I prefer the easier, more accessible piano or guitar. I use that as my go-to at all levels, because I have an intuitive grasp of it and can play it in a heartbeat. I can play the chords and melodies in a matter of seconds.
Did you always consider yourself a pianist?
Yes, I really wanted to learn to play piano, even when I was living in a band. But I didn’t really think it was going to work out.
How do you make the songwriting process work for you?
I really like to write with people; it’s what I do best. I don’t always write things I want to hear, though. Some things that I write are things that sound super cool, but I don’t always like what I hear. It’s like I have a really powerful toolbox, and I just push it into the world and see what emerges.
So now you’re a producer on one of the most popular artist albums of the past decade: Beyonce. You’ve also produced for Kendrick Lamar, JAY Z, Jaden Smith and a bunch of others. What was it like growing up listening to your father’s music, and how did you decide to pursue your career?
My father didn’t really care too much about music, but he always wanted me to do the most amazing thing I could do. At 15 [I started school], he was working at a grocery store and playing me some really cool music. I think it was like a big house band. I’d just see his face and just think, “Wow, that guy’s got some great stuff.” At that time, my mom always used to play me her guitar during the day and my dad played me his saxophone on a set of strings at night. But it wasn’t something I really focused on playing.
You’ve also worked with artists like Jay Z and Drake. What are the biggest similarities and differences between working with someone from a major label and doing it yourself?
It’s a lot of the same skills, and it’s a lot of those same things you learn in college and in some other places: trying to write something that you want to hear and then working really hard to make that idea fit into a story, and then making that idea a reality. It’s just that with a major-label team you’re working more with people that know what they’re doing. But with a producer, you can go in just because you