Next year will not be Jeff Bhasker’s first appearance at the Grammys. The prolific producer, behind much of Kanye West’s 808s & Heartbreak and My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, as well as key tracks off Alicia Keys’ smash The Element of Freedom and Beyonce’s 4, has taken home hardware from The Recording Academy for his work with Fun., Jay-Z, and West. But, as he says Monday after hearing he was nominated for Producer of the Year and Record of the Year for “Uptown Funk,” the shock of getting recognized never wears off. “It doesn’t,” he insists with a laugh.
Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars’ “Uptown Funk” was the musical gift that kept going this year, setting records for weeks at No.1 and dominating airwaves for months on end, and Bhasker says he and Ronson knew they had something special “from the first 30 seconds we started playing that groove,” the producer says.
“Then we slaved over it for nine months. That’s always the challenge: to take a really special moment of inspiration and then turn it into something that maximizes its full potential—not just settle for something that feels good.” Turns out the track was worth the wait, and the funky ditty felt good for everyone in 2015.
Bhasker also worked with an enormity of talent in various genres, which helped secure him the Producer of the Year nom. This year’s roster includes rockabilly-inflected newcomer Elle King, soulful singer Mikky Ekko, country breakout Cam, Nate Ruess’ Grand Romantic, the aforementioned pop behemoth Ronson, and indie pop singer (and Bhasker’s life partner) Lykki Li.
“I never want to be the smartest person in the room,” he says of picking his projects. “I always look to work with someone who does something that I’m a fan of and that I can learn from.” Speaking specifically about Ronson he says, “I learned a ton. He’s a master of production. We kind of shared something in common but we really compliment each other as well.”
He also had high words of praise for Cam, whose debut album — currently streaming on EW — Untamed, he executive produced. “I can’t say enough about her,” he says. “She’s the first artist that I decided to sign. [And] I never would have imagined that my first artist would have been a country artist but I wanted someone that I resonated with. And her voice is a thing from heaven.” Bhasker heard just the first opening seconds of what would become her breakout tune, “Burning House,” which was nominated for Best Country Solo Performance, and he had to be involved. “I wanted to be a part of that immediately.”
Bhasker won’t be laying low between now and February by any means. He’ll finish up executive producing Young The Giant’s album and work on a project LIV, with Swedish supergroup featuring Li and Andrew Wyatt and Pontus Winnberg of Miike Snow.
Other than that? He and Li have another thing in the works. “We’re also having a baby in February! So that’s the biggest production of my life. We’ll see what comes first, him or the Grammys.”