Elements Music Camp 2018: U2 Producer and 6x Grammy Awardee Steve Lillywhite Produces Filipina Artist Kat Agarrado

“It is a great honor and pleasure to be working and hanging out with Steve. I learned a lot just by watching and observing. I witnessed firsthand how he does his work professionally, and who he is as a person. He has inspired and brought us joy even for a brief moment. He is a beautiful soul and I thank him for choosing me. I will forever be grateful for this opportunity and experience. I will cherish this as long as I live. I hope it doesn’t stop here. I hope to work with him again in the future.”Kat Agarrado

I’ve worked with so many great singers – Bono, Chris Cornell. There are so many great singers. And Kat! I feel so lucky to have met Kat.”- Steve Lillywhite

Multi-awarded U2 producer Steve Lillywhite was in the country recently as one of the mentor-producers for Elements Music Camp and our very own Kat Agarrado had an opportunity to work closely with him.

The Camp

Through the efforts of Maestro Ryan Cayabyab, music industry veteran Twinky Lagdameo, and private businessman Julio D. Sy, Jr.; the Elements Music Camp was born in 2010. After six camp batches (2010 – 2015) and three years in hiatus, Elements Music Camp is back and bigger than ever. In partnership with Globe Telecom, this year’s camp was held from August 26-August 30 at Discovery Suites in Ortigas.

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Local mentors/producers included Awit Awardees singer/songwriter/ producers Thyro Alfaro, Jonathan Manalo, Jungee Marcelo, Southborder’s Jay Durias; and Neocolours’ Jimmy Antiporda joined by songwriting mentors Gab Alipe (Urbandub), Jazz Nicholas (Itchyworms), Ebe Dancel and Quest.

Five international producers were also flown in to join the camp – Bernard Harvey (Justin Bieber, Gucci Mane, and Eminem. Musical director of Justin Bieber) Earnest “Tuo” Clark (Big Sean, John Legend, Nicki Minaj and NAS; A&R of Def Jam); Bassie Blue Hamilton (Justin Bieber, Usher and Bruno Mars. Atlanta’s hottest new producer in 2012) Ferry Corsten (Benni Benassi, Armin Van Beuren and DJ Tiesto; (IDMA) International Dance Music Awards nominee as the Best Trance DJ) and Steve Lillywhite (U2, Rolling Stones, Dave Matthew Band, etc.; Grammy Producer of the year Awardee)

It brought together 10 carefully selected musicians and top local and international mentors/producers – to share and learn from each other as it aimed to discover and hone the next generation of songwriters with one important goal – for Filipino artists to be recognized globally.

Pinoy soul singer-songwriter Kat Agarrado (Sino Sikat) was among the lucky 10 chosen to join the camp. Her song entry entitled “You Got Me Trippin’” was a last minute song entry (TRIVIA: it actually didn’t have a title yet when it was submitted; it had a working title “Song no.2”). Initially, Kat submitted her song entry in a rush trying to beat the deadline. When the deadline was extended for a good three days, she then tried her luck and submitted a new song and let its magic work itself. According to her, it was a “suntok sa buwan”. She had always been a risk taker and, in her mind, if she didn’t make it to the camp, at least she tried and gave her song a chance to be heard. “I just have to try,” she says.

The Lucky Buzzer Beater

Well, as they saying goes, Kat did “save the best for last”. True enough, the song made it to the top 30, then eventually to the top 10. I guess it’s just right to say it is indeed her lucky song, isn’t it? Talk about Kat’s luck – and it doesn’t end with her being chosen to join the camp, as she was also chosen by one of the five internationally acclaimed producers!…and not just that…she was chosen by Steve! Yes, it’s Steve Lillywhite – you got that right, U2 fans!

“Sobrang kilig naramdaman ko. Di ko naman talaga inexpect na makakapasok ako sa top 10. Nung nalaman ko na pinili ako ni Steve Lillywhite abot hanggang langit ang tuwa ko kase hello Steve Lillywhite is a living legend. Isa na syang alamat sa global/international music industry.” She shared upon learning Steve chose to produce her song.

Meeting Steve

It was a hit from the moment they met each other. Kat felt very comfortable in an instant, she said they had good chemistry and a great working dynamic.

“He lights up the whole room with his presence. Walang kayabang yabang (very down to earth). Very accommodating and excited as I am to work on my song.”

 “He is a very funny guy, full of energy, never a dull moment. It was fun listening to all of his stories, especially about Bono, Chris Cornell, and all the other music legends I look up to. It’s priceless and inspiring.”

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Photo courtesy of Kat Agarrado

Meeting someone as accomplished as Steve and knowing at the same time how simple a person he is, is both beautiful and humbling, she said. Working with him taught her inner joy and humility. Steve advised her to follow her heart and her instinct and to just keep on writing.

“This is definitely one for the books! I love working with him so much. If given a chance, I would love to do it again.”

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Kat recording her vocal tracks

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Kat and Steve during the recording session at Spryta Studio

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Steve with Kat Agarrado, Elements Music Camp mentor Jazz Nicolas and Sound Engineer Angee Rozul at Spryta studio

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Kat with producer Steve and Elements Music Camp co-founder Twinky Lagdameo

Who is Steve Lillywhite?

Steve is an English record producer who began his career in 1977 in the UK. He is a 6-time Grammy Awardee, best known for his works as award-winning producer for U2—which won him The Grammys including Album of The Year and Best Rock Album for U2’s How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb, Record of the Year for Walk on and Beautiful Day and also won Producer of the Year award. He also has several Grammy Award nominations under his belt.

His notable music production work includes The Killers, Rolling Stones, Peter Gabriel, Jason Mraz, Chris Cornell, Counting Crows, Matchbox 20, Simple Minds, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Talking Heads, Switchfoot, Thirty Seconds to Mars among others.

Being in the Philippines for the first time

Steve flew in last August 25 from Indonesia where he is currently based. He spent a good week here in Manila as one of the mentors-producers for the Elements Music Camp. Steve commended his experience in the Philippines as very positive. He met lots of great artists and mentors and especially good organizers. He also mentioned that he finds Filipinos extremely diligent and open to learning. He also felt he could be very tough and they took it in the right way. He also admitted not having much knowledge about the local Filipino music scene before he got here; but after meeting and spending time with the campers and fellow mentors, he shall definitely start doing more research.

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Mr. Steve Lillywhite giving his talk during the camp

On working with Kat

Having worked with so many artists, Steve has never worked with Filipino artists. But the Elements Music Camp gave him the opportunity to work with one – and it is with none other than   Kat Agarrado. Steve produced Kat’s song entry along with sound engineer Angee Rozul and co-mentor Jazz Nicolas at Spryta Productions during the duration of the camp.

Steve has nothing but praises for Kat. He shared that working with Kat was a very pleasant experience. “She is as good a singer as anyone I have worked with and is willing to try new ideas. A great singer is something I am always looking for and I found one with Kat.”

 OPM going International

“Try to be true to your art because if you’re true to your art; at least if you fail, you will be happy knowing that you’ve done it for your yourself. Do it because you love it because if you’re happy enough to be successful you’ll be able to carry the ride and feel pride and you have ownership of something. Don’t live in a bubble, don’t feel protective of your music anymore, play your music, get other people’s opinions, play as many shows as you can, love your craft, keep writing, but don’t force it, go to the well that you’ve already had and find something, find the seed that can start growing again. Everyone has a failure and failure is very good if you learn from it,” he shared during his talk.   

For Steve, Filipino artists must keep perfecting their art and push themselves as hard as they can. Soon there will be a successful one internationally!

What makes Steve very good at what he’s doing?

“I am arrogantly humble”  – Steve

Steve believes success is about being able to choose the quality of the work you want to do. By being able to raise his standard and choose who he wants to work with, he takes on projects knowing in his mind that the project is good. “It is never about me, it is who I choose to work with. Do it for the art, not for the money,” he added.

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The 2018 Elements Music Camp Graduation  (photo courtesy of Elements Music Camp 2018)

This year’s 10 campers were Kat Agarrado, Keiko Necessario, Bea Lorenzo, Reese Lansangan, Trisha Campaner, Nar Cabico, Julz Savard, Emmanuel Vera, Paolo Guico and Leanne Mamonong. With the help of the mentors and producers, these 10 campers produced a song each – a total of 10 original songs, soon to be released on Spotify which aims to capture the international music scene.

Best of luck everyone!

Elements Music Camp