Q&A Interview With the Duo R. City

Teron and Timothy of R. City
Teron and Timothy of R. City. R. City

Brothers Timothy and Teron, aka R. City, are about to make their major label debut with the album Wake the Neighbors, but chances are you've been singing their songs for a long time. How's that? Well, R. City has racked up an impressive record of penning the biggest hits for the biggest sellers, from Akon to the Pussycat Dolls. Here, they talk about getting their start in the business, how they moved into songwriting, and how they used their songwriting success to win attention for their music.

Question: So, you just got back from the Virgin Islands, is that right?

(Teron)Yeah, we were in the British Virgin Islands and US Virgin Islands for four days.

How was that?

(Teron) It was GREAT. We had a show in the British Virgin Islands, and it was amazing – they knew all the words to all the songs. It was kind of surprising to us.

So, just a few questions for you guys. First, can you tell me a little bit about how you got started in St. Thomas?

(Teron) Ok, we stared at the ages of 5 and 6. We started out as backup dancers for a local group in St. Thomas. A local rap group – a girl group. They broke up but my brother and I wanted to continue to do music, so we were doing the dancing thing. But then Kriss Kross came out and kind of shifted out thoughts. We were like, “yo, they’re young, they’re like us.” So we went through the whole wearing our pants backwards phase and everything like that, emulating them.

Then we kind of came into our own.

Our dad used to manage us at first, and he’s the reason that we do all the things we do. We started out trying to rap, and he said, “everyone can rap.” Then we started to do reggae and rap, and he said everybody can do that. We started singing, and he said, “yeah, but…” and he made us take Spanish lessons.

We can’t speak Spanish, but we can read it very, very well (laughs). He made us do all of those things, and it kind of gave us the edge and sound that we have now. That’s kind of like the reason we do all that.

It wasn’t until we graduated out of high school and moved to Miami for about ten months – things were kind of slow. We got offered to perform in Atlanta by a promoter from St. Thomas. He said, “yo, I’ll pay you guys $350 to come out and do this show for me.” And you know, nothing wasn’t really popping in Miami for us at the moment, so we said, hey.

(Timothy) At that time, we both decided it was either going to be Atlanta or New York. We felt like, you know, the music scene in New York or Atlanta at that time, we needed to be in one of those places and the opportunity presented itself for us to be in Atlanta, so we went to Atlanta.

Why did you pick Miami first?

(Teron) Because the plane ticket was cheaper (laughs).

(Timothy) The plane ticket was cheaper, plus we had family there.

(Teron) We didn’t know nobody in Atlanta, we had family – a cousin and an uncle (in Miami) and we said we can stay with our uncle or our cousin for awhile until we get ourselves on our feet. And it just wasn’t moving the way – you know, you’re young and coming out of high school, and we were the number one group in the islands.

We thought we were gonna fly; we were gonna be in the States for a month or two and get a deal. WE didn’t know any better. We were like, wow, it’s harder than we thought, so ended up moving to Atlanta.

So when you moved to Atlanta, you moved as performers, but when you got there, you started getting into songwriting?

(Teron) Yeah, we moved as performers. We actually used to do talent shows to pay our bills, and we actually won so much they told us we couldn’t compete any more. We were like, “a chance? This is our grocery money,” you know. They stopped letting us do that. You know, we’ve been homeless, slept at studio, you know had no money, had to sneak on trains. You know, we’ve been through all of the artist stories you can think on, and we just was like, yo, what else can we do? We’ve always been writing the songs for ourselves, so..

We started dibbling and dabbling in writing songs, but I wouldn’t say it didn’t get serious until like 05, cos we did a song for Akon his album, on Konvicted, called The Rain, and the funny part about the song is it was our song. We put it on your second album.

(Timothy) Second independent album

(Teron) Yeah, second independent album we put out in the The Virgin Islands, called The Rain, we wrote it in like seventh or eight grade. You know, and we was like – we were working on our album Wake the Neighbors – and Benny D, Akon’s DJ, said Akon might be able to do it. And he was like, yo, we gonna send it to him, and Akon loved it, and he did it.

From there, everyone was like, yo, these kids wrote a song for Akon, yo, and they asked us what else can you do, and we said we can do whatever, and from there, the songwriting thing just opened a whole new door that we never knew existed. Everyone was talking about Rock City. It was like, wow, ok.

We’ve just been writing songs for anyone who would let us write a song for them. We’ve worked with a lot of people – The Pussycat Dolls, that first single we just did – When I Grow Up – they just performed it on Jimmy Kimmel the other night. We wrote that.

(Timothy) They’re also performing it on the MTV movie awards on June 1

(Teron) – Yeah, they’re opening the show with that song. Also, Leona Lewis, her American album, she did two songs - Akon did a song called Foolish, and we did a song called Mrs. Glass, which is going to be her second single to be released over here. Also, Mario got a song called Music for Love which is his next single, which we did. We also did four songs on Sean Kingtson’s album - we did the hit single Take You There, which was successful for him.

So we’ve just basically been behind the scenes trying to keep our name growing. And you know our first single, they just released it. It’s called Losing It, we shot the video, Eric White directed it, it was produced by Madd Scientist. And we’re just exciting about the reaction we’ve been getting about everything. You know, thinking, us, coming from The Virgin Islands, from St. Thomas, you always say "I wanna make it, I wanna make it," but when you actually start to make it, you’re like, yo, I can’t believe I’m doing it. You know what I’m saying? We’re just excited; we just pray people accept what we’re doing. We know it’s different, but you know, we really hope people accept it.

Did the songwriting distract you at all from promoting, or did you keep up your own shows after the songwriting thing started kicking off?

(Timothy) See, we’re artists first before anything else, and it just so happened the songwriting thing took off first. That was paying the bills, so we ran with it. We thank God every day for being so talented to be able to write songs for other people. After the songwriting thing took off, it sort of opened the door for us to do the artist thing.

But while we were doing the songwriting thing, we were still grinding, doing show on our own, booking our own shows. I mean like free shows, we were doing talent shows. You know most artists who have deals, they, a lot of artists tend to think well, they got a deal now, they’re too good enough and too big to be doing small shows like that. But for my brother and I, we were known as writers, but we wanted to be known as artists, cos we came into the game as artists. So, we were still doing shows. Like I said, the songwriting thing opened the door for us to be artists, because people started paying attention to us and what we do.

(Teron) We’ll be in the studio with Usher, and we’ll be like, hey man, you know, we do music too. And he’s like, oh, y’all are artists? And we’ll be like yeah, man, we’re a group, you know. And then we’ll play him our music, and he’s like, "Yo, Y'all are dope." And it happened like that with everyone we worked with, you know. If you get us in a room with them, we just use the opportunity to say, "you know we sing, too." "Oh, for real?" And then we play our music, and the buzz started getting around.

That’s how Akon came to want to sign us. Our buzz was so big in Atlanta, we were doing so many shows, and everyone was talking about us. It’s so funny that people react the way they do to our music. We’re working with like famous people. You know from Akon to Usher. We’ve worked with Macy Grey, Pussycat Dolls, Mario, Sean Kington – Jesse McCartney – we did two songs for Jesse – and these people are like, we love y’all. And we’re like, you do? Wow, thank you, because we love you, we can’t even believe we’re in the studio with you.

That’s another reason why – you know, we had a lot of deals on the table from different labels, - a lot of people say, why did you sign to Akon?

(Timothy) – Akon was the one person giving us exactly what we were looking for. A lot of labels were trying to change us – you know, putting a girl in the group, or you should just rap or just sing or rap less, sing more. Akon was the only person that was like man; I like what y’all are doing already. Just keep doing what you’re doing, and I’ll let you know what’s good and what’s whack, and we’ll put it out. It was never about the money because we had labels offering us a lot of money. But you know, some people, they think if they give you a lot of money and you’ll run with it. But me and my brother, we never had money it never really excited us about the money. We did what we were doing our entire life we because we loved it. We just wanted to know we were able to have creative control and no one was trying to change us.

When you’re writing songs for yourself, is that different than writing for someone else?

(Teron) Sometimes, but sometimes it isn’t. Our first single, we wrote for Trey Songz originally, and Atlantic turned it down, and it ended up becoming our first single. But sometimes we’re in a different frame of mind, so we write our own songs for ourselves. Sometimes we write songs for other people and end up keeping them. Like, we wrote a song for Akon for his new album, Jimmy Iovine (head of Interscope) heard it and said y’all gotta keep it – so Akon recorded the song, and we took it back. It’s like we go through that. It’s funny because we can do everything that everybody does. We can write a song for the Pussycat Dolls, and someone will be like, Nah, y’all should keep that. We just change it around from a male point of view, so we do stuff like that all the time.

We feel like we make music for the people and we represent the everyday regular guy, so when we write music for ourselves, we try to look at it from that perspective and try to attack it from that angle. That’s how it goes.

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