Meet the Songwriter Behind Hits for Camila Cabello, Selena Gomez and More

BB27 2017 - DO NOT EVER REUSE!!!
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Watt (right) with Ora, who contributed vocals to Avicii’s “Lonely Together.”

Since DJ Snake’s “Let Me Love You” (featuring Justin Bieber) reached No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 2016, songwriter Andrew Watt (aka watt) has been on a hot streak. Working frequently with songwriters Ali Tamposi and Brian Lee, the 27-year-old has eroded any remaining walls between soft guitar rock and chomping electronic music, crafting melodic, genre-agnostic records that are equally hospitable to pop singers, country stars, rappers and big-name DJs. Watt breaks down a sampling of the hits he had a hand in this year.

Camila Cabello feat. Young Thug - "Havana" 
As soon as the former Fifth Harmony member announced she wanted to pay tribute to her birthplace of Havana, watt and Tamposi found a way to incorporate their favorite phrase: “We like ‘nah nahs’ in our songs,” says watt. Producer Frank Dukes supplied the piano loop, and the hook lyrics came together in an “off the cuff” manner. Says watt: “We’re in an amazing time of music. Everyone I’m surrounded by is batting one thousand at all times.”

Kygo & Selena Gomez - “It Ain't Me"
The first song that watt, Tamposi and Lee attempted to write for Kygo was rejected by the producer’s manager. “He was very bluntly like, ‘This is not good,’” recalls watt. Stung by the dismissal, the writers were spurred to pen “It Ain’t Me” in just 20 minutes. Perfecting the production took longer: They tried 10 different approaches to the drop before settling on the final take. “He found his new sound,” watt says proudly. “That’s his graduation from tropical house.”

Selena Gomez & marshmello - “Wolves"
Watt wrote “Wolves” two years ago and played it for Gomez in Japan; she was instantly sold. “It makes sense for the sound we’re creating: this dark, singer-songwriter vibe,” he says. With marshmello, watt worked to perfect another dramatic drop. “There are ways to use the guitar that make you feel something classic, but you mix it with 808s [to] make it fresh,” says watt, who performed the song with the pair at the American Music Awards on Nov. 19.

Avicii & Rita Ora - “Lonely Together"
The track’s twisted romantic scenario -- “I might hate myself tomorrow, but I’m on my way tonight” -- is common for a watt co-write: “Most of [our songs] are ‘Damn, I fucked up,’ or ‘You’re the most fucked-up person in the world, but I can’t keep myself from you,’” he says. He paired that sentiment with a guitar riff that he had been saving, production from Avicii and a raw vocal from Ora. “I love to do vocals like that,” says watt. “There’s nothing to hide behind.” 

This article originally appeared in the Dec. 9 issue of Billboard.


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