Welcome to the new episode of the Billboard.com Pop Shop Podcast, Billboard’s weekly audio breakdown of the Billboard charts, hottest music news and year’s biggest musical events. Casual pop fans and chart junkies can hear Billboard co-director of charts Keith Caulfield and Billboard.com senior editor Katie Atkinson every Tuesday on the Pop Shop Podcast, which can be streamed on Billboard.com or downloaded in iTunes (click here to listen to the previous Tuesday’s edition of the show on Billboard.com).
On the latest show, we’re previewing the 2017 Billboard Music Awards with very special guests Imagine Dragons! The band is nominated for top rock song and will perform at Sunday’s show, which broadcasts live on ABC at 8 p.m. ET and 5 p.m. PT from the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
We caught up with the group’s Wayne Sermon and Dan Reynolds (who was born in Las Vegas and still lives there) to talk about their upcoming new album, Evolve (due June 23) and their songwriting process and even got some tips for first-time visitors to Las Vegas. Plus, the guys talk about why they decided to work with producers Mattman & Robin on the new album (including the lead single — and top 20 Billboard Hot 100 hit — “Believer”) along with songwriter Justin Tranter. (That trio also collaborated on hits like DNCE’s “Cake by the Ocean” and Selena Gomez’s “Hands to Myself.”)
“We knew for the first time we wanted to bring in producers [on the new album],” Reynolds tells Billboard. “As a band, we’ve always self-produced about 80 percent of [our albums] and then done a couple tracks per record with Alex Da Kid, who’s also our label [KIDinaKORNER] president — and he’s great. But we wanted to bring in fresh eyes to come in and say, ‘Hey, these are the things that maybe you can let go of with the band and these are things maybe let’s look at more.’
“I felt like we still were trying to find our identity,” Reynolds continues, “and we needed someone to come in and kind of help us find our own identity — as crazy as that sounds.
“We met with a lot of different producers, and Mattman & Robin were two that we really… we just really clicked with them. We knew that we wanted to be more minimalistic on this record, and they do that. That’s their bread and butter.”
As for how the group linked up with former Semi Precious Weapons frontman Tranter? Turns out, he’s been pals of Reynolds’ for a while. “Justin is an old friend,” Reynolds says. “My wife [Aja Volkman] sings for a band called Nico Vega, and they used to tour with Semi Precious Weapons a lot. So I knew Justin from his days in the band, and he’s just such a rad individual and incredible writer.”
In addition to writing tracks like “Cake by the Ocean” and “Hands to Myself,” Tranter has also co-written such songs as Justin Bieber’s No. 1 Hot 100 hit “Sorry,” Fall Out Boy’s “Centuries,” Maroon 5’s “Cold” and Linkin Park’s “Heavy.”
Reynolds says Tranter was “very respectful” when they got together to write. “[When] we got in the room, I said, ‘Look, this is the first time that I’ve written with someone else, and I feel I have to write my own lyrics, or I feel weird about it, and I just wanted to get that out of the way.’ And Justin was like, ‘Look, I am here to help you be the best version of you.’ And that was really important to me, and Justin was just such an incredible sounding board and brought so much to the table. They were just such a rad team to work with.”
In addition to the chat with Imagine Dragons, the Pop Shop team discusses news about Katy Perry’s upcoming album and tour, Camila Cabello’s new music and new No. 1s on both the Hot 100 (Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee’s “Despacito,” featuring Bieber) and the Billboard 200 albums chart (Logic’s Everybody).
Listen above and click here to subscribe/rate the Pop Shop Podcast on iTunes.