The songwriter behind some of today’s biggest hits, Tobias Jesso Jr., has been more than just a wordsmith; he’s also acted as a sort of musical therapist to the stars.
In a recent interview with GQ, one of his firsts in nearly a decade, Jesso opened up about his songwriting process and the star-studded collaborations that have earned him three nominations for the upcoming GRAMMY awards—including Album of The Year for both Adele’s 30 and Harry Styles’ Harry’s House, as well as a place in the running for this year’s inaugural accolade, Songwriter of The Year.
“I really feel like [songwriting is] where everything begins… When you’re producing, it’s a bit of a different thing—the song’s already been found,” Jesso told the outlet of the newly instated recognition. “You’re more the chef. [This new Grammy category] is giving the farmer credit for the meal on the table. And I think that that’s long overdue.”
A longtime Adele collaborator and co-writer behind her most recent success, “To Be Loved,” the powerhouse pop vocalist has reportedly called Jesso her secret weapon. She has gone so far as to say, “He will be writing songs with me for the rest of my career.” It is because of his approach to songwriting, one led by feeling, that has made him an ideal musical companion for artists.
Jesso’s writing process with his artists goes beyond words on paper it’s a quest for deep emotional depth. “I’m just going into these sessions and trying to get to know them as best I can first,” Jesso explained. “It’s a different kind of relationship where I don’t feel beholden to write. It’s more of a connection-based thing that I just hope that we’re getting closer, even if it’s closer to them going into the next session and writing the song that they need to or coming up with a thing.”
For him, an artist achieving personal realization during a session is just as good as getting a song. “Because it’s going to lead to that eventually,” he said. “Like a therapist, you’re trying to just get to the golden nuggets, even if they find them on their own.
“A lot of time when the song’s being created, there’s a lot of inspiration and feelings,” he added, “but it takes a couple of days to sink in for you to hear and go, ‘Oh yeah, this is actually good,’ So I fear a lot of stuff might get lost on the cutting room floor that is just truly authentic vulnerable stuff. So I just try to say, ‘Let that live because it doesn’t matter what people say. Your gut’s going to know.’”
The band HAIM told the outlet of Jesso, “He created a safe space for us to express our feelings,” during the creation of their song, ‘Hallelujah.” FKA Twigs added, “Truthfully, he just makes you feel really comfortable. He listens, he’s available, he’s in it for the right reasons—and that can be rare sometimes.”
“I’ve never conspired with the labels on what they think the artist should have,” Jesso said of his work and where he stands in pop music. “I always just try to get to what the artist wants. I never liked a song because it was the most popular song or it made the most money. So why would I want to write that? It’s not really why I got into it. It’s the therapy that helps me.”
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