i. perfect places, lorde; ii. 13, lany; iii. somebody you found, the japanese house; iv. strangers, halsey; v. chanel, frank ocean; vi. broken clocks, sza; vii. shadow, wild nothing; viii. what a pleasure, beach fossils; ix. genesis, grimes; x. let my baby stay, amandla stenberg; xi. the louvre, lorde; xii. relax, fyfe; xiii. lovetrap, soko +more
I didn’t grab the opportunity. Fun had a hit; “We Are Young”
took off [in 2012], and it happened very quickly because it was on the
heels of a TV spot. The next day, every publisher called. This was right
before the age of everyone moving to L.A. to be a pop songwriter. Right
away, I was able to get into the bottom level of [writing] rooms, and
I’m learning right away how people are doing things. Everyone wants
hits. But we weren’t trying to make a hit with “We Are Young.” I don’t
sit at home all day and write and produce songs. I do it because I love
it. So it was weird at first, but now it’s gotten good. I’ve worked with
Carly Rae Jepsen, Sara Bareilles, Tegan and Sara, Grimes, Taylor,
Lorde—that’s what I want to do. I love working with women.
Why do you think you work so well with women?
I don’t know. All emotions aside, I write a full octave
above where I sing. I think about Kate Bush and those registers when I’m
writing, because I always imagine that vocals should be dancing on top
of the track. There’s just a lot of melodic DNA that works better for
women than men. And most of my favorite artists are women—outside of all
the things I said about Bruce.
Also, my experiences with
men and music have been in this really macho, intense, high-octane
environment. I don’t want to categorize something that’s more
specifically female, but I will say that, in my experience, the women
that I’ve worked with have been more interested in talking about what’s
gone wrong in our lives, quietly putting it to a piano, and then
eventually making it into this big thing.
I only have sisters. I
always want to hear women sing my songs. I just want to be around women.
It’s not a sex thing—I’m heterosexual, but it’s not coming from any
place like that. It’s just a comfort thing. And my studio presence isn’t
bombastic, which is funny because some of the songs are. But I like to
be calm. I guess I could go way deeper into certain conversations I’ve
had with my analyst about not being a certain kind of man that other men
think is enough of a man.
There is an archetype of the modern male producer/songwriter, like Dr. Luke, as an all-powerful figure.
It’s a position of power,
but this is work where there is no power—songwriting is the most
powerless, saddest, sit-there-and-pray-it’s-going-to-come-to-you
experience, you fucking Little Mermaid-style poor unfortunate soul.
You sit in a room for two years and make noise until it comes. You work
on something for six months, and then you go to take a shower and in
six minutes you have a better idea.
When I’m working with artists, there’s no power struggles,
no “I got the fucking answer, I have these hits so I’m the shit.” I hate
that, and I can’t be around it, because if I’m around it, it’s like
someone coming into your house and taking a piss on the floor. I can’t
write a song with someone who feels that way. This is my work. This is
my very safe place.
How can you say there’s no power in writing songs with
someone like Taylor Swift, who’s one of the biggest musicians around.
There’s an enormous amount of power in that.
But there’s not. She just sits there in the same place
you’re sitting, and we just talk about songs and Joni Mitchell. I mean, I
won’t name names but I’ve met many other people in her position who I
decided to not make music with because when we were sitting here, they
were that person who wielded a lot of power. I felt there wouldn’t have
been an opportunity for us to create. I have absolutely no disrespect
for anyone else but, for me, making music is so private and personal. So
if a popstar came in this room and was like, “Well, I’ve done this,
this, and this, so I’m right,” then why are we here? I’ll just keep
doodling in my journal.
How do you decide who to work with?
If I ever work with someone else, all that I think about is: Do you want to make the best album you’ve ever made in your life, or not? And if there’s even a hesitation, then go on your greatest hits tour.