busbee: The Writer/Producer Behind Country’s New Sound
“I’m not a purist, whatever the song needs is what it needs. And if it feels right? It is.”
This is the songwriting methodology of one of pop and country's biggest songwriters of the 2010s: busbee.
busbee, the country innovator who goes by the uncapitalized version of his last name, uses his diverse musical background to blur genre lines when he writes smash hits.
The Bay Area native grew up playing classical piano, and then shifted to jazz when he decided to study trombone in one of America's top institutions for jazz, the Jazz Studies program at New Jersey's William Paterson University. He shifted genres again when he became an assistant to rock producer Eric Valentine, who has worked with internationally acclaimed bands like Third Eye Blind and Queens of the Stone Age. He received his first success in country in 2007 when he co-wrote the Rascal Flatts song "Better Now" with Gregory Becker and Darrell Brown. In the past decade since then, he's written with some of country music's biggest stars, including Keith Urban, Blake Shelton, Little Big Town, Jana Kramer, Hunter Hayes, and Lauren Alaina. In the early 2010s, busbee broke into the pop scene by writing for boy bands like the Backstreet Boys and Allstar Weekend. He recently wrote for the boy band 5 Seconds of Summer. The list of acts he's written for in the pop world is seemingly endless, having co-written songs cut by Jon Bellion, Christina Aguilera, Kelly Clarkson, Rachel Platten, Gwen Stefani, Shakira, and Pink. In 2016 busbee signed a joint deal with BMG and Big Deal Music.
The classical pianist, turned jazz trombonist wedding musician, turned rock music engineer, turned world-class country and pop producer is taking the industry by storm and helping develop
some of the biggest up-and-coming acts in the scene today. One of his biggest projects recently was producing Maren Morris' entire debut album Hero. He also co-wrote some of the tracks, notably two of her singles, "My Church" and "80s Mercedes." On her collaboration with busbee, Maren said, “we didn’t want my record to lull people into a comfortable vibe they’d heard a million times. busbee was never afraid to take it there and get weird.”
Busbee's incredible ability to transcend genres was recently proven again with the piano ballad "H.O.L.Y." that he co-wrote with Nate Cyphert and William Wiik Larsen. The song initially interested the best selling Canadian male artist of all time, pop sensation Justin Bieber. However, the song ended up being cut by Florida Georgia Line, reaching #1 on Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart. busbee said he "had never thought of it as a song for a country artist."
Popular country music is increasingly exhibiting stronger influences of outside genres like pop, EDM, and R&B. This gives songwriters and producers like busbee a huge advantage, whose diverse musical experience which has given him the ability to expertly and tastefully blend genres.