Nile Rodgers On How To Collaborate With Anyone, Even Madonna

From Fast CoCreate:

Nile Rodgers is an acclaimed hit songwriter, a guitarist’s guitarist, and one of the most successful record producers of all time. His list of iconic hits (many written with his late partner from the group Chic, Bernard Edwards) includes “We Are Family,” “Good Times,” “Le Freak,” and Diana Ross’s anthem “I’m Coming Out,” plus a mind-blowing number of definitive rock, pop, and R&B albums. Rodgers added “author” to his packed resume with the publication of his thoroughly entertaining autobiography, Le Freak: An Upside Down Story of Family, Disco, and Destiny (now in paperback) in which he laid bare the happenstance events of growing up in a mixed-race, bi-coastal family of “dope fiend bohemians” who he says taught him everything he needed to know “about love, loss, fashion, art, music and the subversive power of underground culture.”

On the eve of Chic’s nomination for induction into the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame, Nile Rodgers how he makes the impossible look easy. Here’s what he told us.

TALK TO YOUR CLIENT
For me, before we get in the room to work on the music, our non-musical conversation is almost everything. When we worked with Diana Ross, we studied her, and actually interviewed her. We got to know everything about her, then we wrote songs for her, and from her point of view, as opposed to the record company’s point of view. We documented her life in son so the whole Diana album is a kind of documentary, if you will.

Madonna … was doing stuff that I had already done as a kid at the Apollo Theater, I just didn’t know any white people that were doing it.
When I first met David Bowie, we started talking about music right away. I don’t know how it came up, but we started talking about jazz rather quickly. Then that was all we talked about. David was into all sorts of jazz, avant-garde performers and composers that were way left of center, free-form jazz and bebop, polyrhythmic, polytonal and atonal stuff, which I also knew about because it was the kind of stuff I grew up with. So once I knew that his knowledge of music went that deep, I knew that we could push the boundaries.

When I first spoke with Duran Duran, we realized we were both fans of Sly And The Family Stone, so I knew what Nick Rhodes meant when he’d ask “What would Sly do?”, and then we’d “Sly it up.” So, every artist is different, and once I become clear to what your reality is, the better I can function. It is unbelievably important to me that everything I do has to be completely real, and completely honest, because if it is, and I understand that, then I can approach it as an expert.

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