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Multi-platinum Record Production Team Deekay

Multi-platinum Production Team DEEKAY Founders Lars Halvor Jensen and Martin Michael Larsson make up the production and songwriting team DEEKAY (new songwriting/production members include Tim McEwan, Obi and Josh)....

Multi-platinum Production Team DEEKAY

Founders Lars Halvor Jensen and Martin Michael Larsson make up the production and songwriting team DEEKAY (new songwriting/production members include Tim McEwan, Obi and Josh).

The multi-platinum production team are on speed-dial on many of today’s top artists, including A-list artists such as the Sugababes (lead single for their album “Change”)), Lemar (‘It’s Not That Easy’), Ronan Keating, Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Ashley Tisdale, Gia Farrell, Mis-Teeq, Samantha Mumba, Blue (‘Breathe Easy’ and ‘Bubblin’ on the ‘Guilty’ album), and many others.

They’ve also worked with all-time favorites such as Paula Abdul (who’s featured on Randy Jackson’s new album ‘Randy Jacksons Music Club, Vol 1’) and Randy Jackson (American Idol judge) himself. DEEKAY sat down with us to talk about music production, the internet and what to watch out for when trying to monitor a recording session via Skype when Timbaland and Justin Timberlake are next door.

How did you become a producer? Were you first a musician/singer/songwriter?

DEEKAY’s Lars Halvor Jensen: I started programming on Atari way back in time, but my career didn’t get started until I met my business partner Martin and Norwegian singer Christina Undhjem on a school for music in Denmark.

We immediately hit it off and started recording demos and within a few months we had a major record deal with MCA Records in Denmark. I was a keyboard player in the band and wrote melody & lyrics. The band was very successful in Denmark selling 48.000 copies and reaching #2 on the album chart.

Martin & I decided that our heart was in writing the songs and producing the records so we decided to start our own production company, P.O.P. Productions (Proud Of Pop Productions).

We signed a major publishing deal with Rondor Music in 1999 and in 2003 we started DEEKAY Music, which is now a full-fledged publishing and production company with 3 writers/producers signed (in addition to myself and Martin who own the company).

Who were your favorite artists growing up?

DEEKAY’s Lars Halvor Jensen: I have always been a huge fan of Phil Collins, his songs have always touched me. Elton John was also a part of my musical upbringing as were of course Michael Jackson, U2, R.E.M. & Prince.

I have always loved the soulful voice of Mary J. Blige and George Michael is also one of our my big inspirations. I have always loved great songs, anything from “My Way” Frank Sinatra to “Nothing Else Matters” by Metallica.

Were there any specific moments/events in your life that shaped your career or love of music (a concert, a certain album, the music from a show/movie, etc.)

I remember listening to “In The Air Tonight” and “Almaz” (Randy Crawford) thinking “I wish I had written those songs”. I think it was a voice inside of me at that point that said “you have to try this – you have to make music”

What skills do you feel sets you apart from other producers?

DEEKAY’s Lars Halvor Jensen: My greatest strength is probably vocal production, having worked with so many singers from the totally untrained ones to the extremely skilled I have learned to get the very best out of any vocalist.

Other than that I usually come in at the later stages of the production process with ideas for sounds, riffs and mix level adjustments. I can usually tell when a production has the right ingredients

As a producer, what do you initially look for in a song, and how do you add to it with production?

DEEKAY’s Lars Halvor Jensen: We normally “produce as we go” meaning the production takes shape while we are writing the song. It does happen that we produce outside songs in which case we listen to the demo carefully in order to work out how we can present it in the best way possible.

It is important that the core of the song is left intact and that it is lifted to the best it can be. Production is kinda like make up, you enhance the nice features and hide the blemishes as best as you can.

What do you look for in great songs (lyrics, melody, music, arrangement)?

DEEKAY’s Lars Halvor Jensen: It really depends on what kind of song it is… if it’s a ballad it has to touch me in some way, preferably give me goosebumps either because of a beautiful lyric or a moving melody. If it’s an uptempo, it has to have energy and an instant effect either because of the track or the melody or a combination. Lyrics should have a twist of some sort that makes them interesting regardless of what genre it is.

Some of the greatest songs are the simple ones that just have a life of their own. Sometimes a song come along that for some reason just stands out from all the rest, you just can’t stop listening to it and that’s when you know you have something special.

Have there been any particular productions that you are especially proud of? If so, why?

DEEKAY’s Lars Halvor Jensen: I feel very proud of “Breathe Easy” which we wrote and produced for Blue. It was a ballad with soaring strings and a huge chorus – one of those special songs that come along every once in a while.

It was our first major hit outside of Denmark and it seemed to connect with a lot of people all over the world. We experienced thousands of fans singing along to it in concert and it was one of the best experiences I have ever had.

What is the best way for a song/artist to catch your attention?

DEEKAY’s Lars Halvor Jensen: For me to take notice of a song, it will have to be different in some way or just undeniably strong and catchy, making it impossible for me to ignore it. An artist will have to have a great vocal or at least a vocal that sets him/her apart from everyone else. I also respect go-getters with persistence and courage, if they can back it up by at least some talent. You can go a long way on willpower, focus and positive attitude, I know I have :-)

Have there been any songs lately that have blown you away (even before you produced them)? If so, what were they and what did you love about them?

DEEKAY’s Lars Halvor Jensen: Change“, which ended up as a Sugababes single, is one of those songs that I just couldn’t stop playing after we had written it. Recently, our writers Obi & Josh just did a song called “Now Or Never” with a US writer and I just can’t let it go. It is so insanely catchy and addictive and I am confident it’s gonna find a home soon.

What are the most common “mistakes” you hear in songs, demos, and overall presentation?

DEEKAY’s Lars Halvor Jensen: Most of the time songs/demos have been “over-produced”, ie. there are too many layers of instruments, too much reverb on the vocals etc.

And way too often people settle on a less than acceptable vocal performance. Today, demos have to sound like masters and if you are serious about your songs you MUST make sure that the demo vocal is on pitch and has the right emotion to convey what you want to express.

We use a wide range of demo vocalists as we work in many different genres and every time we have finished a song, we discuss who will be the very best to vocal the song.

Do you ever have challenges in dealing with A&R or music supervisors in a production?

DEEKAY’s Lars Halvor Jensen: Haha – sure. It’s because most A&Rs are dealing with the pressure of constantly having to have hit records in order to keep their jobs, so they are sometimes overanalyzing the music, using market surveys as opposed to instinct and trying to replicate what is already out there having success instead of taking chances on new sounds.

As a producer my focus is on making the best records possible, but in the end both the artist and the A&R have to like the result in order for them to promote the record properly. We haven’t had a lot of problems so far, normally we agree on the big things and then it’s just minor adjustments that we have to compromise on.

How do you overcome a difference of opinion with an artist about a production?

DEEKAY’s Lars Halvor Jensen: It is always difficult to balance your own opinion with that of the artist and the record label. It takes a lot diplomacy, patience and the ability to reach a compromise without compromising the song/ production :-) Sometimes we will try different options and then usually everyone can hear which works the best.

Sometimes an artist can bring an idea to the table that we hadn’t thought of and we always listen to input as there is never just one right way of doing things. That’s what so fascinating about music…

How important is it for you to love a song/artist when working on their project? Can you work on projects that you are not interested in?

DEEKAY’s Lars Halvor Jensen: It is getting harder and harder for me to work on projects and songs that I am not feeling. In the beginning we had to do every project in order to pay our bills and we pretty much finished every song idea, but not we have become more selective and are very critical about the songs we write. Every melody part and lyric has to be spot on, otherwise we won’t bother finishing the song.

Who are some of your favorite songwriters/artists at the moment?

DEEKAY’s Lars Halvor Jensen: There are quite a few great ones. I want to mention James Morrison – I just love his voice and the songs are awesome. Jamie Scott is an incredible artist and songwriter and we have worked a lot with Lemar lately, he is one of the very best singers I have ever worked with.

Andrea Martin (En Vogue, Monica, Toni Braxton, Leona etc.) is the most brilliant and intuitive songwriter I have ever had the pleasure of working with. In my opinion she is a musical genius, born to write songs.

Who are some artists you would love to work with?

DEEKAY’s Lars Halvor Jensen: Phil Collins, Mary J. Blige, Madonna, Christina Aguilera, George Michael, James Morrison… the list goes on and on :) .

What projects are you currently working on?

DEEKAY’s Lars Halvor Jensen: We have just finished Paula Abdul’s first single in over a decade, “Dance Like There’s No Tomorrow“. It is the first single from Randy Jackson’s new album, “Randy Jackson’s Music Club, Vol.1“. Randy is also releasing a song for R&B radio in the US. It is a song called “My R&B” featuring hot new DEEKAY artist, Barbi Esco.

Right now, Martin & I are in London writing with a lot of artists and writers including Ronan Keating, Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Jamie Scott, Sweetbox, Wayne Hector, Steve Robson & Shep Soloman. We’re recording with Ashley Tisdale shortly and have just completed two tracks for a brand new act on EMI (US).

What do you see yourself working on over the next few years?

DEEKAY’s Lars Halvor Jensen: I really want to work with a lot more artists, it’s always inspiring to write with artists as you can draw on their experiences and channel their thoughts into a song. I hope to work with a lot of great singers over the next few years.

How has the Internet and/or recent technology changed producing?

DEEKAY’s Lars Halvor Jensen: It has made producing a song a much easier process. You can now work pretty much anywhere, just using a powerful laptop and a small recording setup. You can be online with a studio recording vocals on the other side of the globe (like we actually did with Keisha from the Sugababes), while you are downloading the guitar parts from another country etc.

You can send CD quality mix sessions over the net instantly, so you don’t have to depend on courier services and delays. There are too many advantages to mention…The downside is of course that it has become so easy to obtain illegal copies of the music we make, making it much harder to make a living as a producer.

Are there and wild or funny stories you could share about a production?

DEEKAY’s Lars Halvor Jensen: I was in London to record “Change” with the Sugababes at SARM West, a big studio complex. I was supposed to be in a nice big studio, but when I got there suddenly Justin Timberlake, Timbaland, Duran Duran and Dr. Luke (Kelly Clarkson, Avril Lavigne, Leona Lewis, Pink, etc.) had booked all the suites – aaaarrggh.

I was then told that I could be in “Studio 5”, which turned out to be a small room up under the roof, with no vocal booth, no air-conditioning and no recording equipment! I then had to entertain Heidi while the engineers were setting up a portable Protools setup in “Studio 5”.

Finally they got it to work and I managed to record some great vocals with Heidi and Amelle in this sauna of a room, sitting totally still right next to them as there was no booth. Keisha was in New York, but luckily our producer Josh was over there working, so he got her in the studio.

With Timbaland and Simon Le Bon walking around me in the lobby, I joined the session via Skype, so I could see Keisha and hear her recording. Trouble with Skype is that it goes up and down in tempo sometimes and when they got to the bridge I could hear that something was wrong: They had recorded it in the wrong key and tempo! The engineer had imported the 44.1 KHz file into a 48 KHz session! We had to convince Keisha to redo the vocals, which luckily she did and it all ended well, but it was not the easiest vocal session!

About DEEKAY

With 4 full-blown production studios in Copenhagen, founders Lars Halvor Jensen and Martin Michael Larsson make up the production and songwriting team DEEKAY (new songwriting/production members include Tim McEwan, Obi and Josh).

The multi-platinum production team are on speed-dial on many of today’s top artists, including A-list artists such as the Sugababes (lead single for their album “Change”)), Lemar (‘It’s Not That Easy’), Ronan Keating, Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Ashley Tisdale, Gia Farrell, Mis-Teeq, Samantha Mumba, Blue (‘Breathe Easy’ and ‘Bubblin’ on the ‘Guilty’ album), and many others.

They’ve also worked with all-time favorites such as Paula Abdul (who’s featured on Randy Jackson’s new album ‘Randy Jacksons Music Club, Vol 1’) and Randy Jackson (American Idol judge) himself.

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