Chart Beat Podcast: Portugal. The Man's Eric Howk on Coming Out of Left Field With Crossover Smash 'Feel It Still'

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Maclay Heriot
Portugal. The Man

The band's guitarist is our special guest. Plus, chart chat about Camila Cabello's "Havana" (& Kenny G's, too).

Welcome to the Billboard Chart Beat Podcast, where each week co-hosts Gary Trust and Trevor Anderson, from the Billboard charts department, discuss why what's on the charts … is on the charts, while also looking at current chart action in a historical context for even greater insights.

This week, Eric Howk, guitarist for Portugal. The Man, is our special guest, who shares the band's reaction to its single "Feel It Still" having become the biggest rock crossover hit in five years. The song, currently at No. 6 on the Billboard Hot 100, crowns the all-format Radio Songs chart for a fourth week and has also risen to the top of Pop Songs, Adult Pop Songs, Alternative Songs, Adult Alternative Songs and even Dance/Mix Show Airplay.

"Hearing the song on pop radio is weird," Howk says. "If I hear it between Spoon and Kings of Leon on alternative radio, cool. But, when it's between Chance the Rapper and Ariana Grande, or JAY-Z and Demi Lovato … those are the weird ones.

"We're sort of grinning like the character in a Tarantino film that got away with it."

Howk, from Wasilla, Alaska, where lead singer John Gourley and bassist Zach Carothers sowed the band's seeds while in high school in the early 2000s (Howk joined the group in 2015), adds that "Feel It Still" began with its perhaps signature lyric. "'Rebel just for kicks' had been sitting in John's pocket for years. They had tried it in different things." Eventually, and with the writing assistance of Asa Taccone (who co-penned a certain holiday hit for The Lonely Island), "the whole thing came together in less than an hour."

Gary and Trevor also discuss Camila Cabello's vault from No. 7 to No. 2 on the Hot 100 with "Havana" (featuring Young Thug), now her highest-charting hit, counting both her solo songs and those while she was a member of Fifth Harmony.

Further fun fact: two songs titled "Havana" have hit the Hot 100: Cabello's and sax king Kenny G's, an instrumental, remixed by Tony Moran, that rose to No. 66 after debuting on the chart dated March 8, 1997 … five days after Cabello was born (in Cojimar, Eastern Havana). Hmm … what would a mash-up of the two sound like? Listen, just after the 14-minute mark, to find out (and hopefully judge kindly a little homemade production).

Enjoy the latest Chart Beat Podcast and check back for more upcoming episodes with artists, label executives, radio programmers and personalities, songwriters, producers and more. And, to receive every episode automatically in your inbox, subscribe to (and rate) the Billboard Chart Beat Podcast on iTunes!


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