Emmy-nominated composer and songwriter Labrinth looks back on working with Zendaya and creating the second season’s two nominated tracks, "I'm Tired" and "Elliot's Song."

The Emmys love the songs of Euphoria as much as we do. 

English singer-songwriter and producer Labrinth started creating music professionally in 2009, working with the likes of Rihanna, Ed Sheeran, Sia, and Nicki Minaj over the years. But he entered a new era of his career when Sam Levinson asked him to work on the hit HBO drama. "I didn't expect anything from it apart from doing the job and getting it done," the Grammy nominee says about his expectations when he signed on to compose and created songs for the show. As a musician, the world of television and the Emmys was new to him, so being recognized in this way — four nominations total between seasons 1 and 2 — is an honor he calls "pretty wild." What's come from it has been extraordinary. "To see that it's turned into two nominations and one win and fans literally losing their minds over the stuff is like a super bonus. That's more than you can ask for," he shares. After winning for the first season's "All of Us," he is nominated alongside series star and executive producer Zendaya for season 2's "I'm Tired" and "Elliot's Song."

Labrinth chatted with EW about creating Euphoria pair of nominated tracks, working with Zendaya in person for season 2, and how the work has impacted his own artistry. 

Singer/rapper/songwriter/producer Labrinth at the London premiere of 'Elvis.'
| Credit: Lia Toby/Getty Images

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What stands out to you when you reflect on creating "I'm Tired"?

LABRINTH: I love playing with harmony, and the song I'm Tired is like a gospel song with a Nat King Cole-like progression, and some of the progressions are major to minor. They've very windy, and I love doing that on a record. We don't really have a lot of records in this day and age that play with harmony in that way. It was fun to make a song that has been successful commercially, and it's not really a commercial song, especially not today's type of commercial song. The song was playlisted on radio, got like over 200 million streams, and it's crazy that we could a record like [I'm Tired] become popular amongst your fans and kids. Looking back on it, it feels like it meant more than what it was created for and became more than what it was created for.

What about Elliot's Song?

First, I love how people received it on the show. It was funny. We didn't take it too seriously; you've got to learn to laugh at yourself sometimes. Working on the show is pretty intense; it's very fast sometimes, and I challenge anyone to try and do what Sam Levinson did in the editing room. It was insane. But, making the song and writing this particular moment was lovely, and Dominic Fike did a great job of conveying what we wrote, and that's what we did. We wrote this song for a moment where a young boy is telling his best friend he's sorry and that she can become better with him out in the picture. It feels successful to me because we wrote to our brief and delivered it. Now it's nominated, which is crazy.

What was it like to work with Zendaya in creating those songs?

For All Of Us, we were across the pond. Working together personally in the room where she's literally coming from set to come into my studio with her saying, "Lab, so there's a scene that Sam asked me to explain to you." What I really enjoyed working on this season is it felt like everyone was in their own rooms passing on information. At one point, I had at least four or five of the cast in my studio listening to what I was making for the show. It was very much more of a family collaboration.

Working with Zendaya on the records, we've got a chance to write together because we've been wanting to, but we've always been writing from a distance. To sit in a room, we saw that our chemistry works in the room and across the pond. Then, of course, she's super talented, and it's always good to work with people with skills.

Zendaya, Sydney Sweeney, Labrinth, Alexa Demie, and Sam Levinson attend HBO's Official 2019 Emmy After Party on September 22, 2019 in Los Angeles, California.
Zendaya, Sydney Sweeney, Labrinth, Alexa Demie, and Sam Levinson at HBO's Official 2019 Emmy After Party.
| Credit: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

What was it like the first time you heard the songs edited into the scenes?

That's typically how viewers first hear the songs. I didn't get to watch this most of this season, so I've seen a few episodes and seen what I've done with the composition because I have kids and go to bed early. I do hear from mates who come to me about [the music on Euphoria].

One of my favorite scenes I've seen back is Yeh I F---in' Did It when they used it behind Rue running from the police. It was fun to see that record bring that moment to life. It's exciting, so I like to see it add more color to the music. The scenes bring it alive.

Are there any behind-the-scenes stories from creating those two tracks?

We wrote ["I'm Tired"] two days before I performed it, which is crazy. I don't even know how we got it done.

Zendaya originally sang it, and then we both thought I should do it for the scene. She was going to do the whole record. I'm sure people are going to cuss me now that I did: "You should have put Zendaya on it!" We gotta hear her sing more. She's such a great singer. I love hearing her sing.

You also appear in the episode when we hear "I'm Tired" — how was that experience?

It was super fun. Between me, Sam, and Zendaya, we all have a synergy or chemistry creatively. We enjoy a lot of the same things, so it felt like I was able to join them in their universe after they had both been in mine. It was nice to bring our chemistry alive in that scene because we had me and Zendaya embracing each other for the scene, then Sam actually filming it. It felt emotional and spiritual when we were in the room.

How is writing songs for the show different from anything you've done for yourself?

There's less pressure because, weirdly, even though people have fallen in love with the music, I am in Sam Levinson's universe. I'm playing behind the band and trying to help enhance what the lead singer is saying. It feels like I can have more fun because there's no pressure on me; it's not my name. That puts me in a position where I can just go, especially since film is a different world. You're not trying to make a record that people will sing along to. I'm just making wild shit that enhances the scene, so it forces me to do stuff that is just out-of-the-box or just crazy, and I enjoy that. When I write songs, I write to film even when I'm writing stuff for myself because it inspires a different approach to music.

You've recently released a new single, Lift Off, and have a new LP coming. Has the work you've done on Euphoria had an impact on your own music?

It made me want to sing more songs because my last record was wacky as hell. I remember listening back and [thinking], "What the hell was I doing?" But I love it because I am one of those artists; I do what I want to do. I'm just free. It has broadened my palate, so people should listen out for the things I'm going to drop. Not just this album, but the albums preceding all of this. There's nothing holding me back [from] what I want to do and what I'm going to do.

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