LOS ANGELES (AP) — What do Justin Bieber, Elton John and Dua Lipa have in common with Miley Cyrus, Metallica, Sam Smith and Stevie Wonder?
They’ve all collaborated with the Grammy-winning 31-year-old producer Andrew Watt, who has become one of pop music’s most sought-after hitmakers in recent years.
Originally from New York, Watt started to tour with bands and create his own rock music while still in college. As he began to tour and play guitar for artists including Cody Simpson and Bieber, Watt and Bieber began writing and crafting songs together. That was when Watt decided to pivot from rock star to music producer.
Watt’s first smash hit was “Let Me Love You” by DJ Snake featuring Bieber.
“That song ended up being a really big song, and it was the first time I heard an arena full of people sing lyrics that I had written about pain, my own pain and that it meant something to them and it was just this really amazing thing. And it changes you. You know, it changes what you think is capable,” said Watt.
Watt won the Grammy for top pop music producer earlier this year. Now, after landing another hit with Bieber on the pop star's Billboard chart-topping “Peaches,” he’s booking sessions with veteran artists through consistent word-of-mouth praise for his talents. Watt first connected Ozzy Osbourne with Post Malone for Malone's “Take What You Want," then produced the heavy metal icon's 2020 album. That led to working with Elton John, who teamed up with Stevie Wonder for the song, “Finish Line.”
“These guys are masters at their craft — like masters, they wrote the book. And so every time I get to be in the studio with them, I learn something and I take it into the next thing I’m doing, and I watch very carefully. And it’s like being a student,” he said.
His personal recording studio is a castle-like home in Beverly Hills which used to belong to Charlie Chaplin’s manager. The basement level used to be the screening room, but now sits as a fully functional and highly tuned recording studio with guitars, a piano, a drum set, cool art and a lit neon sign that says “Disco.”
While working on “Finish Line,” Watt said Wonder FaceTimed him at 2:30 am when he agreed to be part of the song. Within minutes, Watt was at Wonder’s house ready to create the new track. He says he was tired, but Wonder’s piano and harmonica energized like a double shot of espresso.
“I got to watch Stevie Wonder put down a harmonica track and how hard he pushed himself, and how many times he went over one note to make sure he hit it right. And again, again, again, again, again. It’s athletic almost,” he said. “It’s not something that I allow myself to think about too hard because if I do, I’ll just start crying. It doesn’t make sense to me how I’m doing it. But I am so thankful I am.”
Watt says he pinches himself daily working closely with music’s biggest names, including Young Thug, Ed Sheeran, Lana Del Rey, Metallica and Camila Cabello. He recently worked with his childhood icon Eddie Vedder on Vedder’s forthcoming solo album “Earthling.” Watt, who learned to sing listening to Vedder’s voice, has memories of listening to Pearl Jam when he was 7.
“Getting a chance to sit in the same room with him and talk music, it’s like an exam I’ve been studying for my whole life,” said Watt.
“He is like a feral animal in the studio,” Watt added about Vedder’s powerful voice. “When he gets up on the microphone, it’s insane. I’ve never seen someone give so much emotion to a vocal before, brings you to tears.”
Watt has produced for artists ranging from Halsey to Slash, from Florida Georgia Line to Smokey Robinson. He says he’ll continue trying his hand at different genres.
“Making a record with Justin Bieber and making a record with Eddie (Vedder) after that is like, it’s completely different kind of music. You don’t get bored,” he said.
Marcela Isaza, The Associated Press