*In the world of music, Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds wears many crowns.
While 11 Grammys are nice and producing hits for a who’s who of singing greats is nothing to sneeze at, it’s safe to say the man known as Babyface can blame his success and longevity on his most lethal ability: songwriting.
So much so that Edmonds recently received the ultimate honor with his induction into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. To hear him tell it, his other day job would not be relevant if songwriting never entered the picture.
“I can tell you that without the songwriting, I wouldn’t have been an artist,” Edmonds confessed to EURweb. “My being an artist, it ultimately became an outlet so that I could have the songs that I was writing, so they could have a home that didn’t fit through someone else then. I started singing my songs because maybe someone else might not have been able to do it and that’s a good reason why I became an artist.”
Artist motivation aside, Edmonds’ songwriting talents are a gift that developed early and goes all the way back to his time as a sixth grader with his eyes on the big picture.
“I’ve always been a songwriter. Ever since I was in sixth grade, that’s when I started writing songs and that’s kind of what I’ve always claimed to be first. So to get this honor, this is probably like the top honor that I can get above everything because that’s what I ultimately relate to the most. So in that sense, it’s great,” Edmonds said while reflecting on entering the Hall of Fame.
“It’s not something that I was particularly looking for. So it’s nice when things like that kind of happen and come when you’re not looking for it. And that makes it all the more special.”
With his induction into the 2017 Songwriters Hall of Fame, Edmonds joined a distinguished group that includes rap mogul Jay-Z, Motown Records founder Berry Gordy and fellow producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, Max Martin, Peter Cetera of the group Chicago, Robert Lamm and James Pankow. Needless say, Edmonds is in very good company.
“Obviously, to be among the list of names is not something that you also ever imagine that you’re a part of that crew. Especially when you talk about Berry Gordy,” the former “Dancing With the Stars” competitor added. “And so I think that for me, a lot of the things that kind of happened at this point in my life, to be honest, is what makes me proud is in my mind. My mom has been passed away about three years ago now. So things that affect me are the things that I know would have made her so proud. And this is one of those things. So it makes it all the more special because it is something she is looking down on and just tickled pink about.”
As Mother Edmonds smiles from above, her son’s legacy continues to grow and influence present and future songwriters. But never let it be said that those same song creators don’t make the young Edmonds wish their hit material was something he wrote.
“There’s probably tons of songs like that. Off the top of my head, I can’t think of any. There’s probably a number of Bruno Mars songs I hear that fall under that one and things that you when you hear them, ‘Yeah, I could have done that’ or ‘I should have done that.’ And that’s maybe every Stevie Wonder song he’s ever written. It’s not just one particular song, but understand it is that music and those songs to this day that inspires you,” the “Tender Lover” entertainer said.
“Even to this day, Bruno Mars. When he writes music, I get inspired to write, to write and keep writing. From a Smokey Robinson to a Bruno Mars to a Stevie Wonder to a Paul McCartney to a R. Kelly to a Teddy Riley to a Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis to a Max Martin to Berry Gordy from the beginning. It’s these people and those that are my contemporaries, the work that they do I’m inspired by it. As many times as they say that I may have inspired them, it goes both ways. I’m also inspired by the work that they do. And as a writer, I think that you should always be inspired by other things. That’s what keeps you going. Not just kind of listen to what you do, but listen to what everyone does. Because no matter what…there were times when you would hear a song on the radio and then you go to write something like it. But your version of ‘like it,’ was completely different, which was a great thing. Because you weren’t really stealing a song. You were just inspired by it. And even if you tried to steal it, you can’t steal it because you can’t do what they do.
“So you do what you do and it becomes something else. And that’s the great thing. There are songs that I hear on the radio many times that might have a little bit of a lick or something else that reminds me of something maybe that I’ve done before,” continued Edmonds, who weighed in on sampling his work . “I don’t really trip about it. I’m like ‘Ok,’ so they were inspired by something.’ If it’s not a note for note thing, I don’t really make a thing of it. I think that it is great when people listen to each other and they get inspired and they push each other to think of something in a different way and approach it in a different way. And that’s what makes music great.”
When asked about Mars being a reminder of himself, Edmonds commended the “24K Magic” vocalist on his penchant for working hard in the studio to get his music just right for listeners. In his eyes, Mars is someone to keep your eye on.
“I wrote a song (“Too Good to Say Goodbye) with him on his latest album (“24K Magic”), with him and Philip [Lawrence]. And Bruno is a great writer. He thinks the songs through and he’ll work on them forever until he gets it right. And so I appreciate his work ethic and I think that he is one of the good ones that we have today. I was actually honored to write with him because he’s a good writer,” a humble Edmonds stated. “When someone is a good writer, it’s as much my honor to write with him because you learn. You learn from it. You have to be really careful never to get to a point in your life where you think that you know it all and you can’t learn anything because once you get to that point then you might as well pack it up.”
EUR Bonus: Babyface music!