Oak Felder on Alessia Cara’s Unusual Breakthrough Song

Oak Felder on Alessia Cara’s Unusual Breakthrough Song

The How I Wrote That Song limited series gives music fans a front-row seat for conversations with songwriters behind some of the biggest hits of yesterday and today. You’ll learn the stories behind the songs from the people who wrote them. New episodes will be released every other Monday through December 12. How I Wrote That Song is produced in partnership with Beasley Media Group, XPERI (HD Radio), and BMI.

Warren “Oak” Felder is one of the most successful writer/producers that you’ve never heard of. He keeps a low profile, and doesn’t have a sonic imprint that identifies songs as his productions. But his discography includes songs by Chris Brown, Nicki Minaj, Alicia Keys, Rihanna, Ariana Grande, Britney Spears and Demi Lovato, among others. In this excerpt from our conversation, he discussed the journey in taking Alessia Cara’s first single, “Here,” to number one.

He worked on the song with his occasional songwriting/partner Andrew “Pop” Wansel. They both had different ideas for a sample that they wanted to use in the song: Pop wanted to use Issac Hayes’ “Ike Rap II” from his 1971 album Black Moses, Oak, meanwhile, wanted to use Portishead’s song “Glory Box”… which samples “Ike’s Rap II.”  Oak told us the whole story. Check it out below, and beneath that watch or listen to our podcast episode with Oak.

“You know, sometimes they are projects that you come across, that people have tried, people have made an attempt to do things… and just nothing gets off the ground. And that doesn’t say anything about the artists themselves and whether or not they’re viable.

But most of the executives involved, the production companies and the other label people and management people, and there’s all these other people that are kind of involved and they’re telling me, ‘We want her to sound like Lorde meets Taylor Swift.’ And so in my mind, I’m rolling my eyes a little bit because I’m like,'”OK, you want her to sound like the two largest artists out here.’

I understand shooting for the Moon, though, because a lot of people can only see things in those terms. But my response to them was, ‘Oh, I’m so glad you said that. You know what? I was striving for mediocrity today, but since you said that, now I’m going to try to give you a big hit!’

And so the whole week we’re in and she’s playing us, these different songs that she’s partially written and we’re kind of picking the ones we like the most. ‘Here’ was the first one we picked. And they immediately shut us down and they said, ‘No, no, no, no, no, no. This one’s a little too weird. We have this other one that is a smash: ‘Seventeen.”

So, I sat down and did the production and finished writing it with them, and when you listen to that production, it very much does sound like a Taylor Swift meets Lorde production. It’s a great song. I love the record. And so during the week, that’s pretty much how it progressed.

Saturday rolls around all the executives take the day off. So now it’s me. Sebastian Kole, Alessia Cara, and Pop was with me that day. I’m like, ‘Let’s work on ‘Here.’ Let’s just do what we want. I got the perfect sample for this. It’s a Portishead song.’ Pop is like, ‘No man, that ain’t it! I got this other sample, it’s an Isaac Hayes record [‘Ike’s Rap II’ from Black Moses].’

Now, mind you were saying this to each other without actually playing the samples. So we go back and forth about it for about 20, 30 minutes until Pop plays the Isaac Hayes sample, I’m like, ‘Wait a minute, this is Portishead!’ I had never heard Isaac’s version up until that point, I’m ashamed to say. And Pop had never heard Portishead. So he’s like, ‘Oh my God: we came up with the same sample at the same time for this production!’

Then we did the track. We cut that record and we almost kind of hid it after we did it. It was like, ‘Let’s put it away, because we might get in trouble!’ That’s almost what it felt like. Did another week [in the studio] with Alessia, recording another songs, including ‘Scars to Your Beautiful’ and everything else that was on the first album. And then when when it came time to pick the single from what I understand, I think the label really wanted to go with ‘Seventeen,’ because they were very focused on that record and Alessia kind of put her foot down, and said, ”Here’ needs to be the first record.’ The label pretty much said, ‘OK, we’re going to go with your recommendation.’ And that song had a nice, beautiful, slow climb to number one over the course of almost a year. It eventually got to number one, I was so proud of that fact.”


SmokePurpp Talks ‘Audi’: ‘I Kind Of Spoke It Into Existence’

SmokePurpp Talks ‘Audi’: ‘I Kind Of Spoke It Into Existence’

The How I Wrote That Song limited series gives music fans a front-row seat for conversations with songwriters behind some of the biggest hits of yesterday and today. You’ll learn the stories behind the songs from the people who wrote them. New episodes will be released every other Monday through December 12. How I Wrote That Song is produced in partnership with Beasley Media Group, XPERI (HD Radio), and BMI.

“Whatever your mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve.” A guy named Napoleon Hill wrote that quote almost a hundred years ago in the 1937 book Think and Grow Rich. The world today doesn’t have that much in common with that era — back then, the average salary was less than two grand a year, rent was $26 a month, and gas was ten cents a gallon.

But the power of positive thinking has always been that took a select few from rags to riches, or at least from obscurity to fame. And that was the case with Smokepurpp and his hit “Audi.” The singer/rapper/producer, who was born Omar Jeffery Pineiro, told us about that song and a few of his other hits.

Talk about how “Audi.” changed affected your path, your journey.

“Audi.,” that’s the song that changed my life. I had this song in my phone, and in my catalog for over a year… I was never even planning on dropping it. It was just like other songs. And yeah, when I signed my deal, that was literally the first single we put out.

Sometimes, if you have the right line in a song, it really hits. Like some Beyoncé songs have, like, “I woke up like this,” and everyone says “I woke up like this.” She sings “You got to put a ring on it” and everyone says that. And your line, “I don’t want friends. I want Audis.”

Exactly. It’s probably something that [anybody can relate to that, you know?

Has it come more true now, more than it was at the time that you wrote the song? Now you could actually afford Audis. 

Of course. At the time, I couldn’t. I couldn’t afford it. I feel like I kind of just spoke it into existence. You know, I think manifestation is real.

Check out the rest of the interview below.

Better Than Ezra: The Tragedy That Inspired ‘In The Blood’

Better Than Ezra: The Tragedy That Inspired ‘In The Blood’

“In The Blood” came on the heels of your first hit, “Good.” It seemed like “In The Blood” was also on the radio every hour on the hour. So talk about that song and the line, “Who did you love before? Who did they love before you?” 

There’s some interesting things about that song. If you listen to I was completely inspired lyrically, melodically by a Catherine Wheel song called “Black Metallic.” That was their big song. Listen to “Black Metallic” and you can hear  where I got part of the melody. I’ve said that to people before, and they go, “I don’t hear it.” I say, “Well, I do.” I was definitely inspired by that song melodically.

But the lyrics… I usually don’t tell people where my head was, but my girlfriend at the time, her uncle had had AIDS and he was in the last stage of battling AIDS. He passed away in ’96. It was really about AIDS and it was literally about: what’s in your blood? Do you really know the person you’re with and who did they love before you and who did they love before them? And it was really just a very literal lyric to me. It was really about her uncle Patrick, who was an amazing guy. He was an editor for The Advocate. He lived in West Hollywood and he was still somewhat healthy. But dealing with it was a tough time. But that’s what the lyrics are about. So it really wasn’t about a relationship. It was really about this man. I rarely told people about that because it’s kind of heavy.

Check out the rest of the interview below. 

Pretty Reckless: How ‘Lolita’ Led To ‘Follow Me Down’

Pretty Reckless: How ‘Lolita’ Led To ‘Follow Me Down’

The Pretty Reckless has been one of the most consistent and powerful bands in rock music over the past decade. They’ve had six songs that topped the Active Rock Radio charts, and a bunch of others that came close to the #1 spot. We spoke with the band’s leaders — singer Taylor Momsen and guitarist Ben Phillips — about some of their biggest songs.

Read a bit of our interview below and scroll down to listen to, or watch, the full interview.

Talk about “Follow Me Down” (a #1 hit on rock radio in 2014). 

Taylor:  I was reading [1955 novel] Lolita at the time. I had watched like every [film] version of Lolita. I was very obsessed with the Lolita story. And that’s kind of the inspiration for “Follow Me Down,” the concept of doing something sexually, that is not necessarily considered appropriate. And reveling in it and getting away with it and enjoying all the naughtiness of it.

Let’s talk about “Take me Down” (a #1 hit on rock radio in 2016). Songs about dealing with the devil are a constant throughout rock and roll history. For me, it never gets old.

Taylor: That obviously stems from the Robert Johnson legend of going down to the crossroads and selling your soul for your music. In the blues, in our case, rock and roll…

Ben: That [story] inspired the [1986] movie Crossroads. There’s a little throw to the Rolling Stones in the very beginning. There’s a little Beatles, a little Eric Clapton… There are little nods to anyone in the ’60s who was playing Robert Johnson’s music.

Taylor: It all came together when got to the “All I want to do is rock, rock, rock!” part. We started to lay down the guitars for the song, we’d finished the lyrics yet, but we were recording it.  I just hadn’t finished the words and I was outside taking a break and I came in and said, “I got it, I got it! ‘Don’t care what happens when I die as long as I’m alive all I wanna do is rock, rock, rock!” I went right into the control room and just sang it right into the microphone. And that ended up being the take.

Chris Lane Explains The Funny Line In ‘Ain’t Even Met You Yet’

Chris Lane Explains The Funny Line In ‘Ain’t Even Met You Yet’

We were fortunate to talk to Chris Lane on Zoom at a rather exciting — and exhausting — time in his life. He and his wife just had their first baby. The experience was, obviously, life-changing. And in Lane’s case, it also informed one of his most popular songs: “Ain’t Even Met You Yet.” The song and video are almost so intimate, and so relatable, you feel like you’re talking to a friend. In the song he wonders what his son’s first words will be? Will the dogs approve? And there’s a line that most guys wouldn’t say out loud, much less in a song. Lane discussed the song, and some of his others, with a smile.

Congratulations on being a new dad, Chris. Your latest song “Ain’t Even Met You Yet,” obviously, is about the experience that you’ve been going through for the past few months. Talk about writing that song.

So “Ain’t Even Met You Yet” is about the feelings that I was having of becoming a first-time dad. And I feel like first-time parents probably have very similar feelings: scared to death and ready at the same time. And so I decided to write about it. “Ain’t Even Met You Yet,” the title kind of came out. I wrote it two or three months before Dutton was born. And when I finished it, I thought, “Wow, I should record the song.” Not even to put it out into the world. At the time, I wasn’t even thinking about it in that way. I just wanted to record it so that when he’s old enough to understand, I’ll say I wrote you this song.

And it’s been very exciting to see the reaction that the song’s actually gotten. I appreciate all the love people are showing.

The line, “Just between us too, sometimes mom is crazy.” Did you run that past her before recording it?

[laughs] Good point! That was one of my favorite lines of the whole song and one that I will raise a beer to every time I sing it on stage. I wrote the song out on the back porch at my house, and Lauren was sitting in the living room and kind of running around the house all day long. And when I finished that line, I wanted her to understand it’s not meant to be negative. It’s meant in a sweet way because she’s always dancing and she’s always singing. I did run it by her, and just said, “Hey, I just want to make sure that you are cool with me saying that. I don’t mean it in any other way other than, you know how you are. And she’s got the best personality in the world. So much fun to be around. And hopefully that’s what people took away from that line.”



98.5 The Sports Hub and The Boston Bruins announced today that they have reached a new multi-year agreement extending their partnership contract.  As the Flagship Station of the Boston Bruins and the Boston Bruins Radio Network, the station is proud to broadcast all Bruins games for many years to come.

In addition to broadcasting all Bruins games, 98.5 The Sports Hub will continue to air 30-minute pre- and post-game shows along with the two-hour weekly program, “The Hockey Show” which airs on Saturday from 9am-11am during season.

“The Bruins are excited to extend our partnership with 98.5 The Sports Hub and Beasley Media Boston,” said Bruins President Cam Neely. “The Sports Hub consistently delivers quality game broadcasts and comprehensive hockey coverage for our fans, and they have been crucial in joining our efforts to grow the game of hockey throughout New England.”

“We are thrilled to continue our longstanding partnership with the Boston Bruins and to be able to share our passion for the Bruins with our loyal New England fans,” said Mary Menna, VP & Market Manager, Beasley Media Boston. “We are so excited to be back in the TD Garden cheering the Bruins on to the Playoffs.”

“When the Sports Hub launched in 2009, we were committed to bringing our Bruins programming to another level,” said Program Director Rick Radzik. “Now, 12 years into our relationship, we’ve both achieved some great successes. I’m very pleased that we will continue to provide listeners with the excellent Bruins coverage they’ve come to expect.”

98.5 The Sports Hub, the country’s top sports station and the #1 station in Boston with men and adults, features an award-winning sports talk show lineup beginning with Toucher & Rich (Weekdays, 6AM – 10AM), Zolak & Bertrand (Weekdays, 10AM – 2PM), Felger & Mazz (Weekdays, 2PM – 6PM) and The Adam Jones Show (Weekdays, 6PM – Midnight).  98.5 The Sports Hub also serves as the official flagship station for the New England Patriots, Boston Celtics and New England Revolution.

98.5 The Sports Hub and the Bruins Radio Network can be heard anytime on The 98.5 Sports Hub App and at https://985thesportshub.com which is also the home for compelling Boston sports content.