Priscilla Renea Writes Hit Songs For Fifth Harmony, Pitbull, Miranda Lambert and Chris Brown; Readies Her Artist Project

Priscilla Renea
Priscilla Renea

Update: Priscilla Renea is now known as hit artist, Muni Long. We did this interview with her in 2015, about the hit songs she wrote for other artists.

During the past five years, Priscilla Renea has emerged as a prolific songwriter who’s co-written many hits in several genres, and she’s also a talented pop/urban artist. Based in Los Angeles, Renea has become an in-demand hit songwriter who has co-written with some of the biggest artists and top writer/producers in the music industry.

The list of recording artists she’s collaborated with reads like a Who’s Who of the pop charts, including Mariah Carey, Madonna, Rihanna, Pitbull, Kesha, Demi Lovato, Chris Brown, Selena Gomez, Fifth Harmony, Mary J. Blige, B.o.B., Kelly Rowland, Big Sean and Little Mix. She’s also worked with top writer/producers such as Stargate, Dr. Luke, Diplo, Eman Kiriakou, Toby Gad, William Orbit, Jean-Baptiste, Kuk Harrell and Wayne Wilkins.

In the past year, Renea has co-written two major chart hits. Currently on the pop charts is the single “Worth It” by female group Fifth Harmony, which reached #12 on the Billboard Hot 100, and became an international hit in about 20 countries. In addition, Renea impressively scored a hit in a different genre, co-writing the #1 country hit “Somethin’ Bad,” which is a duet by Miranda Lambert & Carrie Underwood.

Renea is also known for co-writing the #1 hit “Timber” by Pitbull (featuring Kesha), and the hits “Don’t Wake Me Up” (Top 10 hit for Chris Brown), “Who Says” by Selena Gomez & the Scene, “Promise This” (a #1 U.K. hit by Cheryl Cole) and “Infinity,” the recent Mariah Carey single from her #1 to Infinity greatest hits album.

As an artist, Renea was signed to Capitol Records and in 2009 released her debut album, Jukebox. Currently, Renea is an independent artist who is recording new material and performing live shows. She also appears as a featured vocalist on other artists’ cuts.

Renea has been signed with Warner/Chappell Music Publishing for several years, and she works with creative execs Jon Platt, Ryan Press and Katie Vinten, who help set up writing collaborations for her, and assist her with other opportunities.

Originally from Florida, Renea moved to Atlanta for two years (in 2008). “I got my start in the music business by doing a lot of videos on YouTube,” she recalled. “I sang covers of songs that I liked on the radio—I put out about 300 videos on YouTube, which is an awesome platform. I also got myself on MTV and MySpace, which shows I’ve been doing this for awhile.”

Renea secured a label deal with Capitol and recorded her Jukebox album, but she also began writing songs for other artists. “Being an artist has always been my first love, but I started having success as a writer, so people now know me (more) as a songwriter.”

In 2010, Renea moved to Los Angeles, and she quickly had success as a songwriter writing for other artists. She got together with hit writer/producer Wayne Wilkins, who is from the U.K. and is known for creating hits with Jordin Sparks, Beyonce and other artists. “Wayne told me he had this project for Polydor Records—he was producing Cheryl Cole,” explained Renea. “We wrote the song ‘Promise This’ together, and he produced it on Cheryl. It was released as her single, and it went to #1 in the U.K.”

Having a #1 U.K. hit single helped establish Renea as promising hit songwriter. “[Producers and songwriters] who are successful in L.A., often go to the U.K. to work and collaborate,” she said. “So there was a buzz which was starting to happen. People knew I had the U.K. hit, so some {producers & writers] started reaching out to me, to co-write.”

Priscilla Renea
Priscilla Renea

Soon after, Renea landed major cuts with Rihanna and Selena Gomez. “My first big U.S. release was co-writing ‘California King Bed’ for Rihanna (which was released as a single from her Loud album). I wrote this song in Miami with The Runners (Jermaine Jackson & Andrew Harr).” Renea subsequently co-wrote two songs for Selena Gomez & The Scene’s album, When the Sun Goes Down, and her song “Who Says” (co-written with Eman Kiriakou) became a pop & dance hit.

Then in 2012, Renea co-wrote the single “Don’t Wake Me Up” for Chris Brown, which was included on his comeback album Fortune, and it became a Top 10 hit in the U.S. and was a hit single in many other countries.

Renea’s biggest chart single to date as a songwriter, is the song “Timber” by Pitbull (featuring Kesha), which was released in October 2013, and reached #1 on the Hot 100 three months later. Impressively, the single stayed at #1 for three weeks, and was a worldwide hit. “Mike Caren (of APG Music Publishing and Warner Music) set me up to write with Breyan Isaac (who is signed with APG),” recalled Renea. “Breyan and I were having fun, joking around. I told him about this concept that I wanted to use, that some people thought was corny. The concept was ‘Timber’.”

With the huge success of “Timber,” it further established Renea as a top songwriter in the pop & urban genres. However, in late 2014 she also broke through in the country music genre, co-writing “Somethin’ Bad” (with Brett James & Chris DeStefano), which became a #1 duet hit for Miranda Lambert & Carrie Underwood. Renea explained how this hit happened: “Two years ago, I went to ASCAP’s Songwriter Retreat in France (an annual event which brings together top songwriters in all genres). I was in a writing session with Brett James and Chris DeStefano, who are huge country songwriters. We were having a fun time, and we wrote ‘Somethin’ Bad’ together. We played the song and worked out the harmonies. Then Chris went home (to Nashville) and tweaked the demo. Chris works a lot with Carrie Underwood, so he played it for Carrie.”

Notwithstanding all her success as a songwriter, Renea remains focused on building her artist career. She is now writing & recording songs for herself as an artist. “I’m getting ready to finish my artist project,” she said. “I’ve been working with Ron Fair (top music exec & producer) and with The Batteries production group, which includes working with my husband Ray, and with my (hit writer/producer) friend, Neff-U.”

“[I’ve learned] that you have to be proactive as an artist. People try to fit you into a certain mold, and I want to be creatively free (as an artist).”

Renea continues to write songs, both for herself and for other artists. In addition to working on her own project, she has two new placements with other artists. She co-wrote the song “Be Right There” with hit DJ/writer/producers Diplo & Sleepy Tom, and she is the featured vocalist on this cut. She also co-wrote the cut “Bottom of the Bottle,” which was recorded by rapper Curren$y (featuring Lil Wayne and August Alsina).

Dale Kawashima is the Head of SongwriterUniverse and a music journalist. He’s also a music publishing exec who has represented the song catalogs of Michael Jackson, Prince, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan and Motown Records.
Dale Kawashima