Exposé Creator-Songwriter-Producer Lewis Martineé

by Carl Wiser

On making dance hits like "Point Of No Return," and the story behind the #1 ballad "Seasons Change" (it's not a breakup song).

Exposé on the cover of their second album (L-R): Jeanette Jurado, Gioia Bruno, Ann CurlessExposé on the cover of their second album (L-R): Jeanette Jurado, Gioia Bruno, Ann Curless
Long before EDM went from the clubs to the pop charts, the Cuban-born Lewis Martineé crafted a Freestyle dance sound that dominated the late '80s. Exposé, the group he assembled (then re-assembled - more on that later), was his vessel. The trio was signed to Arista Records, whose boss, Clive Davis, heard a hit sound in the beats Martineé was crafting from his Miami studio. Their first album, Exposure, made them the first artist to chart four Top 10 hits from their debut album: "Come Go With Me," "Point Of No Return," "Let Me Be The One" and the #1 "Seasons Change." Their next album had three more: "What You Don't Know," "When I Looked At Him" and "Tell Me Why." All were written and produced by Martineé.

Dance music fell out of fashion in the '90s, mortally wounded by grunge and gangsta rap. Exposé released their third and final album in 1992, shifting their sound to anodyne adult contemporary. Martineé did some production work on it, but the hits came from Diane Warren, who wrote "I'll Never Get Over You Getting Over Me," "As Long As I Can Dream," and "In Walked Love" (another single, "I Wish The Phone Would Ring," was written by Michael Jay and Marvin Morrow).

In this interview, Martineé explains how he put together some of Exposé's biggest hits and talks about how DJ culture has evolved since the '80s.
Carl Wiser (Songfacts): I'm trying to figure out, Lewis, how you go about creating a song.

Lewis Martineé: There are different ways. You can start with a beat or you can start with the melody or you can start with a title. Sometimes I've thought of a title or seen a title and then wrote a song around that. Sometimes I come up with the melody and then put the chords after that. Sometimes I put the chords and then put the melody.

So, there's really no one way of doing it. I've even done songs in my dreams: something I've never heard of but I'm hearing it in my dream, so when I wake up I sing it into my phone.

Songfacts: Let's take a specific song and figure out how you did it. "Point Of No Return" – how did you even begin doing that song?

Martineé: That one started out with the title. I just liked the title "Point Of No Return," so I decided to write a song around that. Then I started coming up with the beats and the synthesizer lines and then both melody and words. I wrote that song so fast it was crazy, like, literally 15 minutes. But then I didn't like the bridge and I changed it. I'm glad I did because the bridge actually came out really good at the end.

Songfacts: Yeah, that bridge is a nice little piece of songwriting. Can you elaborate on what kind of equipment you used and how you came up with that signature beat that became so popular?

Martineé: Yes. That was done with one keyboard, the Prophet-5, and a Sequential Circuits drum machine called Drumtraks. So, every sound in that song was done with one keyboard and a guitar. The guitarist is a friend of mine named George Finess from another band I worked with.

Songfacts: Then you've got the backing vocals. You hear a lot of that these days, but you were one of the first to throw in those chant-like vocals in songs.

Martineé: Yeah. For the chants I got everybody in the studio to come up to the mic and just start chanting, so it sounded like a big crowd. That was an on-the-spot little idea.

Songfacts: It sounds like you could get the bones of a song with just your synthesizer.

Martineé: Well, what I had at the time was a little 8-track studio, so I did the demo there and it sounded good, so I paid to go to a professional studio and record the song to where it's sonically viable. This is pre-ProTools and digital recording, so if you wanted to sound good you had to go to a professional studio. You don't have to do that anymore. Now, with just a computer and a ProTools box or Neve box, you can record and it will sound excellent.

Songfacts: You are also a lyricist, which not a lot of beat makers can do, and oftentimes you're writing from a female perspective because it's women singing your lyrics. Is that a challenge?

Martineé: Sometimes, yes, because I have to think of what they would think. I have written for males too. I wrote for Jermaine Stewart, Jermaine Jackson, other male artists. But since I put a girl group together I got a lot of girl offers.

Songfacts: Did you have something specific in mind for "Point Of No Return"?

Martineé: No, it's just a little song about loving somebody to the point of no return. It's like The Beatles said, it's a love song.

Songfacts: What did you think when Nu Shooz came out with a song of that exact same title?

Martineé: They might have written it before they even heard mine. I never talked to them so I don't know how they came up with their song and if they heard mine before theirs. A lot of times, I've written a song with a certain title and then there's a song on the radio with the same title. Man, how did that happen? So, it could be a coincidence.

Songfacts: But you weren't stark raving mad or anything?

Martineé: No, no, not at all. It's a totally different song. They didn't bite anything off of my song, so I never saw it in that way at all.

Songfacts: In addition to composing and producing the whole track, you also assembled the group Exposé and released the song on your own label. How did you get the song played?

Martineé: The funny thing is, I'm usually working on a bunch of different songs, and to me it just sounded like another song of mine, because if you have four kids you love them all the same, so each song is my baby. But this song, "Point Of No Return," people kept telling me, "Man, this song sounds great," so I thought maybe I was on to something. I decided to put it on vinyl and take it to all the club DJs from West Palm to Homestead [Florida].

Then, a month later, I'd walk into a club, they'd play the song and people would jump and scream. I thought, my friends were right.

Then radio started playing it because it was playing so heavily in the clubs. I didn't have to do any payola - they just started playing it.

Songfacts: Is "Point Of No Return" the song that got you the record deal with Arista?

Martineé: Yes. Here's what happened. Dave Jurman, who used to work for dance promotions in Arista, his parents lived in Fort Lauderdale or Boca, so every year he would come down and spend his vacation time here. He says, "I got to Florida and I'm hearing this song in every club and I'm hearing it on the radio station, and I'd never heard it before."

At that time we used to put our phone number on the records, so he called me. He took it back to one of the high-ranking people in Arista, and then Clive Davis had to sign off on it. We met Clive Davis and we released our second single ["Exposed To Love"], and then he approved the album. Clive Davis was always a sweetheart, a super nice person - very warm, very knowledgeable. And when I took him "Seasons Change," he said, "Yeah, this is the one." And he was basically the only one that saw that, and he was right. That went to #1.

Songfacts: I guess it kind of seems obvious now but back then you wouldn't have heard that as a hit song.

Martineé: It was just a ballad.

Songfacts: It was a ballad with these dance music influences in it, but it wasn't something you were hearing on the radio.

Martineé: Yeah, that was different.

Songfacts: You were talking about how you had to make the lyric from a female perspective, and that's a pretty deep song with some pretty deep thoughts. Can you talk about coming up with the lyric to that song and how you put it together?

Martineé: "Seasons Change" is about growing old with someone, spending your life with someone. "Seasons change, I'll sacrifice tomorrow to have you here today." It's about being with that person forever. That was one of my favorite songs that I've ever written.

Songfacts: It's not a heartbreak song? I always got the sense that she was trying to justify this breakup in the song.

Martineé: No, it wasn't about a breakup.

Songfacts: I believe you have some horns going on in it. Can you talk about how you integrated horns and live instruments into that song and some of your other tracks?

Martineé: I wanted to have a sax player, so I got the best sax player in Florida, who I think is one of the best in the world, Steve Grove. And I used the same guitarist, George - he's one of my favorite guitar players. I was looking to put more elements rather than just keyboards in a dance song, although on almost every dance song I put live guitar.

In the second album I used a lot more live instruments. Horns and strings and things like that.

Songfacts: Were you involved at all in the music videos?

Martineé: No, the label took care of that. They hired the directors and they would OK the process. The label usually runs with the promotional tools that they feel are going to be good to promote the music.

It was 1984 when Martineé pressed copies of "Point Of No Return" and circulated them to clubs in Florida. At this point, the group was called X-Posed and had a lineup of Alejandra Lorenzo (who sang lead on the track), Laurie Miller, and Sandeé Casañas. When they signed with Arista in 1985, they changed the name to Exposé and gave "Point Of No Return" a proper release. In April, it went to #1 on the Dance chart. Their next single was "Exposed To Love," issued later that year. It reached #12 on the Dance chart, and in 1986, Exposé started work on an album.

During the sessions, Lorenzo, Miller, and Casañas all left the group, so Martineé went looking for replacements. He first brought in Jeanette Jurado from Los Angeles, who started working on the album and became their primary lead vocalist. Next came Gioia Bruno, who was singing in a Miami show band, and then Ann Curless, a University of Miami graduate who performed in cover bands.

When the album was released, it was with the original version of "Point Of No Return," but when Arista decided to issue that song as a single, they had the new Exposé record it, with Jurado on lead.
Songfacts: Was the group that signed with Arista different than the original group?

Martineé: Some people don't realize that "Point Of No Return" came out in '84 with one singer (Aléjandra Lorenzo), then we released "Exposed To Love," "Come Go With Me," and then re-released "Point Of No Return" in '87 with another singer (Jeanette Jurado).

Songfacts: Which implies that the singers are somewhat interchangeable. You could use different voices and different girls, and nobody's going to know the difference.

Martineé: Yeah, and that's kind of what they do now. DJs, even though they put their names on them, there's different singers on every record. Instead of calling it Exposé, I wish I would have called it Martineé. And then Martineé would be the famous name now.

Tiesto, he did a song and instead of calling it a group name he called it Tiesto.

Songfacts: As the guy who created the songs, you were able to switch out the whole group and it still worked. Everybody knew the Exposé name but nobody would have recognized them on the street or known any of their names.

Martineé: Yeah. Once the videos got real popular that's when they started getting recognized. We released "Point Of No Return" with just a little video that we did before we signed it to Arista, with the original three girls, and then we did "Exposed To Love" with the original three girls, and then we did "Come Go With Me" with the new three girls, and then that's when Arista started doing professional videos.

Songfacts: Can you talk about writing "Come Go With Me"?

Martineé: "Come Go With Me"? That's a funny song because I actually wrote it for Gioia [Bruno] to sing. It became a hit so I'm glad that we kept it.

I don't remember exactly how I came up with the song. Like usual, I was writing two songs at the same time, and "Come Go With Me" had a different verse than what you hear on the final product. I took that verse, wrote a different chorus called "Feel The Need" and that ended up going to Jermaine Jackson. And then I took "Come Go With Me" and wrote a different verse and then I put that with Exposé.

Songfacts: Lyrically you have a talent for coming up with stuff that is universal, like that whole theme of "Come Go With Me." It's like, "Let's just get away." And "Let Me Be The One" is similar. Is that something you had in mind when you wrote your lyrics?

Martineé: When I'm writing, I don't really think about it. I want to write something that's good, so I end up with "Let Me Be The One," a love song, and "Come Go With Me," more like a fun dance song. Once I've set on what kind of a storyline I'm going to take, then the lyrics start to take shape.

Current lineup of Exposé (L-R): Gioia Bruno, Ann Curless, Jeanette JuradoCurrent lineup of Exposé (L-R): Gioia Bruno, Ann Curless, Jeanette Jurado
Songfacts: You don't tend to start your songs with the chorus, you tend to introduce the story right away.

Martineé: Yeah, there are a few songs on the album that I think I start with the chorus, but since those weren't singles, people don't know about them. I think "Extra Extra" starts with the chorus. Those tend to be a little longer, and if it's too long radio won't play it, so one way to get into it is get right into the verse and then the chorus and then the verse and then the chorus. Then you're done.

Songfacts: The Exposé song "Tell Me Why," from the second album, seems to have some social commentary in it. What's the story behind that one?

Martineé: I was watching the news and there were a lot of gang fights and murders and things like that, so I wanted to write something about it. Like, why do it?

Songfacts: I'd like to get your thoughts on how we got from the Freestyle sound you helped create to electronic dance music.

Martineé: Music is always changing. There's a little something that you add and then it becomes something else and then you change the beat and you go from a broken dance beat to a straight 4/4 beat, which is more of the EDM now. So, EDM came a little bit more out of House. Freestyle branched out into House and then House branched out into EDM. So, I guess it just evolved.

Songfacts: What were you doing in the '90s?

Martineé: I was doing a lot of House music in the '90s. I was working mainly with Elvis Crespo. He was doing live songs and then I was turning them into House songs, and that's what made him able to cross over. I was also writing his lyrics in English because he didn't speak English at the time. Now, he speaks good English. So, I was writing his lyrics and then teaching him how to sing in English.

Songfacts: Were you also a DJ back in the '80s, like going to clubs and spinning records?

Martineé: Oh, yeah. I played in some of the clubs here in Florida - Fort Lauderdale and Miami.

Before I DJ'd I was in a band, and then I started DJ-ing in house parties. The first club I went to, I had to take my own equipment because there was no equipment there. I DJ'd there for a few months and it just grew from there.

But I started putting beats over the music and then, one time, a producer came by and I put some beats over his music and he said, "Why don't you come do it in the studio?" So I started doing what I was doing in my house, in the studio.

I was doing it on two reel-to-reel tape machines. I would set up on reel-to-reel to play the song and then go to a mixer, then hook a mic and add in my own percussion to it or add in a synth or something, then record it onto the other reel-to-reel and play it off the reel-to-reel at the club.

So that's how I started going into studios and learning how to engineer and record and make music and all that stuff. But it all came easy because I was a drummer in a band and also a percussion player before that.

Songfacts: Which helps you with the whole live instrumentation, knowing how to integrate it into the electronic sound.

Martineé: That's it.

Songfacts: Gotcha. The DJ thing really has a lot of connection to the producer thing. These days they're kind of one and the same, where the DJ is the star of the show, but back in the '80s you would be billed as Lewis Martineé and you would be playing your own beats, but you wouldn't be the star, the music would be.

Martineé: No, the club would be the star. You can go to the club and that DJ was good, but you were going there because of the club, not because of the DJ. I have friends that would come over and over to see me because they got to know me, but it wasn't like now. Now the DJ is a rock star.

But DJ-ing helps you see what people like and what turns the people on, and why people will get on the dance floor if you put on a certain beat, and why they come back on the dance floor for another one. So, you're kind of like, "Oh, let me do that on this song I'm working on. Let me fix it." So that would be a great help. I would sometimes be mixing a song in the studio and then take a reel-to-reel and see the crowd reaction, then make adjustments and finish the record.

Songfacts: You produced "Domino Dancing" for the Pet Shop Boys, who have a very signature sound. How did that come about and how did you approach it?

Martineé: EMI contacted me because I did a song with The Voice In Fashion called "Only In The Night" that was on EMI, and the Pet Shop Boys liked the sound. They told the label, "We want to work with whoever's doing these beats."

So, that's how that came about. Those guys were great. They're such a nice duo. They were awesome to work with.

Songfacts: The third Exposé album, you were involved in it but they brought in Diane Warren to write all these different kind of songs. What was going on there?

Martineé: Well, they wanted more diversity in the songs and stuff like that. I'm not going to get in the way of the label doing what they think is right, so I was very accommodating and said, "Sure, no problem, let's do it."

Songfacts: That was very good of you. What did you think of all these songs?

Martineé: I like the songs. I think they're very good. Diane Warren writes an incredible song.

Songfacts: Were you concerned at all that the band name Exposé would be pronounced "expose" because the accent mark wouldn't be rendered?

Martineé: Yeah. Actually, the label was more concerned about that.

Originally it was X-Posed, and the label said, "Why don't we change it to Exposé?" And I went, "Sounds good to me."

But it was originally called X-Posed, which is why I came up with "Exposed To Love." That song I wrote just because of the name of the group.

Songfacts: So the label made you change it over to Exposé.

Martineé: Yeah. I think that was a little risqué. Now it's not a big deal.

Songfacts: I remember seeing Exposé at radio showcases in the '90s and they would perform to a track. Is that the way it always was?

Martineé: No, only in the beginning. Before the first album was released it was what we call a "track act" - they perform live to an instrumental track. And that's also because the money that was being commanded wasn't a lot, so you couldn't fly six band members, three girls, the manager. You'd lose money every time you do a show. But then once the album came out and we were able to charge more, it was a live band for a few years. Totally live band. Very good live band, actually.

Songfacts: How do you, with a live band, re-create that sound on stage?

Martineé: The bass player and the keyboard would play live, and then the guitar would mimic what was done in the record. The drummer would play the beats close to the original.

Songfacts: You couldn't do that with one of the more modern songs, like something you'd be working on lately. Seems like it'd be too dense to actually re-create with live instruments.

Martineé: No, you would incorporate the live instruments but you would sequence the whole show and it would sound pretty much exactly like the record.

Songfacts: Did you fall victim to any of the temptations that came with being young and wildly successful in Miami?

Martineé: No, not me. I was always in the studio. They called me Studio Rat. Seven days a week, 16 hours a day. One of the few times I took a vacation it was hilarious. I hadn't taken a vacation in I don't know how many years, and I go on a vacation, a week cruise, I come back on the day of Hurricane Andrew.

Songfacts: That'll teach you to take a vacation.

Martineé: For the first time ever they told everybody to just get off the boat.

Songfacts: Can you talk about the kind of work you do now?

Martineé: Yes. I'm doing dance tracks, also some chill-out music, and most of the time I'm putting my name - DJ Expo or DJ Martineé or Martineé - plus the artist. Then I also have some new artists I'm working with.

February 4, 2022

Further Reading:
Taylor Dayne
DC Glenn of Tag Team
Desmond Child

More Songwriter Interviews

Comments: 1

  • J.d. from CaliforniaGreat interview...Mr. Martineé's songs are so fun. I still enjoy them after all these years!
see more comments

Editor's Picks

Donald Fagen

Donald FagenSongwriter Interviews

Fagen talks about how the Steely Dan songwriting strategy has changed over the years, and explains why you don't hear many covers of their songs.

Mike Campbell

Mike CampbellSongwriter Interviews

Mike is lead guitarist with Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, and co-writer of classic songs like "Boys Of Summer," "Refugee" and "The Heart Of The Matter."

Lace the Music: How LSD Changed Popular Music

Lace the Music: How LSD Changed Popular MusicSong Writing

Starting in Virginia City, Nevada and rippling out to the Haight-Ashbury, LSD reshaped popular music.

Kerry Livgren of Kansas

Kerry Livgren of KansasSongwriter Interviews

In this talk from the '80s, the Kansas frontman talks turning to God and writing "Dust In The Wind."

Glen Phillips of Toad the Wet Sprocket

Glen Phillips of Toad the Wet SprocketSongwriter Interviews

The "All I Want" singer went through a long depression, playing some shows when he didn't want to be alive.

Into The Great Wide Open: Made-up Musicians

Into The Great Wide Open: Made-up MusiciansSong Writing

Eddie (played by Johnny Depp in the video) found fame fleeting, but Chuck Berry's made-up musician fared better.