He’s all over the radio again, dropping singles straight into the Top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 and landing a fourth No. 1 album on the Billboard 200 chart.
When I was younger, I would never have thought I’d be writing this article but today’s post rather heavily features the work of non other than Justin Timberlake.
Now, this is not necessarily all about Justin and I’m going to show you some incredibly powerful lessons that can be learned from his career and the careers of others as to why collaboration creates success.
How about that one take video though?
I say I never thought I’d be writing this article because when I was growing up, Justin Timberlake was a member of ’N Sync. At the time, it wasn’t very cool for me to like their music (even though it was crazy catchy) and rather than listening to them, I was spending most of my time listening to Nirvana, Oasis, Red Hot Chili Peppers and probably lots of Limp Bizkit, thinking I knew everything about musical taste. At that stage, I had never heard of Max Martin and didn’t appreciate the amount of work that goes into crafting a No. 1 pop record.
After years of recording, producing, mixing and playing music with artists across all different styles, I personally feel that being snobby about musical styles is a waste of time. There’s something to be learned from everyone and I’m really happy if people are making music at all. To spend the time creating music of any genre is an incredibly worthwhile, fun, rewarding experience for anyone involved.
So, back to Justin…
As well as his recent highly publicised Super Bowl half time show, I’ve already mentioned how ‘Man of the Woods’ is his fourth No.1 album and ‘Say Something’ debuted at No. 9 on the Hot 100. If you think about the gravity of those three events, do you think that one man could do all of this on his own? I think not. His Super Bowl performance would have looked a little weird without all of those backing dancers!
The ‘Say Something’ single is the most poignant out of the three for me. One of my best friends moved to San Antonio, Texas a few years ago and soon after he did, he started telling me about this guy called Chris Stapleton and how I needed to listen to his music. I listened to a few songs, thought his music was really good and then moved on to the next thing. Damn you, instant gratification!
Fast forward a couple of years and he’s co-written one of the biggest songs of 2018 with Justin Timberlake in the form of ‘Say Something’. This time it’s hit home with me and I’m listening to all of his music in detail.
Now, Chris Stapleton has been around for many years and his music has always received critical acclaim but I hadn’t heard much about him because his style of music isn’t as popular in London, where I live. As we all know, just because you haven’t heard of someone doesn’t mean they’re not a great musician.
So, due to his collaboration with Justin Timberlake, Chris Stapleton has finally received worldwide acclaim – even though he’s already a Grammy winner. It took a collaboration with a “mainstream” artist for a worldwide audience to know who he is.
If you take a look back at Timberlake’s early solo career, he had a lot to prove as a solo artist. It doesn’t always work out when a member of a group “goes solo” but his first album was produced largely by Timbaland and The Neptunes – easily some of the best pop, hip hop and R&B producers of that time. The style of the album was completely different from the music of ’N Sync and the various collaborations were a huge success.
Timbaland and The Neptunes both started out in Virginia Beach and had previously collaborated. Do you think it’s a coincidence that they both worked on the same album?
Fast forward sixteen years and guess who’s responsible for the bulk of the production on ‘Man of the Woods’? That’s right – The Neptunes and Timbaland.
As well as those two giants of production, Timberlake’s latest album also features Danja, Timbaland’s former protégé turned super producer in his own right.
Starting to notice a trend?
‘Say Something’ is the perfect record to tie all of this together. It’s written by Justin Timberlake, Chris Stapleton, Danja, Timbaland and Larrance Dopson. It’s produced by Timbaland, Timberlake, Danja and Dopson.
So you’ve got a former boyband popstar, a country artist and an array of pop/hip hop producers creating a very unique sound. That is the power of collaboration that combines aspects of multiple genres into a single piece of music.
One question remains… why would a star like Justin Timberlake draft in a country artist?
Well, you can’t get away from your roots. Justin is from Memphis, Tennessee and Chris Stapleton made his name in Nashville, Tennessee. Both cities are the home of fantastic music that transcends genres.
I know this because I collaborate frequently with an incredible producer from that part of the world. It’s an unbelievably good time to make music and connect with people all over the world and I feel very lucky to be able to work with my friend in Memphis while I live in London.
Not only that, but we get to work with over 100 people in 16 different countries every single week through our collaboration.
This very good friend I’m talking about is Kirk Teachout. If you haven’t heard of him or his amazing new studio in Memphis, I highly encourage you to beat the crowd and check out Rise Studios. If you’re anywhere near Memphis (and even if you’re not), then I strongly urge you to get in contact with Kirk and get involved!
Kirk is an incredible producer, engineer and all round good guy – so even by chatting with him you’re guaranteed to learn something. There is no such thing as ‘Cheap Talk‘ with him!
So what can we learn from all these links and collaboration going on all over the place?
Well, here are four points of advice I think can really help you:
- Never burn bridges. You never know when you’ll be working with someone again that you worked with fifteen years ago!
- Location doesn’t matter. I live in London and I work with people all over the world. Yes, it helps that I live in London, but it is not completely necessary. We live in a time where we can connect with anyone, anywhere in the world instantly. Use that to your advantage.
- Do more of what works. If you find a good producer, engineer, songwriting partner, backing vocalist etc. don’t change them up simply because you “need a change”. If it’s not broke don’t fix it. Yes, keep collaborating with lots of different people, but don’t forget those who you already serve well and who serve you well.
- Don’t be a dick. That’s self explanatory.
Now, there’s plenty more to learn when you trace the path of a superstar’s career and connect the dots but you’ll find common trends among all super successful stars. The best in the business who have real longevity display characteristics that you’ll see time and time again. They work exceptionally hard, they collaborate, give credit where credit’s due and they treat people with respect.
Honestly, I really feel like I’m only scratching the surface on this subject but it’s time to wrap this up for now.
So, the next time you’re thinking about “doing it all yourself” think about someone who might be able to help you out and do it better. Call them, drop them an email, slide into their DM’s and set up a collaboration.
You never know where the journey might take you.
Now, I’d love to know…
What has collaboration done for you?
Leave a comment below!
professional sounding mix every time…