Written by Brittany Shawnté
Continuing to keep the spotlights coming!As always, if you are or know of artists, producers, designers, etc., that should be featured on The Spotlight, email me at BrittanyShawnte@gmail.com!
Today, on the blog, we have McCro Music Group! Founded by producers Darnell McCro and Don Vanhorn, who I had the great pleasure to speak with for a while.McCro Music Group is dedicated to catering to the artists, not just being beatmakers.
Read up on how these two talented and humble producers got their start in music, how they first connected, and where they hope to take McCro Music Group in the future!
Darnell’s family had a background in different aspects of music, so it wasn’t a surprise that Darnell himself gravitated toward music at a young age. “I didn’t even really know what a ‘passion’ was back then,” he stated. “I just knew that I loved music.” When he was eight years old, the producer asked his parents for a Casio keyboard from Toys R Us, which was the start of his journey. His mother obliged to keep him busy and out of the streets. From listening to artists like Brian McKnight and Alicia Keys among others, Darnell began to play music by ear, trying to mimic their sounds. In highschool, he really branched out into playing the piano and singing, honing his craft under one of his teachers, and even teaching other students to play! Under a mentor, Darnell began to experiment with different sounds, working with production software, inspired to create his own sound rather than copy others. “I just kept tweaking the sounds and melodies here and there, and before you know it, I had a track,” he said.
Don got his start in music much later in life. He was more into sports in his teen years, but still always had an interest in music. During college, he played football his first year, but decided to get involved in another program that caught his eye. “It was this program called ‘Studio Recording Technology,’ and I said, ‘Let me just try that,” he acknowledged. “[I] tried it, and fell in love with it.” At around 21, Don snagged an internship at Sony Records working under songwriter/record producer Cory Rooney, who’s worked with a multitude of artists including Mary J. Blige, R. Kelly, Jennifer Lopez, andDestiny’s Child. “I was up under his wing basically, meeting everybody and doing records with everybody,” Don reminisced. After a deal fell through with another music group, the producer was “music-less” for about a year and a half. A year later, he met Darnell at a party in the club, and instantly connected. Between the two of them, they have worked with August Alsina, Bruno Mars, Dipset, Austin Brown, and more, and have signed their first artist, Eli Smith.
Inspired by producers like Timbaland and Rodney Jerkins, Darnell got the idea to start an in-house production team like he saw Timbaland when he worked with SBI (Surrounded By Idiots). “Also, one of my former partners, he had formed a music group,” Darnell stated. “And he was giving me insight on what to do if I really want to succeed behind the scenes and on the scene.” So it was his goal then to form a team of team players who wanted to see each other grow and be successful in this industry. Don V was the first producer that Darnell teamed up with, after they shared their credentials and Don emailed him some music to check out. “I already pretty much had the studio equipment and stuff like that. I just needed the workers,” Darnell said. “And the first beat he sent me, it was fire! It was a go.” They began to share ideas, and acquired all the right credentials to make sure the group was ready to do business. “We have a quote,” Darnell said. “It started with a vision, became a plan, and the plan transitioned to reality.”
The pair realize that that a lot more goes into their calling than some may realize. “Our job as producers is to bring the artists’ imagination and creativity to the white light,” Darnell said of the group. “It’s much more responsibility when you use that word ‘producer.'” Both Darnell and Don scout and work closely to build classic music and bonds with artists, not just creating beats and selling it off. “I would like to see not just me, Don and the company grow, but I want to be able to build and work with multi-talented, phenomenal artists who just have that it factor, who’s really serious about going somewhere and not just talking about it,” Darnell stated.
These guys have undeniable talent and passion, but what impressed me the most about them was their hustle, humility, and appreciation for music. They work their regular 9-to-5s, raise their children, and head to the studio to put in work. It’s all about scheduling for them both, but they make it work as they hustle to make producing their full-time jobs. We talked for a while about how there’s some major misconceptions about what’s it like working in the industry. Everyone thinks it’s a glamorous and rich lifestyle, based on what they see maybe on reality TV, but that’s wrong most of the time. There may be glamorous moments, but it’s hard to make it out here, and a lot of us, regardless of what role we play, are grinding above and beyond every day to make a name for ourselves in this industry. “What people don’t see is the struggle,” Darnell admitted. “You need to have a mentality for this business, and you gotta pray.”
Currently, Darnell and Don are working with artists from all over, and attending music events to take them to the next level! They are also networking with people who can put them in good positions in this industry, while still keeping their same character, being humble, and not being afraid to ask for help. In the end, McCro Music Group is about making timeless music that will make a difference in people’s lives. “My partner and I want our legacy to inspire people, especially young black people,” Don said in a previous interview. “We want people to know that whatever you set your mind to, you can do it. You have to work not only hard but smart.”
You can hear more from McCro Music Group on Soundcloud and Facebook. You can also connect with Darnell and Don individually online (Darnell- Twitter & Instagram/ Don V- Twitter/ Instagram). Support these talented producers!