Grey Talks “Want You Back,” Working With LÉON, Avril & More: Interview
It looks like Los Angeles production duo Grey are poised to soar even higher in 2019. Last year, the pair (brothers Kyle and Michael Trewartha) achieved several major professional milestones. Linking up with Zedd and Maren Morris on “The Middle,” they notched their first Top 5 hit on the Billboard Hot 100. With more than 605 million Spotify streams, it is on track to become their biggest song to date. That’s not all, though. The anthem also nabbed them their first Grammy nominations. And two of the three nods are in some pretty major categories. This weekend they are up for Song Of The Year, Record Of The Year and Best Pop Duo/Group Performance. We’ll find out if walk away with any trophies in just a couple of days.
Regardless of the outcome, it is a pretty massive accomplishment that establishes them as Ones To Watch. After the one-two punch of breakout hit “Starving” and “The Middle,” Kyle and Michael would be forgiven for taking a breather. That is not the case. They kicked off the new year by linking up with Swedish pop goddess LÉON on new single “Want You Back.” Unsurprisingly, it is another bop with plenty of potential. It also more than meets their goal of bringing “something weird and unique to pop.” Oh yeah, you cannot discount the accompanying video, which is a serious tear-jerker. I recently had the opportunity to ask the duo a couple questions about the release.
They provided some insight into working with LÉON, upcoming performances and the video. Afterward, they reflected on previous collabs with the likes of Camila Cabello (“Crown”) and Avril Lavigne (“Wings Clipped”), opened up about dream duets in the future and mentioned plans for a debut album. They also generously provided a never-before-seen video that offers a behind the scenes glimpse into the recording process of “Want You Back”. Dive into our exclusive Q&A, check out the BTS footage and revisit their new single below!
I wanted to start off by congratulating you on “Want You Back.” The song is such an earworm, and the video is an absolute tearjerker. Can you tell me a little about how it all came together?
For some reason we have this magic power that allows us to collaborate with our favorite artist at the given moment, we’re super lucky. We were constantly listening to Léon and we immediately reached out thinking she was perfect for it. Amazingly, she was down and flew to LA and recorded the song with us. Léon is an insane singer so we had the easiest time in the session cause she only needed to sing like 3 takes and we had it! Since then we’ve got to hang with her a bunch and she’s such an incredible person, really happy with this collaboration.
What was it like working in the studio and on the video shoot with LÉON?
As I said before Léon is an absolute beast in the studio. Recording the music video was a blast cause we’re really good friends with the director Matt Komo. We even gave my (Michael’s) girlfriend a cameo and since I was dating someone else in the video she gives me a dirty look, it’s hilarious. We also recorded a super vibey acoustic video with Léon which was awesome.
In a press release for “Want You Back,” you mentioned that you had been listening to her a lot before reaching out to collaborate. Is there a reason you thought she’d be such a good fit?
Yeah we had been listening to her stuff for a while on repeat and like I said before we both instantly knew she would sound perfect on the song because the production and the top line already have a Swedish pop vibe to them .
Last year it was interesting (and internet-breaking) to see how many other artists had recorded a demo for “The Middle” before it ultimately went to Maren Morris. Was this a similar situation or did you just know who you needed on the track immediately?
This was the exact opposite, Léon was the first and only singer that we chose and it could not have turned out any better!
I also really want to talk about the video. It puts such a heartbreaking spin on an already emotional song. How did you come up with the treatment?
Well we knew that we didn’t want the video to be about a generic love story with a girl just talking about a break up because that’s boring. We also didn’t want to do something over the top that didn’t make sense with the song writing. So we just thought to ourselves what’s a twist that we can use to completely throw this video on its head? The answer was to kill Kyle… Hahahahahaha
What made you decide on something like that instead of a more traditional breakup plot?
We just love music videos that feel like a movie. We feel like our music is very cinematic so we want all of our videos to be the same way. The generic breakup plot is so uninteresting and forgettable.
Do you have any plans for performances in the coming weeks? It would be great to see you link up with LÉON onstage.
Yeah we’re planning on doing some stripped down fully live performances in a couple weeks with just us and Léon which we’re super excited about.
I also wanted to touch on your collaborations with Zedd. Between “Starving” and “The Middle,” you’re on a serious hot streak. What is it like when you work with him?
It’s the best cause we have the exact same taste and Zedd knows exactly how to make a song super cool and interesting while still keeping it simple. We’ve learned so much from him. We’re bros.
Do you have anything in the works together for 2019? Are you looking for your third consecutive bop anytime soon?
Who knows we have nothing planned right now maybe sometime in the future. Our third bop is already out hopefully, it’s called “Want You Back” :)
Speaking of collaborations, in the last two years you’ve worked with a slew of pop stars – everyone from Camila Cabello and Hailee Steinfeld to Avril Lavigne. Who is someone you’d like to return to the studio with?
It’s been amazing working with everyone we have, but there’s so many other interesting combinations that we want to try out. Lately we’ve been digging everything from Tove Styrke and Dua Lipa, but you never know!
“Crown” with Camila is one of my favorites of yours. Can you talk at all about how it came together?
Netflix hit us up about a movie they were releasing called bright, and asked us to come screen it before release. We loved the vibe, so they asked us to make a song to a particular scene. The song felt like such a perfect fit for Camila. She heard it and loved it and ended up KILLING it. Super happy with how that one turned out and the whole experience of it coming together!
One other person I want to ask about is Avril. You worked with her at a time when she wasn’t really releasing anything personally. Why did she seem like the right fit for “Wings Clipped” and how did you land that feature?
So originally “Wings Clipped” was just Anthony Green. We’ve been big fans of him since Circa Survive, so we were super stoked when he agreed to jump on. A few weeks later Avril heard “Starving” and hit us up, asking if she could get on the song as well. This one was such a cool blend of influences from our childhood, definitely a bucket list one for us.
Are there plans for more music this year? Are you working toward another EP like Chameleon, or are you thinking about an LP at all?
We have a whole album basically finished! Been working on it for a while, can’t wait to share (hopefully really soon?)
Looking back at your discography, I realized it has been a while since you’ve released an official remix for another artist. If you could remix anything on the Billboard Hot 100 right now, what would you want to do?
I think we’re actually gonna be stepping away from remixes and just focusing on originals. Remixes are fun, but we just really like the process of making original music more now a days.
Who is someone else you’d like to feature on a track of your own?
Tove Styrke, 6LACK, Dua Lipa, Jorja Smith, Astrid S to name a few. We just hung out with Tove and Léon together in Sweden and had a really great time at this quirky little bar tucked away in Stockholm.
Do you have a song that got away? Either one that you had a remix opportunity for or just a chance to be involved in on the production side?
No not really! We’ve been really lucky that everything we’ve gone for has worked out (knock on wood)
Over the last few years, you’ve pulled off some serious professional accomplishments. What would you say you are most proud of achieving?
I think “Starving” stands out the most just because it was our first original release, first time on the radio, first platinum single, first time playing to massive crowds and hearing everyone scream all the lyrics. Our lives immediately changed in the best way possible.
One last question! Michael, in the press release for “Want You Back,” you mentioned that Grey’s goal is to “bring something weird and unique to pop.” Can you talk a little about why that seems so important to you?
Our mission statement is to trick people into liking good music. The best pop songs, like “toxic” from Britney for instance, are really interesting complex songs from a musicians perspective, but presented in a way that the more passive music listeners can just dance to and sing along to. Good art works on multiple levels, and we just love that idea of making the fans smarter and more in tune with how captivating music can be.