SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ -- What better day to release a video called "Monsterz" than on Halloween?
Scotch Plains-based musician Billy Wilkins released his latest single at midnight on the spookiest day of the year.
"It's an upbeat song, actually," the singer/guitar player said. "The song is about mistakes you made in the past. We filmed it at my producer's house and at a studio on Long Island called Eclectic Props. Some of my friends are in it; it was hard sometimes to keep a straight face. The video has an Al Bundy/'Married with Children' kind of feel to it."
Wilkins spent his summer writing songs with a former classmate from Berklee College of Music, John Flynn. They wrote and recorded "Monsterz" together alongside Grammy award-winning producer Jerry Wonda, the mastermind behind Shakira’s “Hips Don’t Lie." Wonda first became known for his work with The Fugees, who struck platinum in 1996 with The Score, one of the best-selling hiphop albums of all time and Grammy winner for Best R&B Vocal Performance, Best Rap Album, and Album of the Year. In 1999, Wonda co-produced Supernatural, Carlos Santana’s masterpiece, which sold over 15 million copies and was nominated for 8 Grammys.
A friend introduced Wilkins to Jerry Wonda, who gave him an impromptu audition one evening in New York.
"It was like a scene out of a movie. At the end of the audition, he gave me his card and told me, 'I think you've got what it takes. I think we can make some awesome stuff together'," Wilkins said.
The rest of Wilkins' production "Dream Team" includes mix engineer Serge Tsai, who won a Grammy for his collaborations with Kanye West and who has also worked with Wyclef Jean. Wilkins flew in Q The Rebel, a film and video producer from L.A. who makes a lot of videos for rappers to do the "Monsterz" video.
Wilkins has long had great mentors. He developed an obsession with playing guitar by age 11. After being taught the basics by his father, he began studying at a local music shop but it wasn't long until he was ready to move on. Wilkins began studying with local guitar legend Karl Cochran, who introduced him to the nuances of Rock, Jazz, and the Blues. Later, Wilkins spent several years studying under Gypsy Jazz virtuoso, Stephane Wrembel. At the age of 14, he started to write, sing, and perform his own original songs.
After graduating from Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School, Wilkins attended the prestigious Berklee College of Music and majored in music performance. He left after a year.
"I was studying guitar performance and was playing jazz. I couldn't write and perform. I came home and started doing music the way I want to play it," he explained. "I felt like I had to start or it would be too late for me."
Of late, Wilkins has scaled back on his live performances and concentrated on making and recording music.
"Right now, I've been so busy recording most days every week. The amount of songs I make is insane. I really found the sound and the work ethic that work for me," said Wilkins, who locks himself in a recording studio at his house on the Jersey Shore in Ortley. "I waited for John to graduate from Berklee to make as much music as we could together. We are making a song a day. The fine tuning is done at Jerry Wonda's studio, Platinum. That's where we put the icing on the cake."
Although he is performing fewer gigs now than in years past, you can catch him this weekend playing at Sheelen's Crossing's third annual street festival on Saturday evening from 8:00 to 10:00 p.m. During his set, he will play "Monsterz" with his band for the first time live in front of an audience.
"I'm very excited to start this new chapter in my music."