Filled with the sounds of guitar twangs and strums, Guitar Center is a hub of musical activity. It is also where Andrew Cedar caught the interest of Artist Publishing Group producer DJ Frank E, turning the casual hangout into a publishing deal.
“(When DJ Frank E and I went to Guitar Center) nobody knew I could play,” Cedar said. “I was introduced to DJ Frank E and he found out about my talent, so he took me in.”
Cedar, a fourth-year ethnomusicology student with an emphasis in jazz studies, writes Top 40 tracks for artists such as Flo Rida and B.o.B in collaboration with DJ Frank E.
Cedar combines his formal jazz training with his love of pop music to explore two different genres of music in a studio setting. With a formal training in jazz piano, Cedar enrolled in UCLA as a student in the ethnomusicology department to learn more about jazz and further his passion in music.
Under the tutelage of Kenny Burrell, director of jazz studies at the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music, Cedar joined the Ellingtonia Orchestra, a group named in honor of the renowned jazz musician Duke Ellington.
“(Cedar is) one of our outstanding students. … I’ve known him for a few years now, and I’m very pleased (with his work),” Burrell said. “I know he’s going to have a really great future in music, and I’m glad to have him in the (Ellingtonia) Orchestra.”
During his fourth year at UCLA, Cedar began an internship at Atlantic Records and was introduced to artists and producers at Artist Publishing Group, which is affiliated with Atlantic Records. Cedar then signed a publishing deal with APG and is now writing pop tracks with DJ Frank E. The tracks will be used in the songs of artists such as Lupe Fiasco and Pitbull.
Fascinated by pop music and culture, Cedar has constantly looked to new music to inspire him in his songwriting and to learn new things from different producers.
In order to learn as much as possible, Cedar is not picky about the music he listens to and appreciates every artist’s contribution to pop music.
“I’ve always listened to the radio and have always listened to pop music, so even though I’m a jazz student I always knew pop was what I wanted to do,” Cedar said. “Everything I listen to inspires me in some way or another.”
In writing his tracks, Cedar incorporates themes and motifs from notable songs heard on the radio and borrows ideas from other producers. Even so, the writing process can be challenging, Cedar said.
“You never know when a track is finished. … You can go back and forth and say, ‘This needs to be a little stronger,’ or just leave it as is until everyone’s satisfied,” Cedar said. “It can be a very long process or sometimes it can be really quick.”
DJ Frank E said Cedar’s extensive music knowledge has helped the young musician learn the way the music business works and create a sophisticated and technically polished sound.
“In jazz, it’s all about the tension and release. The same goes for pop music,” DJ Frank E said. “(Cedar is) over-prepared for what we’re doing, but he understands everything that’s going on just by listening to it.”
As director of the Ellingtonia Orchestra, Burrell said Cedar’s willingness to learn and drive to succeed in a group setting will ensure his success in the professional world among experienced musicians.
“(Cedar is) an example of how we’re trying to fulfill our mission. I think he’s ready to go out into the real world and make a name for himself,” Burrell said. “He’s got all the musical equipment that will put him in good stead. We all still have to learn and we all still have to get better, but I think he’s ready to get on the launching pad.”
Although Cedar said he still finds it difficult to believe that he is able to work with professionals and sign under an official record label, his passion for performing and working with people from all professions has helped him mature as an artist and person.
“I’m really grateful for all the opportunities I’ve been given, and I couldn’t have gotten this far without the help of everyone at APG and DJ Frank E,” Cedar said. “But, in reality, getting signed is just an opportunity, so the real work is just starting now.”