Hit songwriter and producer, Rico Love has decided to step out front by releasing his debut album, TTLO (Turn The Lights On) [released on May 19th].The album shows a sense of vulnerability and common human experience that was paramount in the R&B of yesteryear. Rico recently sat down with us to discuss the surprisingly emotional yet refreshing content of the album, his creative process, and how his success over the years has influenced his views on relationships.
ESSENCE: You write, you produce, you put this album together. What’s your creative process like?
First of all, I study a lot of different artists. I listen to a lot of different music and I’m always educating myself. I always think about the classic chord progressions from the Smokie’s, the Stevie’s, the Rufus Wainwright’s… Some of those great songwriters and those great titles. Billy Joel’s Goodnight Saigon is one of my favorite songs and lullaby. So, when I think about writing a song, I pay attention to the chords, first. I like writing to the chords. Even if you give me a track, I like to strip it and leave the chords and I write to those. They say the real things, the real message. When you listen to songs on my album like Days Go By, you hear the chords change and you hear the progression. I think that that’s the basis of a great song. I like to wrap my mind around the chords and music first, and then I sing the first thing that comes to my mind—only if it feels right. Usually, after you hear the drums, the baselines and the chords, I feel like the song writes itself.
ESSENCE: Somebody Else is one of my favorite songs on the album. In terms of you writing a song, is there someone in your life that inspires you?
This album was definitely inspired by real life experiences. This album took place during a 3-month period when I was going through the biggest break up, ever. Somebody Else is the end of the story. I lost the girl. So, when you lose the girl, what led to you losing the girl? I wanted to really touch on the fact that success can change our perspective and views on things, but not in the traditional cliché way of “Oh, he think he got money and now he thinks he’s all that.” It’s not always that way. Your perception on marriage changes when you get money. Your ideas about infidelity, about monogamy, change. Drug dealers raised me. I had a guy tell me when I was 10 years old, “A man can have as many women as he can afford.” As an adult, you grow up with this in your mind and the way he said it, it wasn’t degrading. It was like, if you could take care of her and treat her nice, you could do that. So, when I started getting money, I was like, “what’s wrong with that?” This album explains that. It’s one thing to talk about, “Oh, I got millions, I got a car, I got a house, bling, bling, turn up,” but what if we dive into the things we really deal with and how that could change you especially when you’ve never had any experience of anything. I’m explaining how those things play a huge part in this terrible break up that I went through.
ESSENCE: The album contains a lot of real-life relationship dilemmas and experiences that create a storyline such as the song, Stay For The Kids, how important is the storytelling element to your process?
Records like Stay for the Kids, when it’s talking about people who are not really there because they want to be there, I wrote that from the female perspective. I was speaking from her perspective because sometimes a woman is there holding on for the children. Those type of songs are what I was inspired by on this particular album. I believe in themed albums. I believe in concept driven albums. I’m sick of people just making songs just to make a song. “Girl, you cute, you fine, you thick, you this…” Even in Bad Attitude, I’m describing the type of girl I feel ruined me when I was growing up. I grew up wanting the drug dealer’s girlfriend. The girl who had the Chanel bags and the Lexus and was outside cussing everybody out and she had this lip on her. Everybody wanted to be like Keisha to the point where you would pass up on a good girl because you were trying to chase this joint. I wanted to really set up the true story of all the things that played in my mind when I became successful.
ESSENCE: With that success, how has your perspective of love changed over the years?
It definitely changed in a really significant way. I saw a good friend of mine get a divorce and have to pay alimony to his ex for a lot of years. She had a boyfriend she wouldn’t marry just because she knew the alimony would get cut off. It upset me so bad that I said, “Marriage may not be what I think it is.” I believe in love. When I do business, I’m doing business. When you are doing a pre-nup, you are sitting in a room and negotiating terms. “After the first 5 years, she gets two million. After 10 years, she’s entitled to 5 million. After this amount…pre-nups don’t just say you leave with what you came with and sign the papers. It’s really detailed and that’s not what love is. I’m a Christian so everyone says, “You are supposed to be married anyway, right?” But who says what marriage is? Marriage is ordained by God but why do I have to go to court and the court tells me I’m married? The judicial system that is not governed by God, only by name and by saying “In God We Trust.” I don’t understand marriage in America and how that makes sense when it’s a business transaction. I watched my friend, who is an amazing person, get taken through the dirt for his money by an incredibly evil woman. What you think is going to happen to me when I get married? That’s what my perspective was.
ESSENCE: If you could have the listeners come away with one thing from this album, what would it be?
It took my heart and soul. When you listen to every song, you can tell. When you listen to the production and how it builds up, when you listen to the details and the lyrics, the arrangements, when you listen to everything… I want them to know that I cared about this project. It’s a saying, “People don’t care to know until they know you care.” People need to understand how serious you are. I need people and I need people to spread the word. At the end of the day, first week numbers, we don’t care about those. We care about the word of mouth. We care about people saying, “I don’t know what’s up with that, I don’t why he ain’t getting the love he deserve… Rico Love, you need to hear his album.” I need girls in their cubicle playing at work and they’re like, what is that? That’s how it happens. Over time, we are going to be having the conversation during The Grammy’s next year. People are going to be like, “This is an incredible body of work, period.” That’s all I want.
You can check out Rico’s album here.
Stay tuned for part 2 of our interview with Rico.