Carl Sturken and Evan Rogers are reaching the peak of their 20 – plus year career. The Grammy-nominated team, whose mastery of many styles of music has resulted in more than 20 Top 40 hits, twelve Top 5 hits and 6 BMI awards, in addition to more than 70 million albums sold worldwide, is writing the next chapter in their success story with the recent creation of their SRP Records label.
The duo also had songs on 98 Degrees’ double platinum album, Revelation and the multi-platinum debut albums of Jessica Simpson, Mandy Moore and Anastacia, as well as many other collaborations with such artists as Christina Milian and Emma Bunton (“Baby Spice” of the Spice Girls). Next to come calling was Clive Davis, who hired the team to work on Kelly Clarkson’s debut album, for which they wrote the hit single “The Trouble With Love Is”, also featured in the movie “Love Actually”. The Davis connection continued with the American Idol project in 2004, as well as Rod Stewart’s Great American Song Book Vol. II and two tracks for Ruben Studdard’s double platinum debut album Soulful.
The duo then decided to begin developing artists in earnest, forming Syndicated Rhythm Productions in 2005. Their first signing was 16-year-old Rihanna, whom Rogers discovered while visiting family in Barbados. They brought her to Jay-Z and L.A. Reid at Def Jam Records and she was signed within hours of her audition. Rihanna’s first single “Pon De Replay”, co-written and produced by Sturken & Rogers, went on to be a worldwide smash, while her debut album Music Of The Sun sold over a million copies. Rihanna’s follow up A Girl Like Me sold 3 million copies worldwide and established her as an international star. Rihanna scored one of the biggest singles of 2007 with “Umbrella”.
And now, yours truly has had the honor and privilege of interviewing Rogers himself!
Hope you enjoy!
How did you get into the music industry?
Music was always in my family-my dad is an amazing jazz trumpet player. I started in bands as a drummer and singer. That’s where I met Carl Sturken, the other half of SRP Records.(this was the band that went to Barbados many moons ago and me and Carl both met and eventually married Bajan women, hence, the Barbados connection) ) We became a writing team and when the band broke up, we moved to New York from Connecticut. And began hustling around as session musicians. That was how we began playing people our demos which lead to a solo record deal for me and also our first placed song/production, “heartbreaker” by Evelyn Champagne King.
How and when did your interest in production begin? What gives you inspiration to produce? Does it just come to you or is there a process?
I’m a songwriter first and foremost, so my inspiration starts with a song. The vision for the production follows. We also produce outside songs in which case I listen to the song and if it’s a hit, or just an amazing song, it all plays in my head-then the process of bringing it to life begins. Being a singer, I usually start on the melody/lyric side with our songs. Carl is a guitar /keyboard player and he does most of the tracks, although we both have input on everything.
Heads of SRP Records- Carl Sturken and EVAN Rogers (right)
What are your long-term career goals?
My long term goals are to build SRP into a powerhouse label. We recently partnered with Sylvia Rhone/Universal Motown and now have 5 acts already signed, including Vita Chambers and Hal Linton. We also have Rihanna and “The urgency” signed through our previous SRP joint venture with Island/Def Jam. We have recently done a joint venture with universal publishing and have begun signing writers.
How would you define the word “success”?
“Success” to me is mostly about loving what u do and being at peace with your life and yourself. Of course it’s great to make lots of money and be recognized for your work, but my greatest joy is that I LOVE what I do, whether its writing, producing, finding a star and developing them, putting a marketing plan together etc-and most of all watching their dreams come true. I remember being an artist and what it’s like to feel that rush-there is nothing like getting a record deal, hearing your record on the radio, touring etc. Its magical..and a lot of work! LOL
Let’s talk about some of the artistes you respresent or produce for. Let’s start with the most famous one, Rihanna. Did you foresee such success?
I thought Rihanna was a star from the moment she sang for me. She had a presence when she walked in to the room. Her voice was raw but distinctive-and she wanted this career more than anything. I signed her without any hesitation. A true star is obvious to me from the moment they walk into a room. I could never have predicted how huge she would become, but I always believed she was a star from day one.
What are your thoughts about her growth as an artiste?
I am proud of her growth as an artist. On this album (rated R) she stepped out on her own creatively. I may not agree or love everything she has done on this album but she is 21 and has to have her own “voice”. I support her and want her to follow her vision.
Her being the most famous and successful of SRP, do you compare the other artistes (like the up-coming ones) to her success or her beginnings as an artiste?
When you find an artist like Vita Chambers, who is 16 (the same age Rihanna was when I found her) you can’t help but compare, though I try not to. They are totally different artists-but what they have in common is star power. Both capture the room when they enter. Both are stunning, have an unstoppable drive to do this-and both have the talent, charisma and universal appeal.
Vita Chambers- SRP recording artiste
How about the newly signed artistes? For example; Vita. Why did you sign her, or ANY artiste for that matter? What special quality/ies do you look for?
All of our artists are different. Hal Linton will compete with John Legend and Robin Thicke. Shontelle is an international pop/urban appealing artist who writes and has amazing star quality. Cara Salimando is a 17 year old singer songwriter/pianist in the vein of Fiona Apple/Colbie Caliat. We have our rock group “the urgency” and a newly signed duo from Virginia, Berret and Harrison(17 and 16) in the vein of John Mayer/Jason Mraz.
Hal Linton -SRP recording artiste
Shontelle- SRP recording artiste
Cara Salimando- SRP recording artiste
As the public knows so well already, you have taken quite a few Barbadian artistes under your wing, starting with Rihanna and most recently Vita. Was your interest in Barbados deliberate?
As I mentioned earlier, the Barbados connection for us (me and Carl) started more than 25 years ago when our band came here. Coming to the island to visit family every year lead to me meeting Rihanna. From there, people always come to me when there is a talented artist on the island. Shontelle was brought to my attention by Ron Johnson who had a magazine (circuit) at the time. Hal Linton was brought to my attention by multiple people but first by Shontelle. He was on the radio when I was vacationing and I heard “cardiac arrest”. I thought he was incredible, but it took a few years to sign him, LOL. Vita was brought to my attention by multiple people, first by Ron Johnson when she was 12. I thought she needed to grow up a bit obviously but saw/heard the potential. A few years later her MySpace was brought to my attention by both Tenielle Doyle and Kirk Arthur -I was on a plane to Barbados a few days later to meet with Vita and her parents. I was blown away with her powerful voice, charisma, personality and beauty.
Will you continue to try and reap talent from Barbados?
I’m open to talent/stars wherever they come from-Barbados included!
Would you team-up with any individuals/organizations to help find talent?
I’m definitely open to working with people. I’m always looking for that next star!