Like the many Marvel superheroes he says he so admires, Noel “Detail” Fisher is definitely in top form; perhaps at the peak of his superpowers. Who are we to argue? He’s celebrating his 10th year as one of the industry’s top producer-songwriters with an impressive discography. The Sony/ ATV Publishing signee’s credits include Beyonce’s “Drunk in Love” (for which he won a Grammy), Lil Wayne’s “How to Love,” Wiz Khalifa’s “We Dem Boyz,” Ray J’s “Sexy Can I” and Nicki Minaj’s “Lookin’ Ass.”
Detroit-bred Detail has also produced music for Drake, Jennifer Lopez, B.O.B., Tyga, Kelly Rowland, Akon, and too many more to mention. His next move was to get his own music out to the masses. Instead of debuting with the obvious by releasing the traditional Urban mainstream album, he graces us with a holiday album, Noel (a play on his birth name). The project was released on December 11 and can be heard on Soundcloud, Spotify, iTunes and various platforms. It is reminiscent of James Brown’s Funky Christmas . It features Detail’s up-tempo take on the Christmas classics “Rudolph” and “Jingle Bells” with 16 tracks in all. Detail is joined by fellow-Detroiter Karen Clark-Sheard on the familiar “Joy to the World,” and her daughter Kierra Sheard and Lil George on “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.” To celebrate the release of Noel, Detail hosted album release parties in Los Angeles attended by many of his friends, colleagues and celebrities.
With more music production, solo projects and a Christmas album that will be annually repurposed, Detail is gearing up for 2016 to be another banner year. Music Industry Quarterly got the opportunity to chat extensively with the “Drunk in Love” producer. Enjoy excerpts from our conversation.
10 years in the game now, what was your first professional break in the music industry?
My first professional break was in Detroit. I was working as a producer like a lot of people in the hood. Ray J came to Detroit to do a movie and I got an opportunity to play him some records. He loved them so much he flew me out to L.A. and I ended up executive-producing the album. It was the Raydiation album. Then on his following album, I produced “Sexy Can I.”
We hear you’re a classically trained musician.
I went to college for classical music. I play drums, I play piano, I play a little bit of horn and, of course, I program. I play enough to conduct. Usually my production is underscored with layers of strings and horns.
Talk about the significance of “Drunk in Love” on your career.
That song gave me my first Grammy. I’m very happy to be able to share a Grammy with someone as great as Beyoncé – and she has tons of Grammys. I believe in pushing the envelope and creating transformative but heartfelt music. It was about doing something unique and culturally significant. For it to be recognized by the Grammys was great!
Going from R&B to Hip-Hop, what was it like working with Wiz Khalifa on “We Dem Boyz”?
The experience was great. I got the idea from hanging my cameraman off the balcony and all he kept saying was ‘hol up’ and ‘stop playing.’ It gave me the idea to incorporate that in a song. We weren’t going to let him fall over [the balcony] but that’s all he kept saying. That stuck with me. As a producer, I’m naturally curious, I like to discover things and I try to implement some of those things in the music. That’s how “We Dem Boyz” came about. Wiz and I are friends. The song became a success, like another “Black and Yellow” for him. That’s the type of music that I do = culturally game-changing music.
Lil Wayne’s “How to Love” definitely represents that! Was the song’s success bigger than you anticipated?
I never really think about those things. I just make good music. I don’t really set expectations. I have this little gut thing in my stomach – like when someone scares you – that feeling you get that takes over. The song is a ghetto instruction manual on how to love. It’s like chicken soup for the soul all in one song. Lil Wayne’s career has been greatness, diverse lyrics and metaphors. I thought something really simple and really cool would be game changing for him.
Discuss how Detroit’s rich musical legacy has shaped you.
There’s a church on every corner and a dope house next to the church. You’re either going to be in the dope house or the church playing or both. I kind of was in both. When you’re living in a situation where someone can run up into your house and steal your equipment, it’s even harder to make music. I think the culture of Detroit gives you the passion to take things seriously and give life your best shot. I’m based in L.A. and I got a spot in Detroit. I just produced an entire album there. The first female artist I signed, Christina Chriss, is out of Detroit. We’ve got some crazy records coming. She sings and raps. These are not just songs…they are moments. She doesn’t just get in the studio and say, ‘Hey, what are we writing?’ We get in the studio to write about what the f*ck just happened around the corner. I think everyone that’s come out of Detroit – no matter how famous – has seen a dead body on the street. That’s crazy!
I do a lot of R&B and Hip-Hop records. Everyone that knows me knows I’m a funky man. I like to scream. I like to dance, jump on tables and do back flips. I’m a ball of energy. [The Christmas album] found me. Noel found me. When I go back home, people aren’t calling me Detail. They’re calling me Noel. I think about what types of genres and songs last the longest, songs that we’ll be singing 10 or 20 years from now. I wanted to create something you could play around the tree and little kids will dance to it. You could listen to it with your auntie, your grandma. There is a time and place for everything, and we need to love more. We need to spend more time with our families. We need to dance, move, enjoy ourselves, and that’s what the holiday album represents.
When are you releasing more music as an artist?
It’s coming in 2016. The new album is going to be very cultural.
What are you currently working on as a producer/songwriter? Have you recently collaborated with Beyoncé?
I got some really good stuff on French Montana’s new album coming out in January. He’s a really talented artist and he’s a friend. Working with him is like hanging out.
I got a Grammy with Beyoncé and I got two back to back number ones with her. I don’t think I’ll ever stop working with her. I’m also doing a lot of work with artists you may have never heard of.
Who would you love to work with that you haven’t already?
I would genuinely love to work with Eminem and that could happen this year. I would love to work with Taylor Swift because I feel like we could do something very different that feels and sounds right. Not that anything is broke but I feel with me as an Urban producer – a creative producer – we could do something fun for the world. Hopefully it will happen.
What’s the creative process like for you? What do artists and A&Rs expect from Detail? Is there a signature sound?
They expect for me to jump on tables, scream and shout – to be inspiring and give energy [laughs]. I don’t go against producers that tag themselves in songs but I’ve been doing this for 10 years and this interview with you is probably the second one I’ve ever given. I’ve lasted so long without tagging my beats. I’m not into doing the same thing over and over again. I’ve been able to last effectively for this long and it’s really just the beginning.
In addition to Christina Chriss, are you developing other artists?
I’m also partnered up with [actress] Sanaa Lathan. She’s an incredible talent. Sanaa recently had a number one movie, The Perfect Guy. We created a song Sanaa sang for the film titled “Emotional” that Dej Loaf was able to get on and it went viral. We really connected. I got the opportunity to meet the directors of the film and they were loving what we did. Saana and I are talking about putting out an EP possibly in time for Valentine’s Day. As for me, I’m putting myself out under Plus Music and I’m working on a lot of projects with other people who aren’t signed to me. I always seem to keep a full roster of people to work with.
What are you most proud of about your career so far?
I think I made my momma proud with the release of the Christmas album. I’m also proud of the artists that I work with. My clients are proud of me accomplishing this Christmas album, too. I’ve had a lot of calls of support. That says a lot. I put the album out the way I wanted to and expect people to listen to it for the next 10 to 20 years.
Interview Conducted By David A. Mitchell