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MEET THE GRAMMY CLASS: JACK ANTONOFF

What’s your method for getting the most out of a band/performer?
I like to talk a lot. Talk about what’s going on, get to a point where the feeling in the room is more about making what’s happening in life into a song and less about making a song based on what’s already out there. The best and most important music is the stuff that feels like you are being spoken to directly. Every artist has their own version of that, and it really interests me what people are going through and what they need to share. 

What did you discuss with Taylor when you started?
We discussed [iconic ’80s director] John Hughes and this moment in time when this huge and emotional music was the sound. The idea that the biggest songs in the world can be the saddest or most important and about real life; that there isn’t a divide between pop culture and quality. 

What’s an example of a song that started with you as a producer?
With “Out of the Woods,” I sent [Swift] something I made before I went to bed, and she sang into her phone and sent me a voice note back. The fact that we work in small environments lets the music sound like a big dream.

On a record with multiple producers, what is your role in making sure the album has a cohesiveness?
Taylor brings the cohesion. At the end of the day, nobody sounds or writes like her, so everything else in the picture is just adding to what she already is. And that is unshakable.

What does it take for you to feel like you’ve got something right?
We make records the same way I did with my friends when I was 15. What’s most important is to do what you feel is important. All I think about is what it sounds like when I listen to it in bed that night; how it got there is just something that leads up to that. When I listen to something I did, I am no different than a kid somewhere listening to music in bed. I’m just hearing it and thinking about the day and my life. If it makes me thank God that it exists, it must be good. It has to be something that is so wonderful that I jump out of bed and back up the session on nine hard drives and hide them all over my house in case there’s a fire or something so I know this won’t be lost.

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