Producer Jeff Bhasker faced a daunting task several months ago. After having worked with Kanye West and winning Grammy Awards for producing Mark Ronson’s “Uptown Funk,” and Fun.’s 2012 album “Some Nights,” he had to decide whether to take on a new project: the debut solo album of One Direction member Harry Styles.
“I’d just had a baby, and I was kind of like, ‘Eh, I don’t know if I’ll jump into this,‘” Bhasker tells Variety. He agreed to have Styles come over to “just talk,” and proceeded to put him through the Bhasker home sniff test. “My dog tends to bite people, and he was kind of scoping Harry out,” Bhasker explains. Styles “did this move — like a little shoot the gun with his finger, and my dog walked over and started licking his finger. That’s when I was, like, ‘This guy has something special.'”
Once music came into the mix, Bhasker was sold. “He started playing references of what he wanted to do, which sounded like a cool rock band. I got it, and could see where if we pulled this off, it would be one of the coolest things ever. But he needed a buddy who plays guitar like he’s Keith Richards.” The insinuation being: Styles is the Mick Jagger in this scenario.
Adds Bhasker: “I’m so proud of the album itself, and also of Harry for being so brave, and committing 100%, and writing the kind of vulnerable lyrics that he wrote, and not pandering to what people thought he would do. People have no idea that this is what Harry Styles is like. Just like I didn’t know. He’s obviously very famous and beloved, but people don’t know the depths of what an amazing personality and artist he is.”
Variety spoke with Bhasker about the recording of “Harry Styles” ahead of the album’s May 12 release: