How Ricky Reed Went from Bay Area Punk to Grammy-Nominated Producer
Plenty of people start bands during their college years, with some fizzling out and a select few hitting it big.
But some musicians use that experience to get into the music industry in other ways. Take Ricky Reed, for example. A Bay Area punk raised on hyphy-tinged music, he’s nominated for a Grammy this year in the category best Latin rock, urban, or alternative album. It’s not for his own band, Wallpaper, which is successful in its own right, but for his work as executive producer of Bomba Estereo’s album “Amanecer.”
Ricky has also worked with Jason DeRulo, Pitbull, and Meghan Trainor. He produced Lunchmoney Lewis’s “I Got Bills” and twenty one pilots’ “Tear in my Heart.” So clearly, he’s got a range of interests and influences.
We caught up with him recently to talk about his work as a producer and his journey from touring punk musician to executive producer. Watch the Grammys tonight and cheer him on.
Galore: Where were you when you found out you were nominated for a Grammy?
Ricky Reed: I was actually in bed asleep and my wife — we’ve only been married now for a couple months — she ran in and woke me up and showed it to me on her phone. And I was fucking over the moon.
Were you expecting it?
I wasn’t necessarily expecting it. It’s good to kind of keep your hopes and expectations low. Work hard with low expectations — that’s sort of my motto.
It’s clearly served you well.
Yeah, because you’re never really working for the reward. You’re working for the sake of creating. That’s what’s most important.
You write music for your band, Wallpaper, as well as other artists. How do you decide if an idea is going to be your own project or someone else’s?
It’s actually fairly obvious to me which ones are for me and which ones aren’t. The determining factor is usually, is this my story? Is this what I’m feeling and what I’m going through?
[When I work on songs with other artists,] I still have to channel my own experiences of love and disappointment or hardship or whatever it is. I learned that the only way to successfully write and produce records with other people is to dig into the guts of what their story is and fuse it with my own and make something organic.
Tell us about the work you’re nominated for.
What I’m nominated for is an album by a Colombian band I produced last year. It’s pretty obscure. We did this album called Bomba Estereo. It brought me to Bogota, Colombia, twice and they came to LA twice. We met at Lollapalooza backstage and by the end of this album, we were friends inviting each other to our weddings … The singer was going through a really tough time and the album was sort of a transformative period for her, and now she’s about to have her first kid. It’s so beautiful that the album is just us telling the story of a snapshot in our lives.
What are some of your musical influences?
Honestly, I grew up playing in punk bands but I also am from the East Bay in the San Francisco Bay Area. They would just play, like, E 40 and 2 Short and Mak Dre and stuff like that one the radio where I grew up. So I grew up on rock music but was always hearing Bay Area rap stuff. My mom raised me on funk and soul. So I have a lot of influences.
Do you ever do hip hop writing and production?
At this point, hip hop is a wide banner but I’ve work with everybody from bigger dudes like Snoop and 2 Chainz and Jason DeRulo, but I’ve also done some work with Dram on his new album.
When the hyphy thing was happening [in the Bay Area] I was like, I wanna do this. That’s when I started making beats. All the beats that Rick Rock was making got me into beat-making in the first place.
Before that I was playing in a touring punk band for a few years. Then I was in college and started Wallpaper as this weird sort of Radiohead-y art project and then when I discovered all the hyphy stuff, I was like, I think I could do this. The sound of Wallpaper started changing. I was like, I’m gonna play house parties and meet girls and turn this into a real thing.
Your music is everywhere thanks to who you’ve worked with, but you’re also sort of behind the scenes. Is that a weird feeling?
I guess it is. My lifestyle feels very good. Every day all day I focus on being creative and being like, you know, an emotional open book while trying to innovate sonically. There’s no better job and I can make my Prius payments on time and I’m in love. I don’t know if I would trade a lot for this.
How are you spending your first Valentine’s Day as a married man?
To be honest, we’ll probably get drunk and sit on our kitchen floor and bull shit all night. That’s one of our favorite pasttimes.
Last question: what’s the sexiest song you’ll play to get in the mood?
I would either say “Down for Whatever” by Imad Royal or anything by Portishead.
Good luck at the Grammys!