Jack Antonoff talks Taylor Swift, AI, his new administration – and keep away from offers with the satan


MBW’s World’s Best Songwriters sequence celebrates the composers behind the globe’s greatest hits. The final installment of 2023 options one of the vital profitable writers of the trendy age, Jack Antonoff – a key collaborator with, amongst others, Lana Del Rey, Lorde, St Vincent and, after all, Taylor Swift. World’s Best Songwriters is supported by AMRA – the worldwide digital music assortment society which strives to maximise worth for songwriters and publishers within the digital age.


The primary time Jack Antonoff realized he was a fairly good songwriter was when he was in indie rock jam band Metal Prepare.

Their 2003 debut EP, For You My Expensive, featured a surprisingly delicate ballad known as Angelica.

“Earlier than that, I used to be writing songs for a hardcore band, so it was extra in regards to the reside efficiency,” Antonoff says. “However that was the primary time that I assumed to myself, ‘Oh wow, I can hear this exterior of being the one that wrote it, and I really feel very pleased with it’.

“I’ve been in search of that feeling ever since,” he provides. “Once you get it, you acknowledge it and, while you don’t get it, you wait!”

As of late, you observed Jack Antonoff doesn’t have to attend too lengthy for inspiration to strike. Through his collaborations with Taylor Swift, Lana Del Rey, Lorde, Florence + The Machine, St Vincent and plenty of others, in addition to his personal work in Bleachers and Enjoyable, he has change into maybe the foremost – and positively probably the most recognizable – songwriter-producer of the age; concerned in a number of Grammys, billions of streams and maybe the final protector of the album as music’s premier format.

Prior to now yr alone, he has labored on Taylor Swift’s Midnights, Lana Del Rey’s Did You Know That There’s A Tunnel Below Ocean Blvd and The 1975’s Being Humorous In A Overseas Language, making him the frontrunner to once more win the Producer of the Yr Grammy; a gong he additionally picked up in each 2022 and 2023.

Swift’s Anti-Hero and Del Rey’s A&W, each co-written and co-produced by Antonoff, are additionally up for Tune of the Yr (Anti-Hero can also be shortlisted for Report of the Yr), whereas Swift and Del Rey are each nominated for Album of the Yr.

Nevertheless it wasn’t all the time this fashion. Antonoff grew up in New Jersey and, as a youngster, grew to become a minor face on the state’s legendary 2000s emo scene, which spawned the likes of My Chemical Romance and Saves The Day.

Antonoff’s punk band Define didn’t hit fairly the identical heights and, whereas his subsequent challenge, Metal Prepare, scored a take care of Drive-Via Information and toured prodigiously, Eras Tour-style superstardom remained a great distance off.

“the universe was screaming in my face that it wasn’t understanding!”

“Throughout that point, after all I wished extra,” Antonoff shrugs, as he talks to MBW from Los Angeles, the place his East Coast cool is being “flustered” by the dry warmth. “However I’m pleased with it, as a result of there’s not one second I look again on the place I ever thought, ‘Shall I do one thing else?’ Not one! And Jesus Christ, the universe was screaming in my face that it wasn’t understanding!

“I’m not speaking one yr or two years, however years and years of dropping cash,” laughs the songwriter, who scored his first No.1 in 2012 with We Are Younger, as a member of the pop-rock band Enjoyable. “However that’s all we’ve got in life: imagine in one thing, whether or not anybody else believes in it or not. And, if individuals finally imagine in it with you, it’s very life-affirming…”

As of late, after all, musicians and the music trade entrust Antonoff with their most sacred tasks. Some songwriters get calls from determined A&Rs trying to find a last-minute hit; Antonoff is the man you enlist to construct a long-term challenge over a number of releases.

He’s labored on each Taylor Swift album since 1989, the enjoyment they soak up working collectively completely captured by the viral video displaying them gleefully nailing the bridge to 2017’s Getaway Automotive.

At this time, he’s equally thrilled on the belated success of Swift’s Merciless Summer season; co-written by Swift, Antonoff and St Vincent, co-produced by Swift and Antonoff and considered one of 2023’s greatest hits regardless of first being launched on Swift’s basic 2019 Lover album (“You’re all the time writing into the longer term, so it doesn’t shock me when issues have totally different lives”).



However whereas he appears to have cracked pop’s DNA code, he insists that type of studio alchemy stays “endlessly mysterious”, peppering his dialog with presumably tongue-in-cheek references to these often-uncredited studio collaborators, magic and God.

Proper now, although, he’s concerned in additional earthly considerations. He’s signed a new publishing deal with Universal Music Publishing Group, following his long-time publishing A&R, Jennifer Knoepfle from Sony.

He’s brokered an extensive new partnership with Jamie Oborne and Dirty Hit, with Oborne now his supervisor and Bleachers signing to DH. And he’s gearing up for the self-titled fourth Bleachers album, due out in 2024, and its lead single, the large Dexys power of Fashionable Woman (“Dexys is my greatest affect that doesn’t essentially must do with the writing,” he grins. “They’re the last word in managed chaos”).

Some producers may shrink back from the highlight that comes with being an artist, however Antonoff is unfazed by the eye. He professes to be unaware – or at the very least unperturbed – by the avalanche of suppose items, hypothesis and gossip about him and his work on-line, simply as he insists he has no long-term plans for pop domination or, certainly, the rest.

“I went to the studio yesterday, I’ll go to the studio in the present day and that’s what I’ve obtained!” he chuckles. “I’m actually solely targeted on the day forward.”

Fortunately for us, in the present day entails him sitting down with MBW to speak Taylor Swift, synthetic intelligence and the effective artwork of co-writing…


WHAT WAS THE THINKING BEHIND YOUR NEW PUBLISHING, RECORD AND MANAGEMENT DEALS?

Jamie [Oborne, pictured with Antonoff, below] is the perfect. He’s modified my life in nearly each constructive means. And Jen [Knoepfle] is the one that understood me as a songwriter earlier than that was a preferred idea!

If I play Jen music, she hears my music; she doesn’t hear my success. She heard it earlier than anybody cared and she or he hears it now, and people are the individuals I need round me. Quite the opposite, Jamie’s a brand new determine and he simply will get it.


Credit score: Jared Christiansen


There’s a deep feeling behind the data and he’s good there with me. I really feel extra proud and impressed than I ever have – and it’s as a result of he loves what he does and he’s good at what he does.

Our brains are so related; he’ll ship me one thing I haven’t heard but and I’ll simply fucking find it irresistible. I’ll play him one thing and he’ll completely perceive what I’m making an attempt to perform. Jen, Jamie, my viewers, my band… I really feel very fortunate to be surrounded by individuals who I’d be completely satisfied doing this with if no one cared.


ARE YOU CONSCIOUS OF HOW PROLIFIC YOUR LAST DECADE HAS BEEN AS A SONGWRITER AND PRODUCER?

I’ve had intervals of my life the place I am going out and in of feeling impressed, and this decade simply will get higher and higher. I really feel nearer and nearer to what I’m making an attempt to precise. Placing out music is a bit like shouting one thing on the road: you wouldn’t stroll out and shout, ‘I’m going to have lunch!’

However you’ve gotten these concepts and this deranged a part of your self says, ‘I need to shout this to the world’. It’s loopy, as a result of this stuff are so complicated, take so lengthy and there are such a lot of child steps to get to them.

Nevertheless it’s really not that deep. You will have a sense, a thought and a sound and it’s a must to create it. After which, in case you can create it the way in which you dreamed about it, it’s a must to launch it.


WHAT DID YOU LEARN FROM ALL THOSE YEARS IN ALTERNATIVE ROCK BANDS?

It totally formed me. It’s important to have a agency line within the sand of what you suppose is OK, and what you don’t. In any other case, you gained’t acknowledge your self in just a few days.


WHY DO YOU THINK YOUR PARTNERSHIP WITH TAYLOR SWIFT HAS BEEN SO SUCCESSFUL?

It’s very laborious to speak about, as a result of it’s quite a lot of magic. I’ve been capable of articulate and intellectualize it to a degree the place I can speak about literal issues that occur, however the actual reply to that query has all the time been laborious to entry.

As a result of, like every of the nice magical relationships in a single’s life, I don’t sit round and take into consideration that magic, I work together with it. I all the time suppose to myself that, if I may clarify it, then it wouldn’t be it.


Credit score: Brian Friedman/Shutterstock

WAS THAT MAGIC THERE WHEN YOU FIRST WORKED WITH TAYLOR?

Sure. Right away. That’s one thing I’ve seen in any of the nice relationships in my life: whether or not it’s with individuals who I’ve made data with, whether or not it’s with my band, whether or not it’s with my greatest buddies or a relationship I’ve with a chunk of music or a portray, I can’t develop that magic, it’s there instantly.

It all the time has been. I don’t have a narrative the place I used to be bored by somebody after which one thing occurred; that spark is alive from day one.


HOW DO YOU RECOGNIZE IT WHEN IT HAPPENS?

You’ll be able to’t pretend the sensation and you’ll’t get good at it, it’s simply magic. However what you will get good at is capturing it when it occurs. Simply ensuring, once I’m within the studio, that issues are fairly actually plugged in a sure means, so if I get the factor, I’ve obtained it in a means that I’m going to be prepared to offer it to the world.

When you’ve got a fantastic lyric, you don’t need to be fumbling round with Professional Instruments or having a problem with the mic. It’s important to nearly be like a fisherman; have your instruments arrange so, if it bites, you’re proper there.


IS THERE AN ARTIST YOU HAVEN’T WORKED WITH YET THAT’S ON YOUR BUCKET LIST?

No, I’m actually completely satisfied. I’m actually into these lengthy relationships [with artists]. It doesn’t imply I gained’t work with new individuals, it simply means I don’t take into consideration this. I simply take into consideration the place I’m going with my individuals.


CAN THOSE CREATIVE RELATIONSHIPS WITH THE LIKES OF TAYLOR, LANA AND LORDE LAST FOREVER?

If the magic’s there, this stuff final so long as they need to. It’s to not me, it’s as much as… God? [Laughs] I don’t give it some thought in any means, it’s simply what comes out of the room. You will have it otherwise you don’t and each time we’ve got it, I’m grateful.


YOU SEEM VERY FOCUSED ON MAKING ALBUMS. IS THAT DIFFICULT AT A TIME WHEN THE INDUSTRY SEEMS TO BE MOVING AWAY FROM THE FORMAT?

I all the time hear that, but it surely’s not likely the individuals I do know. There are very totally different music companies: within the music enterprise I’m in, I don’t actually know many individuals who don’t imagine that the album is God. I’m positive there are lots of people on the market that may suppose in a different way and do it in a different way.

I’m most purposeful once I take into consideration issues from a chicken’s eye view. I all the time see issues as a complete and see albums and the way albums ought to be larger than the sum of their components.

It’s essential to be sure you’re staying within the lane the place you realize what to do and do it. I understand how to make albums, and that’s what I do. I don’t suppose individuals ask me to pop in and do that or that, as a result of I wouldn’t be very useful!


SO WHAT DO YOU SAY TO PEOPLE WHO SAY TIKTOK-FRIENDLY 15-SECOND SNIPPETS ARE WHAT WORKS IN MUSIC AT THE MOMENT?

You’d must again up and say, effectively, work for what? Does it work for having one thing be widespread for 2 weeks? Positive. Does it work for an artist’s profession? By no means as soon as has.

“By no means put one thing out you’re not in love with, as a result of it’s not possible to win. Even when it’s the largest hit on the planet, you’ll be unhappy.”

If something, quite a lot of the perfect artists on the planet usually wrestle after they have these moments. By no means report one thing you’re not in love with, by no means put one thing out you’re not in love with, as a result of it’s not possible to win. Even when it’s the largest hit on the planet, you’ll be unhappy. It’s a really sophisticated course of however a quite simple idea: simply do you, that’s all it’s a must to do.


THAT MIGHT NOT BE EASY FOR EVERYONE…

The worst factor that will get dangled above individuals is the flexibility to proceed to be an artist. That occurs rather a lot within the music trade, individuals will say, ‘Oh, simply do that, then you are able to do no matter you need, since you’ll be all good’. You simply make a selection early on in case you’re going to make a take care of the satan or not…


DOES THE MUSIC INDUSTRY NEED TO CHANGE THE WAY IT TREATS SONGWRITERS?

Definitely. Each trade wants to handle how they deal with their artists.

“It’s quite common to be a broke artist, however there aren’t quite a lot of broke music enterprise individuals.”

It’s quite common to be a broke artist, however there aren’t quite a lot of broke music enterprise individuals, as a result of that’s a job that you just get a paycheck for. In our tradition, we’ve got this concept that in case you’re an artist, you’re fortunate to be there, so to be paid a good wage is a luxurious, not an apparent little bit of equity.

Traditionally, what artists and writers do is, they go and make artwork. So, they’re very simple individuals to screw over, as a result of they’re enthusiastic about a much bigger factor. I don’t sit round and take into consideration cash, I sit round and take into consideration songs and albums.


ARE YOU WORRIED ABOUT THE IMPACT AI COULD HAVE ON SONGWRITING AND PRODUCTION?

I don’t give a shit about what it’ll do to the artwork, as a result of I don’t suppose it’ll do something. To be within the presence of one thing made by a human is a large a part of the supply. However I believe it’ll fuck up the commerce for lots of struggling artists.

That is the issue with the enterprise aspect of issues; they’ll usually work out a strategy to ‘disrupt’ or break one thing, however what they’ll’t appear to ever work out is, it was by no means damaged. So, then we simply go on these cyclical journeys and it’s exhausting and unhappy that the individuals who get fucked probably the most on the journey are the artists themselves.


IF YOU COULD CHANGE ONE THING ABOUT TODAY’S MUSIC INDUSTRY, RIGHT HERE AND NOW, WHAT WOULD IT BE AND WHY?

I might utterly dismantle what’s occurred to reside music and produce again native promoters. I might make it doable for an artist to promote a ticket with a really tiny price and have that be that, and no fucking bullshit, free market absurdity.

What’s occurred to the touring trade is heartbreaking. And nobody wins besides just a few assholes. The artists don’t win, the followers don’t win. Exhibits are lovely locations they usually’ve obtained to be protected against this gross capitalist madness.


IS THE REST OF THE NEW BLEACHERS ALBUM AS UPBEAT AS MODERN GIRL?

Fashionable Woman might be within the high three most joyous, enjoyable songs on the album. There’s quite a lot of unhappiness on there too, however that’s not how I wished to introduce individuals to the album. Proper now, unhappiness has change into such a go-to expression that it felt extra thrilling to precise some pleasure and humor.


THE WORLD COULD PROBABLY DO WITH SOME OF THAT RIGHT NOW…

Once you get to reside in a time the place it’s anticipated that everybody is every thing on a regular basis, in some unspecified time in the future you do take a step again and suppose, ‘I don’t need to be every thing, what do I do? What do I like to do? And what do I do this issues?’ And I’m not speaking about firing off the appropriate tweet, I’m speaking about one thing that actually issues.

So, in case you are fortunate sufficient to know the reply to that query, it feels absurd to not go at 100mph down that street. Greater than ever proper now, I do know why I’m right here, I understand how to do it and I don’t need to be distracted from it.


THAT SOUNDS LIKE A GOOD PHILOSOPHY FOR LIFE…

It’s good for a band! I’ll let you know the way my life seems, but it surely’s certainly good for a mission assertion of what it means to be a songwriter and band chief…


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AMRA is the first of its kind — a global digital music collection society, built on technology and trust. AMRA is designed to maximize value for songwriters and publishers in today’s digital age, while providing the highest level of transparency and efficiency.

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