Benny Blanco creates record hits by hashing it out with the world’s biggest music artists.
BENNY JOSEPH LEVIN better known as Benny Blanco is an American record producer and songwriter extraordinaire to the stars, such as Ed Sheeran, Rihanna, Justin Bieber, Katy Perry, Halsey, and many more. An artist in his own right, he’s also the man behind some the biggest musical hits over the last decade. More than anything, he is the musical confidant to his friends, who just so happen to also be major artists. The adorable oddball is the cool fun dude you’d wish was in your close-knit of friends to dial-up to either hangout and have a chill fun time or to have an honest heart-to-heart. The bubbly, eccentric personality is a great confidant that will eventually produce a hit record from it.
What was your stepping stone into the world of music and music production?
Ever since I was like a baby I was into music, I would always like bang on the pots and pans. My mom and dad were very into music, so they played me music very early on and my brother was also really into music so he would take me into records stores. I got really into it and I was making little songs when I was like 5 or 6, and then I won a contest when I was 9 to go the studio and I got to record my first song, and I was just over the moon! I just got so into making music and I never looked back.
I remember some of the songs, it’s crazy. I don’t have that song, but I have ones from when I was like 13, 14 and they’re just stupid. They weren’t good. Honestly, my songs were so bad for so long. For years and years, they just weren’t good songs and then like one day they just started getting better. I think I was just writing songs about what I am today. I just had no experience, I’m writing songs about love, writing songs about things I do except I was 13 and not 32, so I didn’t have like a bunch of experience to talk about things correctly.
How do you think you’ve come from writing songs for the simple joy and fun of it to making record hits?
I think I just write what I’m going through and I know, if I’m going through it, there’s got to be a few other people going through the same things. So whatever emotion I’m feeling that day, is what I try to put pen to paper and make some music.
Could you share with us what it truly means to be a producer and songwriter (and what that job scope encompasses) beyond the preconceived notions that the general public may have?
I think, more than anything I’m like a therapist. It’s like you come in, we talk, you might just say at the beginning I say, “Oh what are you going through right now?” and you’d say “Oh no, I’m good and I feel great,” and then it’s like “No! What’s really happening?” And then we break through the barriers, we talk about it, we’ll laugh, we might cry, we might go and eat some food and before you know it—our hands are moving and we’re like making a song and you never even know, and now we have a song done. It just kinda happens like magic. And sometimes it’s much harder when you’re sitting there and banging your head against the wall…
What’s a recent memorable experience from one of those sessions, you could share with us?
You know sometimes it’s funny. Take for instance with Finneas, we wrote ‘Lonely’ together. He’s an incredible artist, songwriter, producer, and the first few times we worked together, the first three or four times, we never even worked! We just ate food and hung out, and then we were like “Okay I can’t think of anything, let’s just go home.” We did that like so many times before we ever even wrote a song. You know, we created this friendship and we had never even written a song, and every time it became like a joke. The first time we ever wrote a real song together, was actually Lonely, the Justin Bieber one. Because we had just talked about writing for so long. He’d come over and just we’d never get anything done because we became good friends.
You’ve mentioned that “i’ve produced every song i want to produce, i’ve done it every way I want to do it.” So what’s the next sound you’re looking to do or what’s your next direction?
So take like right now, everyone is making music with like drums in it, I’ll go and make ‘Lonely’ by Justin Bieber with no drums. If people are making Pop songs, I’ll go and make a Rap song. I wanna always challenge myself and do things that might not make me feel comfortable. And even to myself, I want to feel a little bit uncomfortable in the moment. I don’t want it to be easy, and just like I want it to be something that’s a new experience every time.
What sort of headspace or environment do you have to be in when it comes to your songwriting or the production process?
I don’t try to put myself in any space, I just try to open up to myself about how I’m feeling and really how to use music as my outlet, to get my feeling out; whether that’s a good feeling or a bad. It’s just a feeling and I have to get it out of me.
You’ve tackled various musical genres and styles, what’s your method on being flexible when it comes to adapting to different musical genres or styles depending on the artist?
What I try to do is, I try to put a little bit of me in there and a little bit of them. When you write a song, it’s like you go hand-in-hand and you’re running down the street together. When I’m writing a song for somebody else, I definitely try to get their vision across. You know, I listen to them and try to be like the storyteller for them. And just try to do whatever is the most authentic to them and myself at the same time.
Is there any interesting facts that you would like to share our readers?
I love cooking so much and if I wasn’t a musician than I’d be a chef, and I’d definitely open a restaurant in my life. But I don’t know and that’s the problem, I gotta figure it out now. Everyone always asks me, because I love to cook all different types of food. But I do cook Japanese food a lot.
If you met a young Benny just starting on this career path, what would you tell him?
“Man… can you believe we made it man? Can you believe all the things we thought about that actually came true? This is crazy, I love you, I want to hug you. It’s going to be easy but it’s going to be hard and you’re going to be okay, you’re going to get through it and you’re going to get to do all the things you’ve always dreamt of doing.”