Mark Ronson

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Mark Ronson

When people say that Mark Ronson is ‘bringing back the funk’ it’s a somewhat strange concept to him, considering that he has grown up on funk and for him – if you’ve ever caught one of his DJ sets – it has never gone anywhere and has remained the driving force behind his music. His fourth studio album, Uptown Special, has been delighting not only his long time admirers but also attracting a larger mainstream audience – with generations of all ages being able to enjoy his jams.
“It’s cool to know that when I was six or seven years old, Duran Duran put out Notorious or David Bowie put out Let’s Dance. You’re just a kid, you listen to pop, you listen to what’s on the radio, so it’s great to think that possibly some young kid out there has been turned on to Rick James or George Clinton or something because they’ve heard Uptown Funk,” Ronson tells me from rehearsals in London.
“My friend sent me an email the other day and said his son was like, ‘Daddy I want more music like ‘Uptown Funk’!’ he couldn’t really think of anything else new, so started playing him Rick James and now that’s all his boy wants to listen to – so that’s really cool.”
Uptown Special has been a world-wide phenomenon breaking records like all-time most streamed track in a single week in the UK for Uptown Funk with a staggering 2.49 million streams. It has reached number one in the UK album chart and number two here in Australia – also achieving gold status in both countries. Earlier in the year the London born, New York raised artist also took out the Brit Award for Best British Single.
“It’s pretty crazy, you know that obviously it’s not why you make the music. I make the music because I love it, I love sitting in a room with people that I dig or I’m inspired by and like coming up with something from scratch. That’s like ‘Uptown Funk’ , it just came out of a jam at Bruno’s studio one time. To then have it do well or win awards or something it’s amazing, sometimes its surreal because it really was – I know this sounds over simplified – but it’s a song that we just made because we love that type of music,” Ronson says.
“Don’t get me wrong, I worked on it harder than I’ve ever worked on anything to actually get it to the finish line, so to win something for it is a really lovely thing, but not something you should dwell on too much because it’s not something that I have control over. I can only control us making the best music and put out the stuff that I think is great. That other stuff that comes along with it is amazing but it’s important not to get caught up in it.”
Ronson’s album features a string of impressive guests including the likes of Bruno Mars, Andrew Wyatt of Miike Snow, the legendary Stevie Wonder, Australia’s own Kirin J Callinan [guitar solo on ‘Daffodils’] and Kevin Parker of Tame Impala amongst so many others. Ronson retains that he has never had a singular formula when it comes to his song writing, it is a somewhat organic process whereby a song is brought to life by a two-and-fro of ideas and input.
“A lot of my music comes from jams, but like the stuff that I did with Kevin Parker came from us sending demos back and forth – I just had this idea for one song and it grew from there,” he says.
Not only does he have a heap of talented friends helping him out on his album, he is bringing a huge guest-list of stars to perform with him at his upcoming Australian shows next month including; Kevin Parker, Daniel Merriweather, Andrew Wyatt, Theophilus London and Keyone Starr.
“Well, I mean I have to say it takes a bit of hassling on my part. I wish I could say they were all lining up to do it, but I just thought I’ve really got to come out and put on a really good show. I don’t get to come out to Australia very often, it’s always been one of the best places we’ve ever played. You guys have always been supportive of the music and, I think,especially because Kevin Parker is such a huge part of this record – he’s going to be a good part of the show,” he says.
“Glastonbury and the Australian shows are the only shows we’re really doing on this album, with this whole crew of singers and everything. We’ve been rehearing for over four weeks, I’ve never put so much thought into visuals and rehearsing the band and making sure these shows are great. For Glastonbury we have Kevin as well as Daniel Merriweather and a couple of the same people so it’s exciting.”
We should certainly count ourselves lucky to not be missing out on such a big act this time, rather we have the exclusive. It’s hard to believe that Ronson has never played a Splendour before now, but that has not been through lack of trying on his behalf.
“Everyone always says, ‘It’s the best festival, you have to play there if you go to Australia’ this is how it’s kind of finally worked out, that we can come out and do it on this album,” he says.
The fun does not stop there though, Ronson has also hand-picked a number of premium Aussie acts as his support for the three sideshows who include POND, Tkay Maidza, Yolanda Be Cool and Jones Jr.
“Those are all acts that I really like, have done shows with or messed around and made music with like Jay [Watson] from POND – the others I have played on my radio show or just love. It’s pretty amazing to be in the position to pick your own kind of dream line up. My tastes are kind of eclectic, but I think so are everybody’s now. I don’t think anyone wants to go to a show any more and see just one thing, I think everyone likes to spread their music interests across the board,” he says.
“I think it was just the fact that these are some of the biggest venues we’ve played and we’ve had the opportunity to put it together. I just wanted to put on a bunch of bands that I really like, but put it into a bit of an experience like how the album is, have an Uptown Special feel to it.”
When & Where: Splendour in the Grass, Byron Bay – July 24-26 & Margaret Court Arena, Melbourne – July 29
Written by Abbey King