Salaam Remi has been producing music for more than 20 years, but he says he's not mad that he's just earning the top producer nomination at the Grammy Awards.
Remi, best known for producing for Amy Winehouse, Nas and the Fugees, is nominated for non-classical producer of the year at Sunday's ceremony.
"If I never produce another record again — this is, 'OK, you've made it that far up the mountain, cool. Now you can really focus on other parts of your life,'" he said in a recent interview.
His musical resume heading to the Grammy voting period included Nas' critically acclaimed "Life is Good" album and Alicia Keys' R&B hit "Girl on Fire." He's also worked on latest albums from Miguel, Usher, Anthony Hamilton and Tamia.
Remi was named executive vice president of A&R and production at Sony Music Entertainment late last year. He says he's able to connect strongly with musicians because he challenges them when they are recording material.
"Part of my songwriting process is to push people to say, 'What do you really mean?' ...What's the headline here?" he said. "Artists get sick of me sometimes."
Remi produced several tracks on Winehouse's favored debut, "Frank." He played a large role on her critically revered, Grammy-winning "Back to Black" album, which also featured producer Mark Ronson. Sunday's Grammys will mark the second year the British singer has been nominated for a Grammy since she died in 2011. She won best pop duo/group performance last year with Tony Bennett for "Body & Soul," and this year she's up for best rap/sung collaboration with Nas for the jam "Cherry Wine."
Remi produced the 2011 Winehouse compilation album "Lioness: Hidden Treasures," and he said fans shouldn't expect too much new music from the late singer.
"Not much," he said of her unreleased material.
He added that he released "Lioness" for his own personal sake.
"Honestly I think it was part of me maintaining my sanity, just from how I was feeling at that moment. I needed to get that out so that at the end of 2011 I was able to say, 'Wow that was 2011.' Now in 2012, I'm in 2012. I can be here because that was 2011."
"I still miss her and look for her in my jokes," he added.
Remi's second nomination is for best R&B song for co-writing Tamia's "Beautiful Surprise." And albums by Miguel, Hamilton and Tamia — where Remi has produced several tracks — are competing in R&B album categories, though album's producers don't earn nominations there.
Remi says he's not willing to work with any musician, even if a lot of money is on the table.
"If I felt like it wasn't hitting me, you can offer me however much money you wanted to, it just wasn't going to happen," he said. "I've had the blessing of working with artists who make me step my game up."
Nas says Remi is "meticulous."
"He doesn't work with everybody, but the people who work with him, who really sit down with him, get great results. He really lives in the music," Nas said. "I think he's producing in his sleep. He's someone who really cares about the sound. He's really, really meticulous about everything that's in there, and it pays off because he really cares about what he's doing."
Remi's competition Sunday includes Markus Dravs (Mumford & Sons, Coldplay), Diplo (Usher, Santigold), Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys and fun. producer Jeff Bhasker, who also co-produced "Girl on Fire" with Remi.
"I think they did really big records this year," he said. "I try not to show up at a birthday party like it's my birthday; I'm just going to party."
The Grammys will air live from the Staples Center on CBS.
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