Back before Fifth Harmony was born, before the world tours and two albums, Normani Kordei was a student at Key Innovations Music School, where Scott David became not only her vocal coach, but the person who would help her craft her artistic vision. In Houston, Kordei's mom sent her off to vocal lessons, where Normani and David would eventually prep for X Factor. From there, she caught Simon Cowell's attention, and, well, you know the rest: Fifth Harmony happened.
But now, with 5H whittled down to four singers after Camila Cabello left the group to go solo, the remaining members are trying to show their talents outside of the group. And to do that, Normani went back to where it all started—with Scott David.
Together with his cousin Tyce, David produces under the moniker The Invaders, the masterminds behind Normani's most recent mashups. In December, we heard her meld together Drake's "Fake Love" and "Sneakin'," and on Thursday, she dropped her version of Solange's "Don't Touch My Hair" and "Cranes in the Sky."
The Invaders, which infuses fashion, design and video into their work as well, also had their hand in Move In Psylence, a short video project that used Normani as their muse. Last December, they put together her cover of Tory Lanez's "Say It." Their other music credits include production for Dawn Richards, Ashley Roberts (of Pussycat Dolls) and Josh Levi (X Factor alum in new boyband Citizen Four), along with up-and-coming artists they're priming for recording contracts.
FUSE: Congrats on Normani's Solange mash-up! Have you been getting a lot of Harmonizer feedback?
Scott David: Yeah, it's kinda crazy 'cause I'm not used to it. You know, it's the kind of thing, like, I've been doing this for a while but I'm kind of secret about it. I tell Normani, you guys sound the same, I don't want anybody to really know. It's cool. I like it. It's fun to hear what they have to say and that they appreciate the hard work that goes into it. More importantly, they get to hear her.
A lot of the Fifth Harmony members are trying to show their own talents apart from the group. Was there any pressure with being involved this solo project to present Normani in a certain way?
It's natural to be nervous or have pressure but these girls know what they're doing. They all had solo ambitions before the group. Now they're in the group and they still have ambitions. Camila went her way, and she's doing what she needed to do, which is awesome, and I think the other girls, while they're continuing on, are going to too. Obviously, I'm close with Normani. I just wanted to show her in a different light. You only get to hear her in a fraction of a song. So, here you go. Here's a whole song.
I love what you did with the Solange mash-up. It's very minimalistic. Not crazy, over-the-top production. It's layering her voice over her vocals. It's a cool way to strip it back while also showing what she can do.
That's the point. I always said, "You know what, Mani? They don't ever get to hear you, so why put music?" I actually used no music. There's only drum and I just said, "All the music's gonna be your vocals."
Throughout the four and a half years of Fifth Harmony, fans are used to hearing these huge pop tracks, and I think now is the time to slow it down. I noticed Lauren [Jauregui] is doing the same with Marian Hill's "Back to Me."
Which is dope. They're used to hearing these giant songs that kids like to twerk to. It's cool they hear something that slows it down. You hear their voices. I think the fans want that. They've been screaming for, they tell us, "Oh, do this song," or "Cover this," or "Can we hear more R&B," "Can we hear more soul?" That's what we just wanted to give to them.
I see that you and Normani go way back because I creeped on your Instagram. How did you start working together?
I have a music school, so I develop artists. She was one of my first students that I had. I actually worked with her from what she looked like to her singing abilities to her dancing. Just develop every aspect. Her mom was like, "Let's do X Factor," and Normani was kind of indifferent about it. But we rehearsed, we practiced and she was on the show, and it was great because that's what launched her career.
I always tell her, "You know, it's a funny story. There'd kind-of-sort-of be no Fifth Harmony if it wasn't for me." Because she went up there and she sung a song that I didn't want her to sing. She sung like Mary J. Blige or something. I was like, "That's not the right song." And she ended up singing it first. I was like, "No, you need to sing Aretha Franklin's 'Chain of Fools' first." They give you a choice of song. And then Simon [Cowell] actually stopped her mid-performance of Mary J. Blige, and was like, 'No, what other songs do you have?' She went through the entire list until she got to the one she didn't want to do, which was Aretha Franklin, the one that Simon and L.A. [Reid] liked that got her through. I was like, "See? You should've listened to me because that was the first song I told you to do!"
That's crazy! Why didn't she want to do Aretha?
I think because it was a challenging song. It's a big song. "Chain of Fools." My cousin, she would always sing that song to me when I was younger. It resonated with me, like, 'That's gonna go well.' And I think she was just nervous. It's a big song, but she killed it. That's why they loved it. She has a presence. She has everything. It was one of those things where, I don't like to help people to sing, but I like to give them an artistry, so they could go and figure out how to make a song their own and craft it their own way. And that's what I think shows in the covers we've done.
So you've gotten to see everything!
I got to see everything, from Baby Harmony—I was at the shows—all the time. Definitely cool. From before they were even Fifth Harmony, they were LYLAS...
So I want to talk about The Invaders. On your website, you call it a collective. Who's working with you and how would you describe it?
[Me and my cousin] are the main Invaders. We have other people that come along and add their thing to it. We call it a collective. We're the main two that kind of created this thing where we love music, we love fashion, we love helping people brand and design and help them to become an artist, so basically, it's him and I that work with different people to create some cool stuff. We've collaborated with One Direction, Janet Jackson, Make-A-Wish Foundation, not always music but always involving something with music.
You even do your own web design!
We call it "the little one-stop shop." I'm based out of Houston and L.A. I call Houston "Little Motown." I have a house where—nobody in my neighborhood knows—but people just come to. I was inspired by that where they made those stars. I mean, massive stars came out of that one little house, and that's kinda what I try to do too.
So how did these recent projects come together with Normani?
When she is home in Houston, we're always together. We're working on stuff. In L.A., the same thing. We're always figuring out ways where we can get together while she's not touring or anything. She always makes time to call me even when she's not on the road. We just have that kind of relationship.
You'll be working on more stuff together on the future?
It's not "I hope so." It's "I know so." For sure.
Do you see more of this R&B stuff coming from Normani, or something new?
She's very experimental. I think R&B is her roots, but she's open to different things. She's open to collaborating with different people. Just branching out. So, yeah, R&B. I think you'll see a slight difference from what Fifth Harmony is doing.
Which personal projects are you excited for?
I have another artist, Josh Levi. He's on Island and Universal with another group called Citizen Four. I just have projects where I help them create an aspect of their artistry. Right now, the biggest thing I'm doing is taking myself, and putting myself out there as a day-to-day adviser/ manager, like, "You try this," "You do this particular thing." It's interesting because it's outside what I normally do with developing and I'm taking more of an active role in what they do. I have another artist that I'm entering into the Spanish market this year named Antony. That's my next biggest thing too.
Have you ever tried to do the solo artist thing yourself?
Once upon a time, there was a secret life... I always said I was going to be the next Usher. I kind of put what I have in the people I work with. A lot of what you see is a lot of what I feel. They project it and put their own ideas into it. So I still feel like you hear that secret artist in me.
Watch a throwback video of Little Mix and Fifth Harmony interviewing each other below: