Note: This interview with Cory Rooney was written in 2003.
Cory Rooney is one of the hottest writer/producers in the music business. He is the executive producer for Jennifer Lopez’s multi-platinum albums, and he co-wrote and produced her number one hits, ‘Ain’t It Funny,’ ‘I’m Real’ and ‘If You Had My Love.” He has also co-written and produced hits for Destiny’s Child (‘Independent Women, Pt. 1’), Marc Anthony (‘I Need To Know’) and Blaque (‘Bring It All To Me’). He also serves in an executive capacity, as Senior Vice President at Sony Music.
His recent hit, ‘Ain’t It Funny,’ spent six weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart. In a new interview, Rooney recalled how he co-wrote ‘Ain’t It Funny’ and his other hits with Lopez. He also talked about his successful relationship with Sony Music, and how he got started as a writer/producer.
Rooney grew up in Queens, NY, and had his first success, producing artists for Uptown Records in the early ’90s. He co-wrote and produced the rap hit ‘I’ll Do 4 You’ for Father MC, and followed that success with ‘Real Love,’ a Top 10 pop and number one R&B hit for Mary J. Blige. Rooney’s success at Uptown caught the attention of (Sony Music CEO) Tommy Mottola & Mariah Carey, and Mottola subsequently named him Vice President Of A&R for Epic Records, and also signed him as a writer/producer.
‘Tommy (Mottola) took me under his wing at Sony,’ explained Rooney. ‘He not only believed in my writing and producing, but felt I would make a great exec.’ Rooney soon after co-wrote and produced songs for Allure, and also worked with Carey on her Butterfly album.
It was in the late ’90s that Rooney first met Lopez, and began collaborating with her. ‘Tommy had lined up a lot of producers to meet with Jennifer, but I was able to walk in, and we immediately hit it off,’ recalled Rooney. ‘I sat down at the piano and sang a song called ‘Talk About Us,’ and she and Tommy loved it. We recorded that song the next day.’
Rooney and Lopez worked closely together on her debut album (On The 6, serving as co-executive producers, and writing four songs together. Rooney also co-wrote the breakthrough single, ‘If You Had My Love’ (with Rodney Jerkins, Fred Jerkins III and LaShawn Daniels).
Rooney & Lopez continued their extensive collaboration for her follow-up album, J.Lo. He co-wrote seven songs for the album, including the hits ‘Ain’t It Funny, ‘I’m Real,” “I’m Gonna Be Alright” and ‘Play.’
‘On ‘Ain’t It Funny,’ Jennifer and I were in Canada, and we wanted to write a song [which was originally intended] for her movie, The Wedding Planner,’ said Rooney. ‘The music popped in my head, and I went home and worked on the track. Then I sat with Jennifer and we banged out the song. Tommy (Mottola) was even involved with writing the song. He was so enthusiastic about the track, that he contributed melody ideas to the song.’
The chart successes of both ‘I’m Real’ and ‘Ain’t It Funny’ were boosted by innovative remixes by the production team of Murder Inc., and duet vocals (with Lopez) by Ja Rule. ‘With the remix of ‘I’m Real,’ Tommy and I came up with something drastic,’ explained Rooney. ‘We wanted a version [of ‘I’m Real’] which would be embraced by urban radio. We realized that urban radio was into Ja Rule and Murder Inc., so we brought them in, not just to do a remix, but to help remake the record. They did such a great job with ‘I’m Real,’ that we also had them work on ‘Ain’t It Funny.”
Rooney has already begun co-writing with Lopez for her next album. ‘Working with Jennifer brings out the most creative part of me,’ said Rooney. ‘She’s got so many ideas. She keeps a big notebook filled with her concepts about music, plus titles and topics for lyrics. I call it her magic book.’
Rooney is keeping a very busy schedule, currently collaborating with Lopez and several other artists. He recently completed a new album with Marc Anthony, and he is involved with other, top projects.
‘I’m thankful to God for the success I’ve had,’ said Rooney. ‘In the music business, trends shift very quickly, and I’m grateful that my music is being accepted. I’m also glad that the music industry has come full circle, where real songs, with good structures, melodies and bridges, are being welcomed again.’