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THE GRAMMY CONVERSATIONS:
JEFF BHASKER

Interview by Simon Glickman

Jeff Bhasker’s weighty CV includes crafting songs and/or recordings with (among many others) The Rolling StonesKanye WestBruno MarsEminemTaylor SwiftMark RonsonJay-ZRihannafun.Lana Del ReyP!nk, and, most recently, Harry Styles. He’s won five Grammys, including a 2016 Producer of the Year statuette. Why did he agree to this interview? We can produce no logical explanation.

You’ve been through this process a few times—say a bit about what the Grammys signify to you. 
It signifies a bar of excellence, and also, you’re being judged by your peers. I’ve said before to artists I’m working with, “We’re making the Grammy Album of the Year.” I hope [the Grammy people] think of it as encouraging excellence and not just popularity. They fall into that sometimes, because they have to get ratings for their show and everything, but I think there’s a decent balance between pushing different things. From Esperanza Spalding to Herbie Hancock to Alison Krauss, there always seems to be a curveball.

I do think some of the debate on it being run by a bunch of white guys has some credence. It’s the fact of the matter, and reflective of the country and the world we live in. There is a gulf between black and white music. That’s still around. 


I’m hearing that making the Grammys much more diverse is a real goal. 
And I’m sure they’re doing their best. They’re not going to become the BET Awards overnight. And they have their traditions, which should be respected also.  

Harry Styles’ record is an unusual piece of your resume for a number of reasons. In a lot of ways, it’s a throwback to a prior era. 
Yes, Harry’s record is an album in the classic sense. It was him taking shape as an artist and utilizing the format of an LP—a 44-minute format for a collection of 10 songs. It was so beautiful how it came together. Your term “throwback” is so apt—today’s music is just being consumed in such a different way. 

What does that mean for albums?
The album has become a bit obsolete when you can go online and get the visuals, interviews, social feeds and so on of the artist you’re interested in and piece together that story in a different way than when you deliver your work as an artist. I think it’s really exciting, actually, as producers and the industry start recognizing that, and that we’re really turning a corner with streaming. The future of the music industry is really bright. 

‘‘I think we’re going to come into an era of really impactful music, like the ’60s and the ’90s, with all the tension and social craziness going on in the world, and money coming back to the music industry.’’

What are some other projects you’ve been working on?
I’m making a record with Angelique Kidjo; it’s her covering Talking Heads’ Remain in Light, which she performed at Carnegie Hall and got so much great press about; it’s on my label. Angelique is the definition of a meaningful artist who brings people together, whose spirit and energy are undeniable and catalyzing. The project is tied into her foundation, Batonga, which promotes education for girls in Africa; that has enabled me to see it all through a completely different lens. The end goal isn’t a financial bottom line; it’s human impact. 

Cam’s releasing her second album, right?
Yes. We’re about to release the first single from that, “Diane.” That’s another layer of meaning; taking someone on a journey from the beginning; breaking her as an artist and believing in something and nurturing it and championing new artists—like another artist on my label, Vacation Forever

I like to think people are hungry for something a little more engaged. Maybe we’re at an inflection point. 
I think we’re going to come into an era of really impactful music, like the ’60s and the ’90s, with all the tension and social craziness going on in the world, and money coming back to the music industry. We can confront these uncomfortable issues and embrace more meaningful, riskier music. For the last 15 years, we had to play it safe, because the business was dying. Everyone needed an easy hit. Now maybe we’ll get some Richie Havens back in this motherfucker. 

 

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