Chris Deville from Stereogum sat down with one of the biggest producers of the year, Mike WiLL to talk about label meetings, how busy he’s been in 2013, and more (including some mentions of my least favorite artist, Miley). Read here ( my favorite excerpts are below).
STEREOGUM: It seemed like all year, wall-to wall, you’ve pretty much been the most in demand producer in music. Did you have any downtime this year? This had to be craziest year of your life.
MIKE WILL MADE IT: Man, this year came and went. I remember Christmas like it was yesterday, my birthday like it was yesterday. This year really flew right past. Like you said, I was real busy. Just going from city to city… I haven’t sat down in one city for more than a month. It’s always a week or two, then I’m on to the next city. I bought a new house, but haven’t been able to spend much time in it.
STEREOGUM: And now you’ve been all the way to #2 with “We Can’t Stop.”
MIKE WILL MADE IT: About that… It was 8 degrees in New York around January, and I was running around doing meetings with all the labels because all the presidents of all the different labels wanted to meet with me. I remember I had some downtime before I had to meet with RCA, so I fell asleep, and my man who was setting it up was calling me and I finally woke up and he was like, “We have to get over here to this meeting. We’re gonna be late.” And I remember saying, “Fuck that meeting, man, it’s too cold. It’s 8 degrees outside, I’m not goin’ to the meeting.” My man said, “Dude, you have to go. This is a top dude from RCA.” And I asked, “Man, can we schedule it tomorrow? It’s too cold,” and he was like “Nah, nah, we have to go to this.” So I said fuck it, I met him over there. Because, you know, me and Rihanna had “Pour It Up,” and that took off without the label investing in it or trying to make it a single. It just took off. I had started on “We Can’t Stop” as an idea for Rihanna, but when I was presenting it to Rihanna’s camp, I kept telling them that this was the new “Party In The U.S.A.” This is like a mature version of “Party in the U.S.A.”
Anyway, I get to RCA and at this point, I don’t know what artists are signed to what label or who’s signed to where so I’m just playing everyone a whole bunch of tracks. I play “We Can’t Stop” for him. The crazy thing is the week before I went up there I had the flu and I told my manager that, since Rihanna didn’t take “We Can’t Stop,” I need to find Miley Cyrus and figure out where she’s at and see what kind of music she’s working on. I felt like “We Can’t Stop” would be a game changer for her. And he was like, “Is she even doing music right now?” And I was like, “I don’t know, but I know she should do this song.” I wasn’t too familiar with her previous songs. Anyway, when I played that for the label I wasn’t even over the flu. I told my manager that, by the time I got over the flu, I needed to be in the studio with Miley Cyrus. So I wasn’t over the flu when I was in New York and I was playing the song and Peter was like, “This would be dope for Miley Cyrus” and I was like, “Yes, yes! Is she signed to you?” and he said yes. I didn’t even know that. So I showed them some other songs I thought could work for Miley and they said they’d show them to her and see what she thinks.
They played them for her and she liked it. She said she connected with it because it reminded her of some parties she had been to before. When I got in the studio with her, I thought we were just going to knock out this one song and be done with it. So I already had “23″ in the can. I had one in the studio with Juicy J and Wiz. I told them I was going to let Miley hear it and see what she thought about it. We were doing “We Can’t Stop” and she was telling me how much she loved it, and I was like, “Yo, I have this song called ’23′ that I think is dope. I want to see what you think about it.” And I let her hear it, and she said, “I love this shit. I’ll hop on it right now.” So she did. And then I asked her if she was going to use that for her album or what, but she said she’d rather it be just a feature. I tried to give it to Juicy J, but he was done with his album. And by then it was time for me to go into album mode, so I just said fuck it and used it for myself. That was back in February. We did “We Can’t Stop” and “23″ in the same day. That was a crazy moment.
STEREOGUM: At this point you’re pretty closely associated with Miley.
MIKE WILL MADE IT: Me and her caught a vibe. That was the perfect timing because she was telling me that it was time for her to be done with the Hannah Montana shit because she’s not signed to Disney anymore. She said, “It’s time now for me to me be. I’m grown now. I’m 20 and people have to accept me for me.” It was good that I wasn’t too familiar with too much of her previous music because it was like a new beginning for her… new for both of us, really, because I wasn’t just going in with a whole bunch of pop chicks. And she had gone in with Pharrell already, but she had never gone in with a producer around her age. We just continued to work, and I told the label to keep setting up days because I felt like I had a whole catalog for her, and I felt like we’d come up with some dope stuff. The label said, “Her album’s closing out,” but I said, “Keep setting up days until we get it done.” And that’s when we did “My Darlin’.” That was the third song we did. I was telling her how crazy Future was and how dope of a writer he is. That’s when we did “My Darlin’,” and he was telling me that night, “You just turned me into a believer, you just turned me into a Miley Cyrus fan because of how her vocals sounded on that.”
After that, we thought we could do anything. And she was good with taking direction and listening. I get real in detail when I’m producing, so we just kept doing music. She loved going to the studio, and we just kept going. We ended up doing eight songs on her album, and I ended up being the executive producer. And “23″ ended up going to the top of the charts fast — it has 100 million views on Vevo. That being my first single and having a 100 million views and “We Can’t Stop” coming out and being a crazy talked-about song… Everything rolled out and was just so perfect. And her album was so solid, and that was my first album that I executive produced.
STEREOGUM: You did a lot more this year than just your work with Miley, though.
MIKE WILL MADE IT: I was continuing to work with artists like 2 Chainz and having two songs on his album, continuing to work with Juicy J and have three songs on his album. Now I’m working on Future’s album, and I’m executive producing his album. It’s been a dope year. Like you said, just staying busy. Everything’s a highlight, everything’s a new thing. Being able to executive produce Future’s album is crazy to me. Like having a song like “Real and True” that I had on my hard drive for a long time… I was running around with it, and I was going to give that song to Mariah Carey, I was going to give that song to a couple different people. I let Miley hear it, but she had too many ballads on her album, but she liked it. So I let Future hear it and he loved it, but by that time I had already put Miley’s verse on it, and then I let Future hear it and he thought it was dope as fuck. So we knocked it out and did it as his song. That shit came out like crazy. I’ve been holding that same song since I was working with Kanye back in 2012. Me and Mr. Hudson had met each other, and he gave me the hook and the beat. I was running around with it saying that it would be a huge song, and you can see how that song came out. Me and Future went back to the first studio that we had recorded with each other at. We threw it out for Atlanta because Atlanta likes to hear new music from us all the time, and it ended up being so fucking hot everywhere. Everything’s a highlight, man. I could keep going on with stories and stories.
MIKE WILL MADE IT: I don’t want to be on the mic, man. I want to stay producing. But Gucci had an hour-long conversation with me trying to get me to start rapping.
STEREOGUM: He couldn’t convince you?
MIKE WILL MADE IT: Nah, not in that conversation. He had a long conversation saying, “These other producers are doing it. They ain’t got the swag like you.” With some of these artists, I might be helping them come up with lines, I might be helping them come up with cadences, getting them to say a word a different way. Gucci was telling me, “You could be a rapper, I’m telling you.” He tried to have a conversation with me, [Tinie] Tempah tried to have a conversation with me, Dr. Dre told me I was going to start rapping. A couple people have tried to have that talk with me, but I just don’t see it.
STEREOGUM: Well, what you’re doing right now seems to be working for you.
MIKE WILL MADE IT: Yeah, man. It’s all about the music to me. That’s what it’s all about. I’m so into making music and being behind the scenes. I’m such a visionary person that I don’t see myself being the person in front of the camera or the person in front of the mic. I want to start doing movies and shit and start directing music videos, things like that.