Alisah Bonaobra sings Vehnee Saturno: The making of a fresh, timeless ballad
To keep up with the kids, one must remain a kid at heart.”
In his 40 years on the music scene, Vehnee Saturno has composed countless classics for some of the country’s biggest artists. But despite his formidable body of work, the renowned songwriter and producer has never once felt that he could rest on his laurels.
The industry is constantly shifting. And it’s his duty, he said, to stay in the moment and in tune with what’s happening around him—from today’s pop stars and prevailing trends to the latest advancement in production and consumer platforms.
“Some writers my age feel they’re too old to learn new things. But you have to have the heart to adapt… I’m old-school. I started out when we marketed our music with physical records. But I have to study the digital market and streaming platforms,” he told the Inquirer in a virtual conference for “Kahit ‘Di Totoo,” the new single he wrote for singer Alisah Bonaobra.
“We have to accept the fact that we can’t go back to how things were. This is how the music industry operates now,” said Vehnee, who was behind some of the signature songs of stars like Martin Nievera (“Be My Lady”), Ariel Rivera (“Sana Kahit Minsan”), Jessa Zaragoza (“Bakit Pa”), Jaya (“Dahil Tanging Ikaw”), Sarah Geronimo (“Forever’s Not Enough”) and Regine Velasquez (“Isang Lahi”).
Excited to work
And today, nothing keeps Vehnee’s creativity stimulated than working with up-and-coming talents.
“I’m actually more excited when I work with artists who are younger … mas bagets. I research about them. I’m not the type of writer who just sticks to what I’m used to. If I need to produce a song that’s inspired by Ariana Grande, Justin Bieber, or something with a K-drama feel, I will do my research,” said Vehnee, who currently runs a namesake music production company.
For Vehnee, writing songs for a particular artist is like crafting bespoke suits and dresses.
‘Song is like clothing’
“As a songwriter, you can’t love your own work too much… We all have our signature styles, but if you don’t venture out, then that’s what you’re going to be doing forever. You have to be flexible. R&B and hip-hop aren’t my forte, but I can manage. I can do pop-rock or novelty if needed,” he said. “A song is like a piece of clothing, the singer should look good in it when he or she wears it.” For Alisah, Vehnee came up with a love ballad that sounds timeless, but still fresh-sounding. “The song is about a woman who already knows that his man is cheating on her, but still chooses to ignore it and pretends that the love is still there,” Alisah said of “Kahit ‘Di Totoo,” which was recently released under RJA Productions. “I was nervous at first because I’m not used to interpreting songs of heartbreak. But I managed to put myself in the story and emotions.”
While he can easily write songs on his own, it still helps, Vehnee said, if he gets to communicate and collaborate with the artist.
“It’s always good to talk to the artist, because she might have a particular concept in mind, which will help me a lot. When you have been writing songs for 40 years, it feels a bit repetitive. But if I hear ideas from the artists, the creative process becomes healthier,” he said. Alisah, who finished runner-up in “The Voice PH” Season 2 and competed in “The X Factor UK” season 14, used to perform “Isang Lahi” at amateur singing competitions. She had also auditioned for talent searches where Vehnee sat as one of the judges. So to record a song by him, Alisah said, is a huge honor.
“I feel so thankful and blessed. Now, I can say that I have been given a chance to be a part of his history as a songwriter,” related Alisah, who was described by Vehnee as an “underrated” vocalist worthy of more opportunities to showcase her talent. “This is a dream come true as a music artist. It’s an answered prayer.”
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