everything you had to worry about back in your senior year
of high school? You were probably deeply focused on college
admissions, planning the right career path and coming to terms
with having to take a girl to the prom instead of that hunky
guy on the swim team. Now imagine if you also had to worry
about whether Diana Ross was going to like the way that you
edited her new record. Such was the case for a very gifted
17-year-old Tony Moran, and that was only the beginning of
his remarkably prolific musical career.
Initially inspired by DJs Kenny Carpenter
and Jellybean Benitez, as a teen Moran honed his skills as
a mobile DJ playing street parties in Brooklyn while accumulating
a discotheques worth of equipment. In time,
Moran taught himself to splice together different sections
of songs on reel-to-reel tape to extend the intros and breaks
which allowed for much greater artistic freedom. As his edits
grew in complexity, he began arranging entirely new rhythms
to form frenzied hybrids of his favorite records at a time
when only a handful of others most notably legendary
producers Arthur Baker, Shep Pettibone and Nile Rogers
were experimenting with this uncharted, innovative format.
When, in 1985, WKTUs program director
Carlos DeJesus heard one of Morans mix tapes at a local
record store, he quickly moved to put Moran and his remix
partner, Albert Cabrera, on the air under the moniker The
Little Rascals. The popularity of their radio mix show
soon caught the attention of Arthur Baker who recruited the
DJ duo to work with him at his Shakedown Studios.
Moran went on to produce numerous dance
acts like The Cover Girls whose chart-topping gold single,
Show Me, helped initiate the mid-80s freestyle
movement. After making an indelible mark on the music industry
by producing a string of hit dance records for TKA, Safire,
Lisette Melendez and others, MTV asked the charismatic Moran
to host a program called Second Generation. It was an opportunity
he couldnt pass up, but the change of focus inadvertently
put his thriving musical career on hold.
When the freestyle phenomenon expired, Morans showbiz
career almost ended with it. Despite his past success and
enviable Rolodex, Moran found himself faced with some unexpected
obstacles while trying to break back into the music industry.
Dance music had evolved during his extended absence, so the
resilient musician immersed himself in the burgeoning house
music scene and set out to reestablish his relevance.
As the 90s progressed, work started trickling
as Moran intensified his networking efforts. A phone call
to Epic Records Frank Ceraola finally opened the right
door for Moran the opportunity to do a spec remix of
Gloria Estefans Im Not Giving You Up.
I said, Look, just let me do it, Ill do it for
nothing, Moran recalls. I dont care how
much it costs me, just give me a chance. He gave me that chance
and it led to me not only doing her next record, but then
for Gloria and Emilio to ask me to produce their next album
[Gloria], and then to produce Jon Secada. Morans
career was firmly back on track.
Over the next several years Moran added an impressive array
of artists to his discography, including Michael Jackson,
Janet Jackson, Barry Manilow, Celine Dion and Whitney Houston.
He also worked on many of his own original productions and
mixed several compilation CDs for Centaur Music, like the
recent Party Grove: House.
Now the two-time Grammy-nominated producer
has just conquered yet another facet of the music industry.
Merging his songwriting, production, remixing and singing
talents into one ambitious project, Moran scored the entire
movie soundtrack for Dirk Schaffers new film Circuit.
Released on his own label, Emerge Records (a joint venture
with Centaur Music President Nick DeBiase and Amy Chanos),
Moran found the project both challenging and rewarding.
I had worked on movies before doing
a single song or licensing, but its certainly not the
same doing the score through a whole movie because there are
a lot of cooks in the kitchen and you have to work with people
who are all very passionate you have your view and
they have their view. It was really a compromise, he
acknowledges. But at the end of the day, I really felt
good about the movie. I felt like they were telling a particular
story rather than sending a particular message, and that was
important to me because I didnt want to be involved
in something that was going to judge people or actions or
Showcasing a wide range of musical styles,
the Circuit soundtrack maintains a festive party vibe throughout
most of its 19 tracks. Moran co-wrote and/or produced many
of the songs, including Kevin Aviances Ready Set
Go and Elle Patrices spirited Emotions
and Rising. He also expressed himself vocally
on Follow Me, Let The Music Fill Your Soul
and High. Circuit standards Love Divine
by Ron Perkov, Can You Feel It by MarQus and Been
To The Mountain by Francesca are also included on the
soundtrack along with new music from Taylor Dayne, Lonnie
Gordon and Paul Lekakis (who plays Circuit boy Bobby
in the movie).
Moran also graces the album credits of
Chers Living Proof for his production of Body
to Body, Heart to Heart. And hes been spending
much of his time in the studio lately working on songs with
Donna Summer for her new album.
Sony sent me over to Nashville to
write one song with her and we totally bonded, Moran
proudly reports. Next thing I know Im back in
Nashville three more times and shes recording three
songs here in my house [in New York]. I was really happy because
she was working with a bunch of new people and she wasnt
singing on anybodys demos, but we were having such a
good time that she came and sang on all of them which was
such a fascinating experience.
Always on the lookout to develop fresh
talent, Moran is hoping to help transform two up-and-coming
female vocalists into tomorrows superstar divas. He
is currently producing full-length dance albums for Elle Patrice
(whose music is featured on the Circuit and Queer As Folk
soundtracks) and new discovery Becky Baeling, a 19-year-old
performer who was recently signed to MCA Records.
Also under Morans guidance is actress/singer
Martine McCutcheon whose song This Is My Moment
already a #1 hit in England became an international
Circuit anthem when Mary Griffin recorded it under the title
Perfect Moment. McCutcheons already scored
several Top 10 records and a multi-platinum album in the U.K.,
and now Moran is hoping to help her make a name for herself
in the U.S. with a new album that includes a collaboration
with the London Symphony Orchestra.
Simply put, Morans vast contributions
and pioneering spirit have changed the face of contemporary
music. Taught by the best to appreciate the value of a good
song, he has excelled in each and every endeavor over the
years thanks to his savvy and talent, but also because of
his engaging personality which is one of his greatest assets.
I never was intimidated being surrounded
by talent, because since I was a kid I was surrounded by great
talent, he says. I think maybe that was the most
valuable lesson that I learned. I could be in the studio with
Cher today and Donna Summer tomorrow, or Gloria or whoever,
and I would respect them and love them for who they are, but
theyre not going to scare me. I told Gloria to sing
the same thing 50,000 times I told Donna that I wasnt
going to let her out of the room unless she did this note
that I wanted her to sing. They dont intimidate me.
But I respect them greatly, and I think because of that, it
makes it easy to collaborate because I dont feel restrictive
about giving anything of myself to anybody. I think once they
feel that from you, then they feel a little bit more open
about giving back.