C. "Tricky" Stewart can count his share of firsts when it comes to chart-topping records. But the songwriter/producer has been focusing on different kinds of firsts lately.
In addition to producing two songs ("Stay," "Keep Your Head Up") on Michael Jackson's Dec.14 posthumous release, "Michael," Stewart served as executive music consultant/producer on RCA's "Burlesque" soundtrack and collaborated with Jessica Simpson on her "Happy Christmas" CD. Both projects are due Nov. 22.
"I'm trying to fill in the blanks on my discography between what David Foster and Quincy Jones have done," Stewart says from his RedZone Entertainment studio in Atlanta, where he frequently works with production partner the-Dream. "I want to broaden our platform, show another side of what we do here."
Stewart's association with Sony Pictures' "Burlesque"-which stars Cher and Christina Aguilera and bows nationwide Nov. 24-stems from his work on Aguilera's 2010 album, "Bionic." He calls Aguilera's invitation to collaborate on the soundtrack a "crazy opportunity different from anything I've ever done before." Up until that point, Stewart's film résumé consisted primarily of song credits in various movies, including "Sex and the City 2" and "Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel." Both of those films featured Beyoncé's smash "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)," which Stewart and the-Dream-produced.
In addition to "Show Me How You Burlesque" and "Express," two songs he co-wrote with Aguilera, Stewart produced three remakes on the soundtrack. Two of those, sung by Aguilera, are Etta James' "Something's Got a Hold on Me" and "Tough Lover." Other producers on the soundtrack include Linda Perry and Matt Serletic. Among other songwriters lending their talents are Diane Warren, Claude Kelly and Sia. Cher sings the Warren-penned/Serletic-produced ballad "You Haven't Seen the Last of Me."
A phone call in mid-October found Stewart and the-Dream switching gears to produce Simpson's "Happy Christmas" album, which will also be sold by Macy's, where Simpson's line of shoes, clothing and accessories is available. The set marks two more firsts for Stewart: his first holiday album and his first time working with Simpson, whom he calls a "real professional who knows what she wants." (This is Simpson's second holiday collection. Her first, "Rejoice: The Christmas Album," came out in 2004.)
According to Stewart, "Happy Christmas" features two original songs: "My Only Wish," penned by him and RedZone colleague Aaron Pearce, and "Kiss Me for Christmas," written by Stewart and the-Dream. Rounding out the set are various holiday classics, including duets with Willie Nelson ("Merry Christmas Baby") and a U.S. marine ("I'll Be Home for Christmas").
In addition to the forthcoming Jackson album, the RedZone stamp will appear on several more projects arriving this year, including new albums by Rihanna, Ciara and T.I. On the 2011 slate are R&B newcomer and RedZone Records' first artist, Bryan J.
And what about Stewart and the-Dream's reteaming with Beyoncé on her new album, rumored for early next year? "I can just say," Stewart says, "that she's working hard."