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How R&B Singer Brianna Cash Scored a Recording Contract

“I had no clue I was dealing with someone with zero recording experience,” recalls Andrew “Pop” Wansel of working with Brianna Cash for the first time. Cash, the Philadelphia singer Wansel watched play open mics at music venue World Cafe Live, grew up performing in church choirs and her school band, and began writing her own songs as a teenager.

By her early 20s, thanks to Wansel, one of Cash’s voice memos wound up as the chorus to a track from Tory Lanez’s 2016 debut album, I Told You. A few months later, in February 2017, Wansel, who has worked with Rihanna and Ariana Grande, flew Cash to Los Angeles for her first solo studio session.

“We hit the ground running,” he recalls. “Every time we got back in the studio, there was a noticeable growth.” Adds the now 27-year-old Cash: “It felt like I was in school. I was always learning: how to record, how to write to beats, how to put it all together.”

By the end of 2017, Wansel (who had recently founded his own label, Fish Grease) signed Cash to a recording contract, making her the first artist on the imprint’s roster, though they’d wait to announce the news until her music was ready. On Jan. 17, Wansel not only revealed the release of Cash’s debut single, the bluesy “Numb,” he also said that Fish Grease had signed a joint venture with Interscope Records. “Once I got into a place where I was playing something in a room full of people and they were trying to Shazam it when it’s not even out, I said, ‘OK, we’re ready,’ ” says Wansel.

"I'm excited for the world to hear her music and see her performance," adds Joie Manda, vp of Interscope. "Pop is an amazing producer and has been developing her [talent]."

“Numb,” which features production from Benny Blanco, taps Lanez for a verse and samples Quincy Jones’ 1973 version of “Summer in the City.” (Cash also counts ’90s hip-hop acts, particularly 2Pac and Wu-Tang Clan, among her biggest influences.) “Putting out [only] an EP would be a disservice to her,” says Wansel. “I’m willing to put out an album — and another one right away. It’s some of the best shit I’ve ever made.”

This article originally appeared in the Feb. 1, 2020 issue of Billboard.