The London-based producer and songwriter known as the Bullitts (Jeymes Samuel) has done well for himself over the past few years. His first single “Close Your Eyes” dropped in April 2011 at which time BBC Radio 1 DJ Zane Lowe called it “The hottest record in the world.” More recently, he was tapped by Jay Z as Executive Music Consultant for The Great Gatsby. As a talent who’s increasingly in demand, he divides his time between London, New York and Los Angeles and has worked with artists including Icelandic singer Emilíana Torrini and actress Rosario Dawson. He’s known particularly for his series of YouTube “flixtapes.”
It is important to Samuel to create material that he believes has value. “I never understand songwriters or producers who write songs that they themselves wouldn’t listen to,” he says. “I never understood when Justin Timberlake was in ‘N Sync. Looking at him, I knew that he didn’t listen to that kind of music. But when he went solo, things started to make sense. I’m my own quality control. I’d rather work with no one and make music for myself than do subpar stuff that I’m not into.”
Inspiration for melodies and lyrics often comes from unlikely sources. For example, Rosario Dawson inspired Samuel to create a song for They Die By Dawn & Other Short Stories, his forthcoming record. “She has this really melodic laugh and that’s what it’s based on,” the producer explains. “I put it into a song––the melody and the chorus––that I’m working on now.”
Sourcing talent is commonly one of the biggest challenges he faces as a producer, especially when he wants to work with someone famous. “The hunt for Charlotte Gainsbourg for a Jay Electronica song was tough,” Samuel recalls. “She was somewhere in France. I love the hustle of locating the artist that I want to work with. Like when I worked with Lucy Liu [she narrated his first single “Close Your Eyes”], it was an adventure; a challenge to find her. I want to do a song with Jack Nicholson. I want him talking on the tracks for my next album.”
The Bullitts draws a distinction between a song of quality and a successful song. “A song that works could be [something like] Joni Mitchell’s ‘Court and Spark,’” he observes. “There’s no chorus but it’s beautiful; it works. But a lot of people might not be familiar with it. Successful songs, on the other hand, are in the pop charts with a banging beat, a melody, a catchy hook. But they’re not necessarily songs that work. A good song needs to come from a place of meaning; from a place of depth. The rest can come later.”
Samuel advises rising producers to retain their focus; to not be diverted from their aims and dreams. “If you truly have something to say, don’t let anybody tell you not to say it,” he counsels. “Producers and songwriters are artists. That means you have something to say. Don’t let anybody change that. Be true to yourself. And don’t feel the need to emulate what someone else has done. The tide is changed by those who swim against it.”
They Die By Dawn & Other Short Stories dropped on June 4th. It was preceded by the “They Die By Dawn” single and is the accompaniment to the 50-minute film of the same name. He’ll soon begin work on scoring The Notorious Nine. Filming began in July. He finds himself extremely busy these days and is enjoying it. “It’s like being paid to breathe,” he remarks.
By Rob Putnam