After Crafting Hits for Flo Rida & Ariana Grande, Ross Golan Is Spotlighting Songwriters' Stories on His Maron-Esque Podcast
Ross Golan and his wife have an admittedly understated, yet romantic, weekend routine. “On Sunday afternoon, we usually sit on our balcony and drink champagne,” says Golan. “We don’t go out. I don’t think I’ve been to a club in 10 years. We just stay in.” It’s that quiet ritual that inspired Golan to co-write the Flo Rida track “My House.” Champagne references and all, it soon turned into one of the most ubiquitous songs of 2015, the massive success of which didn’t hit Golan until attending the Rose Bowl. “We got there and first they played the ‘Star Spangled Banner,’ then there was a military flyover, and then ‘My House’ started playing in front of 100,000 people. I looked around and there were families with their kids and drunk guys singing along. It was incredible.”
It’s stories like that which inspired the interview podcast And The Writer Is… Hosted by Golan and produced by Joe London (known for hits of his own, including Thomas Rhett’s Grammy-nominated “Die a Happy Man”), it’s a show that’s meant to pull back the curtain on the perpetually underappreciated and mostly misunderstood craft of how today’s hits actually come to fruition. In a podcast realm dominated by interview shows with everyone from comedians to athletes, Golan is carving a niche, one hour-long episode at the time. As WTF With Marc Maron presents an intimate side of people in comedy, And The Writer Is… does the same with the top music makers of today. “I have a book that everybody who I work with signs,” explains Golan of the show’s origins. “It has every signature in it from Bon Jovi to Michael Buble, and Max Martin to Stargate. To me it felt like it’d be kind of interesting to go back and hang out with these people again.” Since its January debut, the initial crop of episodes featured far-reaching discussions with the likes of Benny Blanco, Savan Kotecha, and Bonnie McKee.
With recent smashes of his own including Ariana Grande’s “Dangerous Woman” and Selena Gomez’s “Same Old Love,” Golan has fostered relationships with many industry heavy hitters, giving him both a deep rolodex of contacts and a unique perspective into the process. “I felt like maybe one of the things we’re missing is the fact that nobody knows who a lot of these people are,” says Golan. “When people think of songwriters they envision Taylor Swift. But there are writers who maybe have had a top 15 hit four years ago and today they are Uber drivers. Those are songwriters. Songwriters are real people who struggle to stay afloat. The ones that I’ve met, all of them struggled and all of them went through their shit.”
It’s those stories of struggle, inspiration, and friendship that Golan focuses on in his interviews. The first one he recorded as a try-out was with artist-producer Ricky Reed. “When Ricky was just visiting L.A., he’d stay on his friend’s couch in Echo Park and take a bus to my condo that I was foreclosing on,” says Golan of his early days trying to find a way into the industry. “We’d sit and write songs on my bed, because that was also my studio chair. And now we have these careers, and it’s like... This is insane. How are a bunch of friends doing this?”
Much like an episode of his show, exactly how Golan himself got his start is a story full of simple twists of fate. “I started writing songs in high school because I felt like an outcast and it gave me something to do,” says Golan, who grew up in Deerfield, Illinois, and later was granted admission to USC to study music. Ever the go-getter, while at USC Golan skipped interning for a record label and instead started his own record company he dubbed Insider Trading Corporation. “I recorded a solo album and EMI offered to fund the label after a bidding war, so suddenly I wound up running a record label,” he recalls with a laugh. At the time, Golan was also hoping from band to band, and it was during a period as part of the act Glacier Hiking he crossed paths with the then-future pop writer Evan Kidd Bogart, Glacier Hiking’s booking agent. “Around this time Evan wrote ‘S.O.S.’ for Rihanna which blows up.” Sensing a new opportunity, Golan soon left Glacier Hiking behind and dove headfirst into solely writing. “I wrote some songs for a bunch of people and most of them weren’t good enough, but I was determined.”
Since that humble start, Golan has effortlessly hopped from pop hit to pop hit, but he remains fascinated by a process that allows him to go from co-writing the female empowerment ballad “Dangerous Woman” (“I have 50 different versions of me singing ‘Dangerous Woman’ to my phone where I’m trying to get it to not sound bad”) to galavanting around Vancouver with Michael Bublé (a week-long jaunt when Golan and co-writer Johan Carlsson worked on cuts for his 2016 album Nobody But Me is a songwriting experience Golan called the best he’s ever had.)
Stories like these will no doubt find their way onto future episodes of And The Writer Is…, which already has a large backlog of episodes ready to post featuring everyone from songwriter-turned-artist Charlie Puth to Warner Bros. head Mike Caren.
“Right now you can ask a kid what their favorite music is, and they’ll say everything from Frozen’s ‘Let It Go’ to Drake’s ‘Fake Love,’” says Golan. "To them, it doesn’t matter who the artist is. They’re not walking through the aisle and going to the rap section and saying ‘I like rap.’ They’re saying, ‘I like songs.’ Songwriters are just having a moment right now.”