Sia's 'Alive' Producer: Sharing a Studio with Adele was 'Mind-Blowing'

Courtesy Photo
Single art for Sia's 2015 single "Alive."

Jesse Shatkin says of "Alive": "Once Sia put her vocal on it, she was like, ‘I can’t let this go.'"

Sia’s new single “Alive,” which will lead the full-length follow-up to last year’s 1000 Forms Of Fear, includes some particularly impressive song credits: along with the Australian songwriting star, Adele — only one of the biggest pop stars on the planet — helped create the inspiring power-pop ballad, and indie star Tobias Jesso Jr. also appears as a co-writer. “Alive” was originally written for Adele’s eagerly anticipated third studio album before it became a Sia song, and the song’s producer, Jesse Shatkin, says that working with the “Rolling In The Deep” star on her first writing credit in years was a dream come true.

“I did a few days with [Adele] and Sia in the studio … and that was mind-blowing just to be there, to hang out with her and witness two great minds working together,” Shatkin tells Billboard. “I had been working on some other songs for her record possibly, so I had devoted a few weeks of my life to getting in the zone for doing stuff for Adele. I was thrilled about it the whole time.”

Shatkin, whose big break came last year when he co-produced Sia’s Top 10 hit “Chandelier” with his close collaborator Greg Kurstin, says that his work with Sia and Adele for the latter’s album occurred in early 2015, but that “Alive” came together when he was out of the studio. Sia, Adele and Jesso Jr. had written the song with a single piano and vocal during a studio powwow, and Sia sent Shatkin a hard drive with the raw ProTools session soon after.

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“Sia said, ‘Would you like to take a crack at it?’” Shatkin recalls. “Obviously, I would have killed for the opportunity to do this song. I immediately started listening to it and just realized what a killer song it is. It’s so inspired.”

The producer says that he and Sia submitted the finished song to Adele, and that “we heard very soon that she didn’t think it was right for her. Then we thought about sending it to Rihanna, and then once Sia put her vocal on it, she was like, ‘I can’t let this go. I need it for me.’ Her label and management agreed.”

Shatkin also notes that crafting the “Alive” production for Adele pushed him to add live elements to the song that he wouldn’t have thought about if it had been originally conceived for Sia. Jesso Jr., who reportedly worked with Adele on other songs for her upcoming album and who Shatkin calls a “genius with chords and melodies,” plays piano on the finished version of “Alive.”

“We had a drummer come in, a guitarist and things like that,” he says. “With Sia, I can do my hip-hop/electronic thing. With Adele, I was inspired to do more organic things. Those are still there in the song, and I think those bring a new layer out of the song for Sia.”

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“Alive” precedes Sia’s next album, This Is Acting, which will be released on Monkey Puzzle Records/RCA but does not yet have a release date. Shatkin says that he believes that he and Kurstin “are doing the bulk of the production on the album,” and that he’s in the process of turning in a handful of new songs for Sia’s forthcoming project.

As for Adele’s next album, which is rumored to be coming out in November, Shatkin says that he doesn’t expect the songs he worked on with the U.K. superstar to make her final record, but that he is “thoroughly amazed at her talent and what a great hang she was. I think that she has a unique thing in her head that she is going for, and that she knows it when she hears it.”