A musician, songwriter, and Grammy-nominated producer, Mike Elizondo is a triple threat. He is known for his 11-year collaboration with hip-hop producer Dr. Dre, as well as for co-writing Eminem’s “The Real Slim Shady,” Carrie Underwood’s No. 1 single “Cowboy Casanova,” and 50 Cent’s smash “In Da Club,” which he also co-produced. Over the course of his career, Elizondo has played on records by, written songs for, or produced albums for artists across musical genres, including Avenged Sevenfold, Fiona Apple, Maroon 5, Mary J. Blige, Sheryl Crow, Rob Thomas, Eric Clapton, Natasha Bedingfield, Switchfoot, Pink, Eve, Ry Cooder, Snoop Dogg, and Rilo Kiley, among many others. Now he brings his many talents, including an impeccable ear, to his position as Staff Producer and Senior VP of A&R for Warner Bros. Records.

Not surprisingly, Elizondo fell in love with music at a young age. His father is a singer and multi-instrumentalist who built the first home recording studio in Elizondo’s neighborhood in the Pacoima area of Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley. Young Mike began playing piano and accordion at age 9, learned tenor saxophone at age 12, and, at 13, took up bass guitar, which ignited his interest in becoming a professional musician. He immersed himself in his father’s record collection, which included albums by The Beatles, Al Green, Parliament-Funkadelic, Black Sabbath, John Coltrane, The Police, Jimi Hendrix, and Led Zeppelin, and learned that good music had no stylistic boundary.

Elizondo attended the prestigious Academy of Music at Hamilton High School in Los Angeles, where he played in the school jazz band with his friend, drummer Abe Laboriel Jr. (who went on to play with Paul McCartney), as well as in the orchestra. After graduating, Elizondo enrolled at Cal State Northridge where one of his instructors encouraged him to learn string bass and inspired an even greater affection for orchestral music. He also played in a band called Budahat, which was signed to Atlantic Records by Craig Kallman, giving Elizondo his first experience working with a producer and making a record. The project coordinator on the album also worked with several major producers, including T-Bone Burnett, Matt Wallace, and Matthew Wilder, who each began hiring Elizondo as a session bassist.

In 1996, a high-school friend recommended Elizondo to play bass in a session run by Dr. Dre, which eventually evolved into Elizondo making songwriting contributions to several cuts on Eminem’s The Marshall Mathers LP (2000), including “The Real Slim Shady,” “Family Affair,” from Mary J. Blige’s 2001 album No More Drama, as well as several tracks on 50 Cent’s Get Rich Or Die Tryin’ (2003), including co-producing “In Da Club,” which put Elizondo on the map. He also continued doing sessions with T-Bone Burnett and producer Glen Ballard, played on records by Nelly Furtado, Eve, Shelby Lynne, Sheryl Crow, Christina Aguilera, and Ry Cooder, and toured as a bassist with Rickie Lee Jones.

Through Jones, Elizondo met producer Jon Brion, who asked Elizondo to meet with his friend Fiona Apple. Apple was looking for a producer to help her re-work her third album, Extraordinary Machine. The album was released in 2005 to rave reviews and earned Apple a 2006 Grammy nomination for “Best Pop Vocal Album.” The credit led the music industry community to see Elizondo not only as a stellar session bassist and Dr. Dre’s right-hand man, but as someone with diverse abilities who could tackle various musical styles.

Elizondo’s next big project was production work on Maroon 5’s second album, 2007’s It Won’t Be Soon Before Long, which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Top 200 chart, selling nearly half a million copies its first week. The Grammy-nominated album featured several hits and further burnished Elizondo’s reputation as an artist-friendly producer. He followed up his work with Maroon 5 by taking another 180-degree turn and producing several tracks on indie-rock darlings Rilo Kiley’s 2007 debut for Warner Bros. Records, Under the Blacklight, which earned the band its highest chart position yet when it debuted on the Billboard Top 200 at No. 22. In 2008, Elizondo was nominated for a Grammy Award for “Producer of the Year.”

In 2009, Elizondo was brought in to produce several tracks on Hello Hurricane, the well-received seventh studio album from San Diego quintet Switchfoot. After its completion, the album found its way into the hands of Cavallo, who, as the newly appointed Chief Creative Officer for Warner Music Group, signed Switchfoot to a deal with Atlantic Records based on the quality of Hello Hurricane, which earned the band a Grammy nomination for “Best Rock Gospel Album.”

Later that year, Elizondo retained a new manager, Steve Moir, who also represented such heavyweight rock producers as Rob Cavallo and Brendan O’Brien. Moir encouraged Elizondo to continue to pursue his desire to work with hard rock bands by meeting with the members of Southern California’s Avenged Sevenfold. Recording of the band’s fifth album began in October, just two months before the band’s drummer, Jimmy “The Rev” Sullivan, passed away from a drug overdose. Nightmare, the highly personal collection that Avenged made with Elizondo in the wake of that tragedy, was the band’s first No. 1 album.

During the recording of Nightmare, Cavallo and veteran record producer and legendary A&R executive Lenny Waronker (who was back in the Warner Bros. Records fold after 14 years) approached Elizondo about joining the company as a Staff Producer and Senior VP or A&R. Although he enjoyed being independent, Elizondo relished the idea of being part of the A&R team and learning more about the day-to-day business of a major record label. Now signed to WBR’s Senior VP of A&R Kara DioGuardi’s company Arthouse Entertainment, Elizondo has the ability to introduce projects he believes in and serve as an advocate on behalf of the artists as they navigate the machinery of a major record company. It’s the perfect next step in the ever-evolving career of Mike Elizondo.

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[February 2011]

 

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