Ivan UB Features

UB Industry Talk: Songwriter/Producer/Singer Ivan Matias Speaks to UB


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Ivan Matias isn’t your average singer/songwriter. Born and raised in Brooklyn, NY. Ivan is one of the top songwriters in the game! Responsible for some of the biggest R&B hits and album favorites in the 90s and 2000s. Ivan got his start in the business dancing for artists and later performing background vocals. He signed his first publishing deal with Warner Chappell at age 18. Ivan and his good friend, recording artist & songwriter Andrea Martin began writing hits together in the 90s, they met while attending Fame the school of the performing arts. The dynamic duo would go on to write hits for such artists as SWV, En Vogue, Queen Latifah, Changing Faces, Immature, Angie Stone, Tracie Spencer and the list goes on.

As a recording artist Ivan has recorded and released such singles “So Good (to come home to),” written by the incredible Diane Warren & “Messing Around” which appeared on the Mod Squad soundtrack. Ivan also appeared with Changing Faces on the track “Do Little Things” from the Dr. Dolittle soundtrack. As an artist he’s had 4 major record deals (Atlantic, London/Polygram, Arista & Elektra) and lived in London four years while he was signed to Arista (he can sing in six different languages). Winner of 7 ASCAP awards, a Soul Train Award winner and nominated for a Grammy, American Music Award and Billboard Award Nominee.

Ivan is easily one of the most talented & creative artist in the business. In 2002 Ivan created and managed Caushun “The Gay Rapper” which was an internationally acclaimed parody rapper that was featured on MTV, BET, VH1, NY Times and Hot 97 to name a few.

Aries from UrbanBridgez.com recently had the opportunity to speak with Ivan for our Industry Talk feature and got even more than what we expected from the interview as Ivan opened up to UB about various topics. Including his amazing discography, being a recording artist, Caushun “The Gay Rapper,” his favorite artists he’s worked with and alot more. On the flip, Ivan opened up to us about some of his crazy experiences including working with En Vogue while they were in the process of breaking up, his thoughts on racial tension and sex & nepotism in the industry. Ivan even recalls and speaks on being cheated out of producing credits earlier in his career, breaking up an argument with singers Brandy & Adina Howard and even details his own argument with Keri Lewis, ex husband of Toni Braxton regarding “Better Man” a song Ivan wrote for Toni‘s “More Than A Woman” album.

If you’re in the industry, a fan of the industry or want to be in the industry, this is an interview you don’t want to miss! You won’t come away from it not learning anything and in the process you will also realize how many other talented amazing arrangers/songwriters are behind the scenes outside of the mainstream ones you hear about.

The industry as a whole is a machine and Ivan has been one of the most important parts since the 90s!

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UrbanBridgez.com: How did you get your start in the industry?
Ivan Matias: When I was about 13, my sister was dating rapper Doctor Ice, who’d been a member of UTFO; best known for their hip hop classic “Roxanne, Roxanne”‘. At that time he was working on his solo album. He was signed to Full Force through Jive Records. He heard me sing & said he had to get me on some hooks. He took me to the studio for the first time & I sang on a few hooks. I remember a few members of Full Force coming in & looking at me like WTF is this kid doing in here? Once they heard me sing, it was all good. Shortly after that, I got my first of 4 recording deals with Atlantic Records in a group called 3D. We had the manager from hell & that album was never released. I’d say my start was a combination of meeting the right people by chance & luck. While I was in high school I also choreographed & did extra work in videos as well as singing back up for many artists. I would sneak into clubs where there were talent scouts or industry types & crash video shoots. Visibility & social politic-ing skills were key for me.

UrbanBridgez.com: You’re a Brooklyn kid, how do you think growing up there prepared you for a career in entertainment?
Ivan Matias: Brooklyn has it all. It’s a melting pot of styles & influences. It has a creative undercurrent that cannot be denied. As a kid, I lived in Coney Island. My mom had a very global & adventurous spirit & taste. Her record collection was crazy diverse! Whitney Houston, Regina Bell, Diana Ross, Kenny Rogers, Lionel Richie, Elvis , Dolly Parton, Sugerhill Gang, Julio Iglesias to soundtracks like Grease & Billy Joel, Patti Austin, KISS, James Ingram & Chic.I had a well rounded musical upbringing. She always introduced different cultures into our home through music, food & decor. It made me want to experience other aspects of those genres & cultures. Many assume that Brooklyn or “the hood” is 1 dimensional. On my block we had Hispanic, Black, Russian, African, Chinese, Middle Eastern, Jewish, Irish, Indian, Caribbean… I’ve been fortunate to have traveled all over the world. Most places have specific or regional types of people & things relegated to a specific area. Brooklyn, NY is one of the few places on the planet where within a 4 block radius; you can have a global experience. I thinks it’s in the drinking water. The creativity & swagger of a Brooklyn is distinctive, eclectic & contagious.

UrbanBridgez.com: You and Andrea Martin wrote some major hits together, I think Tracie’s “Still In My Heart” may be my absolute favorite that you guys did. Alot of people don’t know you were actually managing her as well. How did you guys develop your relationship?
Ivan Matias: Thanks! Andrea & I went to high school together. The “Fame” school of performing arts which birthed many entertainers from Liza Minnelli, Nicki Minaj, Kelis, Azealia Banks to Laurence Fishburne. Robert De Niro, Sarah Michelle Gellar & Vanessa A. Williams. During my 4 years there, we had, Marlon Wayans, Omar Epps, Jennifer Aniston, Chaz Bono, Monifah, Changing Faces, & Donald Faison to name a few. Shortly after H.S. I’d switched labels twice. Arista Records became my third label home by 19. My management was from London & moved me there to record my Arista Album. First avenue managed me as a recording artist but I managed my own songwriting career. I got a publishing deal with Warner Chappell between my 1st & 2nd record deal as they saw my economic potential & sought to lock down my publishing early. About a year into working on my project, Andrea had just been signed to her first Publishing deal. Her publisher called me to see if I wanted to collaborate with this new girl he’d signed & was trying to get some song placements on. When I showed up to the meeting & Andrea walked in, we were both shocked. We went into the studio that day & became partners instantly. We went on to write together for over 10 years. It was easy for us because we’d studied music together & knew each others style very well. Although we weren’t besties in H.S. our musical foundation & roots in Brooklyn bonded us. I was managing myself & kind of fell into the roll of managing both of us as we were partners. Management entailed a “good cop, bad cop” system. Andrea would say yes to everything & I’d have to go in & negotiate the business. She was the emotion & I was the business. Sometimes we switched rolls but both parts were very necessary.There were days when I didn’t want to go to the studio or hated a song we were working on & vice versa.We took turns motivating each other. We’d originally written “Don’t Let Go” for Aerosmith & we thought we’d be responsible for ruining En Vogue when Elektra President Sylvia Rhone loved it & hired us to record it on the quartet. Sylvia heard something we couldn’t. Andrea ordered me to get into that studio & cut those vocals anyway — while she went to get her nails done (laughs). It was then that we employed the “you like it, we love it” outlook. I remember when we did “You’re The One” (SWV), Andrea hated the song & refused to sing the reference. I had to go to London & kept calling & harassing her until she finally laid that demo down. I loved that raunchy little song! (laughs). I actually had to beg & bribe her to catch another plane from Atlanta the day we wrote “Still In My Heart (Tracie Spencer).” She was having “one of those days” & wanted to go home but only half the song was demoed. She really made me work that day. I was good for giving her hell also. Like most partners, we’ve had some monumental, classic battles both; creatively & personal. Andrea really wanted to be an artist & although I was a signed artist, it wasn’t my passion. I understood that she couldn’t look like the “bad guy” as an artist so I didn’t mind assuming the part. My lawyer was Lauren Davis, daughter of Clive Davis. I introduced Lauren to Andrea and she got signed to Arista Records. Andrea is one of the most underrated vocalists out. Her style is seasoned & mature which makes it difficult to place her voice in a modern context. Her vocal style isn’t trendy, it’s classic soul & pop like her writing which is why she’s one of the greatest female writers of our generation.

UrbanBridgez.com: You have to tell us about Caushun “The Gay Rapper” that you basically created as a joke for Funkmaster Flex and ended up blowing this guy up! Where did the idea come from and remind people how big it actually got?
Ivan Matias: (laughs) Ever since Frank Ocean’s “proclamation” people have been contacting me relating to this project. The idea? A few prankster friends, a few drinks, some Kush & boredom. We were sitting around & the old cliché urban conversation about who is gay in Hip Hop came up because Lil Zane was on air with Flex & had been rumored to be “DL”. A publicist friend suggested we call the station’s direct line & give Funkmaster Flex & Zane a hard time. We did & the rest is history. It was all the buzz so, over the next few days we pranked Angie Martinez & Star & Bukwild’s then morning show. People started calling the station looking for Caushun. Star began to feature Caushun regularly on the morning show over the phone & before we knew it MTV as calling. I called up my childhood friend Jason & asked if he wanted to pick up the roll of Caushun publicly as it was growing out of control. Caushun was featured several times on MTV, VH1, BET, FOX, NBC, The cover of the NY Times on Easter Sunday, Vibe,The Source, Newsweek as well as several documentaries & international publications. I even had Bill O’reilly, Howard Stern & Jimmy Kimmel hunting him down to feature him. He was “co-signed” publicly by Russell Simmons & Kimora Lee who was a client and close friend as well as several notables in the urban Hip Hop community. Jason & I fell out during the project. The project was going great until Kimora came into the picture. I had several conversations with Russell about starting a Baby Phat label to distribute the record. Unfortunately, Kimora & her team didn’t understand the music industry & had a plate filled with other issues which made it impossible to proceed. Jason & I are cool again. He is very successful as a hairstylist to the stars & has some loyal high profile clients that he works with.

UrbanBridgez.com: Your discography as a songwriter is sick, like you really have some impressive credits, what would you say are your top three favorite and why?
Ivan Matias: Thanks! 1: Working with Aaliyah was great. She was a good friend & one of the few genuine, unaffected people I’ve come across in the industry. We partied from NY to LA at industry events, chilled at her house, shopping, crashed each others hotels & sang each others tunes. I would sing “Are You That Somebody” from the Doctor Dolittle soundtrack & she’d sing “Dolittle Things” my duet with Changing Faces. She used to say it was one of her mother’s favorite songs on the soundtrack. She was very close with her younger brother Rashad who is much like her in terms of cool, laid back personality & was often with her when we’d link up. They remind me of my older sister & I. She used to lecture me about smoking & ruining my voice early on. We recorded a song that was never released & that’s how we met. People don’t give her credit for being a great vocalist because she made it sound easy. Her vocal style was sick! I love an artist with a distinctive style that can take my song to another level with their own interpretation or change the attitude of the song for the better. Aaliyah was hands down my favorite artist/person in the industry that I’ve had the pleasure of knowing. I remember walking into the “Romeo Must Die” private screening to meet a friend. Aaliyah was in the back of the theater with brother Rashad & a few friends. Everyone else was seated toward the front of the theater. I heard someone calling me from the back. It was baby girl Aaliyah. She called me over & insisted I sit by her & Jay-Z. That’s the type of person she was. That’s how Hollywood Aaliyah wasn’t! I’ve known many artists early in their career. They will walk past you like they don’t know you years later. She wasn’t that way. Aaliyah was the same person the first day we met that she was the last time we hung out.
2: Blu Cantrell “Breathe”. I was already a fan but Blu. She on a stool (which a singer should never do unless you’re super dope) a sing her face off. She needed no direction. I have a version that was never released where she sang the devil outta that song. The label made us re-record some of the vocals to “dumb down” her vocal to make it more accessible. She was a character.
3: Coko of SWV. I was already an SWV fan. Coko’s voice does it for me. She was very pregnant & sat on a stool also. She was effortlessly pushing those notes out & all I could see was hearts floating around her when she opened her mouth. She could do no wrong in my eyes. I would try to show her part of the melody in my raggedy falsetto & she would giggle & sing the melody back exactly as I meant to do it. Her musical choices & instinct are impeccable.

UrbanBridgez.com: Tell us the story of En Vogue and how you recorded the last song before they broke up?
Ivan Matias: Wow! Those girls were at a stressful point in their career.The group was signed to East/West through a production deal with Foster & Mcelroy. They felt they weren’t seeing the money they deserved given their success. There was talk that Dawn was promised the opportunity to do a solo album but that option was snatched off the table due to the mediocre response to Terry’s solo album that had just been released. Label execs opted to expand the groups sound & put together a new En Vogue LP instead. Label was waiting on Dawn to agree to new recording terms. As she stalled; the label wasn’t sure what she would do. No one wanted her to sing the lead on “Don’t Let Go” because they feared what inevitably happened. It took several days to record vocals while going back & fourth with record company. Unsure of the quartet’s fate; the label rushed the song out on the “Set It Off” soundtrack. It blew up but so did tension in the group. We began to record 5 songs for the En Vogue album but Dawn wasn’t at recording sessions initially. Dawn stated she was at a spiritual retreat deciding what she was going to do but others said she was secretly recording songs for her solo project during the first few weeks of recording. I love Dawn’s voice & was leaving leads unrecorded, taking my time with the recording of the backgrounds, stalling & getting heat from everyone hoping she would show to record the leads that no one wanted her on.She finally returned but tensions did not cease as we recorded her leads & backgrounds on songs. There was a HUGE blow up in the studio which led to Dawn leaving & never returning. We had to re-record all of her leads & background parts. The details of their history are most def “Unsung” or “Behind The Music” material! It’s difficult when you have 4 very strong, talented & very different personalities. It’s a shame because I think if those girls got back together; they could actually have a major comeback. They’d have a clear run because female groups are scarce.

UrbanBridgez.com: You’ve written some incredible songs, how do you start the process of writing a song, does something have to happen, can someone just give you a subject or what?
Ivan Matias: There is no specific formula. Sometimes the melody comes first, sometimes a lyric, title or concept. What makes my approach different is I rarely write from personal experience. I like to get into other people’s head and imagine their perspective. I write a lot of songs for female singers. I find that females can go further & be more expressive & experimental with lyrics. Besides, I just like female voices better. Often times, someone will give me a subject or topic & I’ll write to it. I like songs to sound realistic, genuine & relatable to both the singer & the listener.

UrbanBridgez.com: Alright now let’s get into some of the juice of the industry, being the outspoken person you are I have to ask you about some of this stuff….You believe there is an unspoken racism & racial tension between ethnic groups in the industry, explain what you mean by that?
Ivan Matias: I’ve been told that my ability to have success in urban music is limited by my ethnicity. Literally told that to my face by an executive of color. Most urban or ethnic people know about unspoken rivalry between the races. Everyone has that relative that doesn’t believe in interracial relationships whether they are vocal about it or believe it secretly. Urban, ethnic cultures are so closely intertwined; in most major cities. Ask yourself, with the Hispanic market being so huge, why has there not been a successful Hispanic urban artist? One might point out JLo but she is marketed dance/pop. JLo is successful as a brand because many understand the value of the Hispanic market & she is a great tool & spokesperson in that regard however she does not necessarily represent the range of talent & ability within the Hispanic community. What happens in the world is generally reflected in the industry except when it comes to certain races. Hip Hop is major in Asian markets yet, there are no Asian Hip Hop stars. I’ve had people’s face drop when I walk into a session followed by a comment with built in condescension like “I had no idea you were Latino from your songs” like I’m supposed to write with an accent or “damn you got soul to be Hispanic”. I used to get offended but I’ve realized people can only be as socially evolved as their exposure level allows. It was one of the unspoken understandings that Andrea & I had in business. If we sense that someone had an issue with one of us because of race, color or sex; the other would take the lead. Believe it or not; she would sometimes be discriminated against because of her complexion or appearance. I remember early on almost slamming a well known producer into a studio console for comfortably making a distasteful remark about her complexion & appearance. That was before I understood that ignorance can be found in every tax bracket.

UrbanBridgez.com: You also believe that sex & nepotism is a major tool used in the making & closing of deals in today’s industry, how so?
Ivan Matias: Look at Stevie J & Jocelyn Hernandez of Love and Hip Hop ATL. Blatantly playing out on television with braggadocious pride. Found her at “de streep cloob” & walked her onto a hit VH1 show, meetings with Antonio Reid & Vincent Herbert. So he’s willing to do for Stevie’s jump what he won’t do for his wife? Karlie who demonstrated that whatever talent she does have is reserved & shared only with those who can “sponsor” or advance her career. She struggles between “feeling” Benzino but not knowing if she can have a relationship with a man who can’t aid her career aspirations. There is always a producer, manager or executive or A&R trying to get a hit song or vocal training for his jump of the week.There is a successful urban music exec that was married & screwing one of the female A&R’s he’d hired. She was married also. She was just as pretty as she was useless. He was feeling himself to the point where he believed he could “groom” her ear & give her a successful career. She tried to get slick with the mouth & I went in on her. After years of working together, this executive refused to work with me because his side chick got her feelings hurt. She told me she was going to throw that pelvis double time to ensure a successful block was thrown. He was eventually fired and so was she. Her husband left her & she’s now riding Hollywood d-list penis trying to become an actress. He has re emerged at another label but we no longer communicate. Ladies are not excluded. There are many powerful women in the industry that use their power in lieu of good looks to get laid. It happens everywhere from McDonalds to Wall Street. The music industry has every vice known to man 10 fold. Many of these people work long hours together & are human with sexual needs. Often times the lines get blurred when power, influence & money are in play. Many undesirables in the industry try to “date up” & bag someone they normally couldn’t but for the success, money, contacts & access. Many aspiring industry types figure they’ve slept with the wrong person their entire life for free so; sleeping with someone for possible advancement has a purpose. Many execs & industry employees are people with no prior experience who have a powerful friend, lover or family member who made a call. It’s a big contributor to the lack of critical thinking & creativity that is lacking on the administrative/executive level in entertainment.

UrbanBridgez.com: The downfall of artistry partially lies in the fact that artists want to record the best songs they can write or steal as opposed to the best song they can get from experienced seasoned writers. Something else you stated, why do you think that is and when did it start?
Ivan Matias: Many artists will not record a writers tune unless they get a piece of publishing & credit for writing it. Many BIG artists that claim to write for themselves. They thank God when they win an award for stealing & strong arming writers. It’s like a slap in the face of God. It’s like saying “God the gifts & blessings you’ve given me just ain’t enough for me so I’m gonna go ahead & take credit for someone else’s gift.” Artists feel like their credibility & revenue are increased by taking credit for someone else’s work or writing their own songs. They don’t realize that once they have a hit & they’re selling out arenas, getting endorsements with Pepsi, Covergirl, launching fragrances & clothing lines off the success of our songs; we don’t get any of that as writers. It’s our creation & musical direction that make them a point of interest in the first place. They don’t even have a conscience to right their wrong with a thank you or writing opportunity on the follow-up album. They just move on & rob the next one. I gave a song to a very famous female artist. Bitch stole my song title & wrote a brand new song to it. Also had a song title & concept stolen & rewritten by a famous female writer/producer/rap artist. She recorded it on the same artist I pitched it to. It was a single. It sucked & tanked.

UrbanBridgez.com: You got in a fight with Keri Lewis Toni’s ex husband, what was that about?
Ivan Matias: When I was doing “Better Man” on Toni; her then husband was “executive producing” the album & according to label execs, there were several producers on the album having the same problem with him. He was basically attaching himself to productions & demanding a piece of the royalties & advance after imposing himself onto the production. I explained to him that I’d been hired by the record company as the producer and that if I needed his services or has hired him I would know about it. He wanted me to send him the masters so he could mix the song. I mixed the song in NY & delivered it directly to the record company without him. The record company loved the mix. They approved it & began pressing singles & making preparations to release it as a single. Keri told me over the phone that he & Toni had their kids college fund to think about, at which point I lost it. He ultimately slithered his way into a vocal production credit & threatened to hold up everyone’s money if he wasn’t given a royalty. Toni refused to shoot a video or support the song as her next single & was subsequently dropped by the label.

UrbanBridgez.com: You mentioned to me that you also produced many of the earlier records you wrote while “paying dues” but only got writers credit and sometimes not even that, with paying dues are you expected to sell yourself short in order to advance or were you just dealing with some shady characters?
Ivan Matias: Both! I was dealing with shady characters but one must also pay dues. I worked closely with a producer who was only known for remixes & didn’t even have an original song or publishing deal before our collaborations. He refused to give me copies of the songs I’d write in his studio & even accused me of breaking into his bedroom once while he wasn’t there. It didn’t occur to him that he had goons living in his home & it was one of them. He built his career off of our collaborations. While I was stuck in his basement recording with his engineer, he was out partying with his peeps at release parties & platinum celebrations for the songs we’d done. He would leave me in the studio with the artists & return to a finished record. He had a name because his remixes were popular. We were “just writers.” It was a major factor in my decision to make stronger management negotiation decisions regarding the careers of Andrea & I. Everyone pays dues. Just Blaze paid dues as an assistant engineer. I knew he would be big one day. I hired him as my engineer & even hired him to produce on my Elektra album when he was still assistant engineer at a studio in the Village. There is paying dues & then there’s just dealing with jerks. I remember being asked by Craig Kallman (President of Atlantic records) to collaborate with Timbaland on a project. We showed up at the studio & Timbaland wouldn’t let us in until his security patted us down. I was more embarrassed for Andrea. How do you instruct security to pat down a female? How do you treat people that way at a session set up by the president of your record company? This Pac-Man in the face fool was rude, disrespectful & scared because clearly the streets had him under pressure. When we finally got passed security, he sat in his seat for almost 10 minutes before turning around in his chair to acknowledge that we were there for our scheduled session. He slowly swung around, rolled his frog eyes & said; “I’m gonna be another 20 minutes”. He swung back around in a “the king has spoken” kind of way. I responded “well I’m gonna be leaving, I’m out.” He turned back around with a look that read “you dare defy the great Timbaland?” He said “Oh, you out? OK well, (pointing to Andrea) you staying right? Because I need you to sing this hook idea for me.” To which she replied “No. We are out,” as we left him sitting there with his gullet open like a seal catching fish. Years of that taught me that most have their ways & quirks. One never really knows what brings a person to behave like that. I really don’t take that kind of thing personally like I used to. If that had happened now; I’d find it kind of funny. Those types of experiences have helped me create a strange sense of humor. I love exhibitions of strange or unexpected behavior. Paying dues is necessary, it’s almost like an initiation but bigger then that it’s preparation. I’ve developed this technique where when someone is distasteful or difficult; I put my spin on what made them that way in my head as opposed to reacting. One must find a way to cope during the dues paying process or you’ll drive yourself crazy. The truth is it never ends. In this like all businesses; everyone has to answer to somebody.

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UrbanBridgez.com: You were one of the biggest songwriters in the 90’s/early 2000’s of R&B hits with everybody from Toni Braxton to SWV to En Vogue. R&B music has changed so drastically since then and in a bad way…as a songwriter have you changed your style to fit in with today’s radio hits or do you stay true to what you’ve done from the start and why do you think it’s changed so drastically?
Ivan Matias: There are many contributing factors to the change. Music naturally evolves & reflects the social trends & change. Much of the decline in quality I believe has to do with the fact that many artists will only record the best songs they can write or buy & take credit for as opposed to the best song they can get from a seasoned writer. Managers & television have convinced artists that they will be broke or aren’t being authentic if they don’t write their own songs or appear like they do. Whitney made a career for herself & only wrote “Queen of The Night.” I remember meeting with Clive Davis & he told me he had a cabinet full of songs that Whitney had written & submitted for her own project. He explained that her talent was in her vocal interpretation of songs; not in the writing. He also said she wouldn’t have had the same career if she’d written for herself. Many artists today are not great vocal interpreters & are intimidated by a well sung demo. They are greedy & believe they will be broke if they don’t attempt to write themselves a hit. They forget that owning a small piece of a hit is more valuable then owning 100% of a flop! My style has always been as versatile as my influences. I don’t feel pressure to acclimate to current trends because a good song is still a good song & can be updated with the track.

UrbanBridgez.com: At one time you wanted to be an artist as well and you have released singles, why now have you decided to just stay behind the scenes when you have so much talent as an artist as well?
Ivan Matias: I initially wanted to be an artist. When I began to see the hoops I’d have to jump through & the way that the execs & staff impose their vision onto artists I realized that I didn’t want to be an artist that bad. I was fortunate to be offered 4 recording deals in my lifetime but much of that has to do with the record companies trying to secure my writing services for their roster. That’s how labels sometimes do it. If they want first dibs at the writers newest & hottest creations, they offer them incentives in the form of record deals & other perks. I see what happens to artist now-a-days with the internet & social media. Everyone’s a critic. If I were an artist today, I’d probably catch a case or have some serious addictions to deal with. The public & record label politics aren’t easy to deal with.I often hear people say “if I were him” or “she should have”. The journey of an artist is something one can’t imagine. you’d have to actually take that ride to understand the complexity or that trip. I guarantee, it’s not something the average person has the strength or emotional/mental ability to endure unscaved.

UrbanBridgez.com: You have everything from ASCAP awards to a Grammy, is there an award out there you would like to win before you leave this earth that you haven’t?
Ivan Matias: I have been Grammy nominated, never won it; and don’t care. Award shows are part of “the game.” It can help a career but it really means nothing in the big picture. There are a lot of starving artists who can’t get a call returned by a label exec with Grammy’s. Many awards are bought or “sponsored” by record companies & it’s more of a popularity, political contest then one that truly represents quality, artistry & talent. The vibe at award shows are never how they appear on TV. A room full of people social climbing, brown nosing, “let’s do lunch”-ing & secretly hating on one another. It’s a very competitive industry. My reward comes when I’m at the supermarket & hear my song while I’m shopping or when I randomly hear someone singing a melody & lyric that was birthed out of my head when they don’t even know I had anything to do with it’s creation. It’s just music not open heart surgery. I think celebrities are over celebrated anyway. They real stars are the average person that works hard & struggles daily yet; still finds a way to sacrifice & put those millions into the pockets of celebs through ticket & merchandise sales. These celebs should put their money together & create “The ultimate fans awards.”

UrbanBridgez.com: After working with so many artists, who are some that you would like to work with in the near future if given the opportunity?
Ivan Matias: I’d love to write with Mariah Carey. She was one of my major influences as a songwriter. When I first heard her & realized that she wrote all of her songs, I was in awe. It made me want to start writing. I’d love to hear her songs return to the quality of her earlier work. I prefer classic Mariah to current trendy Mariah. I think she’s earned the right to be classic & doesn’t need to attempt to appease the musically illiterate by dumbing down her genius. Artists like her could help bring music back. I’d much rather hear her do an Adele style album then a Cassie worthy production/presentation any day. Chaka Khan, she’s one hit away from a major comeback. Beyonce; she’s another one who I believe her vocal ability is greater than the songs she sings. She has lots of emotion built into her voice which is what I love but her. Often times, the songs don’t utilize or require her to tap into that. Rihanna as well. She is vocally underrated. That girl can sing! It’s not a traditional soul voice, but it’s an effortless & sexy tone that’s great for recording. Lady GaGa is another one who’s vocals sometimes remind me of Christina Aguilera under all the visual fireworks & mind fuckery. She’s a really good writer as well.

UrbanBridgez.com: What are you the most proudest of that you’ve accomplished in your career?
Ivan Matias: I’m most proud that I’ve managed to maintain my sanity & be successful without having to compromise the things that matter. I’ve made mistakes but that’s just a part of life, growing & learning. I entered this industry all by myself without any friends or family to hand anything to me. I see what happens to most in my position. The devil has dangled many carrots in my face during my journey, but I’m not much into carrots. I think if I’d wanted “fame” bad enough; I’d be living & telling a different story. People often ask ‘Don’t you want to be famous & at the top of the game?’ No. There’s a price to pay for that. I’ve been blessed with a better then average lifestyle & that’s enough for me. Resisting a swig of the Kool-Aid that makes one thirst the “fame monster” has got to be my proudest accomplishment.

UrbanBridgez.com: Our readers have to hear your story about breaking up the argument between Brandy & Adina Howard over Wanya, where was this and what happened?
Ivan Matias: You’re really digging into the vault here (laughs)! Brandy had been dating Wanye back in the day & he was a P.I.M.P. Boys II Men were on top & Wanye was the toast of the town. He was also messing with Adina Howard as he and Brandy were on & off as most young couples do. We were at a video shoot for Michael Speaks who was label mates with Brandy, Adina Howard, Ray J & YoYo who were all scheduled to make cameo appearances in his video. I was visiting the set with friends of Adina. The vibe of the shoot was tense. As we entered, we ran right into Adina at the back of the theater/club venue. The director was yelling & clearly upset because they’d been undermining his authority all day. The director told the artist that the shot wasn’t working & his table of friends didn’t have enough flavor. The director turned to the back of the club, pointed at me and yelled “yall need someone like him. Sit him at your table. I need him in this shot.” Everyone turned to where Adina & I were standing with her Entourage. Before I could react; Michael Speaks & entourage protested. “He’s an artist from another label. We can’t have him in this shot!.” Director called for a break. All the hoopla cause everyone to notice Adina in the back of theater. Out of nowhere, Brandy appears in the vicinity. I don’t remember who initiated the exchange but one of them asked to “have a word” with the other. They took a few steps away from where we were standing. Brandy asked Adina if she was messing with “her man” to which Adina responded something to the effect of ‘If he’s your man, what’s his number doing in my phone?” Brandy, not missing a beat said something like “Well let me call him so you can ask him?” A phone was pulled out; a few “this bitch” were exchanged. As it began to escalate, A few of us went & pulled Adina away because it appeared to be on the brink of a physical altercation. I must say Brandy was pretty gangsta! Moments later Ray J showed up wit a motorcycle smashing it! Michael Speaks & his people were hating on Ray because he was out shining them & they didn’t want him in the video either. That was enough for the Norwood camp. no Ray J, no Brandy. They left the shoot…and so did we.

UrbanBridgez.com: You were groped by a female artist and have kicked artists out of their own sessions, tell us about some of those experiences?
Ivan Matias: Sheesh! Like I said earlier, females; especially females in power can be vert “aggressive” in this industry. Some of these females are on some Demi Moore in “Disclosure” shit! I met this major star at an industry event. I really wanted to work with her. We exchanged numbers. Later that night, as I’m at Popeye’s on Sunset, she pulls up with friends drunk out of her mind. I go over to the car. She has on a short dress & sandals. She drunkenly sticks her foot out of the car window & tells me her feet hurt & she’s too drunk to take off her sandals. She asks me to remove them. When I did, she starts rubbing her cooch but all I could see was the pattern of her sandal straps etched in dirt on her foot. Crusty toes & a rough dirty foot attached to a Cankle. Did I mention she was hiccuping like she was about to throw up? Come to find out she lived in the building right next to where I was staying in Toluca Lake. My people came out of Popeye’s & we were out! The next day she called me & I wanted her to come to the studio but she wanted me to come over & nurse her hangover. I declined & went to my session. About a year later, she told a mutual friend that I broke her heart stating “He said he wanted to go to the studio & work with me; And He Really Did! He tricked me!” I’ve been given ultimatums: “You have a year to give me a ring or a baby!” I walked into a friends session with a platinum selling female artist & she slapped my ass, grabbed my crotch & asked “who does this belong to?” (laughs) Women are just as sexual as men. If a man did that; all hell would break loose! It’s an interesting dynamic with women in power. As far as throwing artists out of a studio, I don’t like big groups in studios. I believe that if you’re banking on a 3 1/2 minute performance to take your career to the next level then you should respect the process of creating it. I once had an artist & her friend high & drunk while I was trying to piece together her vocal. They kept laughing, talking & making noise. After two warnings I threw them out to the artists surprise. But they left. Sometimes an artist gets so frustrated or obsessed with their voice not doing what’s in their head that they lose focus & change the sound & vibe of the rest of the recording. I once debated with an artist over how to sing a vocal part. I suggested she sing & record it the way they wanted to but; also record a version the way I wrote it. The one that sounds the best stays. The artist refused. I reminded the artist that one of the biggest hits of their career came from listening to my direction & singing the song exactly as I demonstrated down to the add libs. The artist told me ‘I could have sang poo-poo on a track & the world would have bought it because the world was thirsty for anything from me!’ That was such a slap in the face to the 7 days of recording it took to get that 3 1/2 minute performance out of her, the engineers contribution; not to mention the actual quality of the song. I told her the session was over! She didn’t want to leave the booth. I told her to go give her fans poo-poo. She reminded me it was her session. I reminded her it was my song. She left & we never recorded again. In all fairness, she was going through a lot of personal issues at the time. I don’t think she realized the sacrifices I’d made for her. I’d pulled that song from a bigger artist for her because I liked her voice better & wanted to work with her again. I felt like she was very ungrateful & disrespectful in that moment. We actually made up several years later. When I’m recording with an artist I’m not a fan, soldier or co-signer, I’m a creative partner with a vested interest in our finished product.

UrbanBridgez.com: What’s next for you and what do you want to leave with your fans and people that have been following your work?
Ivan Matias: The best way to jinx something in this game is to talk about it before it happens. Plenty of time to speak on it AFTER it happens. I’ve recorded many songs on artists thinking I was on their record & it’s never released. Let’s just say more music; but I’m leaning more toward film & television. I am very thankful to those that appreciate my musical contribution. I’m blessed to have made a musical connection with so many. Support good music! If you don’t buy it & instead download it for free or watch it on YouTube; those artists become deprioritized at their label. I would encourage music lovers to be more vocal in a constructive, meaningful way. Don’t just attack artists on the net. If you don’t like the direction of music tell it to the record company execs. Find out who A&R’d it & start a blog, YouTube post or write a letter/petition to their boss, publicist, management or the label president.The general public has power that hasn’t been channeled in the right way. Tell these execs what you want & don’t want to hear in a mature & articulate way. There is strength in numbers. I write for the publics enjoyment. What good is a song if I’m the only one who likes it? I encourage all music lovers to exercise your power & address these record company execs because that’s where the project is conceptualized, created & distributed. Don’t just send hate mail because execs will delete it. Address the higher ups. They’re on the net also & they will listen!

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20 comments on “UB Industry Talk: Songwriter/Producer/Singer Ivan Matias Speaks to UB

  1. Lesley

    I’m a big fan of many of his work I had no idea who he was but I knew the name and the music. I thoroughly enjoyed this interview. I look forward to the next portion of it. Ivan is something who keeps it real and makes that makes for a good interview. I’m glad he spoke up on that Toni Braxton ex husband situation. We hear so many stories about people who dont do the work but stamp there name on a product and get monies from it. Dude was all the way wrong for trying to get all this credit for just being her “husband” smh.

  2. CJ

    This was a very insightful interview giving an inside look from a writer’s perspective in the music industry. For those who are looking for a career in the music industry, reading this interview should give you key points on how to survive in an industry where being on top of your game keeps you from tanking out at the bottom.

    UrbanBridgez did a fantastic job asking questions and leaving no stone un-turned. Amatuer music sites take notice.

  3. Singerboy

    Good job, not that we need to know everything that goes on with some artists but it’s funny/amazing how some things aren’t made public till years after!

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  5. Radames (DJ Sinester)

    I had no idea that my friend that i know for so long has been through so much!!! He has always been a very very talented artist and writer he if definitely has a rare talent that can definitely not be ignored. I wish him a lot of luck and will always have my support. I am a DJ and have seen how this industry has turned into a circus. The many many artists that are out there is not noticed the way they should be me as a DJ I try my hardest to always spin songs that I think people would enjoy. It’s too bad that mega Djs don’t do the same we the DJs have the power to change things too and that’s what I’m gonna try to do letting the DJ break a new song use to be the way to go what happened???

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