“He’s a genius. I don’t feel like most people realize how awesome he is Actually is,” says producer D’Mile, looking back on his most popular project to date with Bruno Mars.
But before the formation of Silk Sonic, longtime friend and bandmate Anderson Paak implored Mars and D’Mile to get together for a session. “Once we realized we were doing a group project, I think it was easy for all of us to figure out what kind of vibe it was going to be,” D’Mile says.
“Leave The Door Open,” the GRAMMY-winning product of the trio’s collaboration, became a hit for its groovy R&B bridges and velvety vocal harmonies — and D’Mile’s career skyrocketed. Now he’s a creative mainstay behind many top artists, infusing discographies with blues, jazz and neo-R&B, while designing for Beyonce, Jay Z, The Lupe Fiasco, SHE and others. Long before winning a handful of awards, D’Mile was disciplined into a musical family.
Dernst Emile II, aka D’Mile was born to two esteemed Haitian musicians – singer Yanick Étienne and Dernst Emile, an established music arranger and instrumentalist – with a broad global lineage and appreciation for African Diaspora music. Arriving in Brooklyn, D’Mile learned the piano from his father and heard his mother singing jazz and Haitian konpa around the house.
“They always worked together,” the 37-year-old music producer shyly recalled on Zoom, laughing. “My father [still] gives private lessons to this day. I’ve always been surrounded by instruments all my life – the jams and the recording sessions. I feel like I’m just a younger version of him.”
A young D’Mile inherited musical abilities from his parents, nurturing his musical roots while keeping his ear close to the ground as his career blossomed. “One of my first [producer] investments ever was actually Mary J. Blige in 2005,” D’Mile says shyly. This single was the title track of Blige’s 2005 album, Discoverywhich won the GRAMMY Award for Best R&B Record.
Nearly two decades in music production, D’Mile applies artists’ personal experiences to the music they create together, tailoring their sounds as a reflection of who they are, the moment he encounters them. “I just do what I know when I feel good in my heart,” D’Mile says with a shrug. “[But] when I do a collaboration with an artist, I try to speak to who he is through the music.”
This insight and ability to mesh an artist’s essence with contemporary culture has led to many defining moments. After having compulsive thoughts of quitting music for the past decade, D’Mile sparked an artistic surge at the start of the pandemic and a plethora of gold-plated accolades loomed on the horizon.
From 2020 to 2022, D’Mile hit highs that accelerated the trajectory of his career. At the 2020 GRAMMY Awards, D’Mile received seven nominations for his work on Lucky Daye’s debut album, Painted and HISthe second album of, I used to know her. After the police killing of George Floyd, D’Mile channeled racial tensions into HER “I can not breathe“; the song won the coveted GRAMMY Award for Song of the Year in 2021. That same year, D’Mile won an Academy Award for Best Original Song (“Fight For You”) in the film, Judas and the Black Messiah.
D’Mile’s star didn’t continue to rise until 2022. At the 64th GRAMMY Awards, the producer won three gold gramophones for his work on Sonic Silk“Leave the Door Open” by – including song and record of the year. A testament to his production expertise and extensive listening, D’Mile was also nominated for his efforts on Christian/contemporary song.”hold us together (Mixture of hope).”
“I’m not saying my early accomplishments haven’t hit me yet, but sometimes it’s amazing to think of all the good things that have happened recently in my career,” D’Mile recalled.
The Los Angeles-based musician nurtures the nucleic base of R&B, creating an environment for emerging and famous artists to rejoice and evolve. The producer shared memories of some of his favorite collaborations with GRAMMY.com.
Joyce Wrice- Too developed
Executive produced by D’Mile, Joyce Wrice’s 2021 debut album is an exquisite gift for R&B lovers. The 14 bluesy tracks Too developed is a delineation of nostalgic ’90s R&B and hip-hop, with shrill vocal highs and emotional lows.
“The first time Joyce and I met in the studio, I understood who she was as a woman and her vision for Too developed“, says D’Mile. “I got close to her and I was gathering information about what she would play me. I feel like when I make music, I’m the one examining who you are.”
Through Too developed, the San Diego native sings about the pains of healing heartbreak and unrequited love. The album is also a celebration of femininity, where an independent and confident Wrice embraces the mental strength she discovered in finding herself.
Friend – “Happy Hour”
Compton-raised rapper Buddy has released his second album, Superghetto, in 2022 and D’Mile produced one of the project’s most popular tracks. “Happy Hour” is an ode to letting go and dealing with life as cheerfully chaotic as ordering a drink in a crowded bar on a weekend night.
“Buddy and I created this song a few years ago,” D’Mile recalled, reflecting deeply on the track’s origins.
The single can be considered a sequel to T-Pain’s 2007 anthem, “Bartender” – and rightly so. D’Mile adds, “T-Pain hopped on the track maybe a few months before it was released. I can’t take credit for having that feature on the song, but it just made sense in the world. .”
HER “Fight For You”, “I Can’t Breathe” & I used to know her
In 2021, D’Mile reunited with longtime collaborators HER and singer Tiara Thomas to create social songs that highlighted the atrocities of police violence against black Americans.
“The creation of these songs started with a conversation,” D’Mile says, smiling as she reflects on the trio’s close bond. “HER and Tiara were talking about what was happening in the world. HER is an artist who really cares about people and cares about what’s right.”
D’Mile recalls HER picking up a guitar and playing “I Can’t Breathe.” “I remember crying when I first heard the song and knew exactly what I had to do to help.”
The producer also participated in the tearful song “Could’ve Been”, which also grew out of this session and later appeared on HER’s second album.
Victoria Monet – Jaguar
D’Mile was involved in all the processes behind the production of Victoria Monét’s debut album, Jaguar. The 2020 Supersonic Project is a funky unification of fun R&B with sultry pop melodies.
While Monét wrote lyrics for Ariana Grande, Nas, Chris Brown and others, Jaguar was the Georgia native’s first full foray as a solo artist. The performer, dancer and recent mom also uses D’Mile’s musical compositions on her upcoming album. D’Mile says he’s excited for Monét’s next musical chapter, which incorporates her experiences with motherhood and more sass.
“We dug a little deeper. She’s an artist I feel really comfortable with,” the producer says of Monét’s upcoming album. “There are maybe a few songs that you wouldn’t expect from her, and then there are songs that are just amazing.”
Sonic Silk – An Evening with Silk Sonic
The focus group of 2021 was undoubtedly the nostalgically catchy vocal duo Silk Sonic – a project by Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak. The D’Mile executive produced the entire An Evening with Silk Sonic album, which won the 64th GRAMMY Awards.
D’Mile was immensely connected with Bruno Mars, who is also a producer, and found common ground in .Paak’s interest in former R&B originals by Michael Jackson, Donny Hathaway and Stevie Wonder. The stars finally aligned in 2020 when Anderson reached out to D’Mile about a collaboration.
“It took us two years to create the vision and we all love this era of music [that Silk Sonic is emulating]. That’s what we grew up with,” D’Mile recalled. “‘Smoking Out the Window’ was a song that Bruno and Anderson sat on for five years until the right time came. It feels like a blur because we had so much fun together.”
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