Producer/arranger/songwriter Mark Batson is nothing if not on a roll. Fresh off multiple Grammy nominations for his work on Anthony Hamilton’s Comin’ From Where I’m From album, producing and co-writing seven songs on Seal’s multi-platinum Seal IV and writing and producing a track on Beyoncé’s Dangerously in Love , Batson has quickly become one of the industry’s most sought-after talents.
Not surprisingly, music has been a constant in the multi-talent’s life. “My brother Scott and I took classical piano lessons from the time we were five years old,” he says, “and by the time we were 10-12, we were playing African, Latin, Cuban music, rap and hip-hop, and in the church on Sundays.”
Growing up in the Brooklyn projects, he says, it was necessary to counterbalance musical prowess with a convincing street image. “Gang members would come up to my floor to listen what we were doing, and it might be Beethoven. That’s when I realized that music’s really a universal language.”
Eventually, Scott decided to teach music, but Mark continued to hone his writing and producing skills. By studying with producers like hip-hop icons Marley Marl and Eric B., Batson developed a style he describes as “figuring out what artists do and bringing out the best of them. I don’t have a personal sound; other producers have a trademark sound, and they get paid a lot of money to bring that sound to a record, but I adapt to what the artists need.”
The big breakthrough came with India Arie’s Acoustic Soul album, which earned seven Grammy nominations on its way to double platinum. Soon after, artists like G-Unit (50 Cent’s backing crew, for whom Batson has done various mixtape compilations), Hamilton and Seal started calling: “I wrote 40 songs with Seal in a four month period, and he’s somebody who might write 10 songs every few years.”
Batson’s latest projects include work on Arie’s next album and a remix of Sting’s “Stolen Car” featuring Black Eyed Peas’ Will.I.Am. Working so constantly has become second nature for him, he says. “It’s really a matter of finding the lane where the artists drive … and sometimes I have to drive really fast.”