be successful; but he did give us the training in classical music. By the time I got to be 10, 11 or 12 years old – it was the birth of hip-hop. So I kind of saw hip-hop being born in front of my face, going to different parties and all that. I took the music that I learned in classical, playing in bands, playing in church and combined that with hip-hop. Then at one point, it just became the easiest thing for me to do – where people would try to do stuff musically and it would be very difficult for them to do but just come really easy for me and I was like – this is what I want to do. It just came natural for me to do.
The Knockturnal: What’s the best advice that you’ve been given when it comes to ‘creating’?
A: To just keep going. A lot of people they want to be successful at something and then they don’t get it the first time, second time, fourth time, then they give up. I was in a group and that was maybe 20 years ago, we had a rap group and we had a deal. Everything didn’t work out. The group got dropped from the label and then it was all about – ok, do you quit now or do you keep going. The success really goes to people who stay consistent, who keep working, stay in the studio, keep writing, keep creating and don’t let things break you down and just keep going.
The Knockturnal: What’s one song you’re most proud of creating?
A: I have a lot of songs that I’m very proud of, so I can’t really isolate one of them. I feel that sometimes when you write a song, that a song could sometimes be like a Rubik’s cube where you’re kind of putting these things together and they start matching and making things happen. I think if you listen to John Mayer’s song “Daughters” it’s kind of like that. It starts and ends with the same story. I have a song with Alicia Keys called “I need you” that kind of is a puzzle, that when you listen to the song, the parts come together – so I really like when that happens. But I have a lot of favorites.