Exclusive: Verse Simmonds Talks Chris Brown’s New Album X, Journey To Writing Fame, State of R&B and More!

By

Verse Simmonds 578095_o

Being an artist in the industry isn’t the only thing that makes you a celebrity nowadays. In the past, songwriters and producers were seldom mentioned to the outside public and it was left up to the singers to make the creation gain popularity. Now, producers and songwriters have stepped from behind the scene and in some cases, have become even more popular than the artist who performs the song. Take those like The-Dream, Pharrell and DJ Mustard. Although each one is now an artist on their own, they all got their careers started behind the scenes and grew to become some of the industry’s most sought after writers and producers.

The same story has become the case for famed songwriter, Verse Simmonds. With credits ranging from R.Kelly and Rihanna to now penning three of Chris Brown’s current releases off of his anticipated upcoming album X, Verse is clearly making his name in the game as like his predecessors. Many might remember Verse from his 2009 club hit, “Buy You A Round (Up and Down),” but it was in 2011 that his fame skyrocketed with the single, “Boo Thang” featuring Kelly Rowland.

Now, three years after his biggest hit, the singer-songwriter-producer is stepping from behind the scenes again to chat with ThisIsRnB. Discussing his current success with singles for Justin Bieber, Chris Brown and Usher, the impressive artist let us in on just where he thinks R&B is now and is going next, his personal artistry, and just what Verse Simmonds has to offer for R&B fans everywhere.

Get into the interview below!

First, congratulations are definitely in order for you since you were the co-writer on the new Chris Brown, Usher and Rick Ross track “New Flame.” How was that experience for you?

It was real cool man. I actually did that like over a year ago. I did this writing camp that RCA was having for Chris. So we got in and I actually created the record and he was really excited about it and so, we ended up putting all the pieces together. And, it came out as basically his fourth single off of the ‘X‘ project and the third that I’ve written for him for this release. So, it’s just a blessing to just be in this space, know what I’m sayin’?

Sure. What other singles have you written for the album?

Besides “New Flame,” I also wrote “Don’t Think They Know” – that’s the one with Aaliyah – and I also wrote “Love More” featuring Nicki Minaj.

Other than Chris, I know you had really big success when you wrote that Justin Bieber “Confident” record. What other records have you written for Justin?

I haven’t written anything else for Justin at the moment. I think he’s working on his new project now, so I think soon I’ll be dealing with him. I’ve really been focusing a lot on Chris’ album, I have four – maybe five – songs on there. I’m also working on Usher’s album as well – I have a really crazy record with Usher that I hope will be released really soon. I’m also co-executive producing Sean Kingston’s album so you know, I just got a few things I’ve been working on that have really gone my way, you know?

Of course. Aside from working on everyone else’s album, what are you working on for your personal ventures?

Right now, I’m really focused on writing right now, but I am putting together my third installment to Sextape Chronicles. I don’t have an exact date on it, but it’ll be out as soon as I finish. So hopefully by September, I’ll have it out. Besides that, I also have my girl group Sincerely XO that I’ve just recently signed and I’m really excited about their project. They’ve been getting a lot of love around Atlanta and other places and it’s really great.

I see you promote them on Instagram a lot. What was the basis behind you taking the wheel with those girls and what direction are you trying to get them to go in?

Well they’re an Urban Pop type of group so something like a TLC kind of thing, but it’s a lot more current. I’m really excited about them because since I’ve been working with them, I see a lot of growth and a lot of people are really interested in hearing them and seeing them, so I don’t have to really tell a lot of people about it personally. I know that it’s something that people are really gravitating to when it comes to those girls. They’re a special group and I hope to take them – along with the brand – to the next stage and release something crazy with them really soon.

When I first heard the Justin Bieber “Confident” track, I knew that you penned it before even knowing that you penned it. I said to myself, ‘This sounds like something Verse did.’ How does it feel now knowing that you have become an Urban household name and people know who you are based off of your style?

It’s crazy ’cause somebody told me that the other day and I hadn’t really realized it. For the most part throughout my career, I’ve really been kind of low-key and behind the scenes even though I release my own records and stuff like that, but somebody pointed it out to me like, “Yo, you can kind of tell when you write a record. It sounds like you and it sounds like these guys are trying to do the record like you would do it. Why wouldn’t you just keep it?” So, it feels good that my work is being recognized in that capacity to where people are just listening for it and maybe picking it out and in this case, you were right when you said, “It sounds like Verse wrote Confident”. So, it feels good to kinda know that all the work I’ve been putting in over the years has been working and I’ve been able to kinda sustain a respectable…people respect me as an artist and as a person. It just works, so I’m in a good space right now.

How do you determine which record you want to give to each artist? I know everyone has certain songs that they want to keep for themselves, so how do you decide which to give away and which to keep?

It’s crazy sometimes because it’s hard as an artist as well as a writer to sometimes say, ‘I’ma give this record to somebody else,’ but I want the music to get the best look possible. So, if I have a record that I feel like is going to be big I can keep it for myself, but I know if I give it to Chris Brown and it’s gonna be a single – and it’s gonna be a really big single for him – then like I said, I’d rather get the song out at its highest level. It’s still mine. It’s still me. I still wrote it. So, I can still feel a connection with the record. I look at myself like a Babyface or a Pharrell – people who are able to create music as well as perform and write for other people. So, it’s never really a problem, I just always want the best home for the record.

Do you have a record that you’ve ever written that made it big for another artist that you wish you would’ve kept for yourself? 

Nah, nah. I mean I could say that about “New Flame” and I could say that about “Love More,” but like I said, I’m really comfortable with giving the record to the person I feel like is going to take the sound to the next level in the best way. So, I really don’t have things that I wrote that make me feel like, ‘Yo, I shoulda kept that record for myself because it was so big,’ because I feel like everything matters. The fact that whoever sang it made it different. Their audience receiving it from them made it different. I could’ve released it for myself and it could’ve not been that big, so you’ve gotta have a realistic expectation of what you’re doing and be willing to find the best home for the record. I feel like my time as an artist is still yet to come. I’m still working, I’m writing, producing and recording great records for other people. It’s like when it’s time for me to come out with something of my own to that capacity, it’ll be that time.

I feel like you had a really good thing going when you dropped the “Boo Thang” track. People were privy of who you were from when you dropped “Buy You A Round,” but it seems that “Boo Thang” – both the original with Kelly Rowland and remix with 2 Chainz and Yo Gotti – really put you at a good point in your career. Unfortunately, it seemed as if there wasn’t a single to follow. What happened during that time?

For me, I think…you go through so much politics with the labels and you go through so much politics with radio and everything else. I think I got to a space where I just needed to distance myself from a lot of the things that were going on and try to make sense out of everything. I have records. If you go through my catalog, a lot of my mixtapes are better than some people’s albums. It’s just a fact. I didn’t feel like I had the right support at the label at the time, so that’s what probably slowed my whole situation up. I came in as a writer and a producer who was also an artist, so that’s the one thing that they could never take from me and they could never stop that. There’s always gonna be another big singer that wants to sing my songs because that’s my strong point. “Boo Thang” was a great point for me, it was a great record for me, but it didn’t get the right push that it needed from the label. It still allowed me to keep doing what I love so it still was a blessing.

Being that you are a singer-songwriter-producer, which area do you enjoy the most? If you had to choose today to do one for the rest of your life, which would it be?

I would probably…that’s a hard one [laughs]. Ah. I look at music as one thing. I just look at it as creating music. It’s hard for me to say which one that I would do the most because I really go through phases. I go through phases where all I want to do is write and I don’t wanna perform or go on anybody’s stage nowhere. Then I go through this stage where all I wanna do is perform and then one where all I wanna do is produce. So, I’m gonna have to pass on that question [laughs]. I never wanna be in a situation where I can only do one of three things.

[Laughs] Makes sense. Let’s talk about your ‘1996’ project. I know that has been discussed for a while. So, what’s going on with it?

You know, that 1996 project is something I started off not really knowing how people would go with it. I put out the first half of it, Circa 1996 and 1996 was supposed to come after that. I got a lot of great responses from the album, but the thing about it was I feel like I wanna hold on…it’s like Dr. Dre and Detox. He’s been holding on to that for years. I feel like the world isn’t really ready for it yet. I feel like I’m not all the way in the state that I want to be in to release it, so I’m kinda holding off on it for a little bit until I get it all the way right and I have the right situations going to release to the point that it’ll get the maximum exposure. I’m still planning on putting it out, but I kinda rearranged it to the point where I wanna put out Sextape Chronicles 3 first, and then I’ll come with 1996.

As a producer and songwriter, you’ve worked with a lot of artists. Who are you looking forward to seeing flourish this year?

Ah man, I feel like I’m really looking forward to Chris’ album, not because I have so much work on it. I mean that’s part of the reason, but another reason is because I feel like for R&B music, he’s really bridging a gap. If you look at all of the rappers that get on records together, they support each other and that’s really what it is. They allow for their music to grow and continue to build. For R&B, they don’t do that much so when you have somebody like Chris Brown who has a feature with Usher now, and we did a record with Aaliyah. There’s a big record that I wrote that’s on his album that I can’t talk about, but it’s another big R&B artist that he’s also gonna put out as well. So, I’m really excited about that project because it’s really like he’s bridging a gap in R&B music and letting you know it’s OK to get on records with other R&B singers and keep that culture growing. Other than that, I wanna see all of my homies like Ty Dolla $ign and Eric Bellinger all come and win. Of course I wanna see my girl group Sincerely XO flourish this year and into next year, so those are some of the people I’m most excited about right now.

Right now, we’re in a state where R&B is kind of trying to come back to where it was at one point. You have a lot of artists coming back off of their hiatus. Where do you think the current state of R&B is and do you feel like the generation or era that we’re in is a benefit or hindrance to R&B as a whole?

Well you know, I’m apart of the generation that we’re in that basically keeps the culture going. I definitely feel like it’s definitely a benefit. I feel as if there are changes and it definitely is different from what it used to be, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bad thing. It just means it’s different and you have to learn to grow with it and know how to change with the time and keep creating music that people are gonna love. I definitely think it’s still a benefit, but I do think R&B as a whole has come back to a good space, but it’s been hurting for so long that it’s gonna take some time to really get it back in the space where it was. That’s the reason why I started the project ‘1996‘ because I feel like the ’90s were the best era for R&B music and I wanted to kinda help to bring back that vibe. Not in the sense of making it sound the same, but in the sense of basically giving it the same meaning and the same feeling. So, I think it definitely needs some work. I got a call from Sean Garrett the other day and he was like, “Yo man, we need to bring the music back – we need to bring R&B music back.” I think one of the biggest downfalls that we’re having right now is radio and that’s because they’re getting rid of a lot of other radio stations and they’re changing it to rhythmic. They’re making us have to change how we write songs as creators in order to please the radio. So now, you have to have rappers in order for an R&B dude to kinda be poppin’. If not, then the clubs won’t want to play it. So, it’s not solely just based on R&B and people not wanting to do the traditional R&B, it’s because it’s not being serviced right and people are looking at it like it’s not beneficial when at the end of the day, it is. We’re the fire starters. Urban music is what gets everything hot. So, I think it’s gonna take a while to get it back in its right space, but I was speaking to Sean Garrett and he was like, “Let’s just make our artists the big artists. Let’s make black artists the biggest artists out there.” This is no disrespect or not really a race thing, but when you have white artists doing black music and they’re getting such great acclaims for it and then you have black artists doing similar music just as good but they’re not being seen, then we know that there’s a problem. It’s just about bringing people out of music back and with our artists. I’ma always support Chris Brown, I’ma always support Usher and our artists. These are our artists and they belong to us and I’ma continue to support them.

Interview by Ni’Kesia Pannell

1 Comment
  1. Anthony 8 years ago

    Pick up some new talent Verse! A male artist, for the ladies!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.