Hitmaker Theron “Uptown” Thomas is one half of the brother duo R. City, who is responsible for some of Pop music’s biggest records to date. Having worked with the likes of Rihanna, Lizzo, Jennifer Hudson, Adam Levine, The Pussy Cat Dolls and Akon to name a few, this living legend plans to impact the careers of many more hotshots in the new year.
I had the pleasure of catching up with this hotshot for a candid interview to discuss finding longevity, creating music with his brother and working with some of Pop music’s most notable acts. Check it out below.
Theron Thomas Interview
Respect: How did you get your start in the music business?
Theron: I officially started in the business in 2007. My brother and I were in a big group in the Caribbean especially the United States Virgin Islands and the British Virgin Islands. We got famous over there and then moved to the states in 2000 to try to make it. It took us 7 years to finally get in. We got in as songwriters but we were trying to make it as artists. A song we wrote in the 7th grade called “The Rain” got us that foot in the door. We didn’t even know that people wrote songs for other people.
So my best friend who was and is still Akon’s DJ let me know that Akon was working on his next album. So he played a few songs for me, and me being young and arrogant I said I can write a better song than the ones he had played. He then asked me to play the song I had in mind. I played “The Rain” and he loved it. My friend called me and told me Akon wanted the song but I was like “why would he sing a song we wrote?”
He then said people write songs for people over here in the states and Akon bought our song for $5000. That was the most money we had ever received at that time. I had a daughter catching the bus so for me I could not believe people paid that much money for a song. After working with Akon people started hitting us up asking us if we wrote songs and it just went on from there.
Respect: What is it like creating music with your brother and how R. City came about?
Theron: Making music with my brother is fun. We both respect each other’s talent and allow each other to lead in the areas that we are experts at. The good part is that sometimes we clash and the music is better because of that. Sometimes I want to do this and he wants to do something else and that friction creates this unique sound.
How we got our name R. City is because we are from St. Thomas, which is known as “Rock City”. We couldn’t legally release music under the moniker “Rock City” so we dropped the Rock and called ourselves R. City, which stands for Rock City.
Respect: When did you catch your big break?
Theron: I would say linking with Akon is when I caught my big break for sure because it opened up a door that never closed. It was a small opening and once it opened we kicked the door down and bum-rushed our way in. The door never closed on us after that point.
Respect: Can you describe the relationship between R. City & Adam Levine of Maroon 5?
Theron: It is good! Adam Levine embraced us and Maroon 5 took us on tour with them. They are the nicest guys. I feel like I am in their debt for life if you ask me. He did not have to do a song with us, he did not have to take us on tour, nor did the band have to agree with him to allow us to come along. Our relationship is good and will remain that way.
Respect: How did working with the Pussy Cat Dolls on their “I Want To Grow Up” release come about and how did it impact you career?
Theron: That was our first hit record. We did it with Rodney Jerkins and it was originally for Britney Spears but it did not fit the space she was in musically at that time. We were signed to Interscope and my A&R at the time Erica Grayson knew we wrote songs so we sent it to her and she loved it. She sent it to Jimmy Lovine and the rest is history. We had a hit “When I Grow Up” and that was the first time people gave us our respect for charting. That led to us getting more big opportunities, so that was a big deal for us.
Respect: As you have worked with some of pop music’s biggest stars, who are some artist’s career you have heavily influenced?
Theron: I would say people who we have worked with since the beginning of their careers such as Jennifer Hudson who’s This Isn’t Love Album we worked on. It was a Grammy-winning album. Ne-Yo did “Spotlight” and we did “This Isn’t Love “ the single. Lizzo I would have to say as well. I worked on her current album that is out. She was nominated for 8 Grammy Awards.
Out of the 8, she walked away with 3 awards. She is amazing and a really good person. I knew she was special and a star from the day I met her. At the time I was working with Rihanna on her new album, flying back and forth to Paris and London for 2 and a half years not working on anything else. But at the same time, I knew I wanted to work with her because she was so dope and did.
Respect: How has being from the Virgin Islands influenced your music career and taste in music?
Theron: We do not have segregated radio in the islands. Like in America you all have urban radio, pop radio, rhythmic radio meaning that you all have separate genres. In the Virgin Islands, we don’t. If there is a Bob Marley, Aerosmith or Little Keed song they all play on the same radio station. Growing up as kids we never really saw genres because the lines were blurry. It influenced us in a way where we would put hip hop, r&b, soul, pop and rock all in one like gumbo.
Obviously, people thought it was weird at first but then they realized that is what makes R. City unique. One time we were writing a song for Gwen Stefani and she told me that she loved the R&B melody. I didn’t even know that it was an R&B melody. I just liked it because it sounded cool.
Respect: How important is it as an artist and songwriter to have creative freedom?
Theron: It is very important because with your art you want to make sure people see your vision. I write songs for other artists that I won’t sing so my vision is important. I might write the most gangster hood song for DJ Khaled’s album and then for my album take a completely different direction because that is simply just not who I am. Feel like in the music I want to make sure people are getting to know me as much as I can as well as my brother. We just want people to see what we stand for and what we are into and rock with it.
Respect: What Advice would you give any creative looking to break into the industry as a songwriter?
Theron: Practice makes perfect. Keep on writing and learn how to accept advice. But do not let the advice control you because everybody’s story is different. Like no one no matter what will have my story I don’t care how they try. Nobody is going to move from the Islands with $35 in their pocket. No matter what advice I give you, you have to walk your path. As cliché as it sounds, the best advice anyone can tell you is to never give up. The only people that actually who lose are the people that quit and that is for real.
Respect: What are you currently working on?
Theron: A kid named 11:11, my good friend Dr. Luke, Mario, Usher, Lordes, A1 LaFlare (singer/songwriter) and I’m currently in the studio with Saweetie. So much love for her and her drive and work ethic. I have a different level of respect for her being in the studio with her seeing her create.
I am also working with Doja Cat on her new album. I did her records “Rules” and “Like It” Feat. Gucci Mane. I am in a space where I want to work with new people and be responsible for ushering in a new wave of talent. Kim Petras is one of the best pop voices in the world. I am super excited about her. That is where I am mentally. It is all about working with new artists.
My son Sumo and I did a kid’s album that we will release this year. He is 7 years old and I am truly excited about that. It’s called Sumo World. I am just in a great space. When I first started music I did it because I had a daughter, I was broke and wanted to take care of her my way. Now money is not an issue, and I’m making music that I love and that I want to hear.
I am ecstatic to also announce that new R. City music is coming soon!! 2020 will be a crazy year!!!
Be sure to follow Theron on IG @therontheron_ as he continues his reign over the music business. .
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