(left to right) Rebekah Alperin, Mary Jo Mennella, Louis Bell, Melinda Newman, Andrew Watt, Ali Tamposi, Donna Caseine, Brian Lee, Barbara Cane and Michael Pizzuto
The 2018 Songwriters Hall of Fame Chart Toppers event held October 18 at the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles featured a team of collaborators at the top of their game and charts worldwide. Moderated by Melinda Newman, Billboard West Coast Editor, the program included performances and a panel discussion by hitmakers Louis Bell, Brian Lee, Ali Tamposi and Andrew Watt, who shared behind the scenes stories about their craft and unique collaboration with a string of global hit songs.
In front of a standing room only audience, which included global superstar Post Malone, the songwriter/producers described their contributions, process and personal experiences during the making of numerous smash hits such as "Let Me Love You" (DJ Snake ft. Justin Bieber), "Wolves" (Selena Gomez and Marshmello), "Rock Star" (Post Malone ft.21 Savage), "Youngblood" (5 Seconds of Summer),"Work From Home" (Fifth Harmony), "Idol" (BTS), "Real Friends" and "Havana" (Camilla Cabello), "Without Me" (Halsey), and "Let Me Go" (Hailee Steinfeld and Alesso).
During the discussions, Ali Tamposi, who co-wrote Kelly Clarkson's No.1 single "Stronger," described how her enormous initial success became hard to match with each following song. She shared her most personal experience during a 'dark period,' and her journey regaining her confidence and strength through sobriety, which subsequently helped her grow into an even better writer/producer.
Andrew Watt and Louis Bell shared how they work as a team to shape the sound of their tracks, as well as how each of them play different roles that contribute to their collective achievements. They described how Watt also takes care of business issues for the group, while Bell manages the finishing touches of each production. Major props went out to their managers and the teams that help support each opportunity.
Brian Lee was credited by Watt as "the best melody writer in the world" who has crafted the hooks for many of their hits. While joking with Melinda Newman, Lee asked the audience for a cold beer, which was placed on the stage by none other Post Malone, who came to the Songwriters Hall of Fame event to support his pals on the panel.
The team was unanimous in their declaration that there is no alternative strategy when they write. Lee said, "There's never a 'Plan B'... I am willing to die for this." Watt added, "If you have a 'Plan B' then you're never getting to Plan A." Bell further concluded, "...and then you never give birth to your dreams!"
Newman asked about the creation of the massive hit, "Havana" by Camilla Cabello, and how the song was developed. The team talked about how the track originated and reflected on how Tamposi went into the booth and knocked out very difficult rhyming sequences. She said, "Na Na Na" and "Havana" wound up rhyming with Atlanta na-na-na." Lee confessed that he was thrown out of the studio during the session while the team wrote that melody. It was noted that Frank Dukes, the producer of "Havana," brought in additional writers and ideas to the mix, and the song went on to top the charts around the world. The rest is history.
"The amazing West Coast Projects Committee hit another home run with this latest Chart Toppers event, which proved to be an intimate view of the songwriting craft as experienced by these mega-hitmakers," commented SHOF President & CEO Linda Moran. "The interplay between the panelists and the information they shared was a gift to the audience. We continue to take great pride in our long-time affiliation with the GRAMMY Museum and these events that serve the songwriting community."
"Our Chart Toppers events at the Grammy Museum continue to bring the most influential contemporary songwriters to the forefront each year," said SHOF Board Member and West Coast Projects Chair Mary Jo Mennella. "We take great pride in showcasing the enormous talent of those writers who are currently making such an impact on the charts and are often the unsung heroes of our community."
The evening concluded with a live, acoustic performance by Tamposi and Watt of “It Ain’t Me" (Kygo and Selena Gomez), and “Let Me Love You” (DJ Snake ft Justin Bieber), as the audience gained deep insight into the talents, camaraderie, and mutual respect by a team of some of the most in-demand writer/producers in the world.
Songwriting students from USC's Thornton School of Music were in attendance from Vice Dean Chris Sampson's Contemporary Music Program, along with several students from UCLA. Their close association with West Coast events illustrates the Songwriters Hall of Fame mission to celebrate songwriters, as well as to educate and nurture the development of new talent through various kinds of events and programs.
Since 2010 the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the GRAMMY Museum have produced the series of annual Chart Toppers events, screenings and "Songwriters-In-The Round" programs. The evening's Event Chair was SHOF West Coast Committee member Donna Caseine. Hosted by Mary Jo Mennella (SHOF Board Member and West Coast Projects Chair) along with Barbara Cane (SHOF West Coast Events Director), the event was also supported by SHOF West Coast Committee members Rebekah Alperin and Michael Pizzuto. The SHOF is grateful to the Grammy Museum and its team including Lynne Sheridan (Sr. Director of Public Programs and Artist Relations) and Rosalie Sanchez (Sr. Coordinator of Public Programs and Artist Relations). Proceeds from the event and other co-hosted programs benefit the educational programs of both the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Grammy Museum.