About Cory Rooney

For Cory, founding TLR Records is personal. He was born and raised in Jamaica, Queens NY to parents who had hit records in the 1960s as The Exciters (“Tell Him,” “Do-Wah-Diddy,” The Beatles’ first US tour). Writing and performing music with his parents and sister Tracy throughout his childhood and adolescence helped him to become an accomplished producer and songwriter (Mary J. Blige, Jennifer Lopez, Destiny’s Child, Michael Jackson, Mark Anthony, and Mariah Carey among many others). In fact, those are Tracy Lynn Reid initials that make up the label’s name.

The process of making music today is very different from when Cory started out. Many artists have melodies but lack the broad appeal and emotional pull of the ones he grew up listening to: Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson, and more. 

“Each individual artist put their personal soul into those records,” says Cory. “What happens to these legacy artists when they’re not young and marketable anymore to the current labels? Do we just let them fade away? No, we can’t do that. So, I wanted to do something that helped. I want to make sure their music and their legacy continues on.”

And TLR Records was born.

It’s about souls

How do you take stars from past decades and make sure their legacies are carried forward to today? It helps if you’re Cory Rooney.

Other record labels may look at an opportunity to work with past legends and choose not to engage, because they’re thinking about it as an outlay of cash, while they’re supporting a company payroll of thousands worldwide. They ask themselves if the world really needs another record from this artist. Cory believes there’s more at stake than money.

“We feel better when we hear those songs, and those songs stand the test of time. We get married to those songs; we graduate to those songs. We celebrate to those songs. We need those songs. Anyone asking that silly question is only looking at the math,” he says of anyone asking if a new record is necessary. “This is not about math. This is about souls.”

Cory puts his soul to work as well when working with these artists. Using his innate ability to make music, he invests his time with artists to work like a coach. For him, it’s not his vision for the artist that matters, but what new ground they can unlock together.

Finding a new approach for an artist with decades of history takes trust. As a musician himself, Cory can go into a studio and meet the artists where they are, in the language of music. “Some artists make the fatal mistake of trying to make a record that sounds more like the younger artists today.” He says, remembering examples in the last 20 years of great artists who left behind some of their authenticity when trying to refresh their career. “If someone’s trying to say something, but they want to make it feel a little younger, then I’ll help them do that in a way where it doesn’t make them look foolish.”

Good music and a good word

Cory sees his most important role as being the person in the studio that artists can talk to and feel like he goes beyond knowing what’s important to them, but truly understanding it. “I’ll sit at a piano, and they know ‘oh, this is not a beatmaker,’ says Cory. “You know, it’s the highlight of my career to be able to get the acceptance that I get from these guys.”

It’s a role he was literally born to play. Cory was 11 or 12 years old, practicing Vince Guaraldi’s “Linus and Lucy” (otherwise known as the theme from Peanuts) when a family friend remarked that the young man would grow up to be a piano man like his father. Without missing a beat, his father disagreed. “He said, ‘Nah, he’s not gonna be a piano man. He’s more of a producer.’ But she said, ‘Why do you think he’s not gonna be a piano player? He plays so well?.’ And even I said to myself  “What do you mean I’m not gonna be a piano player? I didn’t understand why he said that.” But he quickly answered, saying, “‘Well, he’s more of a producer. He sees the big picture. He can hire 10 piano players.’”

This new trajectory of his life led him to form a producer partnership with Mark Morales aka Prince Markie Dee of the legendary group The Fat Boys. Together they had great success, including writing and producing the career defining anthem “Real Love” for Mary J. Blige.  The two went on to have a fortuitous meeting with Tommy Mottola, then chairman of Sony Music Entertainment, which resulted in studio time with Sony’s biggest artists, helping to shape their enduring legacies.

Cory and TLR Records are set up to continue this tradition today.

“I have good music and a good word. That’s my gift. You know, someone else may have other gifts. That’s not what God gave me. God gave me music and a good word, that always comes straight from my heart. I’m grateful for those, and I’ve gotta share them both.”