Philip Lawrence talks ‘Come Dance with Me,’ writing with Bruno Mars
On the new CBS reality competition series, Come Dance with Me, accomplished child dancers perform with their parents. While this novel concept of a show provides no shortage of interesting moments, it’s ultimately about supporting the people who love you.
Philip Lawrence, the host of Come Dance with Me, knows firsthand about that kind of family support. Not only is he a father, he’s also an effervescent personality and seven-time Grammy-winning songwriter who recognizes the importance of inspiration.
His partnership with superstar Bruno Mars has yielded numerous platinum-selling hits for Mars and artists like Adele and CeeLo Green. Still, with all his success as a member of Mars’ production collective, The Smeezingtons, and as his right-hand man in the Hooligans road band, Lawrence is now paving his own road of achievements.
Lawrence spoke with theGrio about his new gig on Come Dance With Me, collaborating with Mars, and all the projects he has in the works.
The opportunity to host Come Dance with Me happened quite serendipitously. Lawrence had been auditioning for hosting gigs with the network as well as pitching show ideas with no luck. But since network executives liked him, they kept him in mind for future projects.
“I had come in with a partner of mine pitching a show, a show that they didn’t necessarily like,” Lawrence told theGrio. “But they were like, ‘We don’t like your show, but we like you. We’ll try to find something for you down the line.’”
Once Come Dance with Me’s executive producers LL Cool J and Chris O’Donnell helped develop the concept, CBS asked Lawrence to come on board.
The show is full of heartfelt and funny moments of experienced child dancers attempting to teach their often inexperienced parents intricate routines.
“It’s a dynamic that I don’t think we really have ever seen before on TV, you know, let alone in real life,” Lawrence said. “What makes the show work is showcasing how invested the parents have been in their children’s development,” he added.
“Their parents have been supporting their dreams for as long as they can remember, coming to dance classes, rehearsals, competitions, always on the sidelines. And to finally be thrust on stage with them having to learn the moves that they do, it is and sometimes very funny,” Lawrence said.
Lawrence said he can relate, particularly from the perspective of being a father.
“We as parents are our kids’ biggest fans. We want the best for our kids. We will do anything for our kids,” he stressed. “We’ll stay up all night. We’ll do science projects we have no idea [what we’re] doing. We will get to school early, stay late. So much of our dreams and aspirations and goals and life, we pour into our children.”
Ever since teaming up with Mars in Los Angeles in the late 2000s, Lawrence has been able to use his songwriting gift to manifest some of the biggest pop hits of the last decade.
As part of The Smeezingtons with Mars, Christopher Brody, and Ari Levine, Lawrence has contributed to all of Mars’ solo smashes, from “Just The Way You Are,” “Locked Out of Heaven” to “24K Magic.” He’s also co-written for others on hits including CeeLo Green’s #1 Billboard 100 single “F– You,” Travie McCoy’s “Billionaire,” B.o.B.’s “Nothing On You,” Mark Ronson’s “Uptown Funk” and Adele’s “All I Ask.”
The division of labor between Lawrence, Mars, and Smeezington cohorts Brody and Levine is never the same from song to song. Lawrence says whether it’s him coming up with a melody line or Mars starting with a guitar lick, it’s all about their growing bond with each other.
“We approach it sort of like a band. When a band is jamming, the inspiration comes from all over the place,” Lawrence explained. “As long as we are connected and the relationships are strong and we’re cool and we’re laughing and we’re being personable and we’re getting to know each other, the music comes. The music is the fruit of the relationships.”
Inspired by the likes of Michael Jackson, Prince, and powerhouse production team Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, Lawrence said he and Mars strive to be an evolution of their influences in hopes of one day standing shoulder to shoulder with them.
“We always just tried to be humble enough to know that we didn’t have all the answers, but confident enough that we could put our own spin and our own voice to hopefully create some music that will outlive us,” Lawrence said.
Following three multi-platinum albums from Mars and the massive 24K Magic tour, Lawrence stepped away from Mars, the Smeezingtons, and the Hooligans. One of his first projects was scoring the music for the critically acclaimed 2020 Netflix film, Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey.
While scoring Jingle Jangle was a huge undertaking, Lawrence’s next project — building a massive arts facility in California — may be his biggest yet. After buying the renowned Record Plant recording studio, Lawrence is planning a $500-million expansion into the Cmnty Culture Campus, a multi-purpose music complex that will be an incubator for music creatives. He hopes it will open in 2023.
With the future looking bright, Lawrence is laser-focused on mastering numerous crafts while maintaining his humility.
“When I lay my head down to rest many, many years from now, I want to say I did it all,” Lawrence said. “I did everything that I think God put me on earth to do. And part of my purpose is creating.
“Part of my purpose is being the best human being that I can be, the best father that I can be, the best friend that I can be, and maybe even now, the best mentor that I can be.”
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