Back when he was a burgeoning alt-rock studio hand in his mid-20s, Ariel Rechtshaid helped produce an unassuming acoustic ballad called “Hey There Delilah.” “I remember the label thinking it sounded like a shitty demo,” he says, recalling the 2006 Plain White T’s single. It became a Billboard Hot 100 No. 1.
Less than a decade later, the Los Angeles native has contributed to some of the 2010s’ most influential pop and R&B touchstones: Usher’s “Climax,” Solange’s True and Carly Rae Jepsen’s Emotion. Rechtshaid recently jammed in his Los Angeles studio with buzzy independent acts Weyes Blood and Clairo. The latter showed up with Rostam Batmanglij to record an impromptu Cass McCombs cover. “Any artist I’m working with, my goal isn’t to give them a sound,” says Rechtshaid, 40. “It’s to see into their brains and where their head is at — and help get them there quicker.”
Rechtshaid produced nearly all of Haim’s second album, 2017’s Something to Tell You, fine-tuning its pop-rock grooves and uncanny harmonies while the trio toured behind its 2013 debut, Days Are Gone. (Rechtshaid started dating Danielle Haim around the same time.) It was a trying period for him: Early on in production, Rechtshaid was diagnosed with testicular cancer, “a moment of true mortality,” he says. Nearly two years later, he’s cancer-free. “[Haim] were my family,” he says. “I’m grateful I had that record to show for that time. We pushed through.” As for the group’s next project, Rechtshaid is already assisting: “Danielle played me some new music,” he says without revealing much more. “It’s really cool.”
Rechtshaid first worked with Adele in 2015, producing her eventual Hot 100 top 20 hit “When We Were Young.” After laying down her vocals in two takes in London with Rechtshaid and singer-songwriter Tobias Jesso Jr., Adele wanted to flesh out the sparse ballad. Rechtshaid added drums and moved the chorus over an eighth note, adding a backbeat. “I was so nervous, I forced her to listen with me on FaceTime,” he says. “When it was done, she teared up.” He doesn’t yet have any official plans to work with her on future material, though he would, of course, be up for it: “I’ve been bumping into her recently; she just moved to L.A. So, you know, hopefully.”
After Rechtshaid proved his skills on the band’s 2013 Grammy-winning Modern Vampires of the City, frontman Ezra Koenig came to him first for its 2019 comeback, Father of the Bride, on which it unexpectedly embraced Grateful Dead-style jams and classic country duets. It was also the act’s first album without Batmanglij as in-house producer. “A producer’s most important role is to give a fresh perspective,” says Rechtshaid. “We took a lot of chances on this one.” Bride debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, earning 138,000 equivalent album units for the week ending May 9, according to Nielsen Music — the best for any rock LP so far in 2019.