In 1998, Clinton Sparks landed his first radio mix show gig through SupeRadio, which was syndicated in ten cities. This was the just the beginning for Sparks who has gone beyond just radio and DJing. Today, Clinton Sparks is a multi-platinum producer and songwriter who has worked with artists such as Pitbull, Ludacris, Tyrese, Rick Ross, Diddy, and Akon just to name a few.
Still having love for the radio world, Sparks is the host and DJ of SmashTime Radio and a show on Sirius XM Shade 45. Besides DJing and producing you can also catch this Boston, Massachusetts native on your TV screen as an E! News music correspondent.
Most recently, Sparks’ career was taken to new heights as Interscope Records signed him as an artist and producer on their label. Yes, this jack of all trades could show many people how to grind and hustle, as he sets no boundaries on his level of success.
Here, Yo! Raps talks to Clinton Sparks about what influenced him to become a producer, the difference between a producer and a beatmaker, the artists he’s working with next, his debut album, and more!
First off, please introduce yourself to the audience and give us some more background information...
My name is Clinton Sparks. I’m a DJ, platinum songwriter and producer, a television host on E! News, a radio host and an artist signed to Interscope records.
What influenced you to become a producer?
What made me become a producer was the desire to make existing songs that I would hear on the radio as a kid and make the changes I wanted them to make.
How did you learn the ins and outs of producing music?
I learned the ins and outs of producing by trial and error. No one showed me how or what to do, it was simply just turn on the equipment and see what my brain thinks of doing.
People may think that a producers’ job is to simply create the beat, but what else does it entail?
People mistake the difference between a producer and a beat-maker. A producer can see past the construction of the actual music. From arrangement to how the performance should be over the music to the right sounds. A beatmaker simply makes beats and doesn't really necessarily know what to do or how to enhance it past the beat being created.
Many artists say that their lyrics are influenced by experiences or emotions, is that the same thing in regards to production?
Every producer is influenced by something. It could be another producer or even the sound of something hitting the ground sparking an idea based off the sound that object made when it hit the floor. I can hear an obscure sound such as the forementioned and hear an entire beat in my head based off that sound. Typically, I approach making a beat off an emotion I want to express.
What do you believe makes a beat hot?
I don't really know how to answer this question. Historically, there are keys that have always worked in existing hit records but what makes a beat hot is up to whoever is listening to it and what they feel. I guess ill go with good musical melodies and chord progressions, but then there's beats with no keys that are hot so...
How important is the vibe when you’re in the studio working with an artist?
It’s very important to me to have good vibes in the studio with an artist or whoever you are working with. Also, everyone in the room should be focused on working. When others are there and they are not part of the creative process, it is distracting and counter productive. I typically do not like the artist or anyone other than me and my partners in the room when creating music.
Talk about the actual business side of production. How do you get a beat placed? When do lawyers get involved?
There is no set way of how you place a beat, but once the artist or label decides they want to use for an album then yes, a lawyer [if you are smart] draws up the paperwork. The paperwork will protect you and ensure that you get what is rightfully yours once agreed upon between you and the party you are giving or selling the beat to.
What are some qualities or attributes that make a great producer?
This is like asking, what makes a great athlete. There's no special secret, it’s just the ability to know how to tap into the right sounds and melodies to evoke an emotion out of the listener. Music is a language on its own and when you know how to speak it well, it’s like having a conversation; you just know how to do it.
Some producers have a distinct sound; do you think that's a good or bad thing?
I think producers with a distinct sound are great, especially when that sound has proven to win and people want it.
If you could produce a track for any artist, who would it be and why?
I would love to produce a record with Freddy Mercury, but unfortunately that could never happen. I guess the fact that I produced a track with the man who made me want to be a producer, Teddy Riley, was sufficient enough with respects to the desire to produce with some one person in particular. I'd like to produce for everyone that I respect musically but that's so many people to name.
Who do you believe is the most influential producer of all time and why?
The most influential producer of all time is difficult to answer but one of the most influential producers of our generation would be Timbaland. He literally changed the sound of music multiple times and many followed.
List your current top 5 producers in the game?
I like way to many peoples contribution to music to narrow it down to 5 so I can't really answer this.
What equipment are you using when producing?
I use Reason & Logic primarily when producing. I still use my ASR-10 when I'm in my home studio.
Any current projects you want to talk about?
Yes, I recently signed a record deal with Interscope Records as an artist and I just wrapped up my album. I know being recognized as a DJ people may think that it will be a DJ album, but it will not be. I’m the artist! To give you an idea of what my music sounds like, it’s a hybrid of Weezer meets Queen meets Blink 182 meets Drake. I'm extremely excited for the world to get familiar! So far, everyone that has heard my music in the industry fays its hit music, but I’ll let the people decide. I feel confident that people will dig it and I'm happy because it’s all me in the music. I’m not chasing what's hot on the radio or trying to fit in. The fact that I make Hip-Hop, Dance, Pop and Rock music and I can now fuse it all together for me is exciting. The album will be dropping this year on Interscope. Also there are a lot of other artist albums I'm producing on. I produced Pitbull’s next single featuring T-Pain, Sean Paul & Ludacris. It’s so awesome! I just did a record with LMFAO, working on Flo Rida’s project and, Ludacris just asked me to start sending him beats for his album.
What else are you working on when you’re not producing music?
Well, I'm always on the road DJing parties. I’m also the music correspondent for E! News and I constantly write comedy and love developing marketing ideas. I just added video director to my resume by directing an amazing video called Killer for a group called The Disco Fries, which features me as the vocalist. I’m working on my new television show, which will launch on KarmaloopTV network on November 11th.
What advice would you give to up and coming producers about this industry?
I'm not sure if there is good advice to give musically, but businesswise, get a good team and a knowledgeable management that knows the business. Not your boy because he's your boy. Do good business and know it’s not always about the money. Treat people decent and don't cheat yourself by putting out half ass quality music. It may be the first time someone hears you and they base their opinion off that first impression, which you can never get back. I would take a long time to lay out my blueprint, but you can create your own. That's the beauty of no rules. It’s not just one path to success.
In the end, let the people know where they can find you online.
You can hear and download free music as well as see funny video clips and my interviews with celebs at www.clintonsparks.com. You can download my weekly radio show podcast and get music news at www.smashtimeradio.com. You can follow me and be a victim of my Sparkasms on Twitter.com @clintonsparks or be a friend on www.facebook.com/clintonsparks. You can also get the freshest gear at www.Karmaloop.com.
Thanks for being interested enough in me to read this. I hope you got something out of my answers. Good luck to you and I’ll see you at the top. Get Familiar!
- By Isha Cole & Kai Denninger