Meet the Next Class of Songwriters-Turned-Artists Stepping Into the Spotlight

ISSUE 20 2019 - COMMISSIONED FOR ONE TIME USE ONLY
Photo Illustration by Klawe Rzeczy
From top: Weisband, Bourelly and Delacey.

Three songwriters with top 40 résumés are following in the footsteps of hitmakers-turned-artists like Julia Michaels by releasing their own debut projects this fall. Get to know them as a part of Billboard's 2019 Fall Preview:

BIBI BOURELLY

Notable Credits: Christina Aguilera (“Accelerate”), Mariah Carey (“GTFO”), Rihanna (“Bitch Better Have My Money”

Backstory: When the Berlin-born, U.S.-bred artist was 6, her mom, who worked in the arts and music, died of cancer. “When you’re that age, it’s hard to find words to express yourself,” says Bourelly. “It was easier to sing.”

Big Break: When Bourelly was in her late teens, her dad, a professional musician, arranged a session for her with Kanye West  in Los Angeles. Within about 30 minutes, she wrote “Higher,” which ended up on Rihanna’s 2016 album, ANTI. At 22, she signed to Def Jam and later a publishing deal with BMG Rights Management. All the while, she says, “there’s never been a time that I didn’t write for myself.” After releasing three EPs through Def Jam that showcased a fusion of alt-pop, R&B and acoustic tracks, she’s gearing up for her long-awaited debut full-length.

Philosophy: “I thought I was ready far before I actually was. If it were up to me, I would’ve dropped an album at 6. But only now I’m realizing there was, and still is, a lot to learn.”

DELACEY

Notable Credits: Halsey (“Without Me”), Zara Larsson (“Ruin My Life”), The Chainsmokers (“New York City”) 

Backstory: The singer-songwriter, born Brittany Amaradio, vividly remembers coming home after her first piano lesson at the age of 7 to write a song. “I always had this expression in me,” she says. Now 27, Delacey grew up performing and always thought she would be an artist, but she didn’t want to throw herself into the spotlight right away. “I was waiting until I had something to say that couldn’t be sung by anyone else,” she says.

Big Break: In 2016, a year after signing a publishing deal with Universal Music Publishing Group, Delacey met producer Ido Zmishlany (Shawn Mendes, Demi Lovato) in a session, where the pair hit it off. They’re working on her first album, due on Antonio “L.A.” Reid’s Hitco and her own imprint Delicate Flower (her mother’s sarcastic nickname for her). This March, she released her album’s first single, the sultry “My Man,” which drew favorable comparisons to Lana Del Rey. 

Philosophy: “If you want [to be an artist] for the attention and fame, don’t do it. Do it because the music is so personal that it can’t come from anyone else.”

EMILY WEISBAND

Notable Credits: Camila Cabello (“Consequences”), BTS (“Boy With Luv”)

Backstory: Weisband grew up in Virginia listening to Skip Ewing, Allen Shamblin and Dean Dillon -- artists her songwriter dad would play her. But while he encouraged his childrens’ interest in music -- for one Christmas, he bought his kids musical instruments in hopes of starting a family band -- he also told his daughter that Nashville was “a heartbreak town” and suggested she study to become a doctor. She took AP courses and browsed pre-med programs, but by her senior year in high school, she realized that music was her biggest passion. She decided to attend Belmont University’s Songwriting Program (in Nashville, of course) and, hile there, signed a publishing deal with THiS Music through a joint venture with Warner.

Big Break: In late 2015, a demo of hers reached producer Mike Elizondo (Eminem, Keith Urban, Twenty One Pilots). He called her within 45 minutes of hearing it and later flew her out to Los Angeles where the two worked on her upcoming debut, Identity Crisis, out later this year on Warner. If its title track is any indication, expect ultra-relatable lyrics like, “Tryna please my daddy so he'd be proud/And driving myself mad to fit in that crowd...holy shit, it's heavy being in your twenties.” Says Weisband: “Somebody once said to me ‘Em, you can be a squash or an oak. A squash grows in about a month and rots in a week, an oak takes years but it sticks around for hundreds more.’ I've decided to be an oak.”

Philosophy: “I’ve always tried to approach songwriting as a service industry. I’m not in a room to flex my skills. I’m there to assess what the artist needs.”

A version of this article originally appeared in the Aug. 24 issue of Billboard.

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