Interview: Jeff Bhasker
Wed, 23 Jan 2013 18:07:30
Jeff Bhasker stands out as one of the best producers in the game right now. He's worked with everyone from Alicia Keys to The Rolling Stones. Currently, he's up for three Grammys this year for collaborating with Fun. including "Album of the Year" for Some Nights and "Record of the Year" and "Song of the Year" for the smash "We Are Young". He's ultra-adaptable and malleable in the studio, and he's got an unparalleled knack for a hit.
In this exclusive interview, Jeff Bhasker talks to ARTISTdirect.com Rick Florino about producing and more.
As far as producing goes, how much of it is about adapting to the artist you're working with versus infusing your style? Your imprint is there, but you definitely meld with the artist's style.
That's a good point. As far as my approach goes, I like to work with people who have a vision that's interesting. As a producer, part of your job is to realize a vision whether it's something you and the artist come up with together or something else. Part of my style comes through there. Working in a wide array of genres with such great artists, I like to work with people who have great ideas. Then, we try to bring that idea to life on a record.
How would you describe your production style?
I try to bring an emotion or spirit across on the record. It's not so much about sounds. There's a certain vibe, and there are textures I use. Overall, it's about capturing excitement, passion, or emotion on a record. That's through getting a great vocal performance mainly—picking the right song and tempo. Then, it's about making sure the vocalist can deliver the best performance possible. You can make a record perfect. You have to get the best take.
How do you set up the atmosphere to get the "best take"?
I usually try to vibe out with the people I'm working with as a preliminary thing. We don't rush anything. We don't get too caught up in any kind of pressure put on us. I try to get to know them. It's funny. One of the first things I did was "Try to Sleep with a Broken Heart" with Alicia Keys. She invited me out to dinner before we worked together. We had dinner and got to know each other. I take a good cue from that and try to spend the first day vibing out. It makes it so much easier. You can actually get so much more done after that. They have to trust me first. That's the biggest thing. They have to trust where I'm coming from and what I'm saying. We have to get know each other, and then we can get the best out.
Did you get that opportunity with The Rolling Stones?
Yeah, that's another one! Man, Mick Jagger was very communicative all of the time. He'd call me, and we'd email. It's the same thing. He's amazing at vibing out. It was exciting for me. They made it so easy, and it fit right into my full idea of how to make records. It was surprisingly comfortable. He's a charmer and a real serious musician. He'd go in-depth with every aspect. The rest of the band is the same way. They're so excited about music still, which was really inspiring. They've been doing it for so long, but they have so much fun doing it. It was a highlight of my whole life.
What's your favorite song you've done recently?
That's a good question. I did a song with Lykke Li recently. It's so amazing. The title is "Let's Forget Together", and that's awesome in and of itself. It's like an old country song that has that sad, sweet feeling. The last song I'm working on is usually always my favorite.
Who's on your playlist right now?
I think Miguel is amazing. What he's done on his last two albums is phenomenal. I'll throw Johann Sebastian Bach in there. Miguel's new album is R&B the way it's supposed to be.
What's next for you?
I'm doing a lot with releasing Natalia Kills this year. I executive produced and did most of the music on there with her. It's a really exciting album. Some of my own songs have been recorded by other artists. I've got this body of work I want to release under my Billy Craven alias. I want to finally get that out there. I put that off because I'm producing other people's music. It's similar to a lot of the productions I do. One of the main things is it has my vocals on it. I do a lot of vocal arranging. It has a special sound because it's my whole unified vision. It's like a military suite mixed with blue-eyed soul and goth music.
What's your favorite song Jeff has done?