Max Martin Masterclass with Jan Gradvall
Max Martin Masterclass With Jan Gradvall
It’s very rare that you can find a long interview with superproducer Max Martin. He’s not a person that wants a lot of attention and he rather keeps his privacy. Nevertheless Jan Gradvall, a Swedish music journalist made a great interview with Max back in 2016 when he got his Polar Music Prize.
The interview is not listed on the official Polar Music Youtube account so no guarantee that this video will be still online in the future. This is why I have written the key takeaways from the interview so you can still learn even if the video goes offline.
The songs were cut out from the interview so it couldn’t be hit with a copyright claim. I made a small Spotify playlist so you could go along. I might put more songs into that playlist in the future.
Enjoy the interview!
Key Takeaways From The Interview
- If you have a song idea in your head when you’re sleepy and want to go to bed, have a pocket recorder by your side or your cell phone and record your idea, no matter if it sounds pretty horrible because next day you probably won’t be able to remember it
- When writing a song you will have a special artist in mind but the record could end up with a totally different artist
- Don’t throw away your demos or skeleton tracks. You will think your demo is crap but a record executive will see it as a hit
- Learning how to sing and taking vocal lessons as a producer will help you to work better with artists and provide them direction, having better control of dynamics of their voices and knowing exactly what they are struggling with
- Learn things from the greatest artists. For Max it was Prince. They even came up with the “Prince-Theory” where the verse melody is just the same as the melody in the chorus.
- Be creative and go to places other artists and producers don’t go, even if its “weird”
- Don’t trust formulas but use them as a toolbox for problem-solving. You start with a simple idea and apply different techniques or formulas to improve the song and make it catchy. There is no special formula for pop-music.
- Everything is about having the right balance. Busy Chorus – Simple Verse.
- Don’t overwrite a song, there is only so much information a person can process
- Sounds because dated after a while, every music producer has a “run” but it’s important to work hard and develop yourself further, coming up with new sounds and ideas. There is no “Everyone is wrong and I’m always right” – Never think like that, the world and the pop culture will move on and you will be stuck with the old sound
- Learn a new instrument. For Max when he first picked up the guitar and couldn’t really play it he came up with the simplistic riff for Kelly Clarkson’s “Since You Been Gone”
- Sometimes you can’t relate to another music genre, but you can take the sounds and the sonics of that and do it in a different way eg. apply it to the music genre you’re producing
- Limiting your options and your time can always lead to new musical ideas. “Who Knew” by Pink was written by Max and Dr.Luke when they already had 2 full songs and only 3 hours left in the studio. They came up with a small idea, recorded a demo which then developed into a hit record.
- A good singer shouldn’t have to prove that he/she is a good singer. Make the singer sing something simple but with power and emotion behind it
- Mumbling a melody without any proper words can open new ideas, the lyrics can come later
- Don’t be discouraged! “I kissed a girl” by Katy Perry was not looked upon as a hit and Max received many emails that the song just wasn’t hit material
- Songs with controversial topics can go viral and accelerate the record
- Go with your gut feeling when working with new artists, you will never know if a record will be worldwide hit
- Songs will come from the weirdest situations. Some conversations will create ideas that can be incorporated into hit-songs. “Never Ever Getting Back Together” by Taylor Swift came from a conversation with Taylor and Max after someone who didn’t know Taylor asked Max to speak with her although he didn’t even know her. The conversation was about an Ex-Boyfriend hence the title of the song.
- You should always try out something new and collaborate with new talented producers. Max’s protege “Shellback” is the reason that there is a healthy competitive atmosphere in the studio. This goes back to the day when Denniz Pop was Max’s mentor and loved to invite new talented producers to the studio for inspiration.
- Every creative person has an ego, but you have to let other people’s talent touch and inspire you
- Always work hard even if you’re the #1 music producer in the whole world