From Rolling Stones to Pearl Jam, Andrew Watt's unique production chops keep him living the dream

Andrew Watt is chilling. The 33-year-old wunderkind record producer plans to decompress over the next couple of months at his Malibu rental, enjoying the Southern California sunshine and freedom. For the first time in forever, Watt has nothing planned. “I’m just gonna follow the wind wherever it takes me,” he says.

If the past is a prelude to the future, good things await the much in-demand Grammy-winning producer. Watt co-wrote and produced 2023’s “Hackney Diamonds,” the Rolling Stones’ first new album in nearly two decades and best reviewed record since the band’s 1981 classic “Tattoo You.” L.A. fans got a live taste of the new material on Wednesday at SoFi Stadium and again on Saturday

Working with his childhood idols Pearl Jam, Watt also co-wrote and produced “Dark Matter,” a powerful album that harks back to the grunge godfathers’ early glory days of “Ten” and “Vitalogy.” A fanboy and musical collaborator of a who’s who of rock royalty, ranging from Elton John to Ozzy Osbourne to Iggy Pop, Watt is also collaborating with arguably the most successful musician of all time, Sir Paul McCartney. “We made some stuff together,” Watt says. “And you know, the process was magical. And it’s still being worked on.” Along the way, Watt, himself a talented guitarist and vocalist, has toured with Pop and Eddie Vedder & the Earthlings.

Interested in music at an early age, the Long Neck, N.Y., native dropped out of NYU to become a rocker, joining California Breed, a group that included drummer Jason Bonham and singer-bassist Glenn Hughes, formerly of Deep Purple and Black Sabbath. Watt later went solo, and in 2015 released the EP, “Ghost in My Head.”

Around the same time, he began moving into pop production, developing a reputation for his inventive studio work. Over the years, he has worked with hitmakers Justin Bieber, his friend Post Malone and Dua Lipa, among many others. Then he pivoted to rock production, helming Osbourne’s 2020 “Ordinary Man,” which opened the floodgates to his collaborations with some of rock’s biggest icons.

A musical omnivore, Watt continues to work with all types of artists. He co-produced K-pop star Jung Kook’s “Seven,” which topped the Billboard charts in summer 2023. More recently Watt produced “Tough,” a new song by Lana Del Rey and rapper Quavo that came out in July. “I feel like I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be,” Watt says. “I think producing’s my calling.”

The Times spoke with the super producer about working with his musical heroes, his production philosophy, and his extensive rock T-shirt collection. The following has been edited for length and clarity.

You recently produced the Rolling Stones and Pearl Jam; co-wrote an as-yet released song with Paul McCartney; and frequently FaceTime with your pal Elton John, whose work you’ve also produced. Are you living the dream?

Andrew Watt: Yeah, it doesn’t feel like reality. It’s kind of an alternate universe. And there’s not a second of the day I’m not pinching myself. I’m so grateful. Working with Pearl Jam or the Rolling Stones, people told me I’d never do that. But you just need to move the haters to the side and have a one-track mind. It’s interesting, because a lot of people don’t believe that they can make their dreams a reality. They don’t go ahead and seek out something that they’ve always wanted to do, because they get comfortable. Maybe they say, ‘Okay, that’s what I wanted to do, but this is what I do now.’ And I just think, man, if I could be an example, just go for that s—. Look what could happen.

Why do you think 75-year-old Ozzy Osbourne, 80-year-old Mick Jagger, 77-year-old Iggy Pop and 80-year-old Keith Richards are so eager to work with 33-year-old you, someone born decades after their first hit albums?

I have no f— idea. You’d have to ask them. (Watt laughs.) I think this industry is results-based, especially my job. What’s coming out of the speakers doesn’t lie. So, I would like to think the simplest answer is they like what they hear. We just go from there.

Pearl Jam and the Rolling Stones are two of your favorite groups. Did you ever feel intimidated giving them unvarnished feedback in the studio? I mean, how do you tell Mick to rework some lyrics or Eddie Vedder to sing a track differently?

You’re there to produce. What good am I if just yes ‘em to death, right? I put [who I’m working with] right out of my mind. Otherwise, how could you possibly do anything besides just be a fan in the front row screaming? If you’re like, ‘Oh, my God,’ then, you know, you’ll freak them out. You won’t get the best. You’ll just be a witness. I’m not there to be a witness. They have me there because they dig my ear and my taste. If I hear something that I think could be better, or can be different, my job is to suggest it. And also to know that they might turn back at me and tell me to f— off.

You have a reputation for recording quickly, encouraging improvisation, and for even playing guitar along with artists in the studio. Why do you favor spontaneity, authenticity and rawness over technical perfection?

If you’re talking about a band like Pearl Jam or the Rolling Stones, who wants to hear those bands polished? No one. Those are two of the greatest live bands of all time. So, let’s record them live. Let’s have the edge. There’s other artists that I work with that don’t sound as raw, that take more time, that aren’t recorded live. It goes artist by artist.

I’m a Rolling Stones fanatic and really like the new album. I love the song “Angry,” which I know you co-wrote. But “Sweet Sounds of Heaven” with Lady Gaga is by far and away my favorite. It’s got a gospel feel to it and sounds like classic Stones.

I agree with you. The band just played, and it was so cool. Gaga and Mick were face to face singing that vocal and just one upping each other and playing into it so hard. She became like Merry Clayton [the backup singer who sang the iconic “rape, murder” passage on 1969’s “Gimme Shelter” by the Stones.] Gaga can literally do anything. She’s a once in a lifetime artist.

Who are your favorite producers?

Man, there’s so many. George Martin is probably first. Anything the Beatles wanted to do, he followed them down that road and figured out how to make it for them. And his ability to do arrangements was something else. He’s the best producer ever of all time. Rick Rubin, who’s a good friend of mine and a mentor, I love, love his productions. When I was really first starting out, I played him a couple songs. He kind of checked me. He was like, ‘You know, I can hear that you’re producing this. There’s similar sounds for the different artists. Make sure you give each artist their own sound.’ He’s been so kind of cool to me and amazing.

I love Brendan O’Brien [Pearl Jam’s longtime producer, among many other artists] I just love everything he does, and his sounds are incredible. He came from the school of Rick, you know. He was the engineer on “Blood Sugar Sex Magic.” [Rubin produced the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ smash 1991 album.] Gus Dudgeon [late producer of some of Elton John’s most beloved records, including “Honky Château” and “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”]. He’s amazing. I love artist-producers like David Bowie and Prince and Stevie Wonder. And modern producers as well. I love [French electronic duo] Justice, Timbaland and Daft Punk.

What are five of your all-time favorite albums?

“Blood Sugar Sex Magic” by the Chili Peppers; “Abbey Road” by the Beatles; “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars” by David Bowie; “Sticky Fingers” by the Stones; and “Synchronicity” by the Police.

How did you first get into music?

Well, my parents played me a lot of different types of music, as did my older brother. I got the rock ‘n’ roll from my dad. I got the pop and soul and singer-songwriters from my mom. And I got all the ‘90s stuff from my brother: hip-hop, grunge and rock. That was the mix until I started finding my own stuff.

Tell me about your bar mitzvah at the Copacabana in New York with the theme “Andrew Rocks.” Did you really entertain guests by playing guitar?

I did. I did. I played a whole concert when I was 13. I think we played “Come Together” by the Beatles, a song called “Are You Gonna Be My Girl” [by Jet] that was really big at the time, “Ziggy Stardust.” There’s a great picture of me on my knees ripping a guitar solo, and the guitar is bigger than me.

Is it true that you wore a different Rolling Stones T-shirt to every recording session?

Yeah, I have a lot of different Rolling Stones shirts. I have probably one of the craziest collections of vintage rock ‘n’ roll T-shirts in the world. I have thousands of them. You know, I got guys that come over to my house like drug dealers, but they’re T-shirt dealers. They come with plastic bags filled with old shirts and dump them on the floor. How many days can I wear a different T-shirt is pretty funny to me. It’s what I wear every day. I’m wearing a Metallica shirt as we speak.

Are you planning to make another album with the Stones? I’ve heard there’s lots of good unreleased stuff and other tracks from the “Hackney Diamond” sessions that just need some tweaking.

It’s like Batman; if they [flash] the tongue in the air and I see it, I’m there. All they have to do is ask. You know, the last album [“Hackney Diamonds”] took 18 years to make. So that would leave them close to 100 years old by the time we finished a second one. I’m hoping for a faster timeline. There’s nothing on the books right now, but you know, it definitely has been discussed.

Source link

About The Author

Scroll to Top