Jack Antonoff on Collaborating With Taylor Swift and Loving New Jersey

Summary notes created by Deciphr AI

Summary Notes


In this episode, Charlotte Alter interviews Jack Antonoff, a prolific music producer and artist known for his band Bleachers and collaborations with Taylor Swift, Lana Del Rey, and Lorde. Antonoff discusses the day-to-day realities of touring, likening it to the mundane yet magical life depicted in "The Office." He delves into New Jersey's influence on his creative process, describing it as an inspiring landscape of being "in but out," fueled by its proximity to New York City. Antonoff reflects on the impact of his sister's death on his and his sister Rachel Antonoff's creative pursuits, emphasizing a drive to create in the face of mortality. He shares insights into the music industry's shifts, the role of nostalgia and yearning in his work, and the importance of maintaining a direct, honest dialogue with his audience. Antonoff also critiques the current state of touring and ticket pricing, advocating for a fairer live music experience. Throughout the conversation, Antonoff's philosophy of authenticity and connection in music production and his personal approach to collaboration are evident.

Summary Notes

Mythology vs. Reality of Music

  • Music writing often focuses on the mythology rather than the mundane realities of the industry.
  • The day-to-day life of being on tour is compared to an office environment, with a mix of personalities and routine issues.
  • Despite the presence of magic in music, the comparison to the show "The Office" emphasizes the ordinariness of musicians' lives.

"Music always gets written about so poorly because whoever is writing it is so obsessed with the mythology around it when the truth is it's very similar to an office."

The quote highlights the disconnect between the public's perception of the music industry, which is often romanticized, and the more prosaic, everyday reality experienced by those within it.

Jack Antonoff's Career

  • Jack Antonoff's first hit was with the band Fun, with the song "We Are Young" in 2012.
  • Since then, he has started the band Bleachers and written many hit songs.
  • Antonoff is a highly influential music producer, collaborating with artists like Lord, Lana Del Rey, and Taylor Swift.
  • He has won eight Grammy Awards, including Producer of the Year in 2022 and 2023.

"Jack Antonoff's first hit was the song of 2012 it was called We Are Young which was back when he was in the band Fun."

This quote serves as an introduction to Jack Antonoff's early success and sets the stage for discussing his subsequent influence in the music industry.

  • The podcast aims to understand the current state of the music industry, including the impact of streaming and touring on artists.
  • Musical trends are seen as reflective of broader cultural movements.
  • The summer of Taylor Swift is mentioned, highlighting her significance in the current music landscape.

"Antonoff is the perfect person to help us understand what's happening in the music industry right now."

This quote positions Jack Antonoff as an expert who can provide insight into the evolving music industry and its relation to cultural trends.

New Jersey's Creative Influence

  • New Jersey is often overlooked but has produced many great artists, including Bruce Springsteen and Whitney Houston.
  • The state's proximity to New York City creates a unique cultural environment that is both self-deprecating and inspiring.
  • New Jersey's position as an outsider looking in at New York's energy contributes to a creative drive among its artists.

"New Jersey has produced tons of great artists."

The quote acknowledges the significant contribution of New Jersey to the music industry, countering the common underestimation of the state's artistic output.

Personal Tragedy and Creative Drive

  • Jack Antonoff and his sister Rachel, a fashion designer, grew up in a creative household.
  • Their younger sister Sarah's death had a profound impact on their lives and work.
  • The experience of loss at a formative age influenced their approach to creativity and their drive to pursue what makes them feel alive.

"Nothing matters besides what makes you feel alive in the face of death."

This quote encapsulates the philosophy that emerged from the Antonoff siblings' experience with tragedy, highlighting the urgency of pursuing passion and creativity amidst the inevitability of mortality.

Grief and Creativity

  • Jack Antonoff describes grief using a metaphor of a dirty glass of water slowly becoming clear.
  • The process of grief does not remove the pain but allows for clarity over time.
  • This perspective on grief has informed his life and work.

"If you think about a dirty glass of water that you can't see through and then you continuously Through The Years drop clear droplets of water eventually you'll be able to see through it dirt doesn't go away."

The quote provides a metaphor for understanding grief's long-term effects, suggesting that while the initial pain may not disappear, it becomes possible to find clarity and continue living productively.

Family Dynamics and Music

  • Antonoff's family is described as extremely close, with his parents often accompanying him on tour.
  • This closeness is common among musicians, with many artists having their parents involved in their careers.
  • The presence of family members during tours and in the creative process is more prevalent than assumed.

"More than you think."

This brief quote challenges the assumption that having family members involved in an artist's tour life is unusual, revealing a hidden norm within the industry.

Yearning in Music

  • Jack Antonoff's music is characterized by a sense of yearning rather than nostalgia.
  • He writes about longing for experiences or emotions that he has never had, which gives his music a forward-looking quality.
  • This yearning is a central theme in his songwriting process.

"It's yearning for something that I never had."

This quote clarifies that the emotional quality often perceived as nostalgia in Antonoff's music is, in fact, a deep longing for unexperienced aspects of life, which drives his creative expression.

Personal Creative Process

  • Charlotte Alter describes a "weird pull" that is a central part of her creative process.
  • This pull is associated with grief and loss, specifically mentioning the loss of her sister.
  • The pull is not regressive but propels her forward on a search.
  • She articulates this search by reflecting on what was missing in the past, now seen clearly.

"A lot of times I write about it through a relationship... it's just this weird pull sometimes it's about grief. but it's pulling me forward."

The quote highlights Charlotte's use of personal relationships and grief as a lens for her creative writing, and emphasizes the forward momentum this gives to her work.

Jack Antonoff's Career and Goals with Bleachers

  • Jack Antonoff got his big break with the band fun.
  • He has worked with major artists like Taylor Swift and Lana Del Rey.
  • Jack started his band Bleachers in 2013.
  • His goal with Bleachers is to engage in a dialogue with his audience, not to appeal to everyone.
  • He views his music as "messages in the bottle" that are meant to connect with people who resonate with it.

"I mean the goal is to be in a dialogue with your people... you're writing something. and then you Chuck it out into the world."

Jack Antonoff emphasizes his desire to communicate and connect with his specific audience through his music, rather than trying to cater to a mass market.

Cultural Shifts in Music

  • Jack Antonoff discusses the concept of "in between times" in music culture.
  • These periods are characterized by a lack of settled rules or genres and offer freedom for experimentation.
  • Jack sees the current era as one of discovery, forgiveness, and interest, where different elements can coexist.
  • He notes that there used to be strict rules around music production, like certain drum sounds being dominant on streaming platforms.
  • Jack believes that we are currently in a "glorious Renaissance moment" where it is celebrated to exist outside the norms.
  • He uses the metaphor of jeans' styles to illustrate the cyclical nature of culture.

"I'm really excited to be releasing music within it but that time was one of those things where it's like before that there were a lot of. rules..."

Jack Antonoff reflects on the freedom and excitement of creating music in a cultural period that is less constrained by rules and more open to diverse expressions.

The Success of "We Are Young"

  • "We Are Young" was a huge hit for Jack's band fun., reaching number one on the Billboard charts and featuring in a Super Bowl ad.
  • Jack attributes the success of the song to its release during a culturally open period where bands were exploring programming-based music.

"It was a time when a lot of bands were becoming interested in music that was based off of programming and it was kind of one of these like in between times when people haven't settled on anything so you can kind of do anything."

The quote explains why "We Are Young" resonated with audiences, as it came out during a time of musical exploration and genre blending.

Staying True to Artistic Vision

  • Jack advises against chasing cultural trends, as they are constantly changing.
  • He believes in maintaining a consistent artistic vision, which may occasionally align with cultural movements.
  • Jack acknowledges that his music has not always been at the center of culture but asserts the importance of authenticity over chasing trends.
  • He emphasizes the importance of having an audience that connects with his work.

"The worst thing you can do is to chase culture because you'll keep missing it... if you do you then you'll have these moments where you feel seen."

Jack Antonoff stresses the importance of staying true to one's artistic vision rather than trying to follow fleeting cultural trends, as authenticity leads to moments of connection with the audience.

Audience Engagement

  • Jack compares engaging with an audience to having a conversation at a party.
  • He believes that looking away from the audience, even for a moment, can break trust.
  • His commitment is to never "look for something better" but to maintain a connection with his audience, even if they don't always agree with his artistic choices.

"I will never look away from my audience... I'm not going to look for something better."

Jack Antonoff likens his relationship with his audience to a personal interaction, valuing consistent engagement and trust over seeking broader appeal.

Collaboration in Music Production

  • Jack Antonoff considers collaboration one of his strengths as a producer and artist.
  • He acknowledges that he cannot work with everyone and that his ability to elicit creativity is based on his experiences.
  • The secret to creatively productive collaboration is not fully articulated, but Jack implies that it involves a selective process based on compatibility.

"Well I can only speak to the experiences I've had because there's plenty of people that I can't work with."

This quote reveals Jack Antonoff's understanding that successful collaboration in music production is not universal and depends on the specific dynamics between individuals.

Creative Process in Music Production

  • Jack Antonoff discusses the importance of embracing uncertainty in the creative process.
  • He emphasizes the significance of capturing feelings that are hard to describe through audio.
  • The process involves working with a small team and gradually discovering the sound.
  • Jack prefers to work with artists who are open to exploration rather than those with fixed answers.

"No One Knows the future the future is this quiet feeling an artist has um I like paying attention to that feeling I like to be in a room with someone and look at something and not really know how we're going to get there and not even really know how to define it."

This quote highlights Jack's approach to music production, which is centered around intuition and the undefined future of a project. He values the creative journey and the discovery that comes with it.

Jack Antonoff's Relationship with Taylor Swift

  • Jack reflects on his longstanding creative partnership with Taylor Swift, which began with "Out of the Woods."
  • He describes their growth as artists and how their relationship has been unique and complementary.
  • Jack shares his approach to production on "Out of the Woods," which included a mix of live and programmed drums, and a focus on creating a dream-like chaos.

"and you said on Instagram that you will one day write an essay on the different production I used on this song and how much working on it with Taylor has meant to me."

The quote indicates Jack's deep appreciation for his collaborative work with Taylor Swift and the impact it has had on his career as a producer.

Evolution of Music Production Techniques

  • Jack discusses the evolution of his production techniques from "Out of the Woods" to "Anti-Hero."
  • He describes the use of different instruments and effects, such as the OB8 synthesizer and Lind drum beats.
  • Jack emphasizes the importance of unique sounds, like the tremolo on the drum beat in "Anti-Hero."

"anti-hero was mostly built around an ob8 which is a really weird synthesizer that kind of has a different attitude every time you turn it on."

This quote explains how Jack used the OB8 synthesizer's unpredictable nature as a central element in the production of "Anti-Hero," showcasing his adaptive and inventive production style.

Collaboration with Friends and Great Artists

  • Jack Antonoff values working with friends and artists he respects, such as Taylor Swift, Lana Del Rey, and Annie Clark.
  • He believes in the importance of protecting his creative space and only collaborates with those he finds truly inspiring.
  • Jack differentiates between artists who achieve massive success and those who create great work, suggesting that greatness in art can lead to a fulfilling career regardless of fame.

"you are one of very few people who have had access to some of like the great artists of our time."

The quote recognizes Jack's unique position in the music industry, having worked closely with several highly acclaimed artists.

The Nature of Success and the Creative Process

  • Jack contemplates the reasons why some artists reach stratospheric levels of success.
  • He maintains that regardless of an artist's fame, the creative process remains unchanged.
  • Jack underscores the importance of continuing to focus on making great music in the studio, irrespective of external success.

"no matter how massive big successful revered you get it doesn't change the process because you're doing the same thing."

This quote encapsulates Jack's philosophy that the essence of songwriting and producing records is constant, and success does not alter the fundamental creative process.

Vulnerability in Music Creation

  • The process of creating music remains fundamentally unchanged, regardless of age or experience.
  • Vulnerability is a key aspect of music production, allowing for a genuine and human connection.
  • Ego can hinder the creative process in studio environments.

"The process of making that song is the same process of making a song when I was 14 in the room with my friends... you are just completely vulnerable in a space trying to create the sound of that thing that you hear in your head."

This quote emphasizes how the essence of music creation is rooted in vulnerability and the pursuit of translating one's inner vision into sound, which remains consistent over time.

Impact of Streaming on Music Production

  • The speaker believes that streaming has not changed their approach to producing music.
  • The quality of music production should not be influenced by the medium through which it is delivered.

"Has it changed anything about the way you approach producing these songs? Zero zero."

The speaker is asserting that their music production process remains unaffected by the changes in music distribution, such as streaming.

Monopoly and Pricing in Live Music

  • The monopolization of the live music industry has led to a free market for ticket pricing.
  • The speaker believes that concerts should be aspirational and safe spaces, akin to worship centers.
  • Dynamic pricing undermines the equality of the concert experience.

"The insane Monopoly that is going on has turned the live music industry into basically a free market to the highest bidder."

This quote criticizes the current state of the live music industry, where ticket prices are determined by market forces rather than the value of the shared experience.

The K-Shaped Music Industry

  • The music industry is experiencing a divide where wealthier artists become richer while others struggle.
  • Middle-class artists are disappearing, creating a gap between the rich and the poor.
  • The speaker is passionate about addressing these issues, despite them being challenging.

"The music industry going k-shaped is one of the great sadnesses of my personal life... the rich get richer the poor get poorer and there's no middle."

The quote describes the speaker's personal distress over the growing economic disparity within the music industry and the disappearance of middle-class artists.

Personal and Cultural Songs of the Summer

  • The speaker distinguishes between a cultural song of the summer and a personal one.
  • "Cruel Summer" is highlighted as a song that has had a resurgence and personal significance.

"For me it's pretty wild what's been happening with Cruel Summer... that's my [Music] answer."

The speaker shares their personal experience with the song "Cruel Summer," which holds a special place for them and has unexpectedly become prominent again.

Jack Antonoff's Personal Anecdotes

  • Jack Antonoff shares various personal experiences, including recent purchases and studio work.
  • He expresses admiration for certain individuals in the music industry and the concept of idolizing someone.

"When's the last time you bought an instrument yesterday and what was it Bon Echo it's an echo machine."

This quote provides a glimpse into Jack Antonoff's daily life and interests, showcasing his continuous engagement with music outside of production.

Conclusion and Acknowledgements

  • The episode concludes with a summary of Jack Antonoff's impact on the music industry and an invitation for listeners to explore a playlist of his work.
  • The podcast team is acknowledged, including the host, producers, and other staff involved in the production.

"Thank you so much for listening to person of the week... you can find it on our website."

The closing quote thanks listeners for their engagement with the podcast and directs them to additional resources to further explore Jack Antonoff's work.

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