Producer Mick Schultz is no stranger to playing beat whisperer for big-name acts. Known for his frequent work with Jeremih (he produced the singer’s breakout smash “Birthday Sex”), the longtime music maker was able to provide the dark and edgy melody for “Desperado” on Rihanna‘s eighth studio effort Anti. (Even Snoop Dogg’s a fan of the record, per Twitter.)
In an interview with Billboard, Schultz recalled the whirlwind process of visiting the bad gal’s Malibu home to land a credit on Anti and if his good luck will rub off on Usher‘s upcoming album.
Billboard: You’ve worked with artists like Jeremih, Usher, Cee-Lo Green and now, Rihanna. Do you approach a song with a concept in mind for a specific artist?
Mick Schultz: It works so many different ways but usually my process is very hands on. I like to be in the studio with the artist especially if I don’t know their vibe or what they’re doing. I’ll just catch their vibe and kinda create something off of that or in that direction. You know, the Rihanna situation was the complete opposite. I actually had the “Desperado” track. It wasn’t written to and I actually went over to her house and I had just taken some things I thought would be a good fit. I hadn’t even heard anything she was doing so it was like completely a blind thing but my friend Rook who wrote the song he was over there and he invited me to come over so that was like a random chain of events that turned out to work but that’s not always the case. I don’t usually just bring in something like that randomly.
How intense was it presenting records to Rihanna?
Well, I’ve been making music for a long time so that’s really my most comfortable moment — I just like to vibe and play records and see how people react. I actually didn’t play her the track at first. I met her and she had a place that she was working on a bunch of music. Me and Rook were just in a room vibing out to the “Desperado” track that I had. Rook just started working on it. She didn’t hear it till there was already lyrics on it. I didn’t actually play it for her — I actually found out she had a lot of people working on stuff for her. It might have been a week after I had gone over to her house and did that song that I just heard from her team that she really loves the record. One thing led to another and she cut it but I actually never really presented the record to her. Hey but if I did, I would’ve probably been like, ‘Hey, this is Rihanna. This is crazy.’
— Mick Schultz (@MickSchultz) February 1, 2016
So you weren’t really given a blueprint of the sound Rihanna was looking for?
Obviously, I’m extremely familiar with Rihanna and what she’s done. I saw the Anti cover art and I was just thinking, ‘Okay what kind of vibe do I think is gonna fit?’ And so I took a couple of things over there I thought could work — one happened to work.
Rihanna seemed to experiment with her voice and different sounds on Anti. As a producer, what was your reaction after listening to the project in full?
What I like about is that it’s not following any type of structure or anything that pop music requires or what people expect. You can tell from this album that she loved making it and it’s stuff that she actually likes. I haven’t had a chance to listen to the album 10 times yet but I’ve listened through and it feels creative. It might not be for everybody but there’s a vibe there. It’s not just a pop album full of radio, forced records with big, catchy hooks. And you know, that’s good too. I love that as well but I think the album is great. Hearing it back now, I see where “Desperado” fits in.
You mention Rook writing the song but Fauntleroy and Kuk Harrell are credited on “Desperado” as well. Did you have a chance to work with them?
I wasn’t. I know Kuk does a lot of the vocal production and recording for Rihanna and I think James [Fauntleroy] was involved with that as well. But regarding the creative process of that record, it’s just me and Rook vibing out to the track and Rook writing to it. I wasn’t in the studio with Rihanna when she was actually cutting.
What kind of frame of mind were you in when you made “Desperado”?
I like to do different things and try to push the envelope on sound. If you listen to the record, it’s got an alternative vibe but still has urban undertones but it’s guitar and dirty live bass. I was just trying to do something edgy. I’m into doing dark, edgy stuff that moves you, puts you in a mood.
Are you hoping for placement on Usher’s upcoming album as well?
It’s up in the air. Usher, Rihanna — they keep their stuff tight as they should and they’re working on great stuff. I’m a fan of Usher. I’ve done a couple things that I would love for him to use if he’s feeling it. I’ve heard positive things but who knows? We’ll see.