Christopher Henderson in Studio
Christopher Henderson poses on the Red Carpet
Super Producer Christopher Henderson
By Brandon I. Brooks
Sentinel Entertainment Editor
Producer/Songwriter Christopher Henderson sits down with the Sentinel for a one-on-one exclusive interview.
Christopher Henderson is one of the most sought after musical minds in the music industry today. The super-talented songwriter and producer has been riding high the early part of this year, as he recently took home a Grammy award, for song of the year, producing and writing “Blame It,” by Jamie Foxx featuring T-Pain. The anthem won the Grammy for Best R&B Performance by a duo or group with vocals.
“This year is really special to me because I’ve actually been working at this for a minute now,” said Henderson. “I’m a Grammy voting member and so I have had a chance to attend the Grammy’s many times. So this was really my opportunity to get my family to share it. I’ve had enough records to know that there is so much that goes into it besides what I do, that you never really know how the rest of the project is going to go. It’s like you do your best job and you do what you think is a great song, and then so many forces have to happen and go right for that project to get the Grammy recognition and the recognition of the Grammy voters. So this experience was really about bringing my family down and treating them to the show.”
One of the phenomenal things to note about super producer Christopher Henderson is that he wasn’t brought up in a musical household or environment. None of his family members were into it. In fact, his family wasn’t really a big church going family either. Henderson shared with the Sentinel that the music was almost a secret hobby because he didn’t know if it was cool or not. “One of my class clown tendencies was I use to take songs that were out (current) and make dirty versions of them and sing them in class to make people laugh. I didn’t realize how creative that was. I use to fill up glasses of water around the house and wet my fingers and run the tune of “Marry Had A Little Lamb.” Mom and dad didn’t pick up on that being musical.”
The first time Henderson saw a role model in a musician or thought it was “cool” to be an artist was when he watched the film “Purple Rain” starring Prince. The film taught him that a person can “ear it” or “play by ear.” This meant that a person can listen to a song and play it back accurately without having any formal training. It’s funny because once he knew it was possible to play by ear, Henderson immediately gained the confidence to teach himself how to play the piano. “I was playing with two hands before my people even knew,” said Henderson. “I was at my cousin’s house in Dallas and he was playing Christmas carols and when he got off the piano I started playing “Billie Jean,” “Purple Rain,” “Beautiful Ones” and “Tender Love.”
At age 16, a native of Detroit, Henderson began producing seriously while attending Hampton University in Virginia. “I was a Physics major at first and as an elective I took this audio engineering class,” said Henderson. “Our project was to mix a record at the end of the class year. I took that as my opportunity to make my first record. I played the little keyboard they had, I played the piano that they had, even sang backgrounds and did the leads as I made my first song. That is when I really fell in love with it (music).”
Henderson would later go on to graduate from Hampton University with a Business Administrative and Management degree. While attending Hampton, Henderson received his big break after meeting with legendary producer and Virginia native Teddy Riley. Riley heard one of Henderson’s songs being played at an annual celebrity basketball game in Virginia. A friend of Henderson’s saw Teddy Riley nodding his head to one of Henderson’s songs, so he introduced himself to Teddy Riley on behalf of Chris Henderson and set up a meeting for the two to meet the next day. This led to Henderson working with Riley at his Virginia studios where he produced the remix for Blackstreet’s “Before I Let You Go,” and several other tracks for other Teddy Riley acts.
“When I didn’t end up signing with him (Teddy Riley) my partner couldn’t believe it,” said Henderson. “I didn’t understand how he (Teddy Riley) would try to buy a song from me if he wasn’t going to change anything. I just didn’t understand. It just wasn’t logical to me.”
Henderson learned to ask logical business questions that most artists and producers were afraid to ask or stand up for. “Why do it that way? Maybe I can let somebody else hear the song? Why is this a bad or good deal? Why can’t I walk away, why can’t I say no? If I did the work, at what point does it become a collaboration? It was just kind of very matter of fact for me,” Henderson shared. “It was blissful ignorance that gave me confidence. I didn’t make any desperate decisions early.”
Not making any desperate decisions and having an education helped pave the way for Henderson to become a trail blazer in the industry.
Henderson has also co-wrote and produced for the likes of R. Kelly, Trey Songz, Ray Jay, Mya, 3LW, Case, Claude Kelly, Cheri Dennis, G-Unit, Nelly and Sean Garret to name a few.
Now living and working out of Atlanta (GA), Henderson is in the studio constantly collaborating in addition to working with a couple of new acts that he doesn’t want to spoil, so we will have to stay tuned and wait until he decides to let the cat out of the bag.
As for what’s up next for the super producer, the Sentinel asked Henderson if he would ever consider putting out his own solo album. Henderson responded by saying, “To be an actual singer or an artist and make myself a product to be judged by everybody, I would hate that. One thing about producing and writing is that I can do so much perfecting to it because I have the tools especially when I have a great vocalist to work with. I would probably drive myself crazy trying to deliver in that category because God didn’t give me that throat.”
The Sentinel asked Henderson to share his advice for up and coming producers and songwriters and what he would recommend for them to do? Henderson shared, “it’s important not to always look in other people’s lanes to try and determine what success is for you. New artists need to be adaptive in that they need to figure out what is it almost precisely that fuels them and go for that reward out of it. There are so many hard things that you are going come across when you are pursuing this. Your resolve will be tested and when it’s tested, you have to find that happy center.”