Tony Moran is a two-time Grammy nominated remixer/producer/singer-songwriter and DJ. As a remix producer, Moran has worked with artists such as Michael Jackson, Rihanna, Mariah Carey, Madonna and Luther Vandross.
I spent some time with Tony to find out how he managed to become one of the most well respected and successful dance artists of all time.
PM: Hey Tony, how are you doing?
TM: Thank you for asking. It’s been a little crazy, but I am living the dream. My new year’s resolution is to get interviews done in a more timely manner. Thank you in advance for understanding! Ha!
As a producer, you’ve worked with and remixed the biggest female artists: Rihanna, Mariah Carey, Martha Wash, Cher, Madonna, Whitney Houston, Janet Jackson. Much of your work is all about the divas. Do you prefer the female voice?
It wouldn’t be accurate to say that I “prefer” a female voice. Perhaps my having worked more often with women has something to do with the dance market itself. I took a quick, informal look at Billboard’s list of “Greatest of All Time Top Dance Club Artists” and noticed that women outnumber men there, too. For me, things simply evolved naturally on their own, giving me lots of experience with women as both songwriter and producer. It’s all been exciting and unforgettable, and then one of the greatest male singers of all time – Luther Vandross – asked me to write with and produce for him. Wow! I was blown away as this amazing person recalibrated my mind and opened me up to creativity without limits or restrictions of any kind. So I’m truly completely open. I just want to give everything I’ve got – every time, all the time – as I’ve been doing most recently with an amazing male talent, Jason Walker.
Who has given you the most engaging work experience and why?
Gloria Estefan, Luther Vandross, Celine Dion and Michael Jackson. All these experiences were extremely personal and engaging. You don’t go into a room with them and look to be on your “A” game. You just arrive like that. You have to. I don’t know how. I do know that I always do my homework, preparing in advance as best I can. But working with any of the talents you mention are magically unique, period. I just can’t compare them.
You scored a No.1 on the US dance chart with your Martha Wash track, ‘Free People’. Do you remember where you were when you found out it had topped the chart?
I remember being in Amsterdam. It took a while to get the news, because we had just landed and I didn’t have immediate Internet. But I logged on as soon as I could and was so proud for Martha and myself.
Last December, Billboard magazine ranked you as the 92nd most successful dance artist of all time. Do you have any beef with those above you?
Please! Not at all! Look at the variety! I’ve worked in some way with over half the names on that list. Just being listed among them is major for me. When I was 18 years old, I had my first million-copies dance single – a song I wrote and co-produced for The Cover Girls called ‘Show Me’. I couldn’t have envisioned that I’d be lucky enough to keep on growing and continue earning other number one hits. That’s what I mean, I really am living my dream!
What is your favourite dance and non-dance track of all time?
I’ve got to give you three: ‘Father Figure’ by George Michael, ‘Crazy’ by Seal and ‘Why’ by Annie Lennox. Favourites forever!
Which of your own tracks are you most proud of and why?
‘Show Me’ by The Cover Girls, because it was my first and came purely from my heart. I didn’t know enough back then to be aware of anyone’s “business agenda”. The immediate reaction to that song – commercially and out on the dance floor – forced me to grow up fast and start to ponder who I wanted to be.
You started your career back in 1981. Most would assume you are well educated and experienced in the dance industry. Is there anything about your job more recently that has taken you so much by surprise that you wonder why you hadn’t known about it before?
In my business, you really do learn something new every day. What you learn isn’t always pleasant and isn’t always a cheery experience. But I’ve learned to take on any assignment with respect, always challenging myself to give my best and never to settle. I also admit to making mistakes and, thankfully, I’m still growing! So many old and new experiences came together as I put together my new Moodswings collection with varying teams of collaborators. We covered so much ground and there was so much heart and dedication involved from everyone. The journey of producing that project was a beautiful reminder of how much more we always get from our colleagues by respecting them.
What is your most memorable DJ gig?
Carnival in São Paulo. It was my first overseas DJ gig and I played for a crowd of over 10,000 people there. The emotion exchanged between the audience and me was like a religious experience!
Are you aware that your namesake is the actor who played the unmasked Michael Myers in John Carpenter’s 1970s horror classic, Halloween?
Yes, that’s been a funny tidbit since I was a kid. I think it’s cool. I hope the guys in the mask feels the same.
If you were forced to change careers, what would you do instead?
I’d be in some kind of service industry, for sure. I love people and I love making them happy.
● Tony Moran’s new album Moodswings (Move) is out now.