ITHACA, N.Y. — Ithaca native and Cornell alumnus Alex Kresovich co-produced a song on Panic! at the Disco’s sixth studio album, “Pray for the Wicked”, titled “King of the Clouds”. The album was released June 22 and the new single has since reached #11 on the Billboard Hot Rock Songs chart.
Kresovich’s work is split between music production and working on his friend’s start-up, The Cut Buddy, with inventor Joshua Esnard. The Cut Buddy is a piece of plastic Esnard invented to help cut his hair when he was 13 living in Ithaca, which has since gone viral and landed a deal on “Shark Tank.”
Contributor J.T. Stone spoke to Kresovich about working on “King of the Clouds”, The Cut Buddy, and advice he has for aspiring musical artists.
JS: How did you get involved (with The Cut Buddy)?
AK: Just since knowing Josh since we were 13. He’s been one of my best friends since seventh grade. So he was helping me with music full time, just advising on the business side or helping me creatively where I could bounce ideas off him. This was just his little side project that ended up going viral, and since I studied communications and marketing, I help him on the side with doing that. … It’s funny because he was managing me for music and I was managing him for his business. It was just a weirdly perfect exchange.
JS: How did ABC pick it up?
AK: That was a situation where they saw we went viral and they kind of reached out. Their executive producer reached out to us about being on the show.
JS: And so the product, it was featured in “Shark Tank”, right?
AK: We got a deal on “Shark Tank.” Josh pitched his company to the investors. It was always his dream for years and years to work with Daymond John, so when he got a few different offers, the one that was Daymond, I kind of knew immediately what he was going to do.
JS: When ABC reached out and it went viral, that must have been a huge deal. How were you personally feeling?
AK: You don’t plan to go viral when you’re just a little garage business. So it was just … we went viral and we almost had to survive it where we had 4,000 orders and we only had 200 manufactured sitting in Josh’s garage at the time in Florida.
JS: Do you have any updates on how The Cut Buddy is doing?
AK: It’s doing great. So you know we’ve partnered with Daymond John. We have some big things coming with that — unfortunately I can’t say what they are yet. … But stuff is going really, really, well. We’re very excited for the things we’re planning with Daymond John. (Kresovich wouldn’t give any more details, but did say to expect some news within the calendar year.)
JS: Now let’s talk about your musical life. So you’re a producer and a songwriter, correct? (AK: Correct) As a producer, what does your job entail?
AK: It depends on who you’re working with. … A lot of times I’ll work with myself or certain guitarists and create the beat or track and find inspiration. Sometimes I’m in with a songwriter and they’ll have a cool song idea in mind or I’ll have one and they’ll start singing stuff and then I’ll just start playing chords on the keyboards. … Most of the time the music starts with a track, and that’s how the Panic! at the Disco song started, where I created something and then it got built upon and then turned into what it ultimately turned into and everyone got to hear.
JS: What inspired you for the song (“King of the Clouds”?)
AK: So initially when I made the track for it, I honestly never in a million years would have guessed that it would end up as a Panic! at the Disco song. I made it as more of a rap-beat. I came up mostly as a rap producer and only really got into pop in the last couple of years. And it was this tough track… it just had all these kind of weird twists and turns. … I was listening to a lot of old gospel (music) at the time … and I created something that I was really proud of so I started shopping around, sending it to some artists and people I knew. Then it just so happened that I’ve been working with this artist named Max (Schneider). … Max is signed to the same label as Panic! at the Disco. So through Max I met this guy Evan Taubenfeld, and he’s the guy who put me together with Jake Sinclair, who is the executive producer of the album. … I played him a bunch of stuff and he took like 10 tracks from me, and one of them was the original version of “King of the Clouds”. Fast forward a couple months and Even hits me up like “Yo, this is sounding really good and I know people like this one track of yours in particular. Let’s see what happens.” Then I don’t hear anything for a month. … I wasn’t in the studio when they wrote the lyrics to the song, What happened I guess was Brendon Urie (the lead vocalist of Panic! at the Disco) got really high and was talking about other dimensions and Carl Sagan, which I thought was really cool because I don’t even think he knew the track that they were writing to was from a guy from Ithaca, where Carl Sagan is a legend to us. … then Sam Hollander, another writer on the song, was just writing down everything Brendon was saying and then he kind of came back a couple days later and was like, “Hey guys, what do you think of this?”, and Jake had built my track into something amazing … and it was literally the day before the album was due to be mix and mastered. It was March 8th. … I haven’t heard anything since February, and I get a text from Evan and he’s like, “Yo, call me right now,” and I’m like this is either going to be really good or really bad. He’s like, “Everyone really loves your song, but some changes need to be made. We’re going to need you to do some stuff, and it needs to be turned in tomorrow or it’s not going to make the album.” … and then they have this incredible producer Suzy Shinn, and Evan put us together to work on my parts of like replaying these pianos and manipulating these vocals that they wanted to have in the song. … Suzy’s like, “If I get this to you by 8 p.m. is that cool?”, and I’m like sure. I’m sweating bullets at this point … I’m just trying to stay awake and then at 2:30 a.m. she hits me up saying “We’re ready to go,” and she sends me all the files that I need to recreate. From 2:30 a.m. to 4:30 a.m. the day the album was due, Suzy and I worked together to recreate the pianos and getting the vocals to sound the way we wanted … Then I hear from Evan at 11 a.m. and he’s like, “Alright, we’re good,” … but everything was so last minute … I was a mess, it was almost like being a drunk person. I remember when Even texted me, “Welcome to Panic! … Album comes out June 22,” I was just so relieved. It was the best feeling in the world.
JS: What advice would you give to aspiring artists?
AK: The fear of failure needs to not be a part of the way you create music. … people only really see when you succeed, but the best musicians of all time … if you heard some of their demos you’d be like “Oh, this is a bad song.” … if people want to make it in the music industry really understand that networking and good timing are arguably just as important as the music itself.
JS: What other musical artists have you worked with?
AK: I worked with CeeLo Green on his latest album, Sam Harris from the X Ambassadors and Jared Leto from 30 Seconds to Mars. I’ve also been lucky enough to have worked with Kanye West’s G.O.O.D Music label … and with Max Schneider who is like a creative ball of talent.
JS: When you were growing up in Ithaca, did you see yourself doing music?
AK: I was always obsessed with music, so people who knew me in high school … this isn’t a shock to them at all. They saw that from a very early age, I was like this is what I want to do.
JS: What is Brookfield Road? (Kresovich is a music producer of the publishing company Brookfield Road)
AK: That’s the street I grew up on in Ithaca. When you start landing songs on major record labels you need to come up with a company name. Since that was where all these dreams started, it seemed perfect to call it Brookfield Road.
JS: What are you most proud of?
AK: The person I am. I’m 31 and I’ve sacrificed a lot to chase this music dream. … not getting to be as social as I would like, not making a lot of money, or having to move three time zones away from everyone I know … it was all very scary for me but I knew this was my dream and I needed to see it through. With “King of the Clouds” I feel like a literal childhood dream came true.
JS: What was one exciting memory of your musical career thus far?
AK: I danced with Rihanna at L.A. Reid’s 50th birthday party. I was an intern at Island Def Jam records in 2006, and I saw her dancing so I asked to dance with her, which was totally cool because I didn’t think it would ever happen, but she said yes. There’s a fearlessness when you expect failure.
JS: Where do you live now?
AR: I bounce between L.A. and North Carolina where the Cut Buddy is based. But Ithaca is the only place that ever actually felt like home.
JS: Where’s your favorite place to eat in Ithaca?
AK: My favorites have to be Wegmans, Italian Carry Out, Uncle Joe’s and the Ale House.
For more information about Kresovich, visit his website: thatproducerak.com.