Ladies' man: Greg Kurstin on producing for Clarkson, Sia

AP News
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Posted: Feb 03, 2015 1:47 PM
Ladies' man: Greg Kurstin on producing for Clarkson, Sia

NEW YORK (AP) — Greg Kurstin, who has produced and written for Pink, Lana Del Rey and Katy Perry, says the key to successfully working with female pop stars is adapting to each singer's personal style.

"I try not to force my sound on everybody," he said in a recent interview. "I try to yield unto each artist and... I try to just support that sound rather than force a sound that might not fit."

Kurstin is nominated for two Grammy Awards on Sunday, including non-classical producer of the year and record of the year for his work on Sia's pop anthem, "Chandelier."

"It's such a nice, flattering thing to wake up and hear that news," he said.

Kurstin, a recent Golden Globe nominee for his work on "Annie" with Sia, is also one-half of the folk duo The Bird & the Bee. He breaks down some of the songs he's produced for acts like Taylor Swift and Selena Gomez.

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IT'S BRITNEY ... SWITCH

Kurstin originally worked on "Whiplash" with Britney Spears, who co-wrote the song. The track never made it onto the pop star's album, and eventually found its way to Selena Gomez.

"I don't do a lot of writing necessarily for pitching, but when you do these things like that, they kind of sometimes don't end up in the place you thought it was going to end up," he explained. "And that's kind of the great thing about songwriting — you don't have to throw it in the trash. It can live on."

The upbeat track appeared on Gomez's 2011 album with the Scene.

"She was so cool and super professional and so nice and easy to work with," he said.

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HELPING KELLY CLARKSON BECOME 'STRONGER'

"The demo of the song was a bit slower and the chords were a little different, and I just remember finding the guitar riffs, the bass and the guitars, sort of that sixteenth note feel that happens in the verse, and that was sort of a breakthrough for me," he said of producing Clarkson's No.1 hit, "Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)."

"It took me a minute," he added. "I did a couple different versions."

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'BURNING' UP THE CHARTS

Kurstin said working off of what Ryan Tedder started on "Burn" made his job on the Ellie Goulding song easier.

"I heard the song that he did, so I had a really good starting block," Kurstin said of the OneRepublic frontman, who co-wrote the English singer's international hit.

"And I was just sort of imagining what Ellie's sound could be so I think I brought some of the different sort of bells and ... sparkling instruments to it. I enjoyed working on that beat too because it's not really a normal, typical beat you would hear on the radio at that time."

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ONE, TWO, DRINK, ONE, TWO, THREE, DRINK

Kurstin says the success of "Chandelier" almost doesn't feel real.

"It was such a cool, unusual song. ...Everything about it is so unique to Sia," said Kurstin. "You just sort of dream of those type of songs getting through to radio."

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FACING FEARS

Working on Lily Allen's sophomore album, 2009's "It's Not Me, It's You," marked a breakthrough for Kurstin.

"I felt like it was a turning point for me to show what I can do," he said of the album, which spawned the U.K. hits "The Fear" and "Not Fair."

"That was a huge opportunity for me to do the whole thing; mix it, play all the instruments, so I really felt proud of it."

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KURSTIN FILLS IN 'BLANK SPACE' FOR TAYLOR (or YOU BELONG WITH ME)

Kurstin worked with Taylor Swift and didn't even know it.

The producer first worked on a song with fun. guitarist Jack Antonoff, who he met after they both collaborated with pop sister duo Tegan & Sara. Kurstin thought the song would be for Antonoff's spinoff project, Bleachers, until he received an email.

"It was one of those sessions where I had no idea ... it was just me and Jack ... and then sort of months went by and then we got an email saying, 'Hey, that song you worked on is going to be on Taylor's album and we're going to use some of your parts on it.'"

The track, "I Wish You Would," is on Swift's best-selling "1989" album.

"And I was like, 'Whoa, OK, cool. I guess I worked on Taylor Swift's album, which is pretty awesome," he said, laughing.