Originally from Germany, Alexander "Nezzo" Palmer has found success as a Grammy-award nominated songwriter, producer, and DJ. Having worked with such artists as Jason Derulo and Chris Brown, Palmer recently turned his attention to country as a co-writer of Dierks Bentley's fastest rising single to date, "Somewhere On A Beach." On April 3rd, that song, as well as his current Iggy Azalea track, "Team," made their national award show debuts when each artist performed live - Bentley during the ACM Awards and Azalea at the iHeartRadio Awards. Palmer kindly called to talk about his Hip-Hop roots, turning to country and what's ahead.
So before we dive into the current, what originally drew you to a career in music?
I’ve been making music forever. Both of my parents were songwriters in Germany and that is where I started out as a Hip-Hop producer. German Hip-Hop in the German language is huge. I came up in Germany at a time when German Hip-Hop was fresh and I was lucky enough to catch it in its beginning stages and help mold the sound. I moved to LA, where I now live, five years ago. My first big cut was for Jason Derulo ["Whatcha Say"] and since then I've worked with Chris Brown, Ciara, Iggy Azalea and Sia among others.
You worked with Iggy on her latest "Team" while simultaneously having Dierks Bentley cut one of your tracks as a country single. Both artists had their national television debuts singing those songs on the same night. That must have been pretty special.
Yeah, it’s amazing. I produced Iggy's first single from her very first mixtape with her main producer Chordz. I hadn’t heard from her in a while and then last year she approached us about working together on her new project. We did about 100-200 tracks and ended up with the first single. It’s really exciting; the reception has been really good so far and the fact that I have a country single at the same time is great.
What inspired the progression from Hip-Hop to country?
Growing up in Germany, I didn’t know anything about country music. The first country song I heard was Jason Aldean’s “Dirt Road Anthem” and really fell in love with it. In a sense, it is a Hip-Hop song, so it appealed to me in that way, but it also had the musicality and depth that made me want to research county. So I went back in history and schooled myself on all things country, and that’s when I decided I wanted to start to come to Nashville to write and produce, which I've been doing for about two and a half years now.
The fact that you can have two songs in different genres speaks to versatility and a love of music - and that you don't want to be pigeonholed into one genre.
Absolutely that’s exactly what it is. I feel like throughout my life I have been exposed to pretty much every genre of music; I’m always looking for new stuff too because I get really bored if I have to keep myself with one thing. On the other hand, though, everything I do comes from the same place. When I lay tracks, I can say this is country or this is Hip-Hop, but if you know my sound, you can hear that there are similarities in everything I do.
Circling back to "Somewhere On A Beach," how did Dierks come to record the song? Did you guys write it specifically with him in mind?
We did not write it with him in mind. I wrote it with Michael Tyler, Josh Mirenda and Jason Boyer who are my crew when I come to Nashville. We were writing songs with a Hip-Hop and R&B aesthetic and I think Michael wanted it to be one of his songs, but then we heard Dierks wanted it. I’m not sure how Dierks got his hands on it, but he loved it and considered it to be a great follow-up to “Drunk On A Plane.” When an artist of his caliber does your very first country song, it's awesome. And he did an amazing job with it.
Is Dierks’ version sonically different from the way the song was originally written?
The difference in our version and Dierks’ is like the difference between Colt Ford’s and Jason Aldean’s versions of “Dirt Road Anthem.” The version I produced was very Hip-Hop with no live drums; it was just a guitar and an 808 beat. Dierks countrified it and made it his own, but I am getting great feedback on both versions.
Is your version floating around out there to hear?
No, but I think we should put it out there.
I think people would be interested to hear the original version of the song.
So being that you have so many roles, will artist eventually be one of them?
I’m not a singer, unfortunately, but I have a side project where I DJ Dance and Trap music. That’s a whole other area of what I do and I haven’t really had a chance to figure out how to mix that with country yet, but that’d be cool. I also have a few other songs that I wrote that are making the rounds; it’s too early to say anything, but I think we will have a few more [country] cuts for sure.
Finally, I always like to know - what's one recent release that you cannot stop listening to?
I am listening to this guy Party Next Door from Toronto. He is one of Drake’s new artists and I’m a big fan of his stuff.
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