Mark Ronson has cemented himself as one of the most prolific producers in modern music, playing a huge part in some of the industry's biggest stars' seminal projects, like Amy Winehouse's "Back to Black," Lady Gaga's "Joanne" and the soundtrack to "A Star Is Born."
He has also, of course, released several influential albums of his own, which all boast an impressive roster of recognizable talent ("Uptown Funk" with Bruno Mars came off of 2015's "Uptown Special," and "Nothing Breaks Like a Heart" with Miley Cyrus was the lead single for his latest self-titled project from 2019, "Late Night Feelings."), but those projects are often spaced out by several years, as he uses his work with other artists to inspire the work he releases on his own.
"Even though I put out my own records, being a producer is my day job, so I’m always producing records in between," Ronson told AOL at the Sundance Film Festival ahead of his Chase Sound Check performance. "Sometimes I need the inspiration from those artists to fill my tank up."
For more from our interview with newly-minted Sapphire Creator Mark Ronson in support of Chase Sapphire's "Same Planet More World" campaign, keep on reading:
You said you first came to Sundance in the late '90s. What are some of your favorite Sundance memories?
I opened up for this experimental DJ named DJ Spooky in this big hall of 2,000 people, which was one of the biggest crowds I had ever DJ’d for up until that point, and I just did my thing and it was really fun. I saw Robert Redford walking down Main Street one time, which is kind of like going to Liverpool and seeing Ringo Starr walk by.
You chose Yebba to partake in the first of your curated events at Chase Sapphire on Main. Why her?
We worked on the last record together, and the whole thing about being in the place where I’m at and being trusted as a curator at this point is being able to introduce people to the next wave of talent, the people that I really believe in and the ones who in two years people are going to be like, "Oh my god, I can’t believe I saw them in that little club with 200 people." We also just finished working on her debut record, which will be out sometime this year, and she is one of the best singers I’ve ever worked with, and I’m excited for her to come out. She fits in well to Sundance because she’s exciting and fun and something new.
As your profile has risen, do you find more and more joy in giving someone like Yebba more of a platform by selecting her for gigs like this or featuring her on your record?
It definitely works both ways, because it’s not like I’m just doing her favor. But it’s nice because whenever I work with artists on their first record, or even with Amy Winehouse on her second record, there’s something about working with someone from the beginning. They’re so excited, there’s this unlimited potential of where they can go and, whereas I might become more jaded over time, every time you go on a ride with these people on their first record, it’s infectious. I get to constantly get to keep drinking from this musical fountain of youth by working with these young artists like Yebba and King Princess. There’s always something that’s a little more of a thrill in making something that hits with somebody who has never done it before.
You're doing a Chase Sound Check show at Tao Park City during Sundance. What's it like for you doing an intimate, exclusive gig like that?
It’s so much fun. Every time you come to a new place, it’s always that split second just before you start and you’re like, "Here are 300 people I’ve never seen before. What am I going to start with?" It’s great, because it’s the one thing about traveling and seeing different people in different cities. You just constantly get this excitement and infectious joy from the energy of the crowd, which is always full of new people. It’s great to kick off the Chase Sound Check series with this.
You seem to always be working on a variety of different projects at once. How do you keep everything separate in your mind and make sure that they do or don't influence one another?
It’s important to keep them separate out of respect for those individual projects, because you don’t want to burn out. With somebody like Yebba, her sense of musicality — because she from the church — actually makes her technically smarter than I am. So working with her requires all of my attention and focus, and we really just focused on making her record. I’m also working on a musical, doing this project with Chase Sapphire and I just find a way to balance all of it. I think it’s easier because all of these things are exciting and stimulating.
How do you deal with the fervent and insatiable fans of some of the bigger stars you work with? It seems like every day I see on Twitter another clue about you working with Miley Cyrus or Lady Gaga — is it hard to navigate that intense attention that those fanbases give you?
It’s crazy, because it wasn’t even until social media that I realized… maybe in the late 2000s, when I was working with Amy [Winehouse] and Lily [Allen], because those things weren’t as big. I’ve been so fortunate because I really have inherited these fanbases by working with Miley Cyrus and Camila Cabello and Gaga, these people who have these amazing, monstrous fanbases that are so loyal. The person they love says something nice about you, and they can tell that you’re making good music with their No. 1, and then you do get these people who now root for you.
What’s funny, though, is when I put out the song with Lykke Li before the Camila Cabello song [from "Late Night Feelings"], Camila’s fans were like, "Oh, he must just want his album to flop!" They like you working with her, but if you’re not putting out your song with their No. 1 first, then it’s not good enough. It was probably a teenager in her room, but it definitely hurt. Like, they wrote, "FLAWWWWWWP!" That stung. But, no, my friend BloodPop, who has been working on the new Lady Gaga record as well, we tease each other because you could be posting the most earnest thing about your spiritual enlightenment or something and every third comment is still, "Tell Gaga to come to Brazil." It doesn’t matter. The Monsters and the Smilers, I feel so grateful and lucky to have inherited them.
There were four years between your last two records, "Uptown Special" and "Late Night Feelings." I know you don't like to rush to get anything new out, but do you know what your next solo project looks like yet?
With me, it’s a bit different because, even though I put out my own records, being a producer is my day job, so I’m always producing records in between. Between the last two, I worked on Joanne and Queens of the Stone Age and Silk City and sometimes I need the inspiration from those artists to fill my tank up, so to speak, so now I’ve worked on Yebba’s album and the musical and music for "Spies in Disguise." What’s fun is a project like this with Chase Sapphire, too, where I can indulge one of my favorite things, which is to pick great music to fit into certain spaces and sequences.
This interview has been edited and condensed.