When an advertising agency, brand or filmmaker needs music for their project, Marmoset’s team will scour the globe to find the perfect song, or create one from scratch, for that specific project. But there’s another side of what we do. Marmoset Producers team up with an ever-evolving roster of songwriters, bands and seasoned studio players bringing to life fresh new recordings ready for release on vinyl, Spotify and the next big brand campaign. At any given moment there may be two or three dozen unique collaborative projects in motion between Marmoset producers and artists. Our ears are glued to the ground, digesting charts and crunching all the big data to anticipate the next big trend. We call these special projects Artist Collabs.
We sat down (virtually) with Fritzwa and Jeffrey Brodsky, the artists behind the Artist Collabs project Fritzwa + J. Brodsky, along with Marmoset producer, Katy Davidson, to give you a peak behind the scenes of what makes an Artist Collabs project so special.
Tell us a bit about you. What musical projects do you have outside of Artist Collabs?
Fritzwa: I’m a songwriter and producer. I am always working on my own music and recently came back from a trip to Ghana where I worked with Ghanaian producers on an EP I’ll be releasing. I write commercial music for ads and brands, and I also work with other artists as a songwriter and arranger.
J. Brodsky: I’m busy with a TON of different projects right now. Besides the 7 or 8 active artist projects I have going, I’m also working with other bands, solo artists, filmmakers, podcasters, activists, choreographers, and even toy makers to compose and produce music across a whole array of media. I’m also working on my own solo lo-fi dance music and ambient noise projects, but I’m a new dad as of December, so it’s hard to find time to work on my own passion projects when I’m not hanging out with my baby or giving my time and energy to other collaborations.
Why do you write for Artist Collabs? How does it benefit you as an artist?
Fritzwa: I love collaborating with artists. It brings out ideas that one cold never think of on their own. Jeff is an amazing producer and we have a lot of fun making records. Katy does a great job guiding the direction of the music and making sure it hits the mark that is intended. It makes me a better musician as there are parameters that we have to create within as well as time constraints. It’s an amazing opportunity to create work that is heard by so many people and also helps me get better at what I love to do.
J. Brodsky: Artist Collabs has been an incredible opportunity to write styles of music I might never produce on my own and to work with artists I would maybe never otherwise work with. It’s an incredibly challenging and rewarding process that hugely strengthens my skills and abilities as a producer.
How do you decide what style or direction to write in?
Fritzwa: I’m usually led by the production and what feelings it evokes. The style of it, is it experimental, pop? Does it have a doo wop feel? I answer those questions internally and then melodies usually come to me pretty fluidly.
J. Brodsky: We workshop it as a team! Try to figure out what we’re all interested in, what we’re listening to, styles and approaches we want to try and things we excel at and throw it all in the process. We try to have as much fun with it while also leaning into what we think will work with the zeitgeist.
What do you enjoy most about this process? What’s the most difficult part?
Fritzwa: I enjoy starting the songs the most, because those are the times when you can be most free and creative. I think the most difficult part is completing them. Pulling back all of the lyrical ideas presented and finally landing on something that works for commercial use. Sometimes I get bit wordy or complex and I have to rethink my approach to the tune.
J. Brodsky: I just love writing music with my friends and other talented artists. It’s been a great way of connecting with wildly talented people I didn’t know before and making something new! The hardest part can sometimes be the challenges of working remotely. Sometimes there’s a benefit to being in the same room or the same session and working out all the creative decision making on the fly together. It can be challenging keeping perspective draft after draft.
This project is unique in that there are two artists writing together. When working on a song with another person, do you start writing together or separately?
Fritzwa: It depends, sometimes we’ll start a production together and then I’ll go off and write, then Jeff will perfect the production as well as produce around my lyrics. Other times, he’ll offer a choice of ideas he’s started and we’ll chose from those options then I’ll start crafting some melodies and lyrics. Jeff is an incredible producer so the foundations of the songs we create are always great. Katy has a great sense of what works commercially and is amazing at steering us in an awesome direction.
J. Brodsky: Typically we start by all sharing YouTube and Spotify links to get a sense of what we’re listening and are stoked on recently. From there I’ll synthesize all of our initial notes and vibe gathering to put together a rough first pass at an instrumental. Fritzwa has an incredible knack for hearing the fleshed out song from that first draft. That’s an incredible skill: being able to hear what the song will be from the early versions and staying focused on that vision. Fritzwa kills at that. From there I just keep chipping away at it draft by draft considering all the notes Fritzwa and Katy send along.
Katy, you produce a few Artist Collabs projects and have your own music available for licensing as well. How are Artist Collabs projects different from other songs in Marmoset’s catalog?
Katy: They’re basically the same. Only difference is that with Artist Collabs, we help artists arrange and produce their songs in a way that might sync well with picture.
How do you keep up to date with the latest trends in music licensing?
Katy: I don’t think I keep up with licensing trends in any super intentional way. It’s more like I’m on the r
eceiving end of a blasting firehose of content at all times because I’m a social media and Slack user. So I grab onto what I can. I think more than licensing trends, I just keep up with culture in general. And that usually (eventually) translates to trends in licensing. I also have two 15-year-olds in my life, and they tell me what’s up.
How do you brief Jeff and Fritzwa? What does the process look like?
Katy: I don’t usually need to write a super formal creative brief for them because we have a good rapport and we’re buddies IRL. I give them a handful of reference songs for inspiration, and I tell them what the instrumentation, emotional tone, and energy should feel like. And that’s about it. Then they post a first draft, and I post revision notes. And we go back and forth with drafts and revision notes until we decide it’s done.
The Fritzwa + J. Brodsky song, “The Best,” was used in a FIFA spot last summer. Walk me through the creative process of writing that song.
Katy: I think I had Jeff make nearly all the music on this one, and Fritzwa wrote lyrics and topline. This was the first song we made all together. I can’t find the creative brief, but I probably told Jeff to make something fun, upbeat, and rhythmically compelling. And I can’t remember what creative direction I gave Fritzwa, but I remember her posting her first draft for vocals and I was like “holy crap!” I was so psyched to help this collaboration come to life.
Hear Fritzwa + J. Brodsky’s “The Best” in the FIFA 20 Official Gameplay Trailer below: