At just 23 years old, lyricist and producer Blake Slatkin is defining pop music for the next decade – and he already has the No. 1 song to prove it.
Slatkin, an LA native, rose to prominence in 2020 as a writer and producer in 24kGoldn and Iann Dior’s pop-rap banner “Mood,” which spent eight consecutive weeks on the Billboard Hot 100. The song’s catchy hook and guitar backbone make it the most indescribable earwax of the summer – and almost a year later, Slatkin has done it again with Kid Laroi and Justin Bieber’s “Stay”.
The synth-based, high-speed track debuted at No. 3 on the Hot 100 and rose to No. 1 on August 14, holding the position for four consecutive weeks. According to Alpha Data, the song has earned the title of this year’s summer song with 1.5 million units. For Slatkin, the secret to the success of the song is simple: “This is the ultimate example of working with your friends; Work with the people you love. “
And Slatkin is not slowing down. Lil Nass X’s debut album “Montero” had a hand in “That’s I Want” as a writer and producer, which entered the Hot 100 at number 10 this week. Anthemic, infectious tunes – are in high demand.
Speaking to Slatkin before speaking at the Clive Davis Institute, Alma Mater, New York University Diversity About his songwriting process, working with girlfriend Gracie Abrams (JJ Abrams’ daughter) and his dream collaboration.
How did you first get into songwriting and production?
My dad introduced me to a lot of music when I was younger, and I started playing the guitar to get girls when I was 10 years old. It didn’t work, but I still do it. I played in a bunch of cover bands, I lived on the streets and played at the farmers market. I definitely wanted to be a rock star, and then enrolled in high school and discovered what a producer is and got an insane love for the production industry. I’ve been so fascinated by people who can be behind the scenes, but so much of a piece of music and a variety. The idea of someone who can do it as a job has changed my life, and I’ve been doing it ever since.
Who were your growing influence?
Brian Eno, Rick Rubin, Max Martin, Benny Blanco, Farrell, Timbaland, Neptunes.
I first heard your name in 2018 with Omar Apollo. You worked with him while you were at NYU, didn’t you? What did you learn from that process?
We made all that music in my apartment. Omar has really taught me that I love to find someone I am passionate about, and I do as much as I can with them and engage with them from a larger perspective, [rather] Rather than just watching them one day and doing a song. He loved me as part of the community, the people’s side of it. Omar was really the first time I was able to work with someone I really admired and really loved, and worked with someone from the beginning. Like the two of us, we didn’t really do much before we released those EPs, and it was amazing for me to see Omar rise to where he is now.
You’ve obviously exploded since then, “Mood,” “Stay” and now “That’s What I Want” with Lil Nass X. What do you think is the common theme or sound in all these songs that has made them so successful?
I wouldn’t say there’s even a simple word, and I think that’s what I like about these three songs: these aren’t really like me. Three is all three songs where you can’t really describe it; It just gives you a feeling. There’s just a feeling in your chest, in your gut, and in your heart – it just wants you to jump up and scream at everyone you have. Looks like you’ve found hidden treasures. With all these songs it is a common denominator; Everyone has made me so excited and I am proud to be different from the team I made. There is no more satisfying feeling than having these songs on my computer, listening to them whenever I want and having a feeling about them, and then they come out into the world and many other people have the same feeling. It’s the best feeling of all time.
You and fellow writer-producer Omar Feddy are like a dream team right now, “mood,” “stay,” “without you” and “that’s what I want.” What makes you such a great collaborator?
One of Omar’s most talented people I’ve ever met, simple and easy. Seriously, seeing him in the studio is one of the most impressive things I’ve ever seen in my entire life. It’s literally like magic every time. When I met Omar, it was the first time I had met someone my age who felt like me. So meeting someone as passionate as you is, first of all, a crazy gift, and meeting someone as emotional as you that complements your skills. [is even better]. We met at the 24k Golden Session. When we first met, we created “3,2,1”.
How is your songwriting and production process?
I’d say it’s never really by me, but outside of that, it’s so exciting and so much fun because it’s different every time. The songs we just mentioned happened in different ways and they will continue to happen in different ways. And I like it, because I never want to feel like I know how to do it. Every time I sit down to do a song, I get a little shocked because I like, “I forget how to do it.” And from there, it’s just a ride that can make it the best it can be. But there’s no rhyme or reason, and I love it.
Everything I do is incredibly rooted in real instruments, if not all real instruments. Drum minus, but all instruments are real. It’s important to me to have old things in the studio – old guitars, old synthesizers, things that were there before I got my life. I think there’s a power in it, and it carries a lot of meaning to me that no one else can pull.
Do you have gear signatures?
I have some guitars that I’ve got for some time that I love more than anything. I have a Roland Juno 60 which was the first piece of my gear. It’s a piece of gear that my hero uses a lot; This is my favorite synthesizer and that’s what we “stay”. So this is definitely one that I’m going to keep forever. Everything I did, Roland Juno.
Let’s break down “this is what I want.” What was it like working with Lil Nass X and how did that song come about?
Nass is a different person – he is not a human being. You can’t imagine how hard it is to do what he does. No one is more dedicated. That one, when I was involved, had an initial demo of their song, and from there we just worked to make it sound as good as possible. Honestly, there was a time when I didn’t forget how to make songs. Omar, I, KB [Keegan Bach aka KBeAzy] And Ryan Tedder, we all knew how to make it sound, and we worked really, really hard to get there.
In general, Nass – as he should be – is really special about all his productions, all his words. I remember before we finalized him, we were all so ready to tear up the whole thing and do everything again. He came to my house and we played it, and I was very nervous because I really had no idea how we were going to change everything. And it’s over and he smiled at us and was like “amazing”. And that it was so beautiful. Honestly, I couldn’t believe it. It was the longest sigh of relief.
What about “staying”? You, Feddy, Charlie Puth and Kashmir Cat – have a pretty stacked production lineup on it.
It was not a planned session at all. Me, Charlie and Omar were at my house on Sunday afternoon just cold, talking about music. Laroi called us and said he was five minutes away and had arrived. Charlie and LaRo never met, so we all sat down and talked, and Charlie said, “Turn on Juno.” That was the first time he played, that reef, and like LaRoi, “Wow, I think I heard something with it.” We didn’t even plan to record, I certainly never thought we were going to do a song that day. One of the most impressive things I’ve seen since seeing that initial idea to LaRoy and Charlie was, it was insane. It just came out of Laroi. He played it, and the melody and lyrics of Laroi came out, take it first.
And to be honest, when all my best things happened. Planned “Not like 1pm, let’s all stay in the studio.” I think the best things happen when you feel comfortable and that’s why I love working with my friends. We all know what’s going on through each other; We all know what is happening in each other’s lives. This is one of the weakest things we do – an easy way to do it is to be comfortable with everyone.
You do a lot of writing and producing for your girlfriend Gracie Abrams. How is your mobility in the studio?
It can be amazing with Gracie and it can be really tough too. We put out a lot of songs that weren’t really easy times that we spent together. Gracie, on top of anything, is good at putting his hand on hers and writing and singing her feelings in music and melody in a way that will break your heart every time. I had to work on the song when we weren’t in the best place; I had to work on the song when we broke up. We’ve had to write songs about things we’ve never talked about together and we’ve talked about it through songs, we’ve written it together. It’s both the most cathartic and the really difficult but really rewarding thing … I’ve been in love with this girl since I was 18, you know what I mean?
What is the most exciting thing about being a lyricist and producer right now?
I think songwriting and production and music are now much more open than before, the way there are far fewer doormen. I’m lucky enough to make a few hits, but I’m going to talk to Clive Davis in my old college in an hour, and I don’t think I have any more chances to sing a hit than them. With Tic Tac Toe, we both have equal opportunities. You create something amazing, it’s going to be great. I firmly believe in it, whatever. It puts me on my toes more than ever, because you just have to create amazing things. It doesn’t matter who you are, nothing is available now.
What is the collaboration of your dreams?
Larry David. I don’t know what that collaboration looks like, but Larry David.