Famed Music Producer Sean Garrett on Working With Summer Walker on Her Latest Album, Writing for Beyoncé, and What’s Next for Hey Young World

Image: courtesy of Sean Garrett

In August of 2021, in an Instagram live video that went viral, the singer Summer Walker told her Instagram followers that she and famed music producer London on da Track have parted ways. Now, several months later, it seems as if the producer is the inspiration for some of the songs on the songstress’ new heartbreak album Still Over It. The new tracks seem to reflect Walker’s love life—and she renders them with her signature branded sound of melodies, acoustic vibes, poetic feels—with a deeply personal hit on why the relationship ended. 

Obviously, London wasn’t a producer on this album, but Summer Walker was in good hands since the legendary music producer and songwriter Sean Garrett helped Walker complete the album. In fact, he wrote 10 of the 19 tracks. The chart-topping producer has produced 52 number one singles in seven years. He’s written and produced for other A-listers such as Usher, Beyoncé, Ciara, Mary J Blige, Diddy, Britney Spears and Chris Brown. Now, his skills have helped Walker’s latest release achieve similar success.

Below, EBONY chatted with the iconic producer about his work on Walker’s latest project, his days working with Usher and Beyoncé, and what we can expect from his newest baby, his record label Hey Young World (HWY).

EBONY: How are you feeling now that the project with Summer Walker is complete?

Sean Garrett: Amazing. It’s out. Everyone loves it. It’s a celebratory moment—probably like a historic moment, to be honest with you. We are breaking all types of records. We are #1 in l 40 different global markets. We are #1 in 5 different countries on iTunes. It’s being touted as the biggest female debut since Beyoncé’s Lemonade. It’s going crazy. It’s going crazy around the world. I’m so happy for everyone who was involved on the album. I’m so happy for Interscope and I’m so happy for R&B music. I guess I’m kinda getting good at this. Another memorable time was when we were doing Usher’s Yeah! It was coming on the back end of Napster. Napster definitely shook up the world. Everybody thought music was over and then to come back with a dominant album—my first record. It was amazing.

Folks were waiting on it… did you feel a lot of pressure?

Of course, we did feel pressure. I can’t lie, I did feel pressure. But it’s a part of our sport. It’s a part of what we do. We worked our tail off on this album. So it’s gratifying to finally get it out and everyone loves it.

Youve worked with a lot of big celebrities—Usher, Beyoncé, and others. What was it like working with Summer Walker? How is she different from other folks that youve worked with?

Being able to work with someone like a Beyoncé on Destiny’s Child and then working with her on B’Day, is completely different. Then working with Summer, I would say Summer is unique. We had a different way of working together versus how I worked with Beyoncé. I think it was definitely perfect based on how Summer works. We really didn’t get in each other’s way. Especially her being in control of her pen as well. She’s definitely so skilled. It was a perfect match. 

How do you feel about the response to the album from fans and industry people?

Unbelievable. Everybody and their momma has been hitting me up. I couldn’t ask for anything better. I feel amazing for our culture. This is definitely a cultural thing. We stopped the world and so for Black people, R&B, urban people who love R&B music, for the history of R&B music—it’s unbelievable.

I read you worked on 10 of the 20 tracks. Which songs did you work on?

I can’t remember all of the names because there were a lot, but “Bitter,” “Screw-in,” “Constant BS.” There were a lot of songs. Some songs that Summer did were acoustic records she did herself. They were so beautiful. She’s very unique. She’s not a carbon copy. She doesn’t look at things the same way as other people which is what makes some of her opinions unique.

The songs seem to reflect what the world knows of the artist’s real love life. How hard is it to be so open with the world through music and how did you help her do that?

You know, I’ve written quite a few life changing records—Check Up On It, Get Me Bodied, Ring the Alarm, Diva, TShirt, Girl, Soulja, Lose My Breath, Good Woman Down, Enough Cryin’, Work That. It’s just what I do so it wasn’t that difficult to tap in with Summer because you know we are both heartfelt people and I really consider her like a little sister. So I wanted her to have certain perspectives like for example for “Fourth Baby Mamma,” she didn’t want to be called a fourth baby mama; but you will hear my prelude on it and then Summer gives another side to it. So basically the prelude is the idea of being the fourth baby mama and then the other half of the song is her result of being the fourth baby mama. We collaborate really well. It comes from everyone knowing their role and knowing what they came to do.

Youre working on a new record label, Hey Young World. How will HYW improve, shift, or impact the culture of music and Black people?

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One of the biggest aspects would be the overall approach. There’s a certain integrity and passion and perspective that we put into music and our art as a culture. And that’s the same type of integrity and passion and perspective that that we put into in our plans and into our model as a label. And then there’s also the approach we bring to teaching and taking care of our artists. So many young artists suffer from not having the guidance and the information that they need access to in order to build a real career. I have a career, my son. You know what I’m saying? Not just a few years. Decades. And I want our artists to have that too. Without mentorship—having someone to teach them the ins and outs of the business, and how to make a true livelihood out of their craft—it’ll be so easy for them to get eaten alive by the industry. There are artists who can shift culture. Those are the kinds of artists we want to grow and bring out into the world.

Max Goussee has always been a really good friend of mine. He’s someone I’ve always looked up to in the industry—and I happened to meet him working on B’Day, on one of the biggest albums on my career. It ended up being such an amazing project, and we ended up knocking that process out in such a short time. Max really understands the business, branding, marketing. I really feel like we make a great team.

Are you solely looking for rappers and singers or are you also looking for songwriters?

So we are not necessarily looking for songwriters. But if I happen to find an artist who is incredibly dope, but also possess that gift then that’s an added bonus. For me, as a songwriter and producer, there’s nothing like working with an artist who who understands how to write and create an amazing song from scratch. So that could put someone over the edge. Songwriters are legends too.

Anything else we should know?

My new album is on the way too. The first quarter. I haven’t named it yet. Still TBT.

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