Like a rabbit from a hat, MAGIC! appeared out of nowhere, a mysterious band whose first single, “Rude,” shot to No. 1 and sold double-platinum in Canada, and got played everywhere across the country – on the radio, in retail outlets, restaurants, bars, and so on. MAGIC! turned out to be a band of songwriting Canadians based in Los Angeles.
Frontman Nasri Atweh is one-half of the songwriting/producing duo The Messengers (with Adam Messinger), whose credits include Chris Brown, Justin Bieber, Christina Aguilera, and most recently Shakira, whose current album includes the song “Cut Me Deep,” co-written by and featuring MAGIC!.
Messinger co-produced the band’s debut album with them, and co-writes songs, alongside Atweh, guitarist Mark Pelli, drummer Alex Tanas, and bassist Ben Spivak.
“Every song is different,” says main songwriter/lyricist Atweh. “Sometimes I’ll write with Mark; sometimes I’ll write by myself; sometimes I’ll write with Adam, but it stays within the five of us.”
“I knew people would like ‘Rude,’ I just didn’t know it would change our lives.” – Nasri Atweh of MAGIC!
Atweh moved to L.A. with Messinger in 2007 to write songs professionally and produce. The duo welcomed fellow Torontonians relocating for the same reasons, and Atweh even let Pelli stay at his apartment, where they immediately began co-writing. “He was playing this reggae groove one day,” says Atweh, “and I said, ‘Dude, I’ve always had this idea of starting a band that was almost like a modern-day Police. I think me and you can do it.’ That was the start.”
That riff became “Stupid Me,” which is on the album. “Mama Didn’t Raise No Fool,” another older, Police-inspired song, also made the cut. Now it’s much more than an idea. MAGIC! is signed to Latium Entertainment/Sony International, and has blown up in Canada, Australia and New Zealand, all on the strength of “Rude.”
“The MAGIC! album is an introduction to our sound, but also to the way I’ve conducted my love life and the way that I view the world,” says Atweh of the difference between MAGIC! songs and the ones he writes for others. Musically, 70 percent is reggae, another 30 percent is rock-soul, “but with reggae in it.”
Atweh says “Rude” was originally a darker song about an ex- girlfriend, before it turned into a dig at a fictional future father-in-law. “Little Girl” and “Paradise” he calls “quirky,” while “How Do You Want To Be Remembered?” and “Let Your Hair Down” have a deeper Bob Marley & The Wailers influence.
To have a No. 1 hit with a first single has been a crazy experience. “Now, as a professional songwriter, I know the value of a song,” he says. “I know it’s super-catchy, but I didn’t expect [to reach] so many different age groups… I knew people would like it, I just didn’t know it would make us any money or change our lives the way it has.”
Discography: Album title/date TBA
Publisher: Sony/ATV Music Publishing Canada
SOCAN members since 2011(Tanas), 2004 (Spivak), 2001 (Atweh), 1998 (Messinger, Pelli)
- At press time, the “Rude” video had reached 8 million YouTube views
- “Rude” has charted at No. 2 in Australia and sold more than 200,000 copies
- MAGIC! wrote a song for the FIFA 2014 World Cup compilation called “This is Our Time (Agora e’ a nossa hora)”