In 2012, producer Jeff Bhasker put the charts in a chokehold. The Socorro, New Mexico native, whose name already dotted the liner notes for albums by Kanye West, Alicia Keys and Beyoncé, accented Fun.’s theatrical leanings with shades of hip-hop as the executive producer for their album Some Nights. With two Best Rap Song Grammys already on the mantle for his work on West’s “All of the Lights” and Jay-Z’s “Run This Town,” Bhasker isn’t sweating his four nods for this year’s ceremony.
“It’s kind of exciting, because Some Nights was kind of my baby,” says Bhasker, who was nominated for Album of the Year, Song and Record of the Year (“We Are Young”) and Producer of the Year, Non-Classical. “We did so much, taking this project from ground zero to this point. It’s great for them to be nominated for Best New Artist and all that stuff. Now we just have to win.”
The Grammy hat-tip is the crown on Bhasker’s most successful year to date. He hit the studio with the Rolling Stones for their reunion single “Doom and Gloom,” a crisp jolt of riot rock that recalls the rebellion of recordings past. Though Bhasker’s resume runs long, he bowed to the pressure of shaping the group’s first track in seven years.
“I was completely freaked out about the whole idea of it,” he tells Rolling Stone, noting that future collaborations are a possibility. “It was terrifying at first. I thought they wanted me to do the whole album, and I was intimidated by that. But we worked really well together. It’s like hipsters without the bullshit. They’re not bullshit, but they’re hip.”
Fielding requests from the Stones hasn’t ballooned Bhasker’s ego. Instead, he’s spending the upcoming year producing for newer artists, finishing work as executive producer on pop bruiser Natalia Kills’ sophomore album Trouble (“It’s some of my best production yet, and has its own dark angle on things”). He also crafted a new song for the pouty Lykke Li, describing the track as having a “classic sound that takes you back to the 1950s.”
And after years of studio thumping, Bhasker intends to crack the divide and release solo music under his alter egos Billy Kraven and U.G.L.Y. During his downtime, he’s recorded “blue-eyed soul” songs for the Kraven project, knocking out personal demos that ended up becoming Beyoncé’s “I Care” (originally titled “Who Cares”) and Keys’ “Try Sleeping With a Broken Heart.”
“It’s a struggle to find time for this imaginary alter ego that you have,” he says. “Now it’s just like, let’s wrap it up and get it out there.”
He hasn’t yet contributed to Beyoncé’s upcoming fifth album and is quick to skirt around the subject of his involvement with West’s upcoming solo album and G.O.O.D. Music’s Cruel Winter compilation: “I’d probably be assassinated” if he talked. For now, he plans to take the formula he used with Fun. and apply it to an undiscovered R&B talent.
“I would love to work with the next Alicia Keys and Beyoncé. It’s not out there right now. R&B is just in trouble,” he explains. “Where is the Aaliyah for this generation? I would love to do some amazing R&B songs with a female R&B artist that can really make someone cry or feel something. That would be amazing.”