EXCLUSIVE: Laurieann Gibson & Mario Winans On What Sets ‘The Four’ Apart, Components Of A Star & If Rappers Should Write Their Own Lyrics
In an exclusive interview with theJasmineBRAND, Laurieann Gibson and Mario Winans dish on The Four, a Fox reality TV music competition show featuring Sean Combs, DJ Khaled, and Meghan Trainor as judges. Laurieann and Mario explain what sets “The Four” apart from other competition shows, what the components are of a star and what contestants learn on the show that they can’t learn anywhere else.
See our conversation below.
Is it hard to have a favorite since contestants can switch out so quickly?
Laurie Ann Gibson: Yes and no. it’s hard to have a favorite because yes the potential of your favorite leaving that very next week after you’ve spent a small amount of time [with them] for me pulling out the magic giving them a Boomkack if it’s possible giving them confidence finding that magic and then they have to leave Yes, it’s hard but it’s not hard if they are not the one. It’s not hard if they are not great and you learn that for me very quickly so if you give someone the best of what you can offer them after being in this business and the reality of it is sometimes you have to learn something that quick in that small amount of time that could define you making it or the next opinion of people and your fans and you have to learn how to adapt. So even though it seems crazy it is an exercise for the reality of the real world.
Do you feel like it takes only hard work over talent to make it?
Laurie Ann Gibson: For me it always takes talent. The gift for me overpowers everything right but you often see people that some people may say ‘oh are they are not that good. They aren’t that talented’ but their work ethic absolutely will sustain someone who has a gift and has not done well with that gift I believe God gives everyone a gift but if you bury that gift and you selfishly don’t work towards watering that gift or multiplying it and making it better then yea it remains ineffective so I think ultimately hard work with or without a gift is what sustains success. Can’t get around the hard work kids what you put in is what you get out. If you want 15 minutes there you go. If you want a sustainable career then that’s gonna take some work and that’s ok.
What are the components of a star in your eyes?
Mario Winans: I think you are born a star and once you recognize that and you have the gift and recognize your GOD given talent accompanied with hard work ethic you come into it. Some of the biggest stars I think grew into though artist development. Staying on your craft honing in on your craft knowing what your lane is and just becoming that and committing to that.
Diddy spoke on this in our last interview when I asked about Evvie [Season 1 winner] and how you guys are helping her career after winning the show. It seems like a lot of these artist are being thrown into the game especially if they win a big competition show. Tell me about artist development and why it is so important.
Laurie Ann Gibson: I think it’s been happening with these shows people win trophies but they are not winning a career and that is what’s completely different about The Four and it has changed the narrative which is so important because with Instagram and a false sense of what is good. People are so used to putting something up and getting a reaction and if they don’t get what they are looking for then they give up. So artist development is the true journey of what music has been built on from Motown to all the greats. When you have a song Idea and you have a vision 9/10 you have to cultivate that. You have to bring the music together with the way it sounds, the way it looks, what you’re going to wear in order to become that part of yourself which will ultimately be the performer. So to be a star it has a number of components. It has the song, which is the most important thing, then it has your interpretation of the song, then you have to understand how to deliver that. So every time you deliver it it’s like the first time everybody’s heard it. Then you have to have the ability to sustain the performance element of it.
Mario Winans: that is a big part of artist development the sustaining capacity…
Laurie Ann Gibson: Sustainability which means every time someone buys a ticket they buy a ticket to an experience that can make them feel something. That’s one of the reasons why people know that I am really good at what I do because I have studied the art form of artist development. I was obsessed with Charlie Atkins at Motown and Motown was built on artist development. Bad Boy was built on that, Uptown Records, Clive Davis working with him when I first worked with Alicia Keys, he understood the subtly of knowing when to open your arms at the right time. So it’s so many things these new artists don’t have respect for or don’t understand, these are things that sustain what I call the magic. That gives you a healthy career so that you can have a normal life and a career life. It’s just like an athlete you have to know how to run the race. Any athlete has to practice and it’s the same thing as an entertainer. When you talk about mainstream moving culture, big brands, that’s what The Four is building. That’s what the four is looking for.
When Evvie came here on a scale of 1-10 how ready was she? Have you seen anyone like her yet on Season 2?
Laurie Ann Gibson: I’m not really a numbers girl because numbers make me feel like I’m in a box and that clearly we know Boomkack can’t be put in a box and neither can Mario Winans with how many hits he has written. I think what I loved about Evvie was her comfortability and her gift to entertain. At that point in the competition, no one brought that fire to the stage. They were not brave enough to leave it all on that stage and when Evvie came she brought that ability to leave it all on the stage and that’s hard to find.
Mario Winans: This season they are all coming to win. They are hungry but it takes certain elements of artist development which we give them behind the scenes. We work with them every day. You can see someone that’s very hungry but they may not know exactly what they want to eat so we have to guide them and say ‘ok, this is where you point that hunger or how you should deliver that hunger’ so it at least has a level of seasoning on it so it doesn’t look misdirected and can’t be received or you don’t people feel a certain way because you are not really connecting to it. You have to connect to it yourself first before you can make anyone else connect to it
Laurie Ann Gibson: I think that’s is what is great about The Four with the judges that we have and the way that they have brought a team backstage because the music industry has changed and instead of just another singing competition this is a competition that gives access to your career, to the very vision of yourself you have because you come in the doors and Mario Winans is here, we have Adam Blackstone band, we have incredible vocal coaches, we put them into an opening number that is at the level of an award show number. Eric Archibald is our stylist who has styled everyone under the sun. Along with myself and I really love being able to sense what an artist needs to do when. So we are all so very in tune to giving them information that when they leave here they can actually utilize everything about this process and be in a better position to get a deal even if they don’t get that trophy. That is what is so unique. We call it [The Four] the new record label floating in the digital space. The Four is a label if you have that talent, that raw talent then you’re walking into a label with people that know how to give you the right information.
As creative director and producer, how involved are you in what the artist does on that stage?
Mario Winans: She gives it all to them. I watch her really put her expertise on the artist and really give them a more refined perfected version of themselves. She is the best at that. I haven’t seen too many people pull something out of people that really don’t even know it’s there. So even if it is the size of a mustard seed she can see it and let them know this is what you focus on so by the time they get to that stage they are able to deliver something that they came here with but didn’t know they had. Most are like I have a voice, no you have more than a voice you have a purpose. Laurie Ann is able to pull that out of people in an amazing way.
Tell me about the A&R Side of things and what that brings to the show.
Laurie Ann Gibson: Mario is the head of our A&R team and they select songs that could best supply the audience with the ear of where you are going when most shows just give you songs. Other show may give you a song that you would never sing and people may not like that song but for The Four, Puffy made sure to hire a staff of A&Rs that can curate your sound with great classic records which is very important for people to know about this show as well.
Do you think that it is fair that the hip-hop artist have to write their own lyrics?
Laurie Ann Gibson: NO! Honey bunches of yellow oats. When does fair ever come into this conversation. It is what it is you buckle up. If that’s your lane then you need to be built to spit those bars. Rap music is about what you say and how you say it and I think that is just part of the culture. Can you imagine us rapping Jay-Z’s lyrics we would be like you sound crazy.
Mario Winans: That’s just the way rap versus R&B and Pop has been all the time. You have some of the biggest pop stars and R&B stars that have a team of writers that wrote the biggest songs for them but the integrity of a lyricist, rap, and hip-hop has been they write their own stuff. It’s just following the formula that has been set since the beginning of time with hip-hop.
Laurie Ann Gibson: Great songs, like the ones you have written and we also have Sam on our team another great songwriter, have melody and really melody is music so you can put any words to a great melody that’s the difference. Being an MC it is specifically about that persons flow so yes rappers its fair! Buckle up write your bars baby!
What are some of the challenges new artist face?
Laurie Ann Gibson: When a new artist that is super talented comes in here and the very thing they ask for God placed them in the middle of it and they overthink it. I’ve been with an artist that has sold 55 million albums so maybe we might know a thing or two but if not you go ahead because it’s truly is their choice at the end of the day so I think the hardest thing is watching someone who is really talented overthink it. They get up there and Khalid and Puffy look at them and they see a version of what they could be just because they overthought that they were good enough right where they were. You have to remember Puffy and Khalid have come from the bottom so they can see a diamond in the rough and that’s what else is so special about The Four. Those guys have seen it all and seen so many artists through it that if you are a diamond in the rough they are going to see that and understand your potential versus other singing shows are just that singing shows. This is a singing career. This is like history!
Tell me about the options for a career if they are eliminated do you stay involved with any contestants?
Laurie Ann Gibson: We don’t we run for the hills [Laughter] we be like they’re coming out this way go that way! [Laughs] Sometimes there is a little bit of that I’m not gonna lie but then there are times where Mario has whispered like with Quinton. Quinton is such a rare talent and Mario has an eye and there are other artists that once we are allowed to connect with them they can instantly can access our relationship base or we can contact them. I mean everyone is in the audience between the judges and the people backstage if you come through here 90 percent chance that you are definitely gonna have access to all of those relationships.
What can the contestants learn here that they can’t learn anywhere else?
Laurie Ann Gibson: If they have what it takes and if you can make it through The Four you can make it. If you break then your gonna break and that is a good thing to learn early.
Mario Winans: This is like the Army, Navy, Air Force Seal team all in one.
How would you describe yourself and your interactions with the talent, are you a nice coach or have you had to scream at anyone?
Mario Winans: It’s catered to the person but I am prepared to deal with any and all aspects of a person’s personality and capabilities as a singer and a performer. If the bark is necessary then it is. If I have to give it a little bit to a person that I know can handle it. I won’t say any names there was a person that I know that has an overcomer inside of them but they started stopping at the hurdles that they had been kicking over so I had to let them know. I’m supposed to do that for them. I can’t let them focus on the hurdle because they have the ability to kick that hurdle over. I’m not going to kick it over for you but I’m going to let you know and matter of fact make the hurdle higher to show you that you can do it now when the smaller one comes you will kick it over.
Watch The Four on Fox.