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Best of 2023: Producer Andrew Watt is no stranger to working with big names - he’s been at the helm of albums by the likes of Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus, Ozzy Osbourne, Pearl Jam and Iggy Pop - but his latest project saw him heading into the studio with some bona fide legends: The Rolling Stones.
In fact, not only has Watt brought his production skills to the band’s new album, Hackney Diamonds, but he also co-wrote three tracks on the record, including lead single Angry.
Speaking to Billboard, Watt has been discussing the ‘pinch-me’ experience of working with The Stones, offering a visceral description of what it’s like to be behind the glass when Mick Jagger records a vocal.
“He starts in like, a sweater, a button-down and a T-shirt, and then, two takes in, the sweater comes off,” explains Watt. “Two takes later, the button-down comes off. All of a sudden, he’s down to a T-shirt, and he’s ripped, and he’s 80, and he’s fucking giving you full-blown Mick Jagger, shaking and sweating as he sings every note.”
At times, 32-year-old Watt sounds more like a Stones fan than he does one of the band’s colleagues. Indeed, he suggests that he had to deal with a certain amount of imposter syndrome when he was initially asked to work with them.
“You have this moment where you’re like, ‘Am I even capable of that?’” he admits. “It’s the greatest honour as a kid with a guitar who grew up idolising every single thing Keith Richards ever did.”
Of his musical philosophy during the Hackney Diamonds sessions, Watt makes it clear that he wanted the 11-track record to bristle with The Stones’ legendary live energy. This is certainly evident in both Angry and Sweet Sounds Of Heaven, another track from the album, which was released last week.
“Any fan wants to hear the greatest live rock ’n’ roll band of all time, so to do anything else with them in the studio is just letting everyone down,” he argues.
And what of working with Paul McCartney, another legend who appears on Hackney Diamonds?
“Watching Paul McCartney arrange background vocals and harmonize with himself? I’m taking that shit with me to every production I do for the rest of my life,” Watt reveals.
Hackney Diamonds is released on 20 October.