Singer-songwriter Autumn Rowe is best known for her skills penning radio smashes for Pop/R&B divas. Starting out in the New York circuit, where she fronted a neo-soul outfit as well as singing and writing with a diverse array of other artists (including hip-hop mogul Swizz Beatz), she signed with B-Room/Water Music Publishing. This lead to a joint deal including Steller Songs/Stargate Production/EMI UK, which in turn lead to Autumn writing the first three singles of Star Roc/Roc Nation/Sony artist Alexis Jordan - "Happiness" (#3 UK), "Good Girl" (#6 UK), and "Hush Hush" (#12 Netherlands).
Since then, Autumn has gone on to write "Collide" (by Leona Lewis, #4 UK) and "Swagger Jagger" (by Cher Lloyd, #1 UK), with several exciting projects and releasing coming up over the next year.
Check out her answers to my questions below:
FOTP: Hello Autumn, what's up?
Autumn: Hello! Happy New Year!
First of all, let me congratulate you on the Grammy nomination for Afrojack's remix of Leona Lewis "Collide", co-written by you. I think it's fair to say 2011 was a huge year for you - both "Collide" and "Swagger Jagger" by Cher Lloyd were big hits in the UK and other countries. How do you feel about all your success this year - vindicated, triumphant, relieved? Are you finally "there" or is this just the beginning?
Thank you so much! 2011 was a great year with lots of excitement! I feel totally blessed to have had such a fantastic 2011, at the same time...I absolutely feel like I'm just at the beginning of so many things I want to do.
Could you share a bit about your journey so far, from growing up in the Bronx, to deciding to pursue a career in music, to flying all around the world crafting #1 hits for A-list superstars?
Well, I'm from the south Bronx and I've always been a very focused hard working person. I started interning for record companies and making music contacts when I was in high school. I was also in 3 choirs (one the NYCHA choir, which Claude Kelly and Lil Eddie were members as well), a repertory company (City Kids), and started learning the art of studio recording all while juggling homework.
Growing up in the south Bronx was not easy. Where I'm from, it's do or die. Many people don't even make it out of the "hood", so I knew I had to work my butt off. I am very blessed to have a great mother, who was always very supportive and never doubted me.
You seem to me a very strong, straight forward New Yorker lady. Does that lead to some frustrations or misunderstandings when you're dealing with artists and executives from very different cultural backgrounds?
Funny you say that...my mouth sometimes gets me in trouble. Here's the deal, I keep it real. If you don't want to know what I think...then don't ask me because I'm going to be honest. I'm a true new yorker, and I don't sugarcoat things. We say it like it is. But most people really appreciate it and know exactly what they get in me. I care about the artists I work with and I care about the work i do. For the most part...honesty is appreciated all around the globe.
You're also an artist in your own right. How does working with so many other artists affect and influence your own music?
Well my best songs usually come...if I write them as if I'm writing them for myself, Alexis Jordan's "Happiness" was something I wrote from what I was going through at the moment and so was Leona Lewis' "Collide". I try to connect to the records as much as possible, and write things I would feel comfortable singing on stage myself.
I've heard currently working on your own "underground/soul/drum 'n' bassy" project. I know Benga's involved and you wanted to bring in Skream, DJ Zinc and some others too. What's going on with that and when will we get to hear it?
Yes I've slowly been working on a project which keeps taking lots of turns. I've done some tunes with Sam Frank, Rocky and Rufio, Benga....I also have some new music from Skream, Naughty Boy and othes I can't wait to tackle.
In addition to "Collide" I know you've written a few other songs for Leona's project - a co-write with her in Sweden, another in session with Jonas Quant. Can you tell us a bit about the music you two have worked on together and the general sound of her upcoming LP? Should fans expect a full-on dance record through and through?
It's hard for me to say too much until a project is out...because a lot of projects go through so many changes before we heaer the final product. But Jonas Quant is a genius, I really adore him. We had a good time and Leona is always great to be around.
You've also been busy working with Alexandra Burke on her sophomore record , which was been pushed back into 2012. The lead single is the awesomely titled "Elephant", is that one of yours?
I didn't write "Elephant", but I am very excited for Ms. Burke. She is one of my besties and I want to see her win. Her voice is fantastic and she works soooo hard.
One of your first big breakthroughs was writing Alexis Jordan's break-out hit "Happiness". Have you done anything with her for her new record?
If you were to pick three artists to work with who you haven't worked with yet, who would you pick and why?
I want to work with Beyoncé...I love her work ethic, her voice and how she owns a record. Some records sell an artist, Beyoncé sells a record when she puts her voice on it and works the stage!
I would love to work with Harry Connick Jr...his voice is just classic. I've seen him live and he just lifts my spirit. It would be incredible to write a son with him and hear his captivating voice on it.
It's hard to just pick three...but my third would be Madonna. She's a total boss! She is one of the greatest song writers, who should be getting way more credit than she does for her skills. She is the ultimate woman to me and I would learn a lot just from being around her.
I know you converted to Christianity, I've seen you mention prayer in some interviews and things like that. How did that conversion happen and how does it influence you and what you do - is it hard balancing your personal convictions and a career in secular music? If someone approaches you and wants to make a song like "My Neck My Back" or something, do you turn it down?
Well I wouldn't necessarily say I converted to anything new. I've always had faith and believed in God. I pray eveyr day and I believe someone listens to my prayers. Honestly if someone wanted a "My Neck My Back" type of song, I doubt I'm high on their list of writers to call. I don't really get asked to do those type of sessions.
How do you find a balance between making music that is true to your and the artists' personal moment and music that is "hot", that connects with a wider audience? Do you have to take target demographics and radio formats and so on into account when you're in writing sessions?
Not really, I don't over think too much. Sometimes what makes a hit is it stands apart from everything else that's out there. I don't mind taking risks and trying things that you wouldn't think to put in a pop hit. If it doesn't work then it doesn't work, but if it does...then we now have something special. A lot of my songs don't sound like anything that I've heard on the radio, and I could jump to the conclusion it sucks or I could take a risk and say maybe this is my own sound...and I'm rolling with it. I've gone with the latter :)
Autumn, thank you so so much for your time. Any final words or things to look forward to from you in 2012?
Thank you so much for taking the time to interview me and I'm not one to talk too much, I rather be about it! So stay tuned for 2012...lots of love Autumn!
Thanks again Autumn!
Check out three of the smash hits penned by the lady herself below. You can also keep up to date with all her latest developments by following her on her official Twitter, @Autumnband, and tumbleblog, Autumn Rowe.