Songwriter / Artist / Producer Michael Uzowuru took the mic on October 19 for the latest Songwriters Hall of Fame Master Session at Stuyvesant High School, talking about his songwriting and producing craft and inspirations. The Session was hosted by producer, songwriter and Stuyvesant HS Music Educator / SHOF NY Education Committee vice chair, Harold Stephan.
Michael Uzowuru is known for his work with Frank Ocean, and he is highly regarded as for his unique work ethic and visionary ideas and concepts. Recent credits include Beyonce, FKA Twigs, SiR, Troye Sivan, Burna Boy, Vince Staples, Omar Apollo and Frank Ocean. Michael is also a gifted composer, scoring Donald Glover’s film Guava Island and Michelle Obama’s 2020 documentary Becoming. During this past year he has become one of Rosalia’s main collaborators, having produced lead singles “Saoko,” “Chicken Teriyaki,” and the majority of her latest album Motomami. He also executive produced Vince Staples’ latest project Ramona Park Broke My Heart, and has a forthcoming ambient album in addition to more projects on the horizon.
Stephan asked about Uzowuru’s background and he said that he started writing at 14 or 15. “My Mom was so mad I chose music and I had to make her a believer, but I also had to believe in myself whether my family did or not.”
He then received an internship with a producer and had to learn to be as focused as possible. “I started working with and investing in my friends, trying to build something, and some turned into successful artists like Frank Ocean and Vince Staples.” He recommended working with artists and songwriters that you have an organic connection with, and working with people you know is a great start.
When asked what kind of character traits and processes does he look for in people he works with. Uzowuru responded, “Integrity, hard work and not getting distracted or letting the wrong things entice them. I work differently than a typical songwriter and producer working with elements that will serve the song and the artist.”
Stephan inquired, “Where is the best place to make music?” Uzowuru said, “At home is the best place and the people I worked with started there too. It’s great at preparing you to be locked & loaded for the studio. It’s also good for finding your singularity and what makes you you, and spending time figuring out what that is.”
Stephan then asked, “How do you find your creative identity?” “Listening to yourself and being strong willed,” Uzowuru mused. “Journaling, writing and creating as much as you can and listening with intent, and finding those things that align with you. Deep down we know ourselves, we just have to find the connection. On working with others, he said, “Listening to them, focusing on accepting who they are and not what I want them to be. It’s a sacred connection you form with people. I’m grateful to exist with them.”
Stephan then introduced eight high school students, playing tracks of their original songs for Uzowuru who listened and gave some advice. He said he appreciated their very singular songs, advising them to continue to explore and, “Don't run away from the thing that's hard.”
The students spoke about their processes learning the art and craft of songwriting and production, and Stephan talked about how many of those students are part of the All-City Modern Music Project. This is a program enabling students to write, record, and perform original and cover songs in popular musical genres, currently taking place on Saturday mornings at Stuyvesant High School.
When asked by a student about what type of equipment is best to use for recording, Uzowuru said, “Go with the equipment you have, including iPhone.”
In closing, he said, “Thank you for sharing and trusting me to hear your songs...it can be difficult to share, and this was really special.”
This Master Session was streamed live on the SHOF YouTube channel and is available for viewing HERE.
The Songwriters Hall of Fame, SHOF New York Education Committee chair April Anderson and vice chair Harold Stephan are grateful to Michael Uzowuru, Simone Dixon, David Gray, EVP/Head Of A&R, Universal Music Publishing Group and Elizabeth M. Guglielmo, Director of Music, New York City Department of Education for her continued support of these events and opportunities for public school students!
The SHOF Master Sessions at Stuyvesant program has hosted events for NYC public school students highlighting both the business and creative sides of the music industry since 2018, with past sessions featuring Rodney “Darkchild” Jerkins, Nija Charles, TBHits, Sam Ashworth, Denzel Baptiste & David Biral p/k/a Take A Daytrip, Khari “Needlz” Cain, Steven Van Zandt, Steve Greenberg, Mark Hudson, Samantha Cox, Leyla Blue, Maude Latour, Laundry Day, Pom Pom, Mike Campbell, Billy Mann, Gregg Wattenberg and Rich Christina.