Tony W. Sal and Amir “Cash” Esmailian of XO. (Courtesy Photos)
The Weeknd aka Abel Tesfaye continues to flourish with the release of his chart-topping album, Beauty Behind the Madness. With two number one singles on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart (“The Hills,” and “Can’t Feel My Face“), it’s no surprise that Tesfaye’s first arena headlining tour is now underway.
These achievements were made possible with the help of The Weeknd’s managers, Amir “Cash” Esmailian and Tony W. Sal. After listening to Tesfaye’s music in 2011, Cash left his home in Miami to work with the singer in Toronto. Sal, a native of Ottawa and founder of hip-hop label CP Records, later joined forces with Cash to contribute his entrepreneurial skills.
Billboard recently spoke with both managers about their first big break, greatest musical accomplishment, hardest lesson learned and more.
What made them want to be in the music industry:
Cash: “The one that really sticks out for me is when I was a kid I went to the Up In Smoke Tour [at SkyDome in Toronto]. It was Dr. Dre, Eminem, Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube. I had never seen nothing like that before with my own eyes and I’m like, ‘Wow. I want to do something like that one day.'”
Sal: “I heard a song called ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ by the band Queen; they were my favorite growing up. Their music always inspired me growing up, through rough times in Lebanon during the war. I definitely connected with the music and it was very inspiring. To this day, I hear that song and I’m zoning [laughs].”
Their first big break in the music business:
Cash: “Meeting Abel. I met him through my best friend. His name is Hawk. I’ve been friends with him since I was four years old. One day he sent me Abel’s music and at that point I was living in Miami. I came back to Toronto and … we’ve been together basically every day ’til now.”
Sal: “My big break happened recently when we partnered with Apple and then to see The Weeknd music and the whole recognition worldwide. That was a blessing big time.”
Cash: “My mentor was my father always because I’m originally from Iran and he left there and gave everything up, came to Canada, drove a taxi cab, so myself and my older brother could have freedom and make our own decisions on what we want to do. He is still my mentor, but he passed away two and a half years ago.”
Sal: “My mentors are Monte and Avery Lipman. Two reasons: It’s great to see Republic become where it’s at, but I love the fact that you still see that family vibe where you see them all fight together and push together. Because they’re brothers, it’s not like a huge corporation where there’s so much distance between everybody. I feel like they’re brothers, like the whole company are brothers, so I like how they’ve built their company. Solid guys too.”
Their greatest musical accomplishment this past year:
Cash: “The greatest accomplishment for the past year was that we overcame the challenge that we had with radio, which started with the record we put out, ‘Often,’ and it went from ‘Often’ to ‘Earned It’ and now with ‘Can’t Feel My Face’ and ‘the Hills.'”
Sal: “That would be seeing Abel’s song ‘Can’t Feel My Face’ hit No. 1 on the Hot 100. That was truly special.”
Their hardest business lesson:
Cash: “The hardest business lesson was following that voice inside you and believing in yourself and going with your own instincts. Sometimes you want to go with your instincts and other people might not think it’s the right decision, but you know that it’s right inside of you. Just follow that.”
Sal: “For me, it’s focus on your craft, not on numbers. Some people thing I’m crazy, but I think that’s what made us who we are. Definitely I try to apply it always in my business.”
Related: The Weeknd Enlists Nicki Minaj and Eminem for ‘The Hills’ Remixes
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