We love hearing stories about Gold Coasters going on to international successes. One such story belongs to Luke Calleja, aka Kronic, a Hollywood-based ex-Gold Coast DJ and producer who has hit the big time, working with names like Pitbull, J-Lo and Bieber. We asked him to tell us all about his whirlwind ride.
It might seem to some that you just popped over to LA and became an overnight success but I’m sure it wasn’t that easy! Can you tell us how things actually progressed for you once you were there?
Overnight Success might be a stretch… I’m proud of what I’ve done, but I know I’ve still got a long way to go. When I first started travelling to LA, my only contacts were a few DJ’s I’d met online. I don’t think they’d ever met an Australian DJ before, so I guess I stuck out to them. As I started building a following as an artist, they kept linked me with more and more people. Eventually, I crossed paths with Lil Jon, and it was working with him on Bend Ova that opened up the doors for me to move there. Since then, I’ve kept working hard and I just try to meet as many dope people as I can.
What’s your connection to the GC?
I lived in the Gold Coast for a few years. While I was there, I played a lot at SinCity and The Bedroom. It was actually playing at those clubs that inspired me to move there. The Gold Coast is an important place to me and my career. It’s pretty much my second home, and it’s where my career as an artist really began. I wrote and released my first few singles while living in the Gold Coast, and the city and lifestyle really influenced those records. I met Bombs Away in the Gold Coast, and they were really one of the first dance artists to mess with me, and I’m always grateful for what they did for me back then.
Radio Metro have always supported me since I lived in the Gold Coast, and that means a lot to me too. There’s a lot of emerging talent coming from the Gold Coast right now as well, guys like Jake Carmody and Kye Grant.
What are some of your career highlights so far?
Watching the Super Bowl and seeing my song in the Fast & Furious trailer is up there. So is seeing Justin Bieber singing over one of my beats on his Instagram. But one of the wildest things in my career is producing Sexy Body for Pitbull and J-Lo. The reason that song is so special to me, is because I started that beat years ago when I lived in the Gold Coast. There’s a very early version of that beat on one of my old mixtapes, and in the mix, I’d put a Pitbull vocal on top of it! This is years before I ever met him, or knew I’d be working with him.
When you are creating your beats, do you have an idea of the vocal track that you would like over the top or do you totally leave that part up to the singers? What is the process when you collaborate with other artists?
When it comes to my own songs, I almost never just leave the vocals to the singer, I think that’s kinda lame to be honest. My songs are my story, and I could never just let someone else write half my story. It’s like Quentin Tarantino wouldn’t put Samuel L Jackson in a scene and tell him to write the dialog, know what I mean?
When I’m in the studio with singers, I always come with an idea and direction. Sometimes I’ll bring demo vocals of myself singing it if I need. Together, we’ll bounce ideas of each other until the lyrics tell the story the way I want it to. I almost always have a big part of writing the vocals for my own tracks. There’s actually few records coming out this year from other Australian artists that I co-wrote the lyrics on.
If I’m producing a record for another artist, I don’t always get luxury of being there with them. There’s a Pitbull & J-Lo record called Sexy Body that I produced that’s a good example. I co-wrote some of J-Lo’s part on that song, but Pit did his part of that record almost a year later on his own. With Pretty & Young – the record I did with Austin, me and G-Wizard actually wrote a part of the vocals – and we’ve still got the iPhone voice memos to prove it!
Who are some of your musical heroes and why do you love them?
Kanye West. Not just because he makes amazing music, but the way he makes it is incredible. Every song is telling his story, but he’ll use the best musicians, singers and producer to help him tell that story. And he’ll get the best person for the job, no matter how small it is. There’s a Kanye record – Mercy – and he needed help with the kick drum. So he got Mike Will Made It (another super star producer in his own right) to work on that one small part of the record. Dance music has the stupid attitude that you should do every little thing yourself. That’s completely wrong. If you can make a song better by getting someone to help on it, you owe it to the song to do that. That’s why Kanye is my musical hero. Even though so many people think he’s an egomaniac, he knows when to bring in others to help make the best possible song.
You can check out more of Kronic’s story in a video called Long Story Short on YouTube.