Louis Bell's unique perspective on songwriting and production has brought massive success with acts such as Post Malone, Jess Glynne and Selena Gomez.
"The analogy I like to make is this: the artist is driving down the street, and I am making the road for them. The goal is to take them to where they want to go. Once they are there, you can fix all the details. The road I make doesn't have to be the nicest road, it just needs to get them from point A to point B. You can always go back and fill the potholes in, repaint the lines, whatever is needed. But as you're building the road, the artist needs to be able to see where he or she is going, ie. his or her vision. And artists who do not produce their own stuff rely heavily on the producer's vision. By contrast, someone like Post [Malone] also produces, knows the lingo and can say things like, 'Let's try a different 808 sound.' When we work together, we get things done very quickly."
Speaking is Louis Bell, arguably the most successful producer working in the music industry today. He's been at the top for only three years, and during that time his achievements include eight tracks on Post Malone's debut album Stoney (2016), incorporating the big hit 'Congratulations', and all tracks on Malone's mega-selling Beerbongs & Bentleys (2019), including the super hits 'Rockstar', 'Psycho' and 'Better Now'. Bell's impressive track record also contains big hits by Camila Cabello, Selena Gomez, Lorde, Halsey, Cardi B, 5 Seconds Of Summer, Khalid, Jess Glynne, Rita Ora and many more.
Bell has some striking ways of describing what he does. For example, when discussing songwriting, he says, "Songs are like tornadoes. They come out of nowhere and they do some damage sometimes, and you don't really know when they come around. Songs take everything that is around them, spin it around, and turn that into a storm, and it affects people. But when you are in the eye of the storm, you don't even notice anything is going on. So you're creating this song, and after the dust settles, you have a look at what you have created and you go: 'What did I just do? Was it something special, or was I just destroying stuff?'
"I can remember exactly where I was and what I felt and who I was with for every song that I have ever made. I think that says a lot. The song becomes like a wormhole in time that allows you to always go back to that moment. If you do it right, you have created a personal little synapse network for yourself which allows you to revisit things and get nostalgic and tap into a certain emotion. It makes you a more formidable creator, and it helps in getting artists excited about things."
The many tornadoes that Bell has unleashed on the world over the last three years are all the more remarkable because before late 2016 he was a virtual unknown, despite having been in the business for close to two decades. Bell was born in 1982, and by the time major success arrived he was 34, and, in his own words, "over-qualified. I had built up my skill set for more than 10 years, by which stage I was very prepared and ready to wear a bunch of hats. It just takes one song to put your head above water. While it's under water, nobody knows you exist, but once it's above water, everybody will see you, and will go: 'Hey, who is this guy? Let's get him on board!'"
The hats that Louis Bell has been wearing include those of songwriter, vocal producer, engineer, mixer, and producer, and the song that put him above water was DJ Snake's 'Let Me Love You', which features vocals by Justin Bieber. Released in August 2016, it was a worldwide hit, reaching number one in more than a dozen countries. "The song was a massive success, and I was pretty happy about that," Bell recalls. "I started working with Post Malone immediately afterwards, and reconnected with Justin for Post's song 'Deja Vu'."
Louis Bell: "Songs are like tornadoes. They come out of nowhere and they do some damage sometimes, and you don't really know when they come around.
Bell grew up in Boston, and started piano lessons when he was 13. His mother drew, played guitar, and was a computer teacher who filled the house with PCs. All these influences combined in her teenage son starting to make music in Fruity Loops. "I grew up liking hip-hop, acts like Eminem, DMX, 2Pac, Biggie and Mobb Deep, because it was status-quo-challenging music, which to me was what rock was about when it first come out. I felt like there were no rules in hip-hop, no formulas, they really were not afraid of what anybody thought, and I loved that. I love the lyrics and the rhythms, so hip-hop was always in my blood, before I ever did pop music. Once rap started to be a thing where you had to be able to sing as well, like 50 Cent and Drake, it took it to a meteoric level and changed everything with regards to what a rapper is expected to do. That was intriguing to me, because while I always loved hip-hop, it gave me the chance to infuse it with all my pop instincts as well. Plus I have a lot of rock instincts. I also grew up listening to Aerosmith, Metallica, Pearl Jam, Nirvana and the Red Hot Chili Peppers."
In addition, he says, "Learning to play piano was massively important. When I was 13,...