Whether you realize it or not, you’ve already heard the work of Nasri Atweh. No, he’s not that weird kid who tried to serenade you during French class or that friend of a friend that you “forgot to call” after that blind date. Both good guesses though.
Rather, Nasri Atweh is a Grammy award-winning producer and songwriter who has worked alongside artists such as Justin Bieber, Chris Brown, David Guetta, Christina Aguilera, Michael Bolton, Pitbull and New Kids On The Block — an impressive resume for just one man, to say the least.
Atweh started off as a solo artist who achieved radio and video success in Canada back in 2003. It wasn’t until he moved to New York City to train as a dancer that he began songwriting as a way to make extra cash. All of Justin Bieber’s albums, along with Chris Brown’s “Fortune” and Pitbull’s “Global Warming,” are just a few of the albums produced from Atweh’s pen and paper. Now with over 10 years of songwriting and producing experience under his belt, Atweh is returning to his roots as he, along with fellow musicians Mark Pelli, Alex Tanas and Anthony Lavdanski, decided to start his own pop- reggae band called Magic. The band just recently released their first two recording onto their YouTube channel. Taking time in between practices and recordings, Atweh talked with NMR about his experiences writing for Justin Bieber, his advice for musicians working to build a fanbase and his band’s upcoming plans.
Your musical career has been split up into chapters, starting with you recording your own singles, then writing and producing for others, and now you’re back recording for yourself. Why come back to your own music, and how do you feel that your experiences as a producer/writer will benefit you now with Magic?
Nasri Atweh: I started off being a pop star signed in Canada and then moved to New York and was training as a dancer. I started writing to try and make some money, and it turned into this whole big thing and ended up getting all of these really big jobs. Now myself and my good friends are in a band.
So you never really intended to go into writing?
No, not at all.
How have all those different experiences set you up to start your own band?
I think it just has to do with the fact that Mark Pelli, who is the guitar player in the band and does all the background, he was actually a producer I met, and I was like, “We should be in a band.” And then he brought Alex and Anthony, the drummer and the bass player, to the band. Alex Tanas, the drummer, he actually produces stuff too, so there was a connection of musicians who have similar life goals where we want to write and produce but we also have our band that we do too.
You’ve worked with some of the biggest artists in the music scene — do you have a favorite that you’ve collaborated with?
Kind of all of them, but I love working with Justin Bieber and Chris Brown. The new acts I’m going in with now are great too, everybody from like Carmen K to Victoria Justice. It’s neat working with young stars like that, but also working with Mr. [Eric] Hutchinson the other day. Bottom line, great first experience I had was with New Kids on the Block. Worked with Michael Bolton and then started with all these young artists. Worked with David Guetta and Chris Brown. Justin’s Christmas album was a lot of fun to do, and this new album, the success of “As Long As You Love Me.” So yeah, just kind of everybody.
What was it like working with Bieber? What was your first impression of him, and when did you first learn about him?
My first impression was that he was a star. He definitely had a glow, a vibe, an energy to him, and I was like, “This kid could really be something,” and I want to be a part of it.
How do you see YouTube playing a role in musician’s careers today?
I just think it’s fun content. It allows people to get a piece of your personality and to just get stuff out there. I think that’s the hardest thing I was guessing for any artist for YouTube was that it was hard to put together content, and it was hard for people to see it. Now with YouTube you could just go for it and start to build fans that you would have probably never got before.
Do you think YouTube channels are replacing traditional media?
No, I think they all work together.
Is it even important then to have a YouTube channel?
Of course! I think that an artist needs to take every opportunity that they can to build a fanbase.
How has YouTube affected the way that you write and create music?
I would say the main thing is watching people do covers. I realize that people still love a great melodic song, so that’s probably the most influential thing is just watching all the covers of all the songs and watching how people of all ages really love to sing a great pop song.
When you’re personally writing a song, do you kind of have an idea of how you want it to be sung and played? Does that ever clash with the ideas of the artist that you’re writing the song for?
Not really. When we go with an artist we are already aware of the direction. Generally we are kind of in the mode with them, so it’s really just about going for it, and sometimes you miss, you don’t get the right lyric, you don’t get the right melody, but the good thing is you can come back the next day and make it work.
Is it hard to always be behind the scenes? That when these great hits come out, your name is associated with it but it’s not the first name people think of when they hear these songs?
Sometimes I have those days where I feel that way, but generally no, I’m happy to be there, to be a part of these artists’ careers. I’ve luckily been in with great artists so I haven’t had to experience this in a difficult way. By going in with really talented artists who have a lot of fans is only a positive thing.
You never yell, ‘“As Long As You Love Me” was mine!’?
[laughs] No, not at all. I actually was happy that that became a big hit for Justin, and that’s not something I would produce as an artist.
What are your future plans for your band Magic?
Right now we’re doing a couple of shows and continue to build our online presence, but most likely we’ll reach out to some folks and get a distribution deal going and continue to just build a fanbase. We’re a kind of pop, reggae, soul band, so we have a lot of really cool songs and a whole sound to what we’re doing. So the main thing is to just spread that movement to get as many opportunities as we can, but we definitely want to be a very popular touring band. Kind of at the end of the day we’d love to be a stadium band.
What advice do you have for artists trying to build a fanbase?
Sing with what you’re comfortable with, because if you don’t like it, other people aren’t going to like it. Take the path of least resistance.