When 24-year-old songwriter and producer Benny Blanco was a mere 16, he made an appointment with successful Brooklyn producer Disco D. His stated intention was to discuss booking some studio time. His ulterior aim was to land himself an internship. After the requisite scolding, Disco D listened to some of his beats. Suitably impressed, he issued Blanco a challenge: book the studio out for a week and the job would be his. The risk paid off and he’s since written and/or produced for artists including Ke$ha, Katy Perry and Maroon 5, taking them and others to the top of the charts.
As a writer for other artists, he finds that he enjoys a certain measure of freedom. “You can get away with a lot more than when you’re writing for yourself,” he explains. “You can do things that you might not necessarily be comfortable with. It’s harder for artists because they have to stay true to their genre. But I can make rap, R&B or pop songs.”
If a producer works with a diverse range of artists simply to stay versatile, relevant and in demand, certainly those would be reasonable motivations. But Blanco has adopted such an approach more to satisfy his artistic needs than to advance his career. “I like to work with stuff that excites me,” he says. “I meet with artists before we [decide to] work together. I won’t do it if there isn’t a connection. I have to decline projects a lot. Sometimes I’m wrong, sometimes I’m right. You have to pick wisely and often I’m doing two projects at once. Will taking on a third cause me to lose focus?”
Although still relatively young, Blanco foresees changes on the production and songwriting horizon. But he’s optimistic about them. “Business-wise, it’s constantly changing,” he observes. “All you can do is your best to adapt and make music. I wake up every day thinking, ‘I’m never going to make another good song.’ It’s a constant struggle for everyone. You have to stay positive and think how you can keep up with what’s going on. As long as you create an amazing piece of work, there’s always going to be a way for people to hear and relate to it.”
The biggest challenge he finds is that artists commonly have a change of heart and lose confidence in their material. “There’s always that point when an artist decides that they don’t like a song anymore,” the producer says. “They’re being irrational. They really like the song but they’re stuck. You’ve got to be a therapist and a strategist. Sometimes you have to go to another song and then come back to it. Other times you have to say no [to a break] and stick to it. We’ve gotten stuck on some of the biggest songs we have. For [Katy Perry’s] ‘Teenage Dream’ we rewrote the lyrics seven times.”
Blanco still lives and produces in New York City. He’s busier now than ever, working with artists including Wiz Khalifa, Ke$ha and further material with Maroon 5. The Blanco-produced “Payphone” by Maroon 5 Featuring Wiz Khalifa hit No. 1 on Billboard’s Pop Songs chart and sold over 493,000 digital copies in the first week of its release.
Not often seen in a studio, Blanco likes to keep a bed handy. “Who wants to sit on a couch and write when you can lie on a bed?” he observes.
Contact Andrew Luftman / Lucid Management
By Rob Putnam
Photo by Justin Hogan