Oak Felder is a Grammy winning songwriter producer that has shaped the sound of Pop and R&B music in the 2000’s to this present day. He has worked with artists such as Alicia Keys, Chris Brown, Usher, Demi Levato, Ariana Grande, Miguel, Rhianna, Jason Derulo and The Chain Smokers.
Oak has a humble philosophy on his work ethic, “You never really are better than anyone, because at any moment, anyone can have a better idea than you have ever had”. This humility can be heard in his interviews on Pensado’s place and with the Switched on Pop podcast (Both referenced in this article).
Born and raised in Turkey, Felder came to the US to study in college (Atlanta – Georgia Tech). Music was not the main focus, but he built a studio to record for people who “had the dream” of success in the music industry. It was one of his initial artists (Sterling Sims) that gave him an introduction to LA Reid. Oak credits this introduction as the ‘catalyst’ for starting his journey in the music industry.
The Role of the Music Producer
“The modern responsibility of a producer is to supervise the creation of a song, from its initial conception to its final mix.”.
He “gets a kick out of people being able to realise their vision”, investing time in understanding and being the facilitator, in the same way that Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis spent time to understand Janet Jackson’s need for control of her career, then to produce her 1986 ablum ‘Control’.
Chords & Melody in R&B vs Pop
With R&B music, Oak highlights that it is the chords that can be a defining element of the genre. “R&B chords have a log of character to them”, states Oak in his interview with Switched on Pop. The difference between Pop music and R&B can be identified with the ‘relationship to the melody of the chord’. In today’s R&B, chords are rarely straight major or minor chords, and the melody is somewhat simplified, where Pop music will have a chord progression that doesn’t move so much but a melody that is very dynamic.
‘In Pop, one thing is moving (Melody), and R&B the other thing is moving (Chords)’.
Songwriting – Drawing from Real Life
The main inspiration of Demi Lovato’s hit song ‘Sorry Not Sorry’ came from a heated discussion that Oak had with his wife. He felt he deserved an apology from his wife, where she responded that she was not even sorry that she would not give him an apology. When Oak relayed this situation to Lovato, it quickly became the foundation of the song.