Archives For Mark Ronson

The next time you hear “Uptown Funk,” the infectious anthem birthed by DJ/producer Mark Ronson and recording artist Bruno Mars, think about this: it almost never was.

“I remember Bruno once saying like, ‘Man it just breaks my heart but maybe this song is just not supposed to be,’” Ronson recalled to me early last year. “From that initial creative point of it, it was so exciting. That’s why I was hanging on to it like, ‘We gotta make this work.’”

Good thing he did. A billion-view music video, Super Bowl Halftime Show performance, double-GRAMMY nomination and 9-times RIAA platinum certification later, “Uptown Funk” has gone on to top the 2015 year-end charts in seven different countries. Additionally, it sits as 12 on Billboard’s all-time Hot 100 chart here in the U.S.

“Now when I hear it and I just see people like go wild or dance or light up, it’s great,” Ronson told me, noting that he forgets about the long, stressful nights that went in to the record’s creation.
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Coming off last weekend’s Super Bowl Halftime Show, Ronson and Mars now look to take home hardware on music’s biggest night. The GRAMMYs air Monday on CBS from Los Angeles, and “Uptown Funk” is up for Best Pop Song Duo/Group Performance and one of the evening’s biggest awards: Record of the Year.

“I’ve had a few (successes) but none of my own records have… you know, they’ve always been cult hits or ‘DJ records’ and stuff,” reflected the English-born, New York-raised producer on the success of “Uptown Funk” in 2015. “This is beyond anything I ever really thought would happen.”

This is Ronson’s third nomination for Record of the Year and if he wins, he’ll add it to the mantle alongside the award he scored thanks to Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab.” Coincidentally, Mars and Ronson also were up for the category in 2014 thanks to “Locked Out Of Heaven.”

“You know, I had always heard about (Mars) even when he just started out and everyone around LA was like, ‘Oh yeah, this super-talented kid Bruno; he plays all these instruments (and) he’s a great songwriter,’” Ronson said. “I never met him and I got a call just to go in and we met and we talked about music…and I just really liked him so we started working on his second album.”

The DJ/producer has three GRAMMYs in-all, also nabbing Producer of the Year, Non-Classical and Best Pop Vocal Album in 2008 – a year that belonged to the late Winehouse.

“No one’s ever going to live up to Amy, you know in the way she was such a singular, incredible artist,” Ronson said of her. But while the two are never compared (and rightfully so), when MTV wanted to pay homage to Winehouse on the 2011 Video Music Awards, they called on one artist.

Bruno Mars.

CeeLo Green spent a little over a year out of the spotlight and hasn’t released new music in almost five (save his 2012 Christmas LP). The last year was controversial at best: Green was sentenced to three years probation following a no contest plea after authorities charged him with supplying ecstasy to a woman. The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office brought that case to court after dropping sexual battery charges, citing insufficient evidence.

The last public report on Green’s probation came in May, and it was completely positive. Green, nee Thomas DeCarlo Calloway, complied with all conditions and a judge relieved the singer of having to attend any further court hearings. It seems the experiences of his past year have affected him, but not necessarily changed the former “Voice” coach.

“I’ve endured quite a bit, and I’ve experienced quite a bit,” Green told me as we chatted for a few minutes about his forthcoming album, Heart Blanche, due out November 13. “I’m at the time of my life where, I just felt like more mature music needs to co-exist. It’s definitely from the same signature soul perspective of CeeLo Green and even more introspective and reflective, but still enjoyable and entertaining.”
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I followed up by asking if he is reflecting on the past year in these songs; he confirmed that and elaborated.

“It’s a culmination of that (and) just a desire to kind of get back in and contribute again,” Green responded. “You just feel like you’re being idle.”

But while the “Forget You” artist probably wasn’t moving at the pace he had grown accustomed to, he was far from idle. Green recorded his new LP while fulfilling community service requirements with Volunteers of America, working with homeless veterans. And his therapist said that anytime Green was asked about his upcoming project, he exhibited a “genuine humbleness.”

The same could be said during our chat, which was the second time I have interviewed Green.

“You ever heard the term, ‘carte blanche’?” he asked after I inquired about the new album’s title. “It means, ‘one who has the ability to act as he wishes, behave, create.’ You know what I’m saying?

Heart Blanche; music being a matter of the heart.”

As chronicled in the new documentary Amy, almost anyone who came in contact with the late Amy Winehouse experienced some type of very intense, dark time with her, especially later part of her 27 years alive. Yet it takes almost no effort for her first manager Nick Shymansky to recollect brighter moments he spent with the gifted singer.

“Because we were flown out by the label, we decided to make the most of it,” Shymansky, the nephew of Universal Music Group’s Lucian Grainge and current Senior A&R at Island Records was telling me on “Ralphie Tonight” during a story about how he and Winehouse were in New York City. They had a meeting with her label that didn’t go as planned; due to the lack of “heat” around the artist at that particular moment, label execs were pumping the breaks on releasing Winehouse’s first album Frank in the States.

“Amy just made her first bit of money. She wasn’t really famous but she was getting a lot of acclaim. We ended up going to Tower Records and she got a massive trolley. She was like a kid in a candy store.”

Winehouse went to town in the once-booming store (Shymansky believes they were at the former Upper West Side location), not taking in to account anything – whether it be the price of the records nor the tax and shipping cost to send them all back to the UK.

“I remember she bought all this music and we paid a huge fine for taking it back (overseas),” he recalled with a smile. “It was amazing seeing her just realize, ‘I can have whatever music I want. I’ve got money.’”
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Shymansky contributed over 12 hours of footage he taped to the piece, which was directed by Asif Kapadia. He, along with rapper Mos Def, producer Mark Ronson and many other friends and family of Winehouse’s, sat down with Kapadia for audio-only interviews that are woven throughout the two-hour-plus film. The singer’s former manager cooperated with the filmmaker in part to help show different sides to Winehouse’s personality and artistry; perhaps those neglected and/or ignored by the media that maligned her until she died of alcohol poisoning in July 2011.

But the film is honest and comes with its share of cringe-worthy moments: watching Winehouse stumble in front of tens-of-thousands on stage, the singer’s mother admitting that she missed early signs of bulimia and Winehouse’s father Mitch showing up to Sr. Lucia, where his daughter was supposed to be recovering on while avoiding the media… with a reality-show camera crew in tow.

“I think one of the most powerful things about this film is that you’re not really told what to think of people,” Shymansky explained. “Opinions aren’t flying. You can’t ignore there were certain decisions, certain things that were handled badly. But I think you come away from this film… it’s two hours and 10 minutes of you being close to the artist.”

From that proximity, it is hard not to see why after viewing Kapadia’s final cut, Winehouse’s father decided to disassociate the family from its release. In addition to the aforementioned incident on the island, Mr. Winehouse also plays an integral role in the creation of his daughter’s breakout hit, “Rehab.” Shymansky actually tried to admit Winehouse; the singer responded by deferring the decision of whether she should go or not to her father.

Despite working out a plan ahead of time with her manager, Mr. Winehouse told his daughter that she didn’t need rehab. Of course, you know this by simply listening to the song, which is almost a verbatim play-by-play of the entire situation.
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“Popular music, up-tempo music, hit music, whatever you want to call it… is very often, when you really look in to the context of what that song’s saying, it can be quite deep,” Shymansky noted, citing hits from Motown as an example. “For me, I can never listen to ‘Rehab.’ Although, I appreciate why a lot of people get it, dance to it, love it… but I knew what was behind it, and I always found it a bit of a ridicule in to my belief that Amy needed help.”

Shymansky could have easily forgotten about Winehouse altogether after his refusal to leave the company he worked for, 19 Entertainment, led to the singer switching managers prior to the release of Back To Black. But Shymansky still cares very much about the singer and her lasting legacy, knowing full well that his discovery of Winehouse helped cement his own credibility in the industry.

Lioness record came out, and I always felt very strange about that record coming out because it wasn’t a record that Amy said, ‘This is my body of work. I’ve finished it. I’ve done it,” he responded when I inquired about the possibility of any unreleased demos seeing the light of day. Keep in mind who Shymansky’s uncle is and what label he now works for, and this is an obvious example of the former point regarding his interest in the singer’s legacy. “Amy took her music very seriously…I hope that if music does emerge, it’s not put out there.”

Caleb Hawley, a Fieldhouse Music recording artist, stopped by “Ralphie Tonight” on Wednesday. He performed a couple of his tracks – “Bada Boom Bada Bling” and “Little Miss Sunshine” before chatting about life in Harlem, plans for 2015 and lessons learned from his run to Hollywood Week on Season 10 of “American Idol.”

More on Hawley, including his releases Side 1 and Side 2, can be found here. Watch video of his acoustic performance and interview on “Ralphie Tonight” below.



Mark Ronson, tall on knowledge but short on sleep, stopped by “Ralphie Tonight” to chat about his number one hit that almost never was. Ronson also talked about the media comparing new artists to others that have come before them and what it’s like to perform alongside the likes of Bruno Mars and Mystikal.


The DJ and producer recalled growing up in New York City, and opined how Manhattan has changed since he was a kid on the Upper West Side. Ronson’s album, Uptown Special, is on Rdio now.

There was a time, not too awfully long ago, when Jesse Marco would lug crates of his music across the snowy campus of Syracuse University to DJ… well, anywhere. Bar gigs, sorority formals, college radio stations – the setting, location, and clientele didn’t matter to Marco – so long as he was able to do what he loved: mixing music.

“I love the act of dee-jaying so much,” Marco professed during a phone interview Wednesday on “The Ralphie Radio Show.” “At the end of the day, none of that stuff matters to me.”

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The “stuff” Marco refers to is the celebrity that he has found and that has found him over the past few years, as his career has astronomically taken off. The native-New Yorker transferred out of Syracuse and in to the New York music scene. There, he linked up with the likes of the late DJ AM and Mark Ronson. Now, Marco regularly spins at the hottest night clubs in the world, and is hired by or performs for almost any A-list celebrity you can think of at the moment. And while it ultimately may not matter, it certainly doesn’t hurt that Marco is now one of the top club DJ’s in the game. After all, if he wasn’t at that club out west almost two years ago, he may not have landed his first blockbuster film.

“I was playing a show in LA, and one of the producers from ‘The Hangover’ was there,” Marco recalled. “He came up to me and was like, ‘Hey, we got this part in this movie and you’d be perfect for it.’ And I was like, ‘What? Okay, sure.’”

A month later, Marco was on the set of “Project X,” having the time of his life as he played a DJ to one of the biggest fictional parties ever thrown. Released earlier this month, the movie is one of the biggest and most talked about productions of 2012.

“I’m happy to bridge the gap a little bit now, and sort of move in to the more musical aspect of the business of dee-jaying,” Marco said. “At the end of the day, it’s awesome playing for certain people, and I want people to hear my music.”

Like many other DJ’s you currently hear on the radio, Marco is making the transition by exiting the clubs and entering the studio. Last month he released “Daddy Cool,” his first single on Big Beat/Atlantic Records.

“The [Electronic Dance Music] thing is really big right now, and it’s not slowing down,” Marco stated. “I can’t deny that it’s helping the DJ scene.”

But while “Daddy Cool” may be a foot-moving, fist-pumping friendly record, don’t write it off as just another dance track. Marco, who regularly fuses a plethora of genres in his live set, reworked the 1976 Boney M. disco hit of the same title.

“I was like, ‘Why is nobody sampling ‘Daddy Cool?’’” Marco asked himself after hearing a couple other DJ’s sample the disco band. “That is the quintessential, at least for me, Boney M. track.”

On “Daddy Cool”:


So, Marco took the original in to the studio and left with his own modern-day take on the record. He believes the new version is versatile, and mass appeal is not something the DJ is shying from.

“I feel like some people are on like some, ‘Oh don’t sell out. Screw the commercial stuff,’” Marco admits. “Like, I want people to hear my records.”

And if Marco’s career continues its rapid trajectory, they’ll be hearing his music, regardless of if they’re at a college campus or a club, sooner rather than later.