Justin Tranter Talks Selena Gomez's 'Raw' New Songs, Camila's Musical 'Mood Board' & Next Big Moves

Justin Tranter
Christopher Patey

Justin Tranter

Tranter talks to the Pop Shop Podcast about having a musical *and* a musical TV show in the works, in addition to a busy schedule as an in-demand songwriter.

“When you can be with an artist and do something that real, and that raw, and that honest, and have it go No. 1, it's pretty crazy,” superstar songwriter and singer Justin Tranter says of co-writing Selena Gomez’s first Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 hit “Lose You to Love Me.”

“Lose” also marked Tranter’s 24th charting hit on the Hot 100 as a songwriter, joining such familiar tunes as Fall Out Boy’s “Centuries,” Halsey’s “Bad at Love,” Imagine Dragons’ “Believer” and DNCE?’s “Cake by the Ocean.”

Tranter co-wrote “Lose” and “Look at Her Now” with Julia Michaels and Gomez, while “Lose” was also co-written and produced by the team of Mattman & Robin (Mattias Larsson and Robin Fredriksson). “Lose” marked the second No. 1 on the Hot 100 for both Tranter and Michaels, and the first leader for Mattman & Robin (as either writers or producers).

Tranter joins the latest edition of the Billboard Pop Shop Podcast (listen below) to discuss teaming up with Gomez again and why “there's something really beautiful” about the writing relationship Tranter has with Michaels and Gomez. Plus, Tranter dishes on contributing to Camila Cabello?’s new album Romance and how “she's just such an amazing songwriter”; who is on Tranter’s dream list of collaborators (Twenty One Pilots, check your inbox!); and how Tranter has two new huge musical projects in the work: a musical show (with Eve Ensler, Idina Menzel and Caroline Pennell) and musical TV show.

Below are some of highlights from our chat with Tranter:

On some of the reasons why “Lose You to Love Me” hitting No. 1 on the Hot 100 was extra special:

Having the home team back together -- not like we ever broke up. [The track’s producers and co-writers] Mattman & Robin live in Sweden, [co-writer] Julia Michaels became a huge pop star in her own right so was traveling all the time, and Selena was taking some time away from the album process. So to have everyone back together was really, really special.

Tranter, Michaels, Gomez and Mattman & Robin have previously teamed up on the Gomez tunes “Hands to Myself” and “Me & the Rhythm,” both of which were featured on Gomez’s 2015 album Revival. Tranter and Michaels also co-wrote Gomez’s other recent Hot 100 hit, “Look at Her Now.”

The day that we wrote the song was really special. It was the first time the five of us had been in a room together in, very well could be, two, three years. It was a long time. We had all seen each other separately, but just because of everyone's schedules it was the first time that we were all back together in the same room to write a song. And we wrote that song. Which is f---ing awesome. It's also really special because I just love being as honest as humanly possible in music. So when you can be with an artist and do something that real, and that raw, and that honest, and have it go No. 1, it's pretty crazy.

On working with Selena Gomez and the trust and bond Tranter and Julia Michaels have built with Gomez through the years:

(On Gomez's album) Revival, me and Julia were deeply involved in, and then this one, [Rare] we are deeply involved in as well. I just feel like … when you build that trust, especially when the artist -- meaning, in this case, when Selena wants to talk about real shit -- it's a lot more fun and easier to do it with people that you know and you trust. You don't have to start from zero. I've written a lot of songs I love when you have just met somebody, and that can be also really exciting. Like, we just met and I'll have to write something crazy. But there's something really beautiful that we have. You know, Julia's the one that actually kind of opened the door for us into the Selena project, and it's something I'll be grateful for forever and ever and ever. Because it's just such a rewarding experience to work with both of them.

On collaborating with Camila Cabello on three songs on her new album, Romance:

She's just such an amazing songwriter, which I don't think people know. You see pop writers names on [an album's credits] … and they never really know "Did the artist actually [write] or not or blah blah blah." Camila's melodies are insane. She gets on the mic and just freestyles melodies, and she's so good that sometimes it goes on so long, I'm like, "Well, there's too many good melodies, I can't f---ing help you. I can't f---ing do this. But you fight through!" [Laughs] She's such a f---ing talent. It's crazy. And when she came in [to the studio], she was very clear about the sound she wanted. There was amazing, like, [a] mood board … references that you would never ever ever think of musically, because she's coming from a lot of Cuban music. Something like "Living Proof," it's not a Latin pop song, but the feeling of where the rhythmic space exists is all coming from things that she was talking about, and references that she was loving. So, she was so involved. … "Living Proof" is one of the songs that I'm the most proud of. I think it's just such a magnificent song. The lyrics make me really proud. And her voice on it is insane. That falsetto in the chorus is just like mesmerizing. That voice does not f--- around. She is here

On working on two new projects -- a new musical (with Eve Ensler, Idina Menzel and Caroline Pennell) and a musical TV show:

I'm also moving into a lot of different film and TV things. I'm working on a musical with Eve Ensler [who wrote The Vagina Monologues] … one of the greatest playwrights of our time. I can't say anything about the project -- what it is -- but I can say, because we put that we were all on Instagram together, there's me, Eve Ensler, Idina Menzel and this new amazing up-and-coming songwriter named Caroline Pennell, are all working on something together. And that's really really fulfilling and rewarding. I'm also writing a television show that's in the works. It's a musical of course. Because if I'm gonna do a TV show there has to be songs. There's so many amazing pop stars and rock stars that I hopefully get to work with one day, but I'm really enjoying working with the people that I know I kick ass with, and then exploring this whole other world. 

Is the musical in its early stages?

Creatively, I would say we're like 70% there, creatively. It's just figuring out where it lands. And obviously that last 30% is probably the hardest 30%. But it's just been such an amazing experience.

How far along is the TV show?

I can't … I can't say what's happening, but it's already happening.

Also on the podcast: hosts Keith and Katie discuss Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You” hitting No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart (25 years after its release!) and how it’s also a very busy week at the top of the Billboard 200 chart, where four new albums debut in the top 10. Plus, there’s a Chart Stat of the Week dedicated to a particularly long-loved holiday song that hit the charts 70 years ago this month.

The Billboard Pop Shop Podcast is your one-stop shop for all things pop on Billboard's weekly charts. You can always count on a lively discussion about the latest pop news, fun chart stats and stories, new music, and guest interviews with music stars and folks from the world of pop. Casual pop fans and chart junkies can hear Billboard's senior director of charts Keith Caulfield and deputy editor, digital Katie Atkinson every week on the podcast, which can be streamed on Billboard.com or downloaded in Apple Podcasts or your favorite podcast provider. (Click here to listen to the previous edition of the show on Billboard.com.)