Ronson, soft-spoken and analytical, is happy to stand just outside the spotlight as he promotes Uptown Special, his fourth album, out Tuesday. He recorded over the last year with producer Jeff Bhasker (Kanye West, fun.) and enlisted author Michael Chabon, who won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2001 for the novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, to write lyrics.
The 39-year-old British producer partnered with Mars on the hit “Uptown Funk,” a throwback tune influenced by early 1980s funk groups like The Time. It’s become the biggest hit for Ronson, best known for producing Amy Winehouse’s “Back to Black.”
Ronson spoke with The Associated Press at Bhasker’s poolside music studio in Venice about collaborating with Chabon and Mars, whom Ronson worked with on the crooner’s hits “Locked out of Heaven” and “Gorilla.”
AP: You’ve had success as a writer and producer, but “Uptown Funk” is a huge hit that’s your song. How significant is that to you?
Ronson: I know of course it has so much to do with Bruno. It’s like even if the record was garbage, it’s Bruno Mars, you’re guaranteed a certain level of attention, right? … I’m as proud of (`Uptown Funk’). … It’s awesome, but at the same time it almost feels like it’s happening to somebody else.
Are you taking tips from Mars on how to handle the attention? He seems to thrive on energy of fans, but I don’t get the sense that you do.
When you’re going on tour and you get to play these songs that you wrote and get the thing from the crowd, that is fun. But when you’re standing next to somebody like Bruno Mars — probably, maybe the greatest male live performer-entertainer of his generation — there’s no need to try and claw some of the spotlight for yourself. There was some MTV thing that (called us) `Pop’s new power couple.’ I just wrote him an email. I was like,`Is it weird that I get a nice feeling when someone calls us a power couple? As if we’re Barry Diller and Diane von Furstenberg or something. Do we need a name — like Brark Manson?’
Once Michael Chabon gave you lyrics, you had to say no to some of them. What’s that feel like?
So I would have a piece of music and Michael would have these amazing lyrics, much cooler and more interesting than anything I’ve ever worked on, which is why I asked him to be a part of it. But maybe sometimes I’d realize it was more interesting than I was even with my pop sensibility attuned to. Some of the lyrics, they were Leonard Cohen-like — these stories of these kind of dark people that were awesome but maybe for the music that I’d written it didn’t seem to fit. … Jeff (Bhasker), in his endearing but superblunt way, has these really adamant rules about songwriting. He’s had all these hits. ‘These words, no you can’t say that cause that word doesn’t sing well and you have to have more repetition here, nobody’s going to want to hear that.’