Mark Ronson: Listening to Emotions

He closed the Montreux Festival scratching on the decks and directing nine of the best soul and jazz musicians of the world. But despite having the charisma of a frontman, he feels more like a producer than an artist—he has produced and composed for some of the biggest stars of pop, hip hop, soul, funk and rock. His talent lies in empathy: “I try to feel them, to understand them” because the right decisions can be made only when ideas are in harmony
Published: 8 November 2023
Coat, GUCCI. In all the photos of this shoot, Mark Ronson wears his AUDEMARS PIGUET Royal Oak 36mm in yellow gold with champagne dial

I discovered that there exists (at least) two Mark Ronsons. Mark1 is a thoughtful intellectual, who ponders over every word before pronouncing it, who slowly and timidly guides you into his inner world and opens the treasure chest of his creative process, refined by a life of total immersion in music and attention in the studio to every detail, every beat and every note. Mark2 is the multi-instrumentalist stage animal who, in a double-breasted suit, closed the Montreux Festival while scratching on turntables live, dragging the audience along like a rocker, directing a band of nine of the best soul and jazz musicians in the world, deus ex machina of a sound performance that—evidently—fills him with joy, especially when the irrepressible wave of music that Mark2 evokes live on stage coincides with the one that Mark1 had designed in his head.

I meet Mark1 on the morning of the Montreux Festival. Slender, wearing a pair of sunglasses with bottle green lenses that he will not remove, and clad in a faded T-shirt, he enters the room where I wait for him, almost asking for permission. He looks younger than his 48 years.

Blazer, trousers and shoes, GUCCI

He sits on a corner sofa that seems too big for him, but his presence and concentration, contrast with his physical appearance. We understand that this will be a real interview, that he is here to answer, and which he will do seriously, for the time that we need. There are many other people in the room, but they stay at a respectful distance away, as if not wanting to disturb the process through which answers, thoughts and anecdotes emerge from the well of his conscience. He himself seems to become aware of some of his reflections as he recounts them, as if he were noticing them for the first time.

What I earlier assumed to be fatigue and detachment is instead his way of adhering to reality. It is the way he often presents himself even when he is among others—almost as if he likes standing a little to the side, watching his thoughts pass by. I had observed him the evening before, at a dinner, having recently arrived in Switzerland with his wife Grace Gummer, the daughter of Meryl Streep. The couple had remained apart from others for a long time, him gently embracing her by the midsection, or assisting her while she applied eye drops, or leaning against a column applauding an impromptu jam session by the musicians in a lake-view cottage turned museum owned by Claude Nobs, founder of the festival. Eyes always a little widened, he has a look that reveals more than he would like. His head is often slightly tilted—the same pose assumed by animals when studying the situation.

Only one topic is taboo: we cannot speak about the Barbie soundtrack, which at the time of this interview has yet to be released and which Ronson produced by bringing together a very diverse cast of stars: from Dua Lipa to Nicki Minaj, Ice Spice, Lizzo, Charli XCX, Tame Impala and Billie Eilish.

Blazer, tank and trousers, GUCCI

INTERVIEWER: You manage to produce projects that are very different from one another. You jump between different genres. How do you do it? What holds them together?

MR: The first album I produced, almost 20 years ago, was by Nikka Costa. In a timespan this vast, if you really love many genres of music, you evolve, you jump here and there. I could never imagine doing just one thing, I am not judging those who do. I love soul, jazz, funk, hip hop... I grew up listening to all these genres—a somewhat schizophrenic childhood, musically speaking. I loved being a DJ, but my stepfather was in a rock band. I was very fortunate. Of course, looking back now there are also some projects that on hindsight makes me say, “Maybe I went a little too far here”. But, deep down, at the root of the music that I really love is usually a great melody, a great vocal or instrumental performance, and a great groove, a great rhythm. If you think about it, you can say the same about many genres, from Fleetwood Mac to Earth, Wind & Fire, to A Tribe Called Quest and Quincy Jones. Groove and melody are transversal, common in many genres.

INTERVIEWER: When Audemars Piguet announced that you would be producing the closing night of the Festival, you said that the lineup would be “the best band that I have ever put together”.

MR: These musicians are the ones that have given life to some of my best records. Therefore, this is the best band that I have ever put together. Montreux is not just any festival, it is an event that celebrates music, representing so many different things. But for me, in my head, it is Aretha Franklin. It is Miles Davis. It is Nina Simone. It is Curtis Mayfield, the Average White Band, all these incredible soul and funk records that I love, that made me fall in love with music. So I really wanted to do something special.

Blazer, tank, trousers and shoes, GUCCI

Then I had this idea to bring some of my favourite musicians, to have their bands perform. I thought, well, since we have all of them here during the evening anyway, these musicians who played in all my records, from “Back to Black” to “Uptown Funk” to the productions for Rufus Wainwright, we could do something truly special at the end of the evening, something we have never done before. Bringing those songs to the public, perhaps just once performed by the people who created the magic in the studio. Guys like Tommy and Homer, and the bassist, even after they recorded “Back to Black”, they only did six or seven concerts with Amy [Winehouse]. Then Amy went on tour with another band, so there were few opportunities. All these musicians have built successful careers over time, writing other songs. Some of them, like the base group that played on “Back to Black”, never played together again in the same lineup that recorded the album. It is really special and moving. When you hear it you say, “Damn, it sounds like we are recording the album.” It is as if it’s the first day, when we pressed the button and recorded. It’s how it was, for example, with “He Can Only Hold Her”. Finally, having Yebba here is really important. To honour and celebrate Amy, one of the greatest singers of all time, you definitely have to have someone very special. I truly believe that Yebba is one of the best singers of her generation, and I also think that she has incredible courage and talent to stand up and say, “Yes, let’s sing something about Amy,” while at the same time bringing her own personality to it all.

INTERVIEWER: What was it like bringing them together? How did you work together?

MR: We tried like crazy, also because I am a bit anxious. We tried to the point that some of them wanted to kill me. They are super professionals, musicians who learn a song in five minutes and on that same evening, they play it on Jimmy Fallon [Editor’s note: host of The Tonight Show, one of the most important broadcasts on the NBC network]. I am not like that, I must play and try. We learnt 18 songs that we had never done before. All in five days. In some of the sets, I deejay a cappella while the band plays. There are a lot of things that could go wrong, go haywire. There are no computers to correct it, we are live. Risky but fun. Even if we make a mess, they will be wonderful mistakes. [Editor’s note: that evening, I will notice only one mistake during the performance. In fact, it will be extraordinary, almost as if it served to remind us how fragile and difficult it can be to achieve harmony and perfection].


INTERVIEWER: :You won an Oscar for “Shallow”, a Golden Globe, seven Grammys, an endless list of other awards. Is there one you are most attached to?

MR: If you ask me to choose one, I’ll tell you producer of the year for “Back to Black”. In the end, I feel more like a producer than an artist, and that is why it is important to have someone telling you, “Hey, you’re the best producer this year”. Whatever they say about these awards, I think that one really recognises the essence, and the craftmanship that I feel in my work.

INTERVIEWER: You have produced and composed for some of the biggest stars in pop, hip hop, soul, funk and rock. How do you prepare for each of these meetings? How do you manage to bring out the best in each of them, to take them where they do not usually go?

MR: I try to feel them, to understand them. I could have had an entire album ready in my head before seeing Lady Gaga. But she arrives in the studio that first day, expressing a certain emotion, a song. My job is to chase that emotion, to try to catch it. My friend Richard Russell—great producer—says that this job consists of being constantly in tune, in making a series of right decisions continuously. Trying to emotionally intuit what is happening to the artist. Then, of course, there is the writing, the arrangement. When I started working with Lady Gage on “Joanne”, something happened. She loves jazz, and given my previous work with Amy, for all these reasons I imagine she had the idea that maybe we would make a jazz record.

We were in the studio, trying to understand each other, and she said to me, “You love jazz, right?” And I replied, “Yes, of course, but I don’t know it that well”. I like funk and soul, but I cannot write orchestral arrangements like Quincy Jones. In short, she was trying to take me in that direction. I looked at her, we were in the studio in Malibu, California, she was dressed in denim shorts, boots and a cowboy hat. Suddenly, I felt myself being pulled towards country, a kind of Stevie Nicks [Editor’s Note: musician, soloist and lead singer of Fleetwood Mac] vibe. We started working on “Joanne”, a song that she was writing. At first it could have been a jazz motif, then almost fingerpicking, very acoustic.

Eventually, it transformed into something totally different, which resulted in the record and even the genre of “A Star is Born”. I try to always have an antenna ready to pick up, to be aware of the direction we could take. It is good to be prepared for anything: when you go to the studio on the first day, you must be open to every possibility, you must always be ready to change direction.

INTERVIEWER: You are a good listener.

MR: I believe this is the producer’s most important tool. An emotional listen. Producers must constantly hear the arrangements, the music, the melody and the harmony. But the ears can be useful for much more than just simple, technical listening to music.

INTERVIEWER: Could you feel immediately that some of the musicians you met would become stars?

MR: I think if there really was something that you could intuit, like for Clive Davis [Editor’s note: the producer who discovered Whitney Houston] then I’d be much richer than I am. I can only tell if they have something that moves me, that I have never heard before, if they have a sound so unique that nothing and no one resembles it. Furthermore, even if I were able to feel that they are extraordinary, it does not mean that I would be able to help them release that hidden gift. But I find it really exciting to work with artists who are just starting out because it is all new to them, so exciting. It takes me back to my early days when I felt that way too. It is an energy. Like drinking from the fountain of youth.

INTERVIEWER: There are many rankings of the best songs that you have produced, all arbitrary and subjective. I have chosen one of the supposed top 10 compiled by Billboard some time ago. I would like you to tell us something about each of them, ok?

MR: Ok.

INTERVIEWER: The first is “Ooh Wee”.

MR: Ah, that, I am proud of it. Last month, I did a surprise DJ set in London with a friend of mine, who has this truck with a system, speakers and so on. Something that we announced only an hour before. Around 200 kids showed up and I started with “Ooh Wee”. It is a song that is almost 20 years old, birthed with Nate Dogg and Ghostface Killah, the one that took me to Montreux for the first time in 2004, and it still works, it sounds so lively. I am proud of it. And I am grateful for that record, I have a perfect song to start a DJ set with a hip hop sound. Always rocks.

INTERVIEWER: “Littlest Things”, with Lily Allen.

MR: This takes me back to an intimate era. It was before I found success as a producer. Lily Allen was so brilliant. A couple of her singles had come out and were doing well. She came to New York, we were friends and I think she was 20 years old. We went around the city into record shops looking for tunes to sample.

A bit like rummaging through garbage, something of that sort. I think that the piece we sampled was in the soundtrack of Emmanuelle. The piano riff came from there, I think. Basically, I put the record on the turntable, put on my headphones and said, “Cool. Lily, come here”. She listens, she likes it. We returned to the studio and in one hour, the song was born. I ended up opening for her tour, right when she was blowing up in the States. It was really fun.

INTERVIEWER: “Back to Black”, with Amy Winehouse.

MR: This is a somewhat swirling memory, a sort of tornado of memories. I met Amy at three in the afternoon, I think it was a Tuesday. She came to my studio in New York. We sat and talked about music. Usually, when a singer comes to me, I already have songs for them to listen to, “What do you say to this, what do you think?” But she was so fantastic, special, unique. I knew I had nothing new to make an impression with, and she was leaving to return to England the next day. She was supposed to be in New York for only one day. I told her, like, “I don’t have anything for you to hear right now, come back in the morning”. You know what, I stayed up all night because I wanted something that could work. I told myself, “Amaze her, make her stay”. The opening piano riff and drums of “Back to Black” came out. She liked them, stayed in New York for another five days. She wrote the lyrics in half an hour, I burned the track like how it was done in the old days, on CD. She went to the back room, the track was probably only a minute and a half long, she started listening to it and rewinding it to write the lyrics. It was pretty crazy.

INTERVIEWER: “Cold Shoulder”, by Adele.

MR: It was born because of Amy. You know, working with her was what made me famous. Richard Russell, the founder of XL Records said to me, “Would you like to come and meet this girl, Adele?” I entered his studio and there was a big sofa, almost like the one we are sitting on now. She looked like an 18-year-old girl, sitting cross-legged. She did not stop smoking. This is Adele, they told me. And I’m like, “Oh, nice to meet you”. She replied, “My pleasure. I have this demo, the song is called ‘Cold Shoulder’, I’d like to know if you’d be interested in producing it”. I listened to it, it was cool, just her and the Wurlitzer piano.

I do not know why I said it, maybe I was a little greedy, or I felt that I had to say something, or I had a hangover, so I was like, “Oh, cool. Are there other songs?” And she said, “No, just this one”. It was practically take it or leave it. “Do you want to work with me? This is the song I’m telling you to produce.” It went like this. To be honest, I wish I had done a better job on that song. It was a period when I had just achieved my first success. I was running everywhere; I was on tour. We went to a different studio than the usual, with musicians and sound engineers I did not usually record with. We had only one day to make this song. In retrospect, I wish I had done a little better with the sound and production. Anyway, I mean, it is still great and, obviously, her voice is incredible, so whatever.

INTERVIEWER: “Mirrors”, by Wale.

MR: Yes, cool, with Wale. I remember Jay-Z listening to that track, but I had already promised it for Wale. I think a great friend of my manager at that time said, “You know, Jay-Z heard that track, he wants it.” And I’m like, “Oh my God, I don’t even know what to say... Of course, it’s a dream to have Jay-Z wanting to collaborate with me.” But I had already promised the track to Wale, he was my friend, as well as an artist on my label, and obviously Bun B is also on the track. I love that song because hip hop is one of my greatest musical loves, but it’s not a predominant part of the music that I have made. For some reason, I took my love of hip hop and drums, and fused them with other music genres. I took the hip hop influence, and I combined it with Amy or whoever. But there are some tracks in my career, like “Mirrors” and “Fried Chicken” with Nas and Busta Rhymes, maybe a few others, that I am very proud of.

INTERVIEWER: “Alligator”, with Paul McCartney.

MR: Working with Paul McCartney is a scary thing because, not only are you there with, you know, perhaps the greatest singer/producer/arranger ever. For me it is a little like being with Stevie Wonder, I suppose. But you are also in a room with the ghosts of Jeff Lynne, Nigel Godrich, George Martin, and every other great producer with whom McCartney has worked with. I noticed that on the first day Paul allows you to stumble, look stupid, make mistakes. I imagine that everyone behaves like this on the first day with Paul McCartney. But I also felt that on the second day, it is best that you wake up and start bringing good ideas. I always remember and think about something he said when we were recording that song, “Alligator”. It starts with an acoustic guitar, and I set up the microphone with this acoustic guitar. It sounded good, sounded like an acoustic guitar. It was not anything incredibly special. He listens and says, “No, it’s an acoustic guitar. I want it to sound like a record.” In other words, make that sound iconic, because I have recorded seven million acoustic guitars in my life. I want that when I hit the first chord it sounds like someone putting the needle down on the first groove of a vinyl record for the first time. It was a fantastic comment. “It is just a guitar, make it sound like a record.”

INTERVIEWER: “Baby Blue”, with Action Bronson.

MR: Oh, I missed that song. So, I actually still have a couple of hip hop records. I like Bronson and his music, you know, he is from New York. Now the city is no longer the centre of hip hop, there is Atlanta, the South, Los Angeles. The phenomenon is completely global, from London to Italy. So when someone from New York comes along I feel a sense of pride; today we would be talking about Ice Spice or someone else. Anyway, when Bronson arrived, it really seemed like he revived the New York scene. So we made this song together. At that time, I was finishing “Uptown Funk” and I was in my studio in London. Chance the Rapper was there for a show, and he came to the studio. He asked me, “What are you working on?” I replied, “Oh a bit of this and that.” Then I made him listen to Bronson’s song. And he goes, “Who the hell is this?” “Action Bronson,” I replied. “I want to jump on board,” he said. “Well, I can’t say yes because this is his stuff, he likes it a lot. But you two know each other, so, why don’t you put a verse in there anyway? Then I can get him to listen to it.” Chance did a good job. Action also liked the verse a lot. In the end they worked together, made a video and everything.

Another interesting thing about that track is that when Bronson and I started working on it, Zane Lowe the Apple Music DJ had a studio above mine in London and came downstairs to return a cable, or something of that sort that he had borrowed. He heard the music and said, “Oh, that’s cool. You should do a chorus like, ‘Why you always all on my back...’” And I replied distractedly, “Yes, thanks Zane. You can put it there.” Instead, Bronson said, “Cool! What were you singing?” That was the only time when my ears were not open when they should have been. I was an idiot. It was my friend from the floor above, I did not expect him to come and write a chorus like that, out of the blue. But this was how that lucky refrain was born.

INTERVIEWER: “Uptown Funk”.

MR: It is just... it is incredible to think how humble the beginnings of that song were. Bruno [Mars] had a little studio in West Hollywood, not really in West Hollywood, but in Hollywood, in the worst part of town. It was a tiny studio with a drum kit set up in a back room that looked more like an office. There was also a fax machine, it was probably an office in the past, the drum kit was in there. All very cramped.

That evening we were simply improvising. Bruno went into that office and started playing the drums. I played bass, Jeff Bhasker the synthesisers. In truth, we had no precise idea what we were doing. We were just playing. I played some sort of bass line; it was very groovy and fun. There is something truly beautiful when you let yourself be carried away, sometimes with friends or people you hang out with. We continued to play for around five hours, much longer than was necessary. Then we entered the room and Bruno played “All Gold Everything” by Trinidad James. We said, “Let’s get busy with that rhythm, but let’s put our own words into it.” We went on like this. Bruno, Jeff, Phil [Lawrence], and I sitting on two sofas, just like this one. And then someone said, “Michelle Pfeiffer, that white gold” [Editor’s note: the second verse of the song]. And that was when we thought, “Oh this is a strong verse, there is something here.”

BUT IT TOOK A LONG time to finish that song after that night, wherever we were, because Bruno was on tour, in Memphis, in Toronto and so on. We were trying to recreate that same feeling from the first night, but it was as if we could not get ahold of it any more. We continued to look for the excitement of the first night, so it took us a long time. Seven months to finish the song because we wanted every part to be as emotional as the first verse we wrote. Eventually, we got there, but there were many moments when, out of frustration, we were about to give up.

INTERVIEWER: Luckily that did not happen.

MR: I knew it was for my album, I was interested in finishing it. I waited a few weeks, so that everyone would forget how exasperated we were that night. So I said, “Guys, do you want to get back together and finish that song, you know?” And off we went again. Each time we got a little closer.

INTERVIEWER: We have already talked about Lady Gaga, but one of the songs is “Million Reasons”.

MR: It was very lucky that I walked into the room at the right moment, when she was working with Hillary Lindsey, a great country singer from Nashville. It was already evening, they were already well into working on the album. I think I might have been away for the weekend because I was deejaying or something. And then I arrived just as they were almost finishing the song. They could have probably completed a great song without me, but I came in and wrote some chords for the bridge between the chorus and verse. And I helped to complete the outro. Those are the two songs on that album that I think have held up best, “Joanne” and “Million Reasons”, the ones that are a little more touching, let’s say.

INTERVIEWER: Last on the list is “Find U Again”, with Camila Cabello.

MR: It is fruit of the genius of Kevin Parker of Tame Impala, you know. He had practically the entire instrumental idea. And he had the melody. I added some drums and helped with the lyrics, but honestly, Kevin had this killer demo right when I was working on my “Late Night Feelings” album. Kevin and I had probably worked on that song in different versions, changing the beat, the arrangement, you know, different instrumentation, probably for a year. I was always there saying, “We must do something important with this song. The melody is too beautiful.” Then, at the last minute, while I was finishing the album, I managed to get in touch with Camila Cabello, who I was a fan of. We did not know each other, and I proposed the song to her. And she said, “Yes, I like it. I want to write on it.”

INTERVIEWER: Did we miss any other songs which you wanted to talk about [Editor’s note: and while I say it I think of hits like “Nothing Breaks Like a Heart”, with Miley Cyrus.]?

MR: I would say no. I am sorry; I cannot talk about the soundtrack project that I have just finished [Editor’s note: Barbie]. But apart from that, I cannot think of any songs in particular right now. In our set tonight, we will be playing some beautiful ones. There are also a couple of songs like “I Need a Dollar” and other songs that the guys wrote that I have nothing to do with, but we play them anyway. They are also their songs. But when I look at the setlist for tonight, songs like “Somebody to Love Me” or “He Can Only Hold Her”, seem like the right ones. It is really incredible for me, especially because I am not a conventional artist or singer, to have made five albums with this variety of songs. Some I have forgotten, honestly, but others are very special for me. It is a great fortune to be here in Montreux to play them.

INTERVIEWER: You are something more than an ambassador, I would say almost a curator for the Audemars Piguet musical project at this point, right?

MR: Yes, it is a truly positive relationship. We could not do this show tonight without AP. They are patrons of the arts. François [Editor’s note: François-Henry Bennahmias, CEO of AP] is passionate about music and during our first meeting, one of the first things that came up was Montreux. Tonight’s show is very financially demanding, I would have to play here for three weeks in a row if I wanted to afford all this, and I would probably have to deejay at every after-show party and wash the dishes of the restaurant on the terrace. So, obviously, I am very grateful. Every project with them has been different. I think for AP it is always important for them to lift the hood and show the public the creative process: the first time Lucky Daye and I made a song together; we filmed the day we composed it. For this evening, we started a collaboration with Daphnee Lanternier who created an incredible conceptual scenography. The thing I am sorry about is that we will only do one show. It is like this is the only time I can go on stage and feel like I am Daft Punk. In short, we manage to think up something interesting every time and we really try to create art. We are not just here for a branding exercise.

INTERVIEWER: Let’s continue to look under the hood of the creative process. How do you look for inspiration?

MR: It is strange, emotions cannot be controlled. You can manage them, but the emotions themselves determine the music you create. If you have a bad day and you feel melancholy, that will be reflected in the music. You could never do the opposite, say, “Ok, now I want to be melancholic because I have to write a song like this.” You cannot go into the studio every day and create something extraordinary or exceptional. You just have to follow the emotion. You can never do the opposite or try to influence the emotion itself too much.

INTERVIEWER: How do you recharge?

MR: I meditate. It is one of the things that I do. I try to leave my phone in another room when I am in the studio. It is so easy to pick it up every 45 seconds, but this disconnects you from the creative process. I stay home with my wife and daughter [Editor’s note: he and Grace Gummer had a baby girl a few months ago]. This is the best way to recharge.

INTERVIEWER: What is your relationship with success?

MR: I feel lucky, no one follows me on the street. If I happen to be walking in my neighbourhood, and someone approaches me and says, “Hi, I love your music.” They do not even ask me for photos, they just want me to know that they appreciate what I do. This is ideal. I worked with many artists and people who, once they reach a certain level of success are forced to change the way they live, how they move, and they cannot even go out. This is not something I want for myself, nor for my family.

INTERVIEWER: You grew up immersed in music, when did you start making it?

MR: I started playing the drums when I was very little, I think I was three or four years old. When we moved to New York, my mother married my stepfather, Mick Jones, who had a recording studio because he was the guitarist for Foreigner. He let me record little demos with all the sophisticated equipment that I barely knew how to use. I loved making demos. There was something about the moments when I was alone in that room, like, “Now I will play the drums, then I am going to overdub the bass and the keyboard.” It was something so powerful and immersive. Four hours could pass in an instant. I liked it. At first I did not even write my own songs, I did covers. I was rerecording songs like Terence Trent D’Arby’s “Wishing Well”, note by note, the songs that I loved.

INTERVIEWER: That album [“Introducing the Hardline According to Terence Trent D’Arby”, 1987] is beautiful. I consumed it.

MR: It is incredible, truly incredible. An extraordinary album. It’s funny, I never thought about it until you asked me. It is funny because, in becoming a record producer, my first passion for music was not so much “I want to get on stage and play rock guitar” but it was more “I love being in this environment where I can control the sound.” Now it seems obvious to me, and I think that there are definitely strong parallels with being a DJ, there too you find yourself at the console managing the levels and sounds. You control how people listen to the music. Yes, I think that period, when I was 10 or 11 years old and I was going to my stepfather’s studio, was instrumental.

INTERVIEWER: When did you understand that this would be your life?

MR: It did not happen right away; I was not sure of it. I loved music so much. I worked as an intern during the summer at Rolling Stone magazine. I did not know if I wanted to write about music or create it, because I was not a piano prodigy. It was not so obvious as to say, “Here, this is your path.” I was trying to understand it, but I think that it was around 16 or 17 years old when I decided that this was going to be my path.

Blazer and trousers, GUCCI

INTERVIEWER: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

MR: I do not have an answer. I always feel disappointed that I do not have something specific to say. Like, “I want to be on the moon broadcasting the first live concert” or something of the sort. I simply do what I love most. And I continue to challenge myself and constantly evolve in all that I do. Now I am composing film soundtracks. I am happy as long as I challenge myself musically and conceptually, and continue to do what I love.

I do not have grand ambitions, so to speak. I am currently writing a book on the New York nightlife of the ’90s, about my journey as a DJ and conversations with other DJs. A bit like when Anthony Bourdain was talking to other chefs. It is kind of a funny story about New York at that time.

INTERVIEWER: When does it come out?

MR: I am writing it right now, so I am not sure, but I hope it can be published next year. It takes a bit of time because it is a demanding job and I have never done it before. I have to reconnect with many people, remember some of the stories, and so on. But it has been fun so far.

INTERVIEWER: Is there an artist whom you are listening to with interest, someone promising?

MR: No one comes to mind right now. I would tell you Yebba, I know that she has already released an album, she is not a newcomer, but she is certainly one of my favourite singers and songwriters.

INTERVIEWER: And is there someone whom you would like to work with but have yet to?

MR: My hero is Steve Winwood, even if that is not why I wore this T-shirt [Editor’s note: he is wearing a T-shirt from the 1991 tour]. I do not think that we will ever be able to make a record together, but his solo work, as well as with Spencer Davis, Traffic and Blind Faith, are exceptional. He is so full of soul. The first time I came to Montreux was in 2004 and we went to Claude Nobs’ home. At that time, there was an evening dedicated to hip hop at the festival. I was there with a group of rappers from New York. I remember thinking, “I do not know who is playing the Hammond piano right now, but he is really good.” I looked over there and it was Steve Winwood. I dropped the guitar. I thought, “I am not worthy of playing with Steve Winwood, it’s too much.” That was the only time I was in the same room with him.

Mark1, polite, bids goodbye, stands up and dissolves softly, lightly, fading like a jazz standard, just as he had appeared. Rehearsals and a nap await him before the evening.

Nothing like Mark2’s farewell who, at the end of the concert, seeks the audience’s embrace and riles them up, yelling into the microphone, “My name is Mark Ronson, I hope we will meet again soon.”

Us too.

Photography: Caroline Tompkins
Styling: Antonio Autorino
Photography Assistat: Patrick Woodling
Grooming: Laila Hayani using CASWELL-MASSEY at FORWARD ARTISTS
Production: Sabrina Bearzotti
Translation: Lestari Hairul
Project made in collaboration with Audemars Piguet

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