JACK ANTONOFF - March 23, 2015
Updated: 2 days ago
Jack Antonoff was born on March 31, 1984 in Bergenfield, New Jersey. He is the second of three children of Shira (Wall) and Rick Antonoff. He is the younger brother of fashion designer Rachel Antonoff. His younger sister, Sarah, died of brain cancer at the age of 13 when Antonoff was a senior in high school. The event had a profound effect on Jack who said
"... my whole career has been revisiting that through a different lens."
Prior to Jack forming his indie pop band, Bleachers in New York City he was previously in the Steel Train and Fun.
Fun.'s debut album, Aim and Ignite, was released in 2009. Fun's second album, Some Nights (2012), produced the band's first number-one hit single, "We Are Young" (featuring Janelle Monae). The song was co-written by Antonoff with Nate Ruess, Dost, and Jeff Bhasker.
While on the road with his band, Fun., Antonoff began working on a new project during his time in different cities. For about a year he kept the project a secret until February 18, 2014 where the first single “I Wanna Get Better” was released along with the launch of Bleachers’ website.
Antonoff stated in June 2014 that the project had been a consideration for around 10 years, and the name was inspired by the "disconnected, darker side" of suburban youth and John Hughes movies, which were "tied to a time when big songs were great songs."
About making the album, Antonoff said,
“I spent the past year working on the music but not talking about it, and eventually it became this psychotic alter-ego situation, where it was second nature to have this part of me that no one knew about. Except for a small group of people, most of which happened to be members of my immediate family, no one was aware that this music, or this album even existed … even though it existed so deeply to me.”
Antonoff also cited that Bleachers was never meant to be a departure from his position in Fun., and that he will remain in the band. Bleachers’ full-length album Strange Desire was released July 15, 2014, from RCA Records. Variance Magazine called the single “Rollercoaster” a “brilliant summer anthem.”
Aside from his work with Bleachers and Fun, Antonoff has worked as a songwriter and record producer with various artists, including Taylor Swift, Lorde, St. Vincent, Lana Del Rey, Kevin Abstract, Carly Rae Jepsen, The Chicks and Troye Sivan.
Antonoff has been nominated for a Golden Globe Award and won five Grammy Awards: two for his work with Fun, 2 for production on Taylor Swift's albums 1989 and Folklore, and one with St. Vincent for writing the title track on Masseduction.
Taylor Swift took home her third Album of the Year award at the 63rd Annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles, this time for the surprise July LP “Folklore.” Again, Antonoff, 36, co-wrote and co-produced several songs on the best-selling album of 2020. Antonoff was also nominated for Producer of the Year.
All Access Music writer, Nicole DeRosa got to catch up with Jack 60,000 feet in the air as he answers a few questions about how it all started, his love of R&B and his New Jersey pride. Read more in their chat below....
My Interview with JACK ANTONOFF
Hi Jack! Where does this interview find you? What’s on the agenda today besides our interview?
I’m on a plane at the moment heading to Vancouver. Bleachers has never been to Vancouver. It's always incredible to go somewhere the first time. You really can’t ever duplicate that energy.
For those not as familiar with you and your music, how did you get your start in music? Who or what was the catalyst for you?
The New Jersey punk scene is really how I got started. I was always in love with the Beatles and then everything from the early 90s when I was growing up.
But, the moment I actually became a part of music was when I started playing in fire halls of NJ when I was 15. Those were amazing days! I learned how to play live / how to function in a scene / how to write songs — it was everything. I carry those feelings from that time with me always.
You released Bleachers full length album, Strange Desire last July. What did you learn between Fun. albums that you felt you wanted to infuse into Strange Desire?
Everything I do makes me rethink how I will make records in the future. A lot of the time, particularly with Strange Desire coming off of Some Nights, I made the album in the exact opposite way as the one before.
I like to constantly put myself in new and uncomfortable places when making albums to test what can happen. Some Nights was quick, that’s what was new about that. Strange Desire was made all over the world…on planes, in hotel rooms, buses etc.
Can you share with me what your inspiration was for your single, “I Wanna Get Better”?
It’s basically my life story in 3 verses or rather all the horrible things that have happened in my life leading up to moment of saying that within all that, you can still want to get better.
“It's about stories of loss, depression and anxiety and figuring out how to move on with the complicated person you’ve become. Really it’s about going as deep and low as possible and then still wanting to get better. To me, that’s the top… wanting, not actually getting better, but wanting to get better. That’s a beautiful thing.”
The Huffington Post published a positive review of Bleachers' first single, "I Wanna Get Better"—released on February 18—calling it the "catchiest song of 2014," while Time proclaimed, "[Bleachers] is more fun than Fun." Antonoff revealed the intent behind the debut single in a Rolling Stone interview:
"I wanted to bridge the gap between Disclosure and Arcade Fire—something both streamlined and organic ... The production and songwriting is extremely over-the-top, extremely epic and unapologetic. The record is all about finding a world where you can be kind to yourself in."
Jack, who are your musical influences?
New Jersey is my biggest influence. New Jersey and people. People who overcome the challenges in their lives.
Do you remember the first album you bought for yourself?
Monster by REM. I got it at the mall. Remember that place? So loooong gone.
What was the first song you fell in love with and why?
“Under Pressure” by Queen. I couldn’t believe how cool the melody and production was. It had this quality that made me want to run 1,000 miles an hour while simultaneously cry and think about my life. It’s got everything. It’s a perfect song… deep / anthemic / personal / all of it. It still feels like I’m discovering music every time I hear it.
Who would your dream collaboration be with, living or dead?
Who is in your current playlist? Any artists, musicians or genres we might be surprised to find in there?
I’ve really fallen back in love with 90s R&B. That was such an amazing moment. The song writing was perfection and the production feels new and hip even today. A lot of things that seems cheesy now we’re actually fucking brilliant. I like Boyz II Men and Toni Braxton.
What’s on tap next for you, Jack? What are you most excited about in 2015?
I kind of like to just think a few days ahead and this week as I start the tour. Thank god for that! Playing these songs makes me feel alive!
“I’m most excited about the audience and Bleachers. We’re really starting to feel like a weird cult and I’m fully into it! “
Jack Antonoff's MUSIC COLLABORATIONS
"Sweeter than Fiction", a song Antonoff co-wrote and co-produced with Taylor Swift for the film One Chance was released. The song was written in Antonoff's New York City apartment after he and Swift shared a love of a particular snare drum sound from a Fine Young Cannibals song. They brainstormed ideas by email before starting the songwriting process.
Swift and Antonoff co-wrote and co-produced three songs on Swift's 1989, including the single, "Out of the Woods", "I Wish You Would", and the bonus track "You Are In Love".
1989 was released in October 2014, and became the biggest-selling album in the U.S. in 2014. On the deluxe version of the album, Swift explains in a voice memo that the song "I Wish You Would" originated from a guitar track that Antonoff had recorded on his smartphone. After Swift first heard the track, she asked Antonoff if she could develop the idea further, and it eventually became an album track after both songwriters were satisfied with Swift's work.
In 2016, Swift, Antonoff and Sam Dew co-wrote Swift and Zayn’s song "I Don't Wanna Live Forever", the song produced by Antonoff, for the film Fifty Shades Darker was released, the song is from Fifty Shades Darker: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack.
Swift and Antonoff co-wrote and co-produced Swift's number one single "Look What You Made Me Do", which was released on August 25, 2017. He was a key contributor to her sixth album Reputation. Aside from "Look What You Made Me Do", Swift and Antonoff also co-wrote and co-produced five other songs in Reputation—"Getaway Car", "Dress", "This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things", "Call It What You Want", and "New Year's Day".
"Taylor's the first person who let me produce a song. Before Taylor, everyone said: 'You're not a producer'. It took Taylor Swift to say: 'I like the way this sounds.'
— Antonoff, "Jack Antonoff Is Only Making Music With Friends", The New York Times
In 2019, Swift and Antonoff co-wrote eight songs and co-produced eleven songs for Swift's seventh studio album Lover, including the promotional single "The Archer", and the title track, which served as the album's third single.
In 2020, Swift and Antonoff worked together on Swift's eighth studio album, Folklore. Along with Aaron Dessner and Swift, Antonoff serves as a co-writer and co-producer for the album, with Antonoff helping to co-produce six songs and co-write four songs on the album, including the third single "Betty". He continued to collaborate with her on Folklore's "sister record" and Swift's ninth studio album, Evermore.
In 2017, Antonoff co-wrote and produced Lorde's Melodrama which was released in June. USA Today described it as "the best pop album of 2017 so far". Rolling Stone's praises Jack's production specifically, noting that he uses "empty space to spectacular effect, [as] the arrangements veer from stark clarity to delirium."
In support of the album, Antonoff appeared in the music video for its lead single, "Green Light". He then performed "Liability" alongside Lorde on Saturday Night Live. The album also received a nomination for the 2018 Grammy Award for Album of the Year.
In 2018, Antonoff produced the soundtrack for the 20th Century Fox romantic comedy-drama film Love, Simon. Bleachers also contributed four songs.
On working on the ground-breaking film, the first major studio picture to focus on a gay teenager, Antonoff said "I believe Love, Simon is pivotal, a major step for a new generation" and added that he was "honored" that "genius" director Greg Berlanti asked him to work on the soundtrack. He also said he was "very lucky to be a part of [Love, Simon]" and "loved every moment of making this soundtrack" after stating he was "beyond blown away" by the response to the film and soundtrack.
Jack co-produced Lana Del Rey's sixth studio album Norman Fucking Rockwell!, which was released on August 30, 2019. He also co-wrote a majority of the songs on the album including the singles "Mariners Apartment Complex" and "Venice Bitch".
The album received critical praise with NME's Rhian Daly noting that the "bohemian folk" sound of the record was a departure from Antonoff's "brand of crystalline euphoria." Other critics noted the album's 60s inspired, psychedelic rock sound.
The album was nominated for Grammy Album of the Year and won NME Album of the Year in 2020. He also produced her studio album Chemtrails Over the Country Club, released in 2021.
Antonoff co-wrote the 2013 song "Brave" with Sara Bareilles after the two were introduced by Sara Quin of the band Tegan and Sara. Bareilles said to Billboard:
"We met for breakfast one day, and I was just so enamored with him and his personality ... The first day we sat down together was the day we wrote 'Brave.'"
Antonoff wrote the song about a friend's struggle to speak openly about his sexuality. The quickly written song was released on April 23, and by the end of June, "Brave" had sold 160,000 digital copies and peaked at number 61 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The music video for the song was viewed 1.1 million times on YouTube within a month of its release in May 2013, and by the start of 2015, had received nearly 39 million views. "Brave" was used by Microsoft to advertise its Windows tablet technology device.
In 2015, he created a Google Play docu-series titled Thank You and Sorry, which combined scripted scenes and footage from Bleachers shows. It was released in six 15-minute episodes and included cameos from Lena Dunham, Rosie Perez, Olivia Wilde, Colin Quinn, and Jason Mantzoukas.
In 2018, he also contributed to the production of Pink's seventh studio album, Beautiful Trauma, and produced St. Vincent's fifth studio album, Masseduction.
In early 2019, he handled production on Brockhampton front man Kevin Abstract's solo album, Arizona Baby.
Antonoff has spoken publicly about his struggles with depression, anxiety and obsessive–compulsive disorder. He claims that hearing of others' battles with depression made him feel "not better, but not alone" and "way less scared."As of June 2014, Antonoff was seeing both a therapist and a psychopharmacologist, while also taking anti-anxiety medications.
He has germophobia which was exacerbated by a bout of pneumonia that he suffered in 2011 while recording a studio album for his band Fun. His pulmonologist prescribed a daily run, but he explained that he hates it "more than anything" because it is "one of the most truly boring experiences on Earth."
Music is central to Antonoff's life and he explained in June 2014:
"I need a hobby, and I don't want it to be basketball ... I want it to be music. So to get away from music, I do other music. If I'm producing someone's song or writing with someone else, then doing a Bleachers song or a Fun song is an escape and it keeps me creative and it keeps me locked into what I want to do. If something's making me crazy, I need to go somewhere else and I don't want that thing to be yoga."
Nicole DeRosa for All Access Music, March 23, 2015 https://music.allaccess.com/qa-with-jack-antonoff-of-bleachers/
Photo credit: Daniel Silbert