There could be other ways to quantify who essentially the most profitable producer in nation music historical past could be, however Selection‘s Hitmaker of the Month, Scott Hendricks, is definitely within the operating, with greater than 70 No. 1 singles to his credit score in a 35-year discography. What could be simpler to quantify is who stands as nation’s most commercially viable artist/producer group, ever — that’d must be Hendricks and his major shopper, Blake Shelton.
Again in 2014, Shelton set a report by having his eleventh consecutive No. 1 single, all of them with Hendricks. Not content material with merely breaking the report, they saved going from there, finally attending to 17 in a row earlier than the streak was damaged in 2017. However that didn’t imply they’d crested. The singer and producer have accrued six extra No. 1s since then, together with 2019’s “God’s Nation” and 2020’s “No person However You” and “Completely happy Wherever” (the final two each that includes Gwen Stefani), bringing their whole to 23 which have reached the highest in simply 11 years. A newly launched music, “Minimal Wage,” is a greater guess than to not be part of the chart-topping firm of these earlier smashes.
Hendricks is present working on Shelton’s first full album since 2017, as a result of come out later in 2021. On a day off from that this week, the producer talked with Selection about their entwined legacy, and about his day job as EVP inventive advisor at Warner Music Nashville, the place he additionally signed and has produced artists like Dan + Shay. These twin duties characterize a uncommon confluence of success for somebody who’s been producing data for 3 and a half a long time, as Hendricks has since he established Stressed Coronary heart’s profession in 1985 and moved on to career-making work with Alan Jackson, Religion Hill, Brooks & Dunn and John Michael Montgomery.
(If you happen to don’t know your Music Row out of your Skid Row however Hendricks seems acquainted, it might be as a result of Shelton has sometimes introduced Hendricks onto “The View” as a mentor; they’re pictured collectively on the set, above.)
VARIETY: If you and Blake are pondering singles, do you concentrate on what the previous couple of singles have been, and whether or not there’s a distinct segment for a sort of music he does that hasn’t been stuffed shortly?
HENDRICKS: Nicely, selecting singles is all the time a really fascinating and strong dialog between a small group of individuals in Blake’s camp and Warner Music. We’ve laughed many instances that we must always have recorded these conversations over the previous decade or so,. It’s all the time fascinating, and it’s by no means remaining till the final second. We’ve picked the one solely to re-pick a single per week or two later. And sure, we do take into consideration, what have we carried out prior to now? What makes extra sense for proper now? And “Minimal Wage” truthfully was one which we had initially thought could be the primary single off of this undertaking. Due to the timing of it, we determined to go along with “Completely happy Wherever,” as a result of all people was at dwelling, and we thought, you realize what? You’ve gotta be completely happy wherever you’re at. So we switched to “Completely happy Wherever” as the primary single off of this upcoming album. However we recorded “Minimal Wage” nearly two years in the past, and I’ve been actually anxious to get that music out for him as a single ever since we recorded it. I feel this may in the end be a show-opener music for him for years to come back, as a result of the power that this music has is greater than he’s had in lots of singles.
What was the necessity it stuffed at this level in Blake’s profession?
Power, for starters. It’s only a driving, up-tempo music. We’ve had plenty of songs that fall within the mid-(tempo) class, (however fewer) up-(tempo). right here and there. Actually, although, we attempt to simply decide the easiest music we are able to that we’ve acquired in the mean time to place out and hope that every one stands the take a look at of time, and is not only one thing that’s going to fill the second.
How did the music come to you? You’ve talked about what number of ranges outdoors songs must get by way of to get to you, not to mention Blake.
This explicit music was despatched to me straight from one of many three writers. And I permit these writers that I’ve had hits with prior to now to ship me songs, as a result of they they’ve earned that proper to bypass the writer and go on to me. This explicit author, Jesse Frasure (who co-wrote with Nicolle Galyon and Corey Crowder) despatched it to me and I instantly instructed him to lock the music down — don’t ship it to anyone else. Despatched it to Blake; he liked it and we recorded it and right here we’re, nearly two years later.
It matches a rustic custom of kind of working-man songs. When it first got here out, there was a bit little bit of controversy, which Blake finally responded to, about, “You’re a multi-millionaire, how will you sing about being completely happy residing on minimal wage?”
Curiously, none of us, nobody — the writers, Blake, myself, and the label — none of us ever thought for a second that there could be those who would say what they stated. It truly is an uptempo love music — which is difficult to search out, to be trustworthy. Simply take into consideration what number of (up-) tempo songs we hear, and never plenty of love songs are tempo like this. We by no means considered it in every other approach than only a love music. And, you realize, Blake has definitely lived that music. I imply, sure, he’s been profitable, and rewarded for it. However belief me, he was on this (low-income) place for a lot of, a few years, as most artists have. It by no means even crossed our minds that there could be individuals on the market — a couple of; only a couple — that might take it and twist it into one thing that it’s not. We knew the appropriate factor to do was to launch this music. And I’m very completely happy we did.
He doesn’t sing issues that he hasn’t lived. Each music is he’s carried out has been one thing that he can relate to. He’s been there and carried out it. It doesn’t imply he’s there proper this second. We are able to give you one million music titles sung by artists that you simply go, “Nicely, that’s not precisely what you’re going by way of proper now.” In fact it isn’t.
Blake began his profession with Bobby Braddock producing. Time has flown, so it’s fascinating to comprehend that by now it’s not a current swap and Blake has been working with you for extra of his profession than he wasn’t.
It’s been the best artist relationship I’ve had in my complete profession, as a result of for some cause, we’re like brothers. We each have crimson dust in our veins. [Both are native Oklahomans.] I discover the songs and make his data and he performs them and it’s simply labored. And we attempt actually exhausting to maintain getting higher at what we’re doing. His starvation continues to be there, in addition to mine, to maintain going till the individuals go “We’re uninterested in you.”
For a couple of years there, you have been on that unbelievable streak the place Blake had the longest unbroken streak of No. 1s in nation historical past, and he nonetheless has essentially the most total. Is there any stress in retaining that going and having each music go to the highest? I don’t know if it might need truly been a aid when there was lastly one which didn’t go to No. 1 and you would cease worrying about which one would break the run.
Actually, my expectations and objectives are to be No. 1 each single launch, not simply with Blake however with all people. And it wasn’t a aid after we broke our streak. It was a disappointment. But it surely’s not like we really feel stress to proceed streaks. It’s simply that we wish to peak it at No. 1 each time. And I feel in my profession I’ve had one thing like… I acquired to have a look at it to see… one thing like 18 or 19 songs that went to No. 2. These are those that sting greater than something, to get to 2 and never get to 1. On one hand, I’m grateful and blessed to have had one thing that acquired that top. However on the opposite hand, I would like the blue ribbon. Not the crimson one.
So far as placing out two songs in a row that had Gwen on them, clearly it labored out properly as a result of they have been each No. 1s. And also you simply stated that “Completely happy Wherever” was sort of put in there as a pinch-hit music as a result of it match the quarantine temper. However did you’ve got any doubts about whether or not two songs in a row with Gwen could be so accepted?
Nicely, that was definitely mentioned in these single conferences, at size. And we got here to the conclusion that “Completely happy Wherever” was the appropriate music to place out at the moment. It simply so occurred that Gwen sang concord on that one, whereas she sang (full duet) strains on the earlier music. To say we didn’t focus on it wouldn’t be true. We did. However we simply went with what we thought was the appropriate music on the proper time, and it labored out.
You’ve nonetheless acquired duties at Warner, and also you’re chopping with Blake loads. Does that restrict what number of different initiatives you may produce?
The drive is definitely there as a lot because it’s ever been. I’m in a novel place in that I’ve additionally been govt vice chairman of A&R at Warner Music Nashville. And I solely produce Warner acts, however I additionally solely produce acts that need me to provide their data. I don’t and have by no means compelled myself onto any artists that didn’t ask me to provide them. I signed, as an A&R particular person, Dan + Shay, and so they requested me to provide their data with (Dan Smyers). I did the primary three albums, and this (forthcoming) album, Dan wished to do it himself, which I respect. I’m nonetheless their greatest cheerleader.
Did your position at Warner change not too long ago? You’ve stated you are feeling extra freed as much as focus the place you need and let Cris Lacey deal with sure issues.
Yeah, I’ve acquired a brand new title. I’m now EVP inventive advisor. And Cris runs the A&R division, which I’ve carried out for I don’t know what number of years. Cris and I are tied on the hip, and it’s simply been nice for everyone.
You’re the uncommon one who appears comfy carrying both hat… as a producer and a label exec.
I’ve run two report labels as president and CEO, Capitol Nashville and Virgin Nashville. These have been fascinating instances and an important studying expertise for me, and we signed plenty of nice acts – Keith City being considered one of them (when he was fronting the Ranch), and Hint Adkins and a number of other different ones that went on and nonetheless have carried out fairly properly. However when Espo (John Esposito, the pinnacle of Warner Nashville) got here in, Warner was the right match for me. As a result of the half that he offers with is the a part of it I by no means did wish to take care of once I was a label head, and he’s completely geared up to try this.
So that you don’t miss being head of a label?
I don’t. I like the creativeness greater than I appreciated the opposite facet of the enterprise — the political facet.
Your style in songs is fairly broad, even while you’re working with one artist as a lot as you’ve got Blake.
I in all probability have a repute right here in Nashville as being exhausting on songs. And I settle for that moniker proudly. I am exhausting on songs, and I don’t apologize for it. I get pitched hundreds. For this Blake album alone, I’ve listened to in all probability a minimum of 3000 songs. That’s plenty of listening. And never each artist data outdoors songs, however in some unspecified time in the future you’ve acquired to select which of them with the artists that write their very own songs, too — which of them can we launch? And that’s a complete ‘nother stage of getting exhausting on songs. And none of us are 100% appropriate. Have a look at an expert baseball participant; one of the best ones to play the sport hit someplace round three out of 10 pitches. I wish to do higher than that with regards to selecting songs. That’s the place I put the stress on myself — what songs do I filter out to ship to artists which are on the lookout for outdoors songs. I feel being exhausting on songs has been an important a part of why I’m nonetheless right here.
If you and Blake convene, are you in lockstep nearly on a regular basis by way of what you suppose will work, or are there ever moments the place he’s simply turned down what you have been certain was going to be considered one of his greatest hits?
Yeah, plenty of them. I introduced him “The Home That Constructed Me” (later made right into a smash by Miranda Lambert), and it wasn’t that he didn’t suppose it was nice. He knew it was. However we didn’t report it, and it broke my coronary heart, as a result of I knew that was an enormous music. After we take care of as many songs as we take care of, there’s all the time going to be songs which are, I hope he data this music, I would like him to do it,” and when he doesn’t… it’s his album, not mine. No person is aware of who I’m. So he will get each leap ball, which any artist ought to. It’s their profession, and I’m simply right here to serve them.
How usually do you suppose your tastes do align with Blake’s?
On this case, loads. We’ve recorded properly north of 200 songs collectively. So there’s no secrets and techniques and no surprises. I simply attempt to filter out so he doesn’t must take heed to 3000 songs. He solely has to take heed to, let’s say, 300 out of that 3000 — possibly 10%, or much less, even, generally. I’m the filter that will get ‘em to him, after which he picks and he decides. Sometimes he desires some opinions on ‘em, however it’s in the end the artist’s determination.
Are individuals ever in a position to get songs to him straight? Or is it all the time, “No, you need to undergo Scott”?
No, there are a couple of buddies and writers that may get songs to him straight. We’ve had it each methods. However 99% of the time they undergo me.
If you’re coping with an artist who’s a co-writer on many of the songs — like a Dan + Shay — does being robust on their songs change into troublesome?
It may be troublesome at instances, nevertheless it’s so necessary within the grand scheme of issues. I liken it to watching a film generally, the place you see unbelievable cinematography, unbelievable course, unbelievable actors — however the script is simply not adequate. What I convey to the desk is saying that the script must be proper, after which we’ll get every part else, proper? We’ll get the cinematography the actors and all the opposite separate parts, however we’ve acquired to have the appropriate script or it’s not going to matter. And people conversations could be robust with artists that wish to write all their very own materials. You’ve acquired to have the appropriate script.
Once I signed Hunter Hayes, I acquired him with the writer that he labored with, to hook him up with each nice songwriter on this city. And he wrote, and he wrote, and he wrote, and they’d usher in music after music. And for months, and really a few years, I must be the one that claims, “Hunter, we don’t have the rocket gas. This rocket gas shouldn’t be going to get us into outer area. It’ll get us a pair miles up, however we have to get into orbit.” It was irritating for him, and I completely understood it, and it was very exhausting for me to be the man that stated, “We’d like the rocket gas.” And sooner or later he walked in and performed me a music on guitar and stated, “I wrote this final night time. I don’t know what you’ll consider it.” He performed “Wished.” And I simply put my palms up within the signal of a landing. I stated, “That’s the rocket gas we’ve been needing. That’s the music.” And he checked out me like, actually? And I stated, “God, that’s so apparent. How are you going to not see that?” After they recorded it, they went with a piano model as an alternative of the guitar model. however that was the self-discipline it took to attend till he had the appropriate music to get to the place he wanted to be. And it was troublesome, truthfully, for me to must be so essential.
Are you in suspense when considered one of your songs with Blake comes out about whether or not it’ll make it to No. 1, or are you all the time pondering, clearly, this one will make it, too?
Curiously sufficient, many of the songs I get launched, I by no means hear them on the radio — solely as a result of I’m listening to demos. I don’t actually have time to take heed to what it feels like on the radio, as a result of I’m listening to the following demo of what’s going to be one thing that’ll come out in a yr from now. So I don’t get caught up in watching the chart and watching each little ahead or backward transfer, after which ahead some extra, backwards. I don’t let that chart dictate my happiness. I did one of the best I can do, and let’s hope. Not each music goes to No. 1, and like I stated, I simply wish to have a greater batting common. I wish to hit as a lot of them out of the park as I can. I’m swinging for the fence on each single one.