After three consecutive cancelled meetings, Nate Reuss (lead singer of the band fun.) bought a one way plane ticket to New York to meet with Jeff Bhasker, a producer and songwriter who worked closely with Kanye West on 808s and Heartbreak. Bhasker, who once preferred to only work with established artists, admits that the he didn’t expect much from Reuss — he just wanted to meet with him for 15 minutes so that he would stop bugging him. When Reuss (who was admittedly “liquored up”) belted out the chorus to their soon-to-be chart-topping song “We Are Young,” Bhasker booked studio time almost immediately. Over the next three weeks, they recorded fun.’s breakout record Some Nights.
Jeff Bhasker was born in Socorro, New Mexico, a small town about an hour south of Albuquerque. He showed interest in all things musical at a very early age, and began training on the piano when he was just five years old. Bhasker owes his musical upbringing to his mother’s jazz piano playing, and his parents’ eclectic record collection. He admits that his parents, perhaps against their better judgement, bought him a KISS record when he was only four.
Jeff Bhasker moved from New Mexico to Los Angeles to pursue a career as a producer and multi-instrumentalist, and he earned his first major credit in 2001, working on a record for soul/R&B singer Goapele. Over the next few years, Bhasker would continue to work with Goapele, and play and produce on records by Hi-Tek, The Game, and Birdman, but his real break came when he was hired to work closely with Kanye West on 808s and Heartbreak.
Kanye is prolific in the studio, and having a multi-instrumentalist (who could also produce and engineer) on hand in his sessions is invaluable to his process. Their working relationship soon became fluid, with Bhasker having a unique ability to bring musical life to Kanye’s grandiose ideas.
Working with Kanye West opened many doors for Bhasker, and led to him working with Jay-Z, Beyoncé, Alicia Keys, Drake, Kid Cudi, and more. Even though Jeff became comfortable producing for already-established mega-stars, working with fun. was a revelation for him, showing that focusing on emerging artists was just as rewarding as working with Kanye West, and pop stars of a similar ilk.
On this edition of Friday Mixtape, let’s listen to some of Jeff Bhasker’s finest work.