There’s a reason why Fraser T Smith, Dave and Raye look so close on the cover of the latest edition of Music Week.
As well as their co-writer and producer, Smith is a friend and confidant, and he enjoys similar relationships with everyone he works with. Currently, that group is mainly comprised of a wave of next generation talent, including Stormzy, Mabel, Not3s and Ray Blk.
As well as his studio methods and approach to the business, Music Week sought to unpick the bond between Smith and his artists during our visit to his West London studio.
Here, beginning with a word from the man himself, we present portraits of the superstar writer and producer in the words of two of his current charges.
Fraser T Smith: “You feel like you want to know artists’ backgrounds. With Dave, we went to visit his brother in prison, just getting a sense of who the artists are, not just when they walk into the studio, but the upbringing, where they’re from… Meeting Stormzy’s mum, Dave’s mum, Raye’s mum and dad, all of these guys seem slightly younger than me which is slightly disturbing, but I definitely feel a custodial role.”
Dave: “He’s definitely a friend, mentor and someone to push and get the best out of you. He’s an amazing producer, he’s helped me improve my musical prowess. From our first session it really worked, we had good chemistry, then it built towards a bigger picture of making projects together, we really understood each other.
“Fraser’s involvement stretches way past production, when it comes to the lyrics, the concepts of songs, he helps me keep it concise when I could stray off topic, he helps make sure I’m on top of it.
“Fraser has the quality of being able to self-analyse and look at his own weak points and strong points, plus mine and everyone else’s, and to be completely honest and direct and give criticism in a good and positive way.
“It’s vital to have someone like Fraser behind an artist’s musicality to take it to the next level, to separate the production and add an extra layer of quality so it stands the test of time and compares on a big scale. There are things that happen behind the scenes where Fraser takes tracks to a different level. I don’t think people ever even understand the actual skill that takes.”
There are things that happen behind the scenes where Fraser takes tracks to a different level
Raye: “There’s a reason he’s had a career this long and this fricking incredible!
“The kind of song you’re going to write depends on how comfortable you feel and, as a young woman, there’s so much going on in my head and in my life at all times.
“Fraser knows my deepest, darkest secrets and that doesn’t scare me at all. If the trust is there, then you can open up and write those songs that need to be written and heard, and I think that’s what takes things to the next level.
“He plays every instrument and we dig into that, I’ll jump on the keys and he’ll be on the drum machine, we make music together. It’s a collaboration. Often you go to work with producers and that’s all they are, but Fraser is a songwriter, a creative, he knows good music.
“It’s a balance of experience and having written some incredible classic pop songs, and bringing knowledge of what good music is and wanting to reinvent it and collaborate with young, fresh minds.
“We have so much to say, so it’s having somebody to help you navigate it to a wider audience. And I really respect how much time Fraser has for new artists. It’s not about money, clout or anything, it’s purely for the love of it, you can see that from the time he invests.”
Subscribers can read our interview with Smith, Dave and Raye online here.
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Revisit Smith’s thoughts on the evolution of UK rap and its relationship with the media here.