PAGE21 EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH KEVIN McCALLBy SDotCom 03/6/11 02:39 am
His name is Kevin McCall, you may have heard of him, no? He’s the musical genius behind Chris Brown’s mix tape “In My Zone” released Feb 2010. Still don’t know him? Okay, he also produced Chris Brown’s “Fan of a Fan” and #1 hit song on the Billboard charts “Deuces”. By now you know the song (it spent weeks in the top spot on the charts) but you still don’t know Kevin McCall?! Okay, let me put it this way, he was the gorgeous, chocolaty dude in the “Deuces” video walking around with Chris Brown and Tyga, black beater, last verse, big muscular arms and a line that goes,
“…The other chick I’m with never complain’. She make me wanna leave the one I’m with Usher Raymond…”
Okay! Now you know who I’m talking about! And now that we’re on the same page, finally, let me take you on a short journey and explain to you why this article is better late than never!
Last year, April 2010, when the idea of PAGE21 magazine was born, my partner and I were super excited about how we were going to spin this magazine. We would include articles on fashion, entertainment and music but, with tons of magazines out there doing the same thing, we struggled with a solid concept. What would make us different? We thought, when artists become stars, their music and images are plastered everywhere. But who is the real person behind the lights, make-up and pro-tools? How did they become a star? What were their struggles and inspirations? What kept them going when all else failed?
Our purpose was to get that story; the raw version from those who are still humbled enough to tell it. There’s something about a new artist who hasn’t quite tasted the succulent flavors of fame yet. They are extremely honest, forthcoming, real and most of all willing to let everyone know just how hard they’ve worked while validating their place in this ever changing music industry.
We were getting closer and closer to branding our magazine’s concept. Through hard work, long hours and burning the midnight oil every night, we felt we were ready to start working on our first issue. We wanted to launch ASAP! Problem was, we had no interviews lined up. Where the hell were we going to find a cover story (and meet the unrealistic deadline we’d given ourselves)?
Around this time it just so happened, one of our in-house photographers was shooting a model by the name of BJ Williams. Often times during photo shoots the models will play their own selection of music to vibe to. In this instance BJ threw on his itunes and Kevin McCall’s production with Chris Brown was blazing out of the speakers. Now Chris Brown’s voice was, of course, recognizable — but the songs that were playing were not. Little did we know, we would have the opportunity to hear Chris Browns now popular mix tape ‘Fan of a Fan’ which boasts the mega hit ‘Deuces’ long before it was released to the public.
While at the photo shoot we get K-Mac (Kevin McCall) on the phone to schedule an interview. After hearing the tracks it was clear we were onto something big. The universe was still hating on Chris Brown at the time, but we knew this music and the production could not be denied. At the time nothing could have prepared us for just how BIG the single Deuces would become — and how untouchable (and unreachable) Kevin McCall would be just a short year later.
Fast forward: It took close to a year to develop this magazine, but this interview will go down in history as a first. It was PAGE21′s first interview and ironically Kevin McCall’s first as well. And even though K-Mac has deleted us from his contact list and blocked us on his new ‘verified’ twitter account, we still have love for him. Because we remember the conversation between a starving artist and a starving magazine editor.
Take a look back at my interview notes and what Kevin McCall had to say when he sat down to talk to PAGE21:
The one thing that stands out from my interview is that Kevin was extremely nice and a tad nervous, expressing to me, very playfully, that he felt like he was in the hot seat! I assured him that he wasn’t and encouraged him to talk to me like we were having a regular conversation. He was flirtatious, which was cute, and his sense of humor was incredible.
As I prepared my questions and digital recorder, he sang a little. It was nothing familiar to me. I don’t even believe it was anything but gibberish, but it was melodic enough to grab my attention. I thought, “This guy definitely reminds me of real singers who sing about nothing in particular during those quiet, empty moments in life.” Convinced that our lead story wouldn’t disappoint, I began our interview.
At once I felt as if we were long lost friends. Our conversation was so fluid and engaging, it was almost as if it wasn’t an interview at all. His life was so interesting, yet so familiar to me. I felt as if I had come across someone like him before. Actually, most musicians and singers I know share similar stories but, there was something different about Kevin’s.
Not only did he come from a talented family on both sides of the gene pool, but he struggled with which gene he would let dominate his future career. His father’s side of the family was full of division 1 college football athletes and if you google Kevin McCall, you will find, to this day, articles of his early football career. His mother’s side was full of singers; aunties, uncles and cousins alike. Every family function was an opportunity to show off and as he stated during the interview, “If you didn’t sing, you were the odd ball.”
It was during his college combine (a combine is a showcase where college football players perform physical and mental tests in front of NFL coaches, general managers and scouts.) when he decided that he wanted to pursue music. He didn’t quit because he couldn’t handle it, but, his heart wasn’t in it the way it used to be. His calling for music had become deafening and it couldn’t be ignored it much longer.
The transcript below is the interview I conducted with Kevin McCall May 11th 2010 – a little over a month after hearing his tracks at the photo shoot. Throughout this interview, on and off the record, I was amazed at how wonderful and humble he was as a person and as a budding artist. We are so happy to see how far he’s come.
Kevin McCall: Yup, exactly.
PAGE21: Who was the most influential person in your life at that time? Who made you say, this is what I wanna do?
Kevin McCall: It’s kind of like when you’re growing up and, you know, all the family members get together and unite for the holiday, we have a little homemade talent show and things like that. All of the adults were amazing so of course you know they always give the kids a lot of shine, so I had a lot of cousins, a lot aunties and uncles and they all sang. So I just wanted to fit in, kinda like, just get in where I fit in. You know what I’m saying? If you aint sing you were the odd ball.
PAGE21: Sports ran in your family too and at one point you had to make a decision between football and music. You choose music obviously. But how difficult was that decision?
Kevin McCall: It was very difficult because as far as my parents were concerned, they didn’t really know much about the music industry so it was kinda, you know, uncharted waters for me to go and venture into something they couldn’t really tell me about. They weren’t too knowledge about it. It was a big risk you know and I guess they were kinda upset that they didn’t have all of the answers. So they didn’t really trust it, but they knew about sports. So they were a little cooler with me doing that, but uh, when I told them I wanted to do music, they didn’t really like it too much.
PAGE21: Even though your whole family was into music, was it just singing in church or singing around the house? Did anyone do it professionally?
Kevin McCall: Well with my family there’s a divide…..my father’s side they wanted me to do football. Everyone had played division 1 college football. (They) were football stars. And you have the other side which is my mom’s side. Everyone sings. I had an uncle sing in a group and he was one of the main people who took me at a young age, you know? You see a little talent in a kid just playing around, he’ll kick a rap to the kid and lock you in a room with him and teach you some things about music. I remember the day when I did my first recording, I was in the back room, full of smoke, (Laughs) I damn near coughed my lungs out, but he taught me how to sing basically. And I almost cracked! (He said) “See that right there? That’s called singing off key, don’t do that!”
PAGE21: What exactly is it that you do? Not only are you a singer but you rap and produce as well.
Kevin McCall: I’m what you call a hundred per center, what that means is as far as publishing goes I write all my music, I produce it, and I perform it. So I get a 100% of everything, so I don’t really need any outsiders. But it’s always good to collaborate with other people cause like they say, two heads are better than one.
PAGE21: Who have you collabed with?
Kevin McCall: I collab with people like Keri Hilson, Tank, Chris Brown. He (Chris Brown) really gave me a lot of exposure and a platform to meet all of these people. I worked with Trey Songz, Esther Dean, Omarion, Kelly Rowland, Bow Wow (that was a fun session), Pleasure P and Tyga. I was on a Young Money song called “She’s gone.” Oh, I worked with Brandy, that’s what I’m real excited about! Brandy was another person I forgot to mention who was very influential in just my singing style and what I think about music.
PAGE21: Yes, Brandy is very influential to a lot of singers. She’s in every singer’s rolodex. If you need a particular run, just flip to your Brandy files and pick one.
Kevin McCall: I have a crush on her (laughs).
PAGE21: Every singer has a crush on Brandy! (Laughs)
PAGE21: When did you get your first big break?
Kevin McCall: A year after graduating from school I met a guy named Andre Merrit who wrote “Forever” and “Disturbia”, Chris Brown and Rhianna. I was pretty cool in music but I had the look too and I was kinda in his entourage basically. I was hanging around the stars and for a while people didn’t even know I did music until one day we were in the studio with Tank and Chris Brown and Chris left the room and said, “Man I need some beats.” All this time I been hanging with him, he didn’t know what I did. So I pulled out one of my CD’s, bogarded everyone else and said, “Stop playin and put this shit in.” Chris stepped back in the room like, “Hey, we’re not writing to nothing else. Don’t play no more beats. We’re writing to that.” He still didn’t know it was my beat. I go in there and shoot some lines for the song, and he thinks I’m just some writer in there tryin to write on it, and he’s like, “Yeah, I kinda wanna change this part.” I was like, “You know when I made the beat, I made it like this…dah dah dah.” He (Chris) was like, “Wait, you make beats?! YOU made THIS beat?!” And I was like, “Yeah.” And that’s when we made the Rich Girls “Smile & Wave”. That was the first song I ever did with Chris. Ever since then, he made me do more beats, and I became one of his go-to guys. We made the “Twitter” song a year later. That got a lot of buzz, but, I really started getting the buzz earlier this year when we did the “In My Zone” mix tape that was dropped on Valentine’s Day. He flew me out to Virginia, and for hours we pumped out about 6 songs per day.
PAGE21: Are you and Chris friends outside of the studio?
Kevin McCall: Yeah, we’re close friends.He’s a real outgoing guy, and I didn’t realize it but were a lot alike. On a personal level, a lot of my family members notice that we just mesh real well. I think that’s why the music comes out the way it does.
PAGE21: We all know the circumstances Chris Brown went through, and as his friend, what was the best advice you gave him?
Kevin McCall: Well my best advice to him was just to pull them all with love, you know, just be loved, live life and love yourself and love others. I mean that (stuff) truly is gonna fade away but, it’s always somebody tryna to bring you down. That just lets you know that you are successful. I feel like stuff on TV, in the media, you don’t realize it does get to stars, you know? They’re human and it hurts, it just hurts. You know, a friend would come in and say, “Hey, turn that off! Don’t look at that! Don’t read that! Don’t listen to this.” That’s what real friends are in a circle.
PAGE21: What advice can you give to people coming up in this industry? Music is their passion but some get frustrated and discouraged. What do you say to them?
Kevin McCall: You have to find your niche and try to build up a way to be refreshing to what’s already out there. But not to stray too far away from it, to where your left field. Like…I don’t wanna listen to this stuff. It’s not what I’m already listening to…You have to find a way to fit in with what’s current, with what’s fresh, but also bring something new and refreshing, put a twist on it. Also, you have to find a way to network. So get in with somebody, who knows somebody, who knows a star. Move up that ladder by any means necessary but at the same time, keeping your dignity and know who you are. I never had to not be myself, and I got here. All I did was, I stayed being K Mack. People liked my personality, they saw that I was honest, not a negative bone in my body and so people just like to be around you. You have to be that person that people like to be around. When people down your stuff it can take you one or two ways. You can say, ok, I know my stuffs amazing and not change it or you can do like I do, actually listen to what they’re saying. You figure…. the ones listening to it, they have credibility as opposed to if you talk to people or a bum on the street who knows nothing about music, and they’re downing your stuff. You know what I mean? Take it as corrective criticism, constructive criticism…and turn around and listen to it and try to be better. Always try to get better. Never be content.
I went into a session with an AR from Atlantic and I used to write some dope songs and he said, “Uh, I don’t like this line. Change it.” I would want to fight him over it…not literally fight him…but I’m like… “Yo, that line is dope. You don’t change it, you’re not from the streets, you don’t know how I talk.” And I changed that one line, just that one little tweak will make a song that much better cause it was something I wouldn’t have thought of. It added another element and changing that little thing, putting my pride aside to listen, it made me much better. You have to learn how to do that. You might not like it but you gotta do it.
PAGE21: What’s next for you? Any Mix tapes, placements, appearances?
Kevin McCall: Yeah, hopefully I do a photo shoot with you guys (chuckles). I have a placement in the works with Justin Beiber, I don’t know what project it’s gonna be on. But I was in a session with Keri Hilson, Justin and Chris and he (Justin Beiber) says, “You know what song I like?” He pulls out his cell phone and plays my song. A song that I wrote and I was like wow, I never even met this kid but he’s in love with this song so that’s a plus right there, you know? So Chris let him get that song. And he’s hot right now and for someone like that to have my song on his phone, I mean, that was a real exciting moment for me.
PAGE21: What are some song’s you’ve written that our PAGE21 readers will recognize?
Kevin McCall: I wrote all the songs on Chris Brown’s “In My Zone’ mix tape; I wrote No Bullshit, So Freaky, Work With It, Trapped Up, Big Booty Judy with Ludacris… On another album, I produced and wrote everything, the mix tape with Chris Brown and Tyga, it’s called “Fan of a Fan” I produced everything on that basically. I have a song coming out with Keri Hilson called “Whatever You Need.” It was produced by me and written by Tank and Chris Brown. We just shot a video for a song called “Deuces” ft. me, Tyga and Chris Brown. That song has got the internet going nuts but, that video is coming out soon.
PAGE21: How can people find you?
Kevin McCall: You can always find me on twitter. I’m KevinMcCall1. I’m on facebook. I always reply and get back, it’s Kevin McCall. You can tell it’s me. I’m the only Kevin McCall with his shirt off (laughs). You can hear my music if you google it or go on youtube.
PAGE21: We listened to your stuff and we love it!
Kevin McCall: Thank you. I appreciate you listening to it!
PAGE21: Well Kevin, we want to thank you for hanging out with Page21.
Kevin McCall: Thank you!
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