Carl Sturken And Evan Rodgers: “Band Members Turn Co-Writers”
Writing and producing in many different genres, Carl Sturken and Evan Rogers have found success at home and abroad. Their careers started out with work on the Beat Street soundtrack. Since then, their long list of credits includes work with such artists as Gavin Christopher (who had a Top 40 hit with “One Step Closer To You”); Stephanie Mills (a Top 10 R&B artist); Cheryl Lynn (also in the Top 10 as an R&B artist), and Donny Osmond (his comeback with the #1 single “Soldier of Love”). They have worked with artists in many different genres, from rock (The Fixx) to AC jazz (Dave Cos) to dance (Nia Peebles).
Currently they have been writing with Roland Gift of the Fine Young Cannibals for his upcoming solo album. Of the duo, Evan Rogers spoke to me. The other half of the team, Carl Sturken, was working with a string session in the studio when I called. The tandem has been together since they started out in an R&B band in Connecticut.
“We became the main writers in the group, and when the group broke up, we continued writing together,” Rogers said. Once they had found some success as songwriters, they formed a new band.
“We were in a group called Rhythm Syndicate on MCA. We had a number one hit and toured for a couple of years and said we’d like to go back to our day jobs. We found the life of being an artist a little crazy.”
Preferring the lifestyle of writing and producing, they did go back to their “day jobs” at MCA records. Besides working well together, the duo has a good relationship with MCA.
It all started with a song they had out on MCA artist Evelyn Champagne King. Rogers explains: “The song came out, and all of a sudden, our lawyer got a call from someone at MCA music. We didn’t know what a publishing deal was. I was like, what, they want to give us money? Great!”
Up until then, it had been more of a struggle to get their songs out there. With MCA on their side, however, they had access to invaluable contacts. “They’d fly us out to L.A., they’d fly us out to London to write with other MCA writers.”
“Starting out with no connections isn’t easy,” Rogers stressed. “Going into a record company straight out of nowhere. You have to hit everybody you possibly can.
“Sometimes just that friend of a friend who knows someone or works at a management company or the junior A&R guy who’s a friend of my friend.”
Now the duo has a little more power. They produce acts and can bring new artists in for the label, to look at and possibly sign.
“The production thing, we’re very comfortable with it. We don’t insist on it because we actually get more output if we have other producers working on our songs at the same time, since we can only produce so many records at a time.”
Such producers have ranged from David Foster to Trevor Horn to Dave Hall.
As for signing artists, they recently signed a pop male singing group called My Brother’s Keeper. Also, they just signed a 21-year old, blue-eyed soul singer, Don Phillip, to Jive.
“He is like George Michael (was) in his day. We brought him up there and they (Jive Records) just flipped over him.”
Though Sturken & Rogers have more power now, they still don’t have the sway of someone like Baby Face.
“Because we have a label deal with MCA, we have to get their support on an artist that we bring in.”
As for the deal with Jive, good connections with the people there opened the door for them. “We didn’t sign it through our production company, but we sort of have a guarantee that we’re doing most of the album.”
Sturken & Rogers good fortune doesn’t mean they haven’t faced rejection. The two artists previously mentioned, along with some others, were initially turned down by other record labels.
“We’ve had it happen where…labels didn’t get it, and you’re like, maybe it’s just not the right place for this artist, but I know I believe in it.”
Faith and persistence have served the writing duo well. “If you’re really the real thing, I believe that eventually it will happen,” Rogers said. “I know a lot of people sit around (saying), ‘Ah, I’m great, but you know, I just don’t have the connections.’ If you go out and get heard by everyone, I believe that sooner or later, that break will come.” And once that break comes, good connections like Willie Morrison at MCA London help a great deal.
Sturken & Rogers invaded Britain with a song done by Eternal called “Power of a Woman.” It was Morrison who then ran around and made everyone aware of the Yankee duo.
“And then we had to deliver once we got over there, and I guess people liked what we had.” Now back in the States, their part of the Roland Gift project finished (they wrote five songs with him), they will continue working with new Jive Records recording artist, Don Phillip. “That’s a big priority for us right now.”