Music Producer Mark Ronson On Music, Amy Winehouse And That Little Ditty “Uptown Funk”

Credit: Griffin Lotz / Rolling Stone

Mark Ronson, music producer extraordinaire, is riding high at the moment with the success of his song with Bruno Mars, “Uptown Funk”. The album from which the song came, Uptown Special, was his first number one on the UK album chart and peaked at number five in the US.

Ronson is probably best known for his work with Amy Winehouse (to whom Uptown Special is dedicated), although he has partnered with Robbie Williams, Adele, Lily Allen and Kanye West, amongst many others.

In a television interview with Lynn Barber for BBC Artsnight, Ronson comes across as surprisingly humble despite being a multiple Grammy and Brit award winner. Speaking to Barber this weekend, Ronson said that his career had been in the doldrums until “Uptown Funk” was released at the end of last year.

Called the “ultimate backroom genius” by Barber, “He can sing a bit, he can play guitar a bit, but his real skill is producing hits for other people,” Ronson said that although he was “proud of his last record [2010’s Record Collection] it wasn’t anywhere near the hit that Version [2007] was.”

“I might just be the guy that did Back To Black and Version and that’s my lot in life.” Oh Mark, that’s a “lot” that many people in the music business would give their eye teeth for. “I don’t know how to do anything else,” he lamented, “making records is what I want to be doing.” See what I mean about humble? He sounds like a DJ fresh out of school, not a producer known around the world.

Describing the “Uptown Funk” video, Barber said that Ronson looked like he was “fretting” in the background whilst Bruno and his buddies were laughing it up. Ronson replied that “someone has to be on the phone making sure the gear gets returned”. Ever the control freak, eh Mark?

Barber is not known for her tactfulness in interviews, and she tells Ronson that his laconic speaking style made it sound like he was on drugs. Okay then.

Ronson was born into a wealthy London family, and spent his childhood and teens splitting his time between England and New York (his step-father is Mick Jones from Foreigner). He has a laid-back transatlantic drawl, for which he was bullied in school, but I think it just makes him sound like a sweet, genuine guy.

The conversation inevitably turned to Amy Winehouse, with Barber striking again by asking if Ronson had any sexual chemistry with the singer, “did you fancy her? Or her you?” Seeing as Ronson married Joséphine de La Baume in September 2011, just a two months after Winehouse’s death, that was a cringe worthy question, to say the least.

“Where you involved in any psycho-dramas [with Winehouse]?” asked Barber. To his credit, Ronson replied very respectfully that Winehouse was always sober when they were working, and that it wasn’t until after the release of Back To Black when the “crazy paparazzi thing started to swarm around and… I saw she was starting to, you know, getting in trouble.”

Even though Ronson wouldn’t say who he is currently working with (“every time I say, in the middle of the record, I always end up getting fired”), I’m thinking there’s something wonderful on the way.

I’ve always liked Ronson’s music, and after this interview I really like the man, too. He isn’t arrogant or blasé about his success, and despite his advantages in life and his incredible success he is just a nice, hard-working guy doing the best that he can. Luckily for us, his best is pretty incredible; I cannot wait to see wait he does next.


Sara Hunter Smith