With four Grammy nominations and his monopolization of the top three spots on the April 2006 charts with Nellys “Grillz,” Chris Browns “Run It” and Beyonces “Check On It,” it’s no wonder the industry is buzzing about songwriter/producer Sean Garrett. With a solid background of singing and composing, he made huge noise in 2004 with Usher’s “Yeah,” which was the most played song of that year, and continued on the path to success with Ciara’s debut hit single “Goodies.”
Writing and producing are only a glimpse of what Sean Garrett is capable of. His abilities as a vocalist and his experiences traveling the world lend to his unique writing and producing
style. The comical, hardworking Garrett took time out of his busy schedule to speak with us about growing up in Europe, dealing with distractions and being respected by a Hip-Hop legend.
AllHipHop.com Alternatives: You’re such a busy man; glad we finally caught up with you though.
Sean Garrett: I ain’t even playing with these people no more. This Beyonce’ album is going to be crazy! I was up late working with Beyonce’ last night. Man, I’m telling you.
AHHA: [laughs] You’re a mess. I know you’re working on a lot of albums right now. Is that one of your favorites?
Sean Garrett: Yeah, I can’t ’til ya’ll hear this new Beyonce’ sh*t. Britney is also a favorite. I’m working with Fergie from [Black Eyed Peas] on this joint called “London Bridge.” The joint is hot! JoJo is working on her new album. We did this song called “The Way You Do Me,” which really shows her vocals. It’s incredible.
AHHA: With all the press surrounding her marriage and foray into motherhood, how is it working with Britney Spears – is she focused?
Sean Garrett: She’s focused. She’s dope. I actually like Britney a lot. She’s very sweet – no ego. Even though there’s a lot going on around her, she let me go in and do what I do. She seemed to be impressed with me, and I was [impressed] with her. And believe it or not, her vocals were a lot better than I expected.
AHHA: How do you deal with those type of distractions, either your own or your collaborators’?
Sean Garrett: I mean, it doesn’t phase me. I know what I’m here for. And I appreciate every part of it – that I make their sh*t hot and that I’m working with the biggest artists in the world. So I make sure I get it done and don’t complain about distractions.
AHHA: Aside from artists, are there any producers in the industry that you have worked with?
Sean Garrett: Swizz Beatz is my partner in crime.
AHHA: Is it difficult to collaborate with artists when they seem to take most of the credit for writing a song?
Sean Garrett: True. [They] don’t want to give a ni**a no credit. It happens all the time. But it isn’t difficult for me because I know what it is. The people in the world, that matter, know what it is. That’s my job. The artists do what they have to do to protect their image, so it’s not a problem for me. All [people] have to do is check the credits though, because everyone knows I work really hard. So I don’t trip off that. They always come back and holla at me. I don’t get disrespected, so I don’t complain.
AHHA: I know you’re parents were in the military, so you’ve done quite a bit of traveling. Where are you originally from?
Sea Garrett: I’m from Atlanta. I love Atlanta because the people in Atlanta are individuals. Everyone has their own thing, you know. But I spent some time growing up in Europe.
AHHA: What was it like growing up in Europe?
Sean Garrett: Definitely great. I’ve had the opportunity to see the entire world and incorporate the music that I love from America, and then go to Europe and be able to learn a lot of different styles with pop. That’s what has allowed me to be so creative. I thank God for allowing me to never run out of ideas.
AHHA: You used to sing what happened with that?
Sean Garrett: I had record deal when I was 15, in Europe. When I got back to the States, I was about to seal a deal with Warner Brothers Records, but the deal fell through. Afterwards, I was just working on my project and people were telling me I should write for others, because I was so diverse. I eventually moved back to Atlanta. I had a demo out and LA Reid heard three of my songs and wanted to sign me. Four months later I wrote “Yeah” for Usher. It was on and crackin’ at that point. It shows that hard work really pays off. I’m always grinding.
AHHA: Having a musical background yourself, does it help or hinder you in the studio with artists who have their own ideas.
Sean Garrett: It helps me because just working with [Beyonce], I understand harmonies and melodies, so me and her work like hand and glove when it comes to creativity. We are always thinking the same thing, and I can sing something to her and she gets it. Even with Usher, when I did “Red Light” Usher didn’t think he could get up that high, but I told him he could do it, because I knew he wouldn’t be outdone. And once I gave him the track, he put it down!
AHHA: Do you have any unique rituals or processes you undergo when you’re writing or in the studio?
Sean Garrett: Definitely have to pray before sessions, sometimes while I’m in my sessions. I just ask God to keep me grounded and mindful of what’s going on around me in this crazy business, and to give me a free mind to do what I need to do.
AHHA: Jay-Z dubbed you “The Pen.” How does it feel to be recognized by one of Hip-Hop’s biggest stars?
Sean Garrett: Yo! Jay naming me the pen was the biggest compliment in the world. Jay gave me that name when he first met me. He told me, “Man you’re pen is vicious.” Just by him giving me that name gives me more reason to be more dope, because in my eyes he’s the pen. I really appreciate that. When you get someone of that stature to name you the pen, what else could be better? You gotta love it when your peers respect you!
AHHA: Is there a significant difference between writing rap lyrics and R&B lyrics?
Sean Garrett: There really is no difference because, basically, I love music. What differentiates me from other writers is that I’m everything. I was born in the hood, raised in the hood and then grew up in Europe. I don’t do this based on money. I do this based solely on the love of music.
AHHA: I know you love music and everything, but what’s the worst lyric you’ve heard in a while?
Sean Garrett: [laughs] Ah man! Music is music. Music is love. Whether I particularly like it or not is irrelevant. People are just expressing themselves, with the freedom of expression they’ve been
given, so it’s love. Not to mention, I work with a lot of artists. What you want me to say?
AHHA: You failed that question. What are you listening to these days?
Sean Garrett: Hmm. I listen to a lot of Hip-Hop- [Kanye West], Jay-Z and Outkast. I definitely f**k with T.I. Then I listen to a lot of rock stuff. Some old Michael Jackson stuff, like from the Off The Wall album…New Edition. I just appreciate music.