Music legend Nile Rodgers talks career at SXSW

Ruben Paquian

In an eventful Q&A, Nile Rodgers explained how he became one of the biggest producers in music history. Rodgers spoke of his time in the music industry and what it’s like working with both classic and new artists.

Having parents who were heroin addicts, Rodgers said he was forced to move to multiple schools, where the standardized requirement of music class put him in the position to play multiple instruments including the clarinet and the flute. Rodgers said his time playing the clarinet helped him transition to the guitar, allowing him to use his knowledge of sheet music to his advantage.

“The written rage of the B flat clarinet Is exactly the same written range as the guitar,” Rodgers said. “So I was a really exceptional music reader.”

When asked about how he keeps up the changing technologies in the music industry, Rodgers said he learns with combination of self teaching and learning from the new rising artists of today. Referencing his time working new artist such as Anderson Paak and Bruno Mars, Rodgers said every job requires adaptation.

“I've always been into technology,” Rodgers said. “I’ve always been into gear, so I’m somewhat of a gearhead. However in today's world it’s really difficult to keep up with the gear because it's surged with all the stuff that comes out. So a lot of time I’ll work with an artist who has a completely different way of working.”

Part of the reason so many artists choose to work with Rodgers is his ability to produce unique and catchy compositions. When asked if his talent comes from his expertise on the guitar, Rodgers said that although the guitar is his “hitmaker,” it's only a tool in the process.

“The guitar is just something that I use as a secondary form of expression,” Rodgers said. Typically the ideas come to my head and I use the guitar… It's like when your doing math. You use (the guitar) to prove your work.”

In a follow up question asking about the source if his over all success, Rodgers said he has no clue as to how everything fell into place with his career. Rodgers said he is passionate about his job, which is why he said he works as hard as he does. Rodgers is currently booked to work with musicians up to a year in advance.

“I don’t know what the key factor to my success is, but I do know that I love my job and I’ve had many more failures than successes.” said Rodgers. “I love it. It’s so much fun. I'm always inspired by other artists.

As for the future of his band Chic, Rodgers reveals that fans should expect an album sometime this year. The singled Rodgers released a few years ago was supposed to be precursor to this upcoming album, written album about current life and talking about all the people who influenced him such as David Bowie and Prince. Their sudden death affected Rodgers heavily, and made him want to hold off the record to honor them.