Studio Talk: “Right Next To Me”

D-Varg and Matt Blaque are featured vocalists on the song "Right Next To me"


Right Next To Me is the lead-in track on our “January 16” album for a reason.  This song was composed to be a mover that brings fun into your 510JAZZ listening experience.  It’s the perfect anthem for dance parties and lively environments.  Matt Blaque’s stellar vocals carry the melodic component of this song while D-Varg’s rap storytelling is always on-point.

We’re delighted that this song is getting great airplay on radio stations around the world.

This blog post gives you a behind-the-scenes look at composing, arranging, recording and producing this superb song.

What They’re Saying

New Music Ear

“…The album opens with a medium paced Samba crossover with a big summery vibe.  It is a fun, bright and breezy number with hints of Michael Jackson (“Off The Wall” era) and Gloria Estefan’s Miami Sound Machine.  D-Varg’s rapping gives it an updated appeal to younger listeners who may not have heard music like this before…”

Andrew Goodwin
New Music Ear

Read the full album review

“Listeners LOVE the new single from 510JAZZ! “Right Next To Me” the sexy, smooth, bright bossa nova beat that will make you want to get up and dance!  It’s no wonder listeners across the globe are in love with this track.  Get your copy now in The Listening Loft

From Leadsheet to Hit Single

"Right Next To Me" features 5 exceptional Bay Area musicians

Our first samba original brought interesting challenges at every turn: establishing the form, composing the melody and hook, writing the verse, chorus and rap lyrics, recording the rhythm section, arranging the background vocals, adding the layers of latin percussion and electric guitar.  David and I couldn’t have successfully produced this song without the talent of 5 exceptional Bay Area musicians: Mark Rickey (keyboards), Tony Song (guitar), Charlie Channel (bass), Collette d’Almeida (drums) and Stan Muncy (latin percussion).

Building The Story

510JAZZ at Angelicas, February 17, 2018
I came up with the original storyline: a lively beachfront club where you go to be immersed in music and drink, surrounded by beautiful people, charged with adrenaline and dance.  The first verse came to me quickly, setting the stage for this story.  As with all whirlwind romances – there’s a storyteller and an elusive leading lady.  David ran with that, writing the lyrics for the second verse.  He quickly wrote twice the storyline for the rap verse that follows.  I find it amazing how these rap verses quickly build tension and then release.

I wrote the lyrics for the following verse, where our leading man’s head is spinning after his quick brush with this beautiful girl.  Before he knows it, he’s back in the game.  David uses rap to tell the story of how boy and girl develop their chemistry.

Improving The Form: Chorus and Turnarounds

"Right Next To Me" composed by John and David Vargas

Now we have the basic form for the song.  The fast-paced samba beat carried us through everything really fast, but something was missing – the hook!  David is a master of developing hooks.  He quickly came up with a simple but catchy chorus that we could use as an intro, then to keep things moving in the middle, and then again as an ending.  I thought our new form was perfect – but David was still composing.

David then took our instrumental interlude (8-bar acoustic guitar riff with unison scat-vocals) and wrote lyrics for it.  He transformed interlude 1 into an upbeat turnaround to keep the listener interested.  Then he wrote a brilliant storyline for interlude 2 which carries the listener into the final rap verse.  Tony’s guitar riff and scat-vocals layered with Matt Blaque’s vocals were just the ticket to keep the song moving.  Now we’ve got a story!

Melodic and Rap Vocals

When you bring Matt Blaque into the recording studio, he won’t let you close the session until he’s added a full library of vocal stabs and choral harmonies that the producer can use.  Matt is one of the finest R&B vocalists that I have ever met, and he has an incredible ability to arrange his own vocal harmonies.  Our session with Matt Blaque was truly magical.

David has a busy job here at 4Play Records.  He’s our producer and engineer – and he’s also our rapper.  That means that once he’s finally happy with the tracking, with the engineering and most of the mix – he can finally add his production rap vocals.  Working with David, I find him to be as rhythmically-tight as the drummer.  It’s amazing!  David replaced his scratch-vocals with the superb rap stylings that you hear in our commercial release.

The Rhythm Is Gonna Get You

Channeling legendary producers Sergio Mendes and Quincy Jones, we wanted our rhythm to be complemented with a lively latin percussion.  We brought percussionist Stan Muncy into the studio and he laid down the authentic latin vibe with cuica, samba whistle, shakers, agogo bells, cowbell and then triangle.  Once everything was in place, we decided to add in a breakdown starting with samba whistle and leading into Matt Blaque’s chorus.  We couldn’t resist adding Stan’s samba whistle at the very end of the song.  Stan’s percussion stylings conjure images of Carnaval in Rio, with people dancing in the streets to samba music.  Brilliant!

The Guitar Man

Many of my own compositions were inspired by legendary composer Antonio Carlos Jobim.   Jobim rendered many of his own songs playing the classic nylon-stringed acoustic guitar.  I wanted this song to contain this same rhythm foundation from start to finish.  Tony Song delivered.

When we were close to completion, David called The Guitar Man back into the studio with his electric guitar  Tony then came up with the staccato picking that you hear in the intro, interludes and ending.  Then he added color throughout the song with beautiful electric guitar accents.

What Do You Think?

We think that “Right Next To Me” is a real crowd-pleaser – but we want to get your input.  Why not buy the song and then tell us what you think on Facebook, Twitter or on our Website?  We’ve placed it in our online stores for you to enjoy:


You can also purchase the entire “January 16” album at the above stores – or you can buy the CD on our 4Play Records Music Store.

Recording The Album – The Gear

When it comes to recording music, a good musical performance is always key. Musicians should show up on recording day prepared and well rehearsed.  This usually is the formula to a successful take.

It has been a blessing to be the recording engineer for both 510JAZZ albums Bossa510 & January 16.  All our music was recorded digitally with microphones, mic and line cables, microphone preamps, audio interfaces,  an iMac computer, and Pro Tools.

In this post I’d like to highlight which audio interfaces I used for recording both 510JAZZ albums and why I chose to use them.  When recording 510JAZZ’s debut album Bossa510  we used two audio interfaces: the Universal Audio Apollo Twin Duo (thunderbolt) and the Focusrite Saffire Pro 40.


Universal Audio Apollo Twin Duo
Focusrite Saffire Pro 40

The main purpose of an audio interface is to take an analog audio signal that is captured from a microphone and convert it into a digital audio signal that can be routed into your computer.  The digital audio signal will get recorded in the computer by a DAW like Pro Tools (computer recording software).

At the time (2014-2015) the UA Apollo Twin was a new and very popular consumer audio interface.  It came with some of UA’s coveted plugins for mixing, so I knew I wanted to use it for recording our album.  The UA Apollo Twin was our master audio interface.  It contains two high quality microphone preamps and an optical input used to route in an additional 8 audio inputs.

These additional 8 inputs were supplied by the Saffire Pro 40 via an optical cable.  I must say the Saffire is a great interface that is reasonably priced and provides lots of versatility for recording and mixing.

This post is about recording… But if you did your math correctly, that gave me a total of 10 audio inputs for recording.  In 2015 (10) microphone inputs was more than enough for recording the core 510JAZZ band.

For the core 510JAZZ band; keyboard, electric bass, drums, and vocals, I was able to divide up the inputs.  I usually would dedicate 6 inputs to the drums, 1 input for electric bass, 2 inputs for keyboard, and 1 input for scratch vocals. I won’t get into microphone placement much on this post, but it did play a key part two shaping the sound of the band.

Once the microphones were in their desired positions, I would set my microphone preamp levels (input levels) via the gain knobs on the audio interfaces.  Gain staging at this level is really important, I learned from many sources that in the digital domain clipping the audio signal can be really destructive to your sound.  To combat clipping one can turn the gain knob down on the audio interface.  Clipping is usually indicated by a red LED indicator on the audio interface. Usually healthy levels for recording are indicated by green and yellow LED’s.

I learned so much from recording our first 510JAZZ album.  Fast forward to 2017 and recording our album January 16.  I wanted to get another audio interface to allow for recording more sources simultaneously.

When Universal Audio made the announcement about the Apollo Expanded  addition to their Console Software (which allows for the cascading of multiple UA Apollos) a lightbulb went off in my head.  This lightbulb visual was shortly followed by the classic “Cha-Ching” sound of cash register sounding off.  The UA Apollo interfaces are not cheap.  I found a great deal on the new Apollo 8 interface online and was able to get one for our studio!

Apollo Expanded


Universal Audio Apollo 8

The Apollo 8 became my master audio interface.  I was able to set it as the master interface in the UA Console Software.  Once I was up and running with all 3 audio interfaces (Apollo 8, Apollo Twin, Saffire Pro 40) I was able to record 18 inputs at once, yikes!

When recording the January 16 album this equated to more microphones on the drum kit – 8 total.  This allowed for our guitarist Tony to participate in all core 510JAZZ recordings.  I usually would dedicate 2 microphones to his guitar (electric or acoustic).  This was a great perk, but required so much more attention to detail.

I was up for the challenge and it really paid off.  I encourage anyone who is new to recording to start off with an audio interface that suits your recording needs and really get to know it.  When you are getting ready to expand you can think of an interface that would equip you for the occasion.

Be sure to listen to January 16 & Bossa510 by 510JAZZ.

Have fun, each day is a blessing.



David Vargas


Sound on Sound. Accessed 5 Sept. 2018.

Westlakepro. Accessed 5 Sept.

Pro Tools Expert.
universal-audio-introduces-new-apollo-expanded-software-powe.html. Accessed 5 Sept. 2018.

Universal Audio. Accessed 5 Sept. 2018.

“Song On The Radio”

This Week In Radio

We at 510JAZZ strive to reach out to terrestrial and Internet radio stations all over the globe – to tell them about our music.  We’ve been Blessed with very strong support from some of the best.

We’re delighted to see songs from our new album “January 16” playing on 21 stations this past week (August 25 to September 1).  Our most popular song is Right Next To Me (ft. D-Varg and Matt Blaque) followed by the song You’re Everything To Me (ft. Maya Victoria).  These stations have played several other songs from our January 16 album as well.  We’re thrilled to see this acceptance from our friends in radio.

We encourage you to check out these superb radio stations as they are playing the best in Smooth Jazz every day – including songs from 510JAZZ.  Look them up on your favorite search engine and click on their “Listen Live” link.

510JAZZ was heard on 21 radio stations during the week of August 27.

My Love For Radio

Ever think about the music that defined you as an adolescent?  Movies like That Thing You Do remind me of the excitement that artists and composers feel when their song gets played on radio – whether it’s that first radio spin – or several years later after thousands of spins.

I can’t help thinking about Al Stewart’s 1978 release Song On The Radio.  Every time I hear our music, it’s just like hearing Al Stewart’s hit single when I was a teen – pure magic!

Radio has sure changed since those days.  During that time we listened to the radio, fell in love with a song and then went to the store to buy a 45 or LP vinyl album, cassette or CD.  Then we would play it over and over on portable players, in the car and at home.  Radio was always the catalyst, for our love affair with music.

In 2018 music is available everywhere – as close as your smartphone, tablet, laptop or desktop computer.  The one thing that remains the same is that radio continues to be the catalyst that drive’s music lovers to seek out that song and “put it into rotation” (on their mobile devices, computer, etc).

Radio has changed in a big way.  We now listen to a mix of terrestrial radio and Internet radio.  We no longer need to purchase that physical album at the music store.  The list of radio stations is massive now, to where some of the best stations can only be found on the Internet.

The one common ground here is that every radio station has a presence on the Internet.  So if your favorite songs are only played on a station in Sao Paulo, Brazil or Galway, Ireland – you can listen from where you are, via their live stream.

The Internet has made the music world a much smaller place.

John Vargas

Interview With DrGlyn Reece of The Moth FM

On August 25, 2018, 510JAZZ’s John and David Vargas were interviewed by DrGlyn Reece on his show “Jazz and Coffee” on The Moth FM.

You can listen to this excerpt on our SoundCloud channel.

The Moth FM's DrGlyn Reece Interviews 510JAZZ

In this interview, you’ll hear selected songs from our new “January 16” album. We talk about songwriting, our musicians and more!

This excerpt is taken from “Jazz And Coffee” show S01 E23.

This interview was recorded live on The Moth FM on August 25, 2018. Permission to use this excerpt has been granted by The Moth FM.