R. City Discuss Their Hit “Locked Away,” Their New Album, And Their Hits For Other Artists

Theron Thomas & Timothy Thomas of R. City.
Theron Thomas (left) & Timothy Thomas of R. City.

The musical duo R. City, which consists of brothers Theron & Timothy Thomas, has been a top writing & producing team for the past eight years. They’ve co-written Top 10 pop hits for Miley Cyrus (“We Can’t Stop”), Sean Kingston (“Take You There”) and Pussycat Dolls (“When I Grow Up”), plus hits for several other artists

Now in 2015, the Thomas brothers are also establishing themselves as hit artists. They’ve signed a label deal with hitmaker Dr. Luke’s Kemosabe Records, which is via RCA Records. Their first single “Locked Away” (featuring vocals by Adam Levine of Maroon 5) is currently a Top 10 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, and it’s a hit in many other countries. R. City will be releasing their debut album, titled What Dreams Are Made Of, on October 9th. This album vibrantly showcases R. City’s unique sound, which blends hooky pop melodies, hip-hop and a Caribbean flavor.

Originally from St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands, the Thomas brothers started out as artists and built a large following, with sold out shows and independent releases. “Growing up, we were artists first, and we would perform shows around the islands,” recalled Theron Thomas. “After high school, we moved to the U.S.  For awhile, it was your typical struggling artist story—we worked regular jobs.

“Our first break came as songwriters, when we were in the studio with Akon’s DJ, Benny D. We played him a song and Benny said, ‘Yo, that song is dope, and it fits for Akon.’ At the time, we thought artists (mostly) wrote their own songs and we didn’t think we could get cuts writing for other artists. But then Benny played it for Akon and he loved it and cut it. We got paid $5,000 for that song—that was our way in the door (as songwriters). Then things started to happen and we got cuts with Rihanna and Miley Cyrus.

It wasn’t long before the Thomas brothers (then known as Rock City) had a flurry of hits. In addition to co-writing hits for Cyrus, Sean Kingston and the Pussycat Dolls, the duo co-wrote hits for Rihanna (“Pour It Up”), Becky G (“Shower”), Nicki Minaj (“Only”), Usher (“I Don’t Mind”), and Mike Will Made It (“23”). They’ve also had cuts with Justin Bieber, Beyonce, Kanye West, Iggy Azalea, R. Kelly, Leona Lewis, Janet Jackson, Nicole Scherzinger, Jennifer Hudson, Kelly Rowland, Ludacris, T.I., Ciara, Omarion, B.o.B., Fergie and other artists.

Interestingly, it was superstar writer/producer Dr. Luke who came up with the idea of signing the Thomas brothers as artists to his label, Kemosabe Records. “It was crazy the way it happened,” explained Timothy Thomas. “We were in the studio with Dr. Luke and we were working on songs for Becky G. Luke said, ‘Yo, do you want to work on music for your own album? Hey guys, let’s work on music for you!'”

“We were shocked,” said Theron. “We didn’t have a deal. We weren’t working on an album, and he felt something and had to say it. He asked, ‘What would you sound like? As producers and songwriters, we’re providing a service (writing songs to fit other artists). If I’m in a session with Rihanna, I’m giving her Rihanna’s style—I’m not giving her R. City. Whereas for our own album, these are our songs…this is how we feel. This is what we say and what we represent. It’s our own genre—we call it Caribbean hip-hop. There are elements of rap and the islands. This is the first time most people will hear us, so we wanted to come out with something big.”

R. City is now off to an excellent start, scoring a Top 10 pop hit with their debut single, “Locked Away” (featuring Adam Levine, who sings the choruses). The song’s lyric theme is based on a true story which the Thomas family experienced. “It’s a personal one, because our dad was locked up for about six years,” explained Timothy. “Our mom held him down the whole time. There’s a different side of the song as well…it shows that real love.

Here’s the video of R. City’s hit “Locked Away,” co-written by Theron
Thomas & Timothy Thomas, and featuring vocals by Adam Levine.

“I had that melody in my head (for ‘Locked Away’), he added. “We started recording the song, with Luke playing guitar on the track. Then Luke had the idea to ask Adam Levine if he would sing on the cut. When Adam heard the song, he said he loved it and he would sing on the track. The rest is history.”

Theron and Timothy are known for their ability to create strong melodies, hooks and lyrics. “When we get into the studio, depending on the producer, we’ll go into the (vocal) booth and start humming melodies and words,” said Theron. “Sometimes we’ll start from scratch with the producer. Or the producer may have tracks which we’ll write to.”

In particular, some of the duo’s hits feature big chorus melodies (such as “We Can’t Stop,” “Shower” and “Locked Away”) which become powerful hooks that grab the listener’s attention. “We always try to put catchy melodies in our songs,” said Timothy. We know that the world is way bigger than just the U.S. If the melody is catchy, people can follow the song even if they don’t speak English.”

R, City’s new album What Dreams Are Made Of contains many songs which include hooky pop melodies, combined with their hip-hop and Caribbean sound. Other key songs on the album are “Make Up” (the next single which features guest vocals by Chloe Angelides), “Checking For You,” “Take You Down” and “Don’t You Worry.”

During the coming year, R. City’s priority is certainly to build their artist career and promote their album. They will also be performing live shows and touring. However, they will continue to remain active as songwriters and producers, creating hits for other artists. “Our main priority right now is our album,” they both said. “But we’re never going to stop writing songs for other artists. We recently worked with Iggy Azalea, and we’re working on songs for Chris Brown. When we have downtime, we’ll still be working with other artists.”


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