OK, so I am terrified of ONTD (except if I am not involved, and then I laugh), but I interviewed songwriter/producer Mike Krompass, who co-wrote and produced David Archuleta's new single A Little Too Not Over You, and basically proves that David Archuleta, while timid and Mormon in nature, is musically badass. Well, OK, besides the pop junk, but, he knows his shit, apparently. He also makes the mysterious "eh eh oh oh" noise at the beginning of A Little Too Not Over You.
Definitely not for the tl;dr crowd, but Mike talked a lot about co-writing songs and also offered a cool perspective on David Archuleta as an artist, not Idol pop machine. They wrote four songs together, including a disappearing bonus track called Somebody Out There, and two others that are floating the Web as demos (one of which is under the cut and, uh...definitely doesn't sound like a song David Archuleta would write).
[i had no fucking clue what to bold. just scroll until you see the first bolding bit and then read it all. it's interesting.]
How did you get into songwriting, production?
Well, I was a guitar player, studio musician for a long time, a few years. I grew up in Toronto, Canada, and moved to L.A. like seven years ago [and Nashville about six months ago]. So I made my living as a session player, but it wasn't satisfying enough for me. I always wrote songs. I started playing when I was four. So I always wrote songs and kind of developed that and then I decided I wanted to get more into music production and that kinda thing, so I kinda stopped touring and being just a session player, and more concentrated on [production]. Although I do play on people's records all the time.
I know you played for Nelly Furtado from your MySpace. Who else?
Yeah, Nelly's stuff. I've done a lot of Disney stuff. I used to do a lot of stuff with Matthew Gerrard, who also wrote A Little Too Not Over You with us. A lot of stuff.
What instruments do you play?
I play guitar, bass, a little bit of keyboards, drums, um, and you know, sometimes sing –- badly.
You're like your own band.
Sometimes it seems that way. A lot of things I do lately I've played everything on. And on Somebody Out There, I played everything on that.
What are the credits for Somebody Out There? I can't find them anywhere.
I know! Well, it's David, myself, and a guy named Steve Diamond.
How do the credits go on there? Who gets first writing credits?
Well, see, here's the thing. A lot of people think that, you know, if someone's name is listed first or whatever, that someone gets first credit? Basically, with those two songs –- A Little Too Not Over You and Somebody Out There -– what happened was we got in the room, and we just wanted to write great songs, so everybody had equal credit. Like, with the writing, nobody gets more than anyone else. Everyone contributes equally, everyone's idea kinda spawned another idea and you kinda take it from there, and it becomes something. Each writer has a little piece of them, what inspires them, in the song, which is kinda cool. That's why co-writing is neat.
Does anyone ever come in with a full idea?
Well, sometimes it's like someone will bring in a completed idea. In David's case, the songs that we did with him, it wasn't like that. In David's case, we had the purpose to sit down and write a song and the goal was just to write a great song and something that David could relate to, something that he felt. We actually wrote four songs.
What happened to the other two?
The label just didn't go for them. I think they were awesome. One of them's a hit. Both of them are being shopped right now for other artists. One's called Zero Gravity, and it's really cool, it's way cool. And another one's called Fighting For You.
And so, they were both written for the purpose of trying to get on the record, but they just weren't happening like the other ones were for the label. Ultimately, the label has the decision and, you know, I think they did a really good job of picking songs for the record. The record overall sounds really good.
So you've listened to the whole thing?
Yeah, I love it. I listen to it all the time. I think it's really great songs. I think it's really great writers on it. David, obviously, did an amazing job. And it was a whirlwind for him, too, you know, coming off the road, going right into the studio, recording a record, [to] hurry up and get it out, and then getting right back on the road again to play –- it's crazy. I've been there before; I know how much work that is.
Was all this writing in one session or multiple sessions?
Oh, multiple sessions. I can tell you the whole story, if you want. It's kinda cool.
So I met David when he was 12. Back when he was doing Star Search. You know, the cute little Mormon kid. So I did a demo with him. His dad came and approached me to do a demo with him years and years ago, which we never finished, and he was doing a lot of competitions and really busy and seeing a lot of people.
What was the demo called?
Oh, I don't know. He would remember. He totally remembers. He remembers everything. [boomingvoice: no fucking shit. he has the memory of an elephant, him and his dad, it’s awe inspiring and kind of terrifying] I think it was called Stop. I think the song was called Stop, or something Stop. I'd have to look through my files. It was something Stop. But we never got it finished and it was kinda a cool idea. And then I kinda lost touch with him for a while, and then I saw him on American Idol and I was like, "Wow, good for him. He's really great." And then randomly, his dad called me just out of the blue after Idol and was just like, "Hey, it's Jeff Archuleta. David wanted to know if you wanted to come and write some songs." So I sent him a bunch of songs and he ended up liking one of the songs. And so me and Steve Diamond, one of the co-writers on Somebody Out There, wrote this song, David liked it, so we wanted to get a vocal recorded. So we booked a trip to LA to get a vocal recorded. He ended up thinking, "Oh, well, I don't love this song. It's cool. Let's write some more."
David said that?
Well, David and his dad, and speaking with the record company –- it was kinda a weird situation, coming in at the last minute. We kinda came in at the last two weeks before the record was to be wrapped. So, literally, when we finished, there was a week to get it mixed and get it in. It was really, really quick. We wrote that -– it was really neat. So what happened was we go to LA -- actually, before that, I'll rewind a little bit. When they called me, David had known Robbie Nevil, and we had actually tried to work together previously, which had never happened. And he wanted to do something that had acoustic guitar and programming, and that kinda hybrid song that A Little Too Not Over You became. Well, when he approached me, I [said], "Well, why don't I just call Robbie and well try to write a song together; see if he has time." And Robbie's really busy, you know, with the High School Musical and the Jordin Sparks thing going.
So I called him up and we talked about it and we said, "Yeah, let's try to do this." And he had to go away the following week, so it was really rushed. Everything was last minute and it was crazy. And then Robbie had suggested, "Well, let's call Matthew." Because the three of us had all worked together before on Hayden Panettiere's song called Try. So it was like, "OK, let's bring Matthew in." So we wrote this great song. Then Matthew, Steve Diamond, myself, wrote the other song, Zero Gravity, which never made the record. And then we wrote Somebody Out There. And then we wrote Fighting For You. We wrote and recorded all those song basically over a two-week period.
So were you guys working on it like every day then?
Well, it was every day for me because I was producing them, and I had to play the instruments and record them. For David –- the writing sessions were probably –- each one was on a different day. So maybe four days of writing sessions for four songs. And the rest of the time was tracking. So because David's schedule was so crazy busy, he'd have to -– I'd be working on the track, putting the track together, and he'd be off at…wherever, someone else who's working on the record, at their place doing vocals for a song. And then he'd come in after that session and do vocals on one of our songs. The poor kid was so tired –- you know, sometimes we were recording at 2 in the morning.
And then a really cool thing is that I recorded David's vocal for A Little Too Not Over You at Robbie Nevil's house on the same mic and the same set-up as Jordin Sparks used for her One Step at a Time single. So it was kinda neat because David's in the studio like, "Ah, cool! Jordin sang in here!" You know how he is. He's very excited about other musicians.
Is that why there's no studio listed for that song?
Yeah, well, the thing with all the songs, some of the programming I was doing on my laptop. I'd go to one studio and do some acoustic guitars and go to another studio to do some other things, editing, and we'd send the files off to a mixer to be mixed. Normally, if we'd have more time, David would have come to my studio in Nashville and we would have just spent the time in one studio, but because of the last minute, trying to get it done, and make sure it was good enough to get on the record, we had to bounce around.
Was ALTNOY ever acoustic?
Almost always I write on acoustic. So I think all those sessions, we had an acoustic guitar present. And David really likes acoustics. We didn't do it on piano -– well, I think on Fighting For You -- we co-wrote Fighting For You with a producer named Guy Roche, who's really good. He played a little piano, but we ended up incorporating piano into the tracks after all the writing was done on guitar. So with A Little Too Not Over You, yeah, that was like a really simple song you could play acoustically, originally. But as I'm producing it I know in my head kinda the way we want it to sound. David had some adlibs and he's always amazing with the adlibs. His dad came into the studio one night and suggested some adlibs for him to do in the bridge and all of it was great ideas, so we tried to incorporate as much of that as possible.
Where'd the "eh eh oh ohs" come from?
Oh, the "eh eh oh ohs"? Well, listening to the song after we tracked the vocal, Robbie and I had a discussion and we were like, "You know, it just needs something kinda hip at the beginning to draw you in and kinda radioish, but suited the song." So we came up with that intro.
What's making the noise?
It's a person, yeah. It's Robbie Nevil and David doing things and then there's a cool effect on it that gives it that kinda sound.
How much of the bridge was adlibbed?
Like the falsetto things? Well, a lot of the time when I'm recording vocals with David, I put it on record and say, "Well, give me some adlibs, give me some ideas. We'll get a bunch of them and cut them in and see which ones work the best." Some of them, him and his dad had talked about a couple that they wanted to put in there, some of them were random, just him feeling it out, so all that kinda came together at some point. And the way we kinda put it together is kinda the end result of all these neat ideas. And, by the way, I have to say that he is amazing in the studio. He's got great pitch, he's got great tone.
Did you have to guide him a lot, or was it more spontaneous?
Well, being a producer, you always have to guide it a bit, to get the overall sound that you want. But the great thing about working with David is that he's so pro. He's so, you know, it's second nature for him. He knows what to do. He knows how to take direction. And he has an ear of his own, so he knows what works right for the song. And just as well as he sang on American Idol, he sang in the studio. He's great. It's a pleasure. He's amazing to work with; he's really great.
Has he improved since he was 12?
Yeah, but, you know, when he was that age, he was amazing. It's just that as he got older his voice dropped, so he's got a lower tone now, but, I mean, he was really, really good. I mean, if you watch some of his videos, his Star Search things, he was great, he was amazing. But I think he needed that much time for him to find "him." Every artist goes through this thing where they gotta grow and find themselves and I think he definitely has his own thing and that's awesome.
Do you think David knows who he is as an artist now? He's always saying he's still experimenting, but do you think he has an idea?
As an artist, you're always going through things and feeling it out and everything. You're always inspired by new things and you hear things that influence you, but I think, generally, he knows where he wants to be.
When you're doing your first record, coming off Idol, there's always the record company influence and what they want to see you as and what you want to be. So they had to kinda meet in the middle, but I believe, as his career progresses and he does more records, I think it might become more organic. You know, he really likes John Mayer and that kinda thing.
Do you see him going the Mayer route?
Um, maybe not as bluesy and not so, so raw, but kinda in a more organic direction than his record now. I'm sure he'll be writing more because he's good at it. I think he'll grow as a writer and develop himself as a writer and I think you'll probably see more of that as he does more records.
How do you go into a writing session? Do you have to prepare for it?
Well, there's no rules for it. We had sat down and planned some things the day he came in to do A Little Too Not Over You. We had some other ideas that we just weren't feeling so we said, "Hey, why don't we just start doing something?" And that's where we came up with the little intro part.
So we sat down and were like, "OK." We wanted what they call a 12/8 feel, or a 6/8 feel, which, you know, you notice that song has a different feel than most straight feels. So we wanted to do that but also have a kinda rhythmic aspect to it, so then we came up with this. [plays guitar] You know, that thing. And then someone will start singing something and then David will start humming something and Robbie will start singing something and then it kinda turns into that. So that song just kinda came out of the vibe in the room.
Who came up with the line "a little too not over you"?
I think it was a collaborative effort. David was throwing out "too not over you," "too over you." We were looking for something that was kinda quirky. I don't remember who exactly came up with that, but between everyone suggesting things, that's what came out of it.
So who did what on A Little Too Not Over You?
Well, obviously, I was playing guitar and Matt was playing guitar, so the chord changes definitely came from us playing guitar. And the melody was a joint effort. Robbie and David worked closely on the melody, and everyone kind of suggested a part. It wasn't like, "Oh, somebody wrote that word!" or, "Somebody came up with that!" It happened really quickly, and the music part of the song was probably done in about 15 minutes.
Is it usually music that comes first or do people ever have lyrics first?
Yeah, some people come in with lyrics all finished. With that song, we had the chord changes, we had the structure, we had the melody. And then Robbie and David kinda worked on the lyrics closely together for a little while, and then we all got back together in the room and that was kinda what happened.
So you and Matthew did more of the melody and David and Robbie came up with the lyrics?
Yeah, well, you can't even really say that. Everyone kinda came up with the melody. Primarily, lyrically, that was leaned more towards Robbie and David, you could say that. But everyone was equally involved.
But David suggested so many.... Every time we'd play a part, he'd sing a great little thing. Like I think, there's a melody in the second verse that's a little bit different than the first verse. A little change on it. And that was entirely David. That was his. He came up with that thing and we all went, "Wow, that's really cool, we gotta keep that in there."
I know David can come across as kinda shy. When he's in a session, do you guys ever have to prod him to get him going?
He's always ready to go. He is very shy, and I think the songwriting thing with other people is new for him. I know he's written songs on his own and he's used to doing it that way. But I think that the collaborative effort is a new thing for him, so at first he's very shy, but I think that he started to open up and definitely his ideas came out.
OK, this might be an awkward question, but he seems to be unsure as a songwriter. Is his lack of confidence warranted, or would you say he's just very humble?
I think he's really humble. I think he's overly humble. But every songwriter has the thing, "Oh, will people like it?" I think he's always really critical of himself, but he's great.
What do you think of Somebody Out There being doomed as a track you only get when you preorder?
Oh, we were so bummed about that. We hate it. Of course! We want it to be an album track at least, and a single. We have heard rumors that they might put it on sale again. I've heard other rumors that they might press it on the CD. I don't know how true that is. I haven't heard that directly from the record company or anything, but I can tell you this –- that the fans made A Little Too Not Over You the next single and because of the fans and your Web sites and the fan sites, that's why that song is doing so well.
It also sorta got a life of its own on iTunes, didn't it?
Yeah, but I think, you know, what you guys are doing helped that. I think pumping that song, if you guys pump that song [when people hear it, they'll love it] – I believe it's a great song. I believe it could be a hit. I love it.
Was there a deliberate effort to show off David's voice in Somebody Out There and A Little Too Not Over You? Is it because he helped write them?
I think he puts himself into it. I think that no matter what you're doing, he's going to give it your all. You want to make sure the song is in the right key for him, but it just comes out.
Somebody Out There came really quickly. We did that pretty late in the night after a couple sessions and David, Steve Diamond, and myself sat down and we came up with this chord progression -- [plays] -- and David started singing a melody and we were like, "Wow, that's really great," and we started humming a little chorus melody and he kinda just ran with it. It came really quickly. It's really neat. And we really loved it. [recording gets fuzzy here] They were like, "Ahh, it sounds like More Than Words."
When you say David hummed the melody, was he just humming or did he use words or how did that work?
Yeah, just kinda singing some ideas. No words -– well, sometimes words come out, but you kinda just, hum, and mumble, and then –- there was only three of us working on that song. So one of us would be like, "Oh! I really like that. Let's make that the melody." And that's kinda how it worked.
I wish we could hear them now!
Yeah, I wish I could let people hear them 'cause they're really, really cool. They are really cool. But I think that would have to be, that would be -- we did shop them and we sent them to the record company. We sent them to other artists that have records coming out. I think you can turn it into that Bleeding Love thing where if it doesn't work for one artist it will work for someone else and David would still have writing credits on it.
Did David sing the demo?
Yeah, he did sing the demo and we also did alternate versions, too. We did female versions of them and then for Zero Gravity, we had a R&B singing company do an alternate version that is kind of like -- it is really like a Chris Brownish kind of song. And it's kind of dancey. We do have other singers do alternate versions of it for certain pitches, you know, if we want to go for Chris Brown we need someone to [can't decipher] that. Or if we want to go for Leona Lewis we need someone who sounds, you know, female.
Can you tell me more about Zero Gravity and Fighting For You?
[Zero Gravity] kind of a dancey track. It's cool. I don't know, maybe you could bug David and his dad for a copy of it. Fighting For You is very much like.... I actually just finished a new version of it. A new version with new programming and stuff. I really love it. I think that song is awesome. You have the co-writers on it, Steve Diamond and Guy Roche. We all love it. We all think it's a hit.
I wanted to tell you, too, the production credits for -- nobody knows for Somebody Out There. I produced that but it was also co-produced by Steve Diamond and a guy named Greg Pagani.
Would you work with David again?
Oh, for sure. I hope, I hope he calls for me to work with him. Yeah, I try to keep in touch with him through text. We send each other texts back and forth sometimes.
Does David come up with the falsetto bits on his own or are those suggested in production?
Oh, definitely on Somebody Out There. He's the one who came up with the little break in the chorus. Definitely, yeah, I mean, that's his voice and how he sings. Yeah, I would say that's David. For sure.
Jeff mentioned to us in Atlanta that the writers of Somebody Out There were really good about bringing it back to David. I guess that would be you?
That would be us, yeah. It was definitely a collaborative effort. The guitar part was the first part to be played and David started singing and it was like, you know, what you hear is pretty much what kind of came out of what he sang. It kind of, you know, I have the rough tapes of it and it's pretty much the same song with just no words really -- just the melody and him humming the melody. And both those songs kind of did the same thing. But, yeah, it was obviously collaborative.
When you co-write, like when a song -- when you go into a room with the intention of writing with people, then it is collaborative. If he sits at home and writes it by himself and takes it to somebody, he's writing it. It's like we want to write a song together, we want a great song for David that works for him and that he can be proud of and that he loves, but that he is very much a part of. We're not just writing a song and giving it to him and saying "Hey, sing our song." He's equally involved in it.
Did David use an instrument or just his voice?
No, he just kind of had a pen and paper and his singing.
He says he's not very good on guitar. Have you seen him play?
And he actually called me from his video shoot and he was like, "Can you tell me the chords for A Little Too Not Over You?" and he was playing it over the phone for me. Yeah, he can play. He plays piano great and he plays guitar. He is very talented.
I think it would be really cool to see him get up and bust out a guitar to play Somebody Out There. I think that would be way cool if he did that actually.
I bet if it was ever made an album track or a single, I bet you he would do that. I'm sure he would at some point. Just like he does with the piano for Crush.
How involved was Jeff in the process?
Those sessions, he was there. He goes everywhere, like with those sessions he would always come by and would always listen -- he is very much involved. I think he likes to make sure that David is getting what he wants 'cause David doesn't always, you know -- he's very quiet. So he doesn't always say it and I think Jeff is really great at knowing how to communicate what David wants and I think that's really important. So, yeah, he was definitely, definitely at the sessions. He came for the vocals of A Little Too Not Over You when we did the adlibs and the bridge. He was there for that. When we actually wrote it, he left the room for 'A Little Too Not Over You.' When we actually wrote it, he had to go meet with David's A&R person. So he wasn't around for most of that. But he came in and out, like he was there for the start of it and then he left and went and had a meeting with the A&R person and came back. Somebody Out There, he was in the studio but he wasn't in the room exactly when we were writing it, but he'd come in. He'd come in and see the progress and he definitely. So, yeah, to answer your question, yes, he's there. [Interviewer note: What is this? What is this? "David's dad"? Sure, he kept popping in, but it sounds like D'Arch was in control. Who knew the little Mormon Monchichi had it in him?]
Did David ever say if he didn't like something?
Sometimes he'll say that and sometimes he'll feel it out of it. Fortunately for the case of those two songs he happened to like them and they happened to be recorded and one happened to be a single and I'm very happy about that.
What do you do if you think something sucks?
Well, sometimes you just say it sucks. I mean, hopefully everyone is cool enough -- nine times out of ten, everybody is cool enough where you can just go, "Are you kidding me? That sucks." Just joking around. Or you can just be like, "Well, how about this instead?" But those sessions went, they kind of went really quickly and there wasn't a lot of disagreements. It was just like, "Wow. Okay, I like that. I like that. Okay, let's do this." It flowed, the chemistry was really good.
Would you say David was good to work with?
Oh, very. He's one of the best. He is really, really cool. He's the real deal. A lot of people don't know this, but he's for real. He's very talented. He's very musical. He knows his crap, you know.
Can you give me an example of something he did that show off his realness?
Um, I mean. I don't even know how to answer that. He's just for real. He's just, you know, he can sit down and he can write a song on his own. I think that he has to be more confident overall when he is writing with people, but that is only going to come with doing it more. But I mean, he's a pro for real.
Do you think David will write more of his second album?
Well, unfortunately with the music business, I think it's always going to have to be -- like if you look at the best artist, there's always hit writers that co-write with them. All of them. I think that he'll write a lot. I'm sure that he'll write songs on his own. But part of it's fun, too. Part of it is really fun to write with other people. So I think the record company will always push for hit writers to be a part of it, but there will probably be a happy medium.
I mean, the way the writers look at things is if you co-wrote it then you're a writer. Nobody really picks apart, "Oh, did this person write that or did this person?" It's like you write it, then you wrote it. I'm a co-writer, but I wrote it. And if David is a co-writer, then he wrote it.
Do you like all the songs you write, or are there some that you just hate?
I think everybody has their song that they write and they go, "Ugh, what was I thinking?" Or because it comes from inside sometimes things don't always work out. You have bad songs and you have good songs. You have to have a bad song to have a good song. But yeah, you kind of have an emotional attachment. Even if you're doing it for a living it's still comes from some place. Even if you're writing for an artist, it still comes from somewhere. So, yeah, it is always some kind of attachment. You know, I'm totally guilty for it. I go on and look at all of the fansites to see how all of the songs are doing.
So you visit fansites?
Oh, for sure. You want to know how it's doing. And David's dad called to tell me that they were switching Touch My Hand for A Little Too Not Over You and I was completely excited.
I was so excited!
Oh, yeah. When it happened he called me from the Carrie Underwood show and I guess David was backstage there and was like, "So, they are gonna make your song a single." And I'm like, "Oh, that's great. So after Touch My Hand?" And he's like, "No, they're canceling the video for Touch My Hand. They are canceling the video for Touch My Hand and your single is going to be the next single." And I was like, "No way." I thought he was kidding at first. I e-mailed the record company a couple of times and I wanted to confirm it and we had to wait a week to confirm it. Then it started to become real when they shot the video and it was like, "OK, cool."
Did you think the video fit with the song well?
I think so. I think they did a great job.
Yeah, oh yeah, the mix. The video mix is like the radio mix. It's the same thing.
Someone wanted me to ask if he snacks a lot in the studio.
Does he snack a lot? No, I don't think so. I think I snacked way more than him. Well, it depends, sometimes we're in the studio and there is always sodas or Cokes somewhere and some places you order food in if you're recording. Writing sessions are pretty quick. I think we went out to dinner. We went out to an Italian place when we were writing A Little Too Not Over You.
Did you get any inspiration from the Italian restaurant?
The song was written by then. I think we went out after the fact.
What's your favorite song you've worked on?
That's a good question. I don't have one, though. I have different ones for different reasons. Obviously A Little Too Not Over You is one of my favorite songs that I've written right now. I'm really proud of it and I hope it's going to do really well.
So that and Somebody Out there, I'm really proud of those. Every time you write a new song – well, if you don't hate it -- then it can be your favorite.
Yeah, it's like the new bike. Or the new toy. When you get a new one, it's like, "Oh, yeah. I really love that one." Or when the new single comes out, you always like the new single. Well, not always, but you know what I mean.
Do you think it'll fare well?
I think it will. You never know how people are going to respond to it but so far, so good.
Would you say David's a natural songwriter, or does he have to work at it?
He definitely is a natural songwriter, but even being natural songwriter, you always have to work at it. You know what I mean? Like you've just always got to be better and there [are] so many things that make a great songwriter. Having great melodies, great lyrics, being able to write it in a perspective that people can relate to and not be to cryptic. I think that what makes a great song is that it can be played simply, you can play it on a piano or on an acoustic guitar and it will come across the same as if it was fully produced. [If] you can just sit in a room and play it and people like it, then that's a good song to me.
Can you say "David is greater than all boy bands"? It's a tradition!
Oh, gosh, I don't know. I have to work on some boy band stuff. I have to be careful.
Well, you know, everyone is trying to write for the Backstreet Boys now 'cause that's like the new Jive pitch and I think they have a new record coming out.
So would you say that David is greater than or equal to all boy bands?
Oh, yeah. He's by far a superior singer than most boy bands.
Yeah, he is. He's a real singer. He's a really great singer. Some boy band singers are really great. I mean, Justin Timberlake is really great. And then there are some boy band singers who aren't so great.
But David's on a whole different level than a lot of singers.
No one denies that David's a great singer, but he doesn't really get credit for being an artist.
I think in time it will come across. Like, to me, David is an artist. If you get to meet him and you know him and you know how much he loves music, then you know -- he's a walking jukebox. He knows every song by everyone and he loves music. He's a music lover.