For “Studios Sessions,” we delve into the stories behind the long hours in the studio and all that goes into making an album by talking with artists, producers, engineers, photographers, and more who are intimately connected to the recording process with some of the biggest artists in the world. These are the stories that rarely leave the booth.
Baby Rose’s music sounds like heartache ripped out of a time capsule. Her debut album, All To Myself, was one of the biggest surprises of 2019 with her deep and evocative voice akin to legends Nina Simone and Amy Winehouse. Tim Maxey produced the most heart-wrenching songs from the project, which helped the artist develop her sound, and help change the narrative around her voice.
“I think it’s important to see how forward her voice really is as opposed to how nostalgic it is,” Maxey told REVOLT.
In this installment of “Studio Sessions,” the producer explains how Baby Rose’s unique voice draws from both the past and the future, how their friendship helps their music, and much more.
How did you first link up with Baby Rose?
We were both at this music industry event. There was this guy that was onstage and he said he’d been rapping for like 40 years. We both thought that was funny. Then, she was like, ‘I do music, as well.’ I got her Instagram, went on her page and was like, ‘This is sort of what I’ve been waiting for, as far as someone that can cut through on records.’ That was 2018.
How long from that first meeting did you two work on your first song?
We got to link the next week. We made a record from scratch and she got to really see me play... I played her beats and I think the second song, we worked on was ‘Borderline’ from her album. Everything happened really naturally. We both wanted the same thing out of music. We wanted to make something that represents the present time and still think 20 years ahead.
What was the first studio session when you both realized you had chemistry and should continue working together?
I think the first time that happened was when we recorded ‘Sold Out.’ We came in the studio and her friend Matt let her use his Mellotron [keyboard], which is this 1970s instrument that has actual samples in the instrument that were recorded 40 years ago. I was like, ‘This instrument is so cool. Let me try to make something dope out of it.’ She finished that song the same day.
When you go into a studio session with Baby Rose, what are you expecting?
She produces, as well. Our relationship is different now than when we first started working together because we’ve obviously built up a track record. Communication is a lot faster as opposed to when you first meet somebody and you’re telling them, ‘Take your time. Let’s figure it out.’ Now, communication is a lot clearer and our songs are getting stronger. She’s hands-on and selective with sounds. From a producer standpoint, she plays the piano. Eventually, it’s going to get to the point where she’s self-producing her own albums.
How did you mesh your sound with Baby Rose’s unique one?
I was already going in that direction before I met her. I didn’t know what to do with this new sound I was coming into at the time. It was a fate thing and happened at the right time. It’s crazy because right before I was working with her, I was working with Summer Walker, and I was trying to make some new shit for her. One of the first beats I made from that inspiration was ‘Borderline’ and I wanted to keep going [in] that vein. It had the elements of modern hip hop tracks, but still sounded raw. It worked out because of Baby Rose’s situation in her personal life and she was writing about a recent breakup. All of that rawness she brought to the table, I was bringing it, too, sonically.
How are the beats you gave her for this album tailor-made for her voice?
You have to try to separate the music from the artist. A lot of times, a producer will hear Rihanna is looking for music and then they may listen to Rihanna’s last album, and make things that sound like that. In her reality, she’s most likely past that moment, working with something different and is looking for something for that. Before working with her, she worked off a lot of really dope samples with this producer named Case [Boogie] and made this project called From Dusk Till Dawn. Hearing that, I wanted to take a piece from that, but not necessarily do the same thing. I wanted to make things that sound like they could’ve been samples but weren’t, which gives you the freedom to develop a song structure. With a sample, you’re stuck with that loop. There’s a lot more room to do more. Moving forward, I think it’s important to see how forward her voice really is as opposed to how nostalgic it is.
’All To Myself’ is one of the standouts of the album and Baby Rose said the original session was lost. Do you remember her reaction when she realized it was gone?
Our reaction was like, ‘Aww man. We’re just going to have to re-record it.’ We actually attempted that. She spent eight hours in the studio, and it didn’t come across the same way as it did at that moment. There’s a level of curiosity when you’re doing something for the first time. You don’t know what’s coming next, but you know what you want to do. At that moment, for that record, it just was what it was. There was this doubt, but also the certainty of what she’s saying. That makes sense with the song and subject matter.
With songs that are evocative, were there ever any emotionally intense sessions during the making of this album?
I remember creating the song ‘Over.’ It was a very dark studio, we were all on the same page and the song was just so beautiful. I remember listening back to it afterward on repeat. That was around when we first started working with each other. From a straight musical perspective, she was following the chord changes in that song and it was so dope. Personally, I was coming out of a relationship and I felt a lot of things she was writing about were either from my perspective or my partner’s perspective.
Baby Rose hasn’t had that hit record yet, but she’s definitely gone from relatively unknown to the next big thing. Have the sessions changed as she’s garnered more attention?
Not at all. It’s never been like that. It depends on your idea of success. A lot of people we idolize have albums on albums, bodies of works, classics, No. 1 albums. The bar for both of us is pretty high. More fans we get, the more reach we get. But, there’s still a lot more ground to cover. We’re just keeping our heads down and [keep] working.
She said in an interview that she had a bunch of music that was deleted by an ex of hers. How did y’all adapt to that?
Around that time when she was going through her issues with her ex, we were working together at the Dreamville sessions. Childish Major invited me out. The next day I was supposed to go up there and get in there. None of us had the magic, golden ticket yet, but we went up there. We saw people we knew, it was super dope. I don’t know how she found out, but her ex started deleting all of her emails and hacked her Instagram. He thought he was deleting all of her music by deleting her email. That was crazy. That was a couple of months into the project.
Were any songs from those Dreamville sessions you worked on or you saw being worked on that you hope to come out?
There’s a record I did with Montee Booker, Saba, and I think Smino is on it. I don’t think it’s ready, but it’s definitely fire. There are a lot of records I thought were going to be on the album.
Y’all seem to have a genuine friendship outside of music. Has that friendship helped you two make music?
Yeah, that’s my best friend. She’s amazing and dope. She looks out. That helps when you’re working on music. Let’s say you’re having a session, y’all not that cool and the music isn’t hitting that day, you’ll be like, ‘OK. I guess I’ll see you later.’ It’s important to develop a friendship with the people you work with, sometimes, because I think it can move the music forward.