UK-based writer and producer Jake Gosling came to the game like many in the business: playing in bands and writing songs. But he found that he meshed better with writing than performing. He experimented with mic placement and unconventional instrumentation, such as a bucket of water for percussion. He found that such explorations were his calling. Over the years he’s worked with artists including Ed Sheeran, Christina Perri and One Direction.
“I’ll ask for all tracks first,” Gosling says of how he approaches projects. “Then I sit with the artist, find out what they want to communicate and then build the relationship. You have to get under their skin and make songs come to life. I tend to work on a whole album as opposed to a single song. Brought up on records, I love songs that weren’t singles because albums had shape, journey and story.”
Gosling writes with artists but also contributes in different ways. “It’s also nice to have not written a song...I can [then] come up with counter-melodies because I tend to play on records I produce. I arrange strings and the like—things that aren’t classed as ‘songwriting.’ But they add dimensions to the existing melodies.”
Opinions on what makes a good song vary. For Gosling, it comes down to a few key elements. “The songs I consider classics have space and humanity to them,” he explains. “When a song is too processed and the humanity has been taken out, you lose something. It might be a hit for a short time. But the classics that get played over and over? There’s an energy and simplicity—something that people connect and relate to.”
Even the best songwriters and producers get stuck on lyrics. Gosling found that non-sequitur prompts can help navigate safe passage out of the block. “I was writing with Keith Urban,” he recalls. “He had Brian Eno’s ‘Oblique Strategies,’ which are cards with prompts on them, ‘Go and boil an egg’ or ‘Try a different reverb.’ Random stuff. Sometimes it helps to fiddle with something on the production to change the way you write the song. It gets you away from being bogged down with the lyrics.”
To fledgling producers he suggests they find a niche. “It’s good to be influenced but it’s important to make your own mark. That comes from experimenting and making mistakes. It’s important to make them and learn from them. And you have to work really, really hard.”
Gosling came to work with Ed Sheeran by way of Sarah Liversedge at his publisher BDi Music. As of early February, Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud” was No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100. When Music Connection spoke with Gosling, he was preparing for the Grammys for Sheeran’s album X nomination for Album Of The Year.
Gosling runs his own recording studio: Sticky Studios in Surrey, which is within shouting distance of London. There he loves working with new talent. His current and upcoming projects include rising artists James Bay, Rhodes and Aquilo. Lastly, he’s working with American artist Taylor Berrett, whose album is slated for March on Warner Bros. Along with manager John Woolf, Gosling also runs a showcase called “Nobu Unplugged” at London fusion restaurant Nobu London.
Contact Matt Gooderham, Sticky Studios, [email protected]