Rico Love on New Album ‘Turn the Lights On’ + Writing Emotional Music
Rico Love's music is going to start some conversations.
For years, he's been a tour de force behind the production of your favorite songs (Beyonce's "Sweet Dreams" and Usher's "There Goes My Baby," to name a few) and now he's gearing up to drop his album Turn the Lights On on May 19.
With his new song, "Somebody Else," getting major buzz, Rico explained to PopCrush one of the goals of his full-length project: to provide records that will get people talking. And talk with him we did, getting all of the details on the album, what Rico's learned from some of music's biggest superstars and how he rewinds at the end of the day.
“Somebody Else” is so great. It’s so personal. Is it ever hard to put those emotions out there when you’re working on a song?
Not at all. I think that’s the easiest thing to do. For a long time, I was writing records for other people and I had to find a way to express what they may be thinking of. I think now the ability to say the things that are on my mind, say the things I was actually living and going through at that particular time, just felt natural to me. It’s almost like to the point where I don’t know how to do anything else, you know?
Absolutely. Just to hear your thoughts. And also, it’s a gift, because I can express … that’s a blessing to me because more than anything in this business, is to be able to capture the emotion and explain the emotion of the audience and say things in a way that they can’t say it. That’s what music should be. It should be finding those common things and saying them in a way that’s never been said before. I feel like I get the most gratification in that.
When you’re performing, do you recall those emotions or do you go to a different place?
When I’m performing, I’m trying to paint a picture. It’s almost like, I already lived it, I already went through it and now I’m trying to explain it to you in a performance piece to really show you. One, I want to entertain, and, two, I want people to believe it. That’s the way to manifest the words, by actual performance, when they see me perform and see the despair in my eyes and see the pain and the agony I’m going through when I sing the record. I think it’s my way of delivering to the people, like this is how I’m intending you to view this song.
You’re working on an album now, right?
Yeah, I just finished my album. It’s coming out May 19. It’s called Turn the Lights On. I’m super excited about it. I’m in the mixing and mastering process right now, so I’m finishing up some recording, maybe a few over-dubs and things like that. But overall, I’m done with it.
Can you give us any sneak peeks at what we can expect?
If you love “Somebody Else,” I think you’ll really love and appreciate this album … How big that song feels. The production, the detail I put into it. That’s exactly what I intended for the album to sound like and feel like. I think Turn the Lights On represents truth. The truth comes to light. Truth is the light. So the truth I liked about myself, that I became successful and how in this particular relationship, it changed my views and altered my perception of relationships in general. That’s what the album explains overall.
What do you want fans to take away from the album?
First of all, I want them to really appreciate the details that I put into it. I want them to really feel the songs. Like, I took my time writing each lyric, each word. Arranging each melody, each sound. I want people to really listen to it and feel like “Man, it’s a complete body of work that evokes a certain level of emotion from you.” I don’t want anybody to listen to any one of my songs without being able to have a conversation, an in-depth conversation about every song. I think that every record, you’re going to be able to have an in-depth conversation about what you felt from that record. It’s a road trip album, it’s a clean-the-house album, it’s an everyday album. It’s not like “Oh, I’ve heard this album is good. Cool. What’s the next thing?” One of those things where you’re going to have to live with this album for months and months and months. Years and years. It’s one of those albums that I don’t feel like has an expiration date.
When you’re working on a song for either yourself or someone else, how do you know when it’s done?
It just feels right. You know. If you listen to it and can’t hear anything else to add, you know it’s done.
Do you ever listen to a song and feel like you need to take something away?
Yeah, absolutely. All the time. You’re like, “I want to add a vocal right here. I don’t need this vocal right here. I want to change the arrangement.” As long as you can catch it before the master, you’re good.
You’ve produced for a ton of amazing artists, including Beyoncé and Usher. What did you learn from them that you applied to your own album?
Both of those artists are perfectionists and I’m the same way. I’m maybe more of a perfectionist in the studio than both of them. I’ve worked with both of them and made them sing the same song countless times over and over again. I think making things perfect, sounding amazing … not compromising any line. Every line has to be amazing, every line has to move something. No throwaways.
I don’t want anybody to listen to any one of my songs without being able to have a conversation, an in-depth conversation about every song.
That’s amazing that you gave the album that level of artistry. It’s not always easy to find in the music industry.
Yeah, I feel like it’s missing that, especially in urban music. I don’t consider this an urban album … I wanted to make songs, especially being considered an urban artist, being able to put time into the work. I look at what Kanye [West] does, I look at what Kendrick [Lamar] does, I look at what J. Cole does. I look at what all of these big artists do, and I feel like it’s time for that to be consistent. It’s time for that to be a staple. Radio is really clouding us with these fluff, frivolous songs about nothing. I think it’s time for emotion to win back on urban radio.
That should be the standard, not the exception. You’ve worked on so many amazing songs -- is there a key to writing a hit record?
Yeah, I think I have a great taste in music, so I’m a fan of a lot of amazing artists, from Dylan to the Beatles to the Stones to Rufus Wainwright to Billy Joel to Sam Cooke, Marvin Gaye and Biggie, N.W.A. I’m a fan of all of these different artists, so I know what I like. When I hear something and I love it the same way I love things I’ve heard from my predecessors. That’s how I know it’s good. It’s easy for me to know it’s right because I know what I like.
Do you have any unexpected influences?
Rufus Wainwright is one of my favorite songwriters ever, artists ever. Ambrosia is one of my favorite bands. Queen is one of my favorite bands of all time. I listen to Abbey Road at least two or three times a week, the entire album. I’m just a huge fan of music in general.
You’re a singer, producer, CEO. I imagine that keeps you pretty busy, but how do you unwind at the end of the day?
Netflix. Sitting on my loveseat, watching Netflix. House of Cards is over now, so I’m watching BoJack Horseman … Netflix is my way of relaxing. I have a Blue Cane Corso, a seven-month-old Cane Corso puppy, so I hang with him and my son. I like to hang out at home.