Songwriter Claude Kelly believes all singers are talented in their own way. It’s just his job to bring out the best in them.
And, since he burst onto the music scene in 2006, he has been doing that.
“All singers are talented and the divas are harder to vocal produce because everything they do sounds great,” Kelly said. “It’s hard to decide which songs are going to be hits. You have to figure out what sounds good for the radio and what sounds good on a record. What you want to nail is the feeling of the singer and the song they are singing.”
Capturing that ‘feeling’ is why Kelly fell in love with the music and its business.
“The question I ask all artists is what’s on your mind and what are you feeling and that’s what I want them to show. Whatever the artist is feeling, that is where you get the best vocal performance. You have to capture someone’s truth and put that on record. I pay attention to how they talk and their slang and how they view certain issues that’s what makes the signature of an artist,” Kelly said.
Most recently he pinned the smash hit, “Party In The USA” for Miley Cyrus and “Kelly Clarkson’s “My Life Would Suck Without You,” which went from number 97 to number one on the Billboard Hot 100 Charts after selling 280,000 digital downloads, a never-before-seen feat in the billboard chart’s 50-year history.
He has also wrote songs for other big names in music including “American Idol” runner-up Adam Lambert, Whitney Houston, Britney Spears, Brandy, Chrisette Michelle, R. Kelly and newcomer Melanie Fiona.
“Claude is an accomplished writer. He’s experienced. He knows production, he knows harmony. He can sing his butt off,” said Whitney Houston.
Kelly gets tongue tied when asked how he feels when he hears one of his hit songs on the radio.
“It’s awesome to hear my songs on the radio. It’s weird and unbelievable. You’ve worked on it and heard it and whole bunch of times, but you get a tingle every time you hear it. You never get used to it,” Kelly said.
The multi-talented music man burst onto the music scene in 2006 with Frankie J’s “Daddy’s Little Girl.” However, his big break came when Akon asked him to write songs to some of his music. Kelly presented Akon with “Forgive Me.” The song ended up on Leona Lewis’ album and was produced by Akon.
That’s why he is respectfully referred to as “The Studio Beast” a name he doesn’t take lightly.
“I’ve been trying to figure out where that came from for years,” he said with a laugh.
In seven years Kelly went from college graduate to writing number one hits. He credits his meteoric rise to the values that his mother instilled in him and being exposed to various genre’s of music as a child.
“Growing up on the Lower East Side (in New York), I was hearing Reggae and super-soulful stuff like Marvin Gaye and pop and rock. I think people are surprised I can do it, but I really did grow up listening to it all,” Kelly said.
Kelly’s mother, an unmarried nurse who moved to the United States from Jamaica, made sure her son got an edge by taking him beyond the New York boarders. His mother took him on week-long trips to Switzerland, the Caribbean and Canada.
“It was really helpful for me to see different parts of the world. You realize life goes outside of our bubble,” he said.
In between jaunts outside the country, Kelly’s mother had him enrolled in swimming and dancing classes. While attending the prestigious private institution Riverdale High School in the Bronx, he performed around the five boroughs with the New York Boys Choir.
He graduated from Berklee’s College of Music in Boston in three years.
“I think I have a gift, but what keeps getting me work is the attention to the artists themselves. It’s not about me—it’s about respecting the art, making the best songs whether it takes five minutes, five hours or five days. Ultimately I’m there to make everyone sound better.”