Mark Ronson Makes Hits by Combining Real Musicians with Technology

Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars
Before Mark Ronson produced “Uptown Funk,” the British DJ/producer/musician was best known for crafting Amy Winehouse’s breakthrough album, Back to Black, which includes the Grammy-winning smash, “Rehab.” Eight years later, Ronson’s career is poised to reach new heights, thanks to the success of his Bruno Mars-assisted anthem.
Currently the fourth most Shazamed song in the world and number one on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart, “Uptown Funk” shows no signs of slowing. The track’s success didn’t come easy though, as it took half a year to finish.
During an interview with sports and entertainment website Grantland, Ronson spoke about the recording process of “Uptown Funk” and his preference for live instrumentation. Here’s what we learned from the interview:
“Uptown Funk” almost didn’t happen.

“It nearly self-destructed, like, 18 times because, you know, you get the seed of something that seems so magical and every time you go in to try and finish it or write the second verse, it never feels genuine or like the way it worked when you were doing it the first time … And the song would have these kinds of sessions, like two days straight, and, man, I’m just exhausted. Bruno would be like, ‘Sh#t, man, it breaks my heart, but maybe this song just wasn’t meant to be.'”

He thinks producers now use technology as a crutch.

“The ’80s were amazing because it was really when there were all these revolutions in producing styles, drum machines, samplers, and you had all these awesome records. You pick any one of them and none of them could have been made even five years prior — thinking of things like ‘The Reflex’ by Duran Duran, or Cyndi Lauper. All those records were great pop records and fully immersed in the best technology of their time, whereas now when we make records, we only use technology as a crutch to fix things.”

He believes people respond differently to real musicians.

“When I use technology, it’s not to fix things or to rob anyone’s human experience of listening to music … Maybe that’s why ‘Uptown Funk’ or ‘Rehab’ or any of these records jump out when you hear them at first, because something tells you that those are real people playing, and they’re the real musicians. Whatever it is, the human brain can hear that, whether you know what the difference is or not.”

He hopes to make hits for a long time.

“Richard Russell, who started XL Recordings, once told me, ‘The only thing you don’t want to sound like is something that came out last year.’ … Quincy [Jones] was, like, well into his fifties when he did ‘Thriller.’ I think I just want to be able to make good music. I don’t mind if I’m old or gray or bald or whatever it is.”


Download “Uptown Funk” and its remixes on DJcity.
Related: Mark Ronson’s Vinyl Collection