Berklee today

JUN 2013

Berklee today is the official alumni publication of Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts. It is a forum for contemporary music and musicians.

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I said OK. They ended up singing the chorus to "We Are Young" and I said, "We need to record this tomorrow!" They completely sold me. I had been working on urban music, rap and r&b. I love all types of music and had done some pop records but nothing that was rock-oriented and theatrical like [what] Fun. was doing. When you started the Fun. album, weren't you in the middle of another project? I was working on an album with another artist at the time. But Fun. had the DNA of the songs when we started, and I could take it from there. They didn't play me the demos of their songs; they just sang them for me with piano and guitar. It was perfect. To that, I added a click track and then was able to add whatever I wanted. That part went fast, but when you get to where the song is 90 percent done, the last 10 percent involved in perfecting the song becomes exponentially harder. Sometimes it can take a month to fgure out what to do after not thinking about the music for a while. But it can become a house of cards at that point. If you add or take something away, the whole thing can fall apart. You're thinking, "If I add this, I can't have that, and it really needs that." It can be a nightmare—but the kind of nightmare you live for. Sometimes others will barely notice the things you are obsessing over. In the end, it's the attention you pay to all of the details that makes something special. It is not an accident that the songs on the album are special, because we put a lot of work into them. I'm amazed at the range of things you did in the production. How long did it take to complete the record from writing to mixing? Nate [Ruess, Fun.'s lead singer] and I fnished "We Are Young" together, and he had written fve more songs. I tracked those, and then we wrote a few more songs along the way. From that point to when the album was mastered was about a year. Did you work on it steadily throughout the year? We did it in stages. After we got the frst fve songs down the band came out here [to Los Angeles] and we worked together on more songs for a couple of weeks. We kind of had the songs written and they knew what they wanted those songs to be. I had total freedom to do what I wanted with them. They wanted to have the album done by the next month before their Coachella [festival] gig. We did the frst bit pretty quickly, but as it was coming together, I was insistent that we not rush things. I don't think you should ever rush. Sometimes you need to have a sense of urgency, but you don't want go through things too fast. Having a sense of urgency means you stay up later and get up earlier to have the time to do the things that will take hours. After we had the frst part done, I wanted to make sure every element was properly executed. That included the strings and orchestral parts, fguring out whether we needed a couple more songs, and then mixing it properly. So we had three or four stages where we worked on the album for a few weeks at a time and then I worked on it in between. When you worked on it alone were you adding tracks or mixing? Both. Sometimes I'd feel that the mix needed another instrument. That sense came from my arranging background at Berklee. In a lot of my work, I feel the instru- Bhasker's Copilot Neil Jacobson '99, the senior vice president of A&R and management for Interscope Records, also comanages Jeff Bhasker's career. During their Berklee years, the two became best friends. Even after working with tons of A-list artists, Jacobson still maintains that Bhasker is the most talented musician he's ever met and that he's the hottest producer around. "He easily crosses genres from Florence and the Machine to Kanye West to Adele to Fun. to Pink to Alicia Keys," Jacobson says. Neil Jacobson '99 During their Berklee years, Jacobson asked Bhasker if he could be his manager. "With a grin, Jeff said, 'No, you're not ready yet, but you can be my roadie,'" Jacobson recalls. He eagerly took the job and started carting Bhasker's equipment around to his Boston gigs. As Jacobson followed the many twists and turns of his own career—from Berklee to a job as a wholesale carpet salesman to internships at Arista Records and Star Trak Entertainment to a position at Interscope—the two maintained their friendship. Jacobson honed his music business chops after serving for fve years as an international publicist for acts including the Black Eyed Peas and received mentoring from legendary Interscope/Cherrytree Records A&R man Martin Kierszenbaum (with whom he comanages Bhasker), and Interscope CEO Jimmy Iovine. In 2006, with Jacobson's business career aloft, the two fnally shook on a deal that made Jacobson Bhasker's manager. It was Jacobson who nudged Bhasker to meet with Fun. at a time when he was slammed producing projects for Beyoncé, Alicia Keys, and Luke Steel of Empire of the Sun. "He said he was too busy then to take on a developing act," Jacobson recalls. "Then Jeff went to New York, and I saw an opportunity to get them all together, and Jeff agreed to meet with them. Nate [Ruess] sang him the chorus to 'We Are Young,' and Jeff called me and said, 'Find me a studio.'" After Fun.'s Some Nights album took off, Taylor Swift and the Rolling Stones were among the diverse acts wanting Bhasker's sound on their records. "Jeff is a very cool character and seems unaffected by all that's going on," Jacobson says. "But every once in a while, when something big starts to happen, I'll catch his eye and we'll give each other the 'Whoa, dude' look." Jacobson is looking forward to the next chapter in Bhasker's career. "I want to make his Billy Kraven solo project as successful as possible," Jacobson says. "I'd love to see him touring his own music; he is a tremendous performer. I'd love to see him work with a few great artists and continue to push the sonic boundaries of music as he did with Fun. It would also be great to see him start a label and develop artists from the ground up." With Bhasker's career moving at the speed of light, having a trusted, capable friend in the cockpit with him is a great asset. "Seeing Jeff's career explode has been one of the most gratifying experiences of my life," Jacobson says. mentation makes the mix. You want to able to hear everything. Some of the tracks were pretty dense so I needed to make sure every instrument was heard clearly and the sound wasn't a blob. That was a big challenge. I wanted people to hear what we had been really excited about hearing. The track "Some Nights Intro" is reminiscent of Queen but also sounds a little like a cabaret song with the high female voice weaving in and out and the applause at the end. How did that evolve? Nate wrote that whole song in his head. He wanted an operatic part in there, but he didn't know exactly how it would go. We used a voice sample in there at frst and later replaced it with a girl singing. He also wanted it to give a nod to [cabaret singer] Bobby Short. Nate had a very clear vision of what he wanted the songs on the album to be. It was my job to realize that. The more we worked together, the more things he pulled out of me that were beyond his natural instincts. He encouraged me to add my ideas and execute. Summer2013 15

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