Behind the Boards with Blake Slatkin: Lizzo’s Grammy-Winning Producer on Moments “Imprinted on Your Brain”

"It’s one of those things where I can remember how the room smelled and what everyone was wearing, where it’s just imprinted on your brain"

blake slatkin behind the boards
Blake Slatkin, photo by Daniel Prakopcyk/Illustration by Steven Fiche

    Behind the Boards is a series where some of the biggest producers in the industry dig into their favorite projects. Here, we sit down with Blake Slatkin to unpack his recent Grammy win with Lizzo, working with SZA, and more.

    When speaking with songwriter and producer Blake Slatkin, two things quickly become clear: He cares immensely about what he does and will spend months of long nights in the studio; and he’s managed to maintain a sense of wonder and excitement about the music-making process, still having those “pinch me” moments when he collaborates with someone whose repertoire he truly admires.

    Slatkin led the charge on writing and producing Lizzo’s smash hit “About Damn Time,” later taking home the Grammy for Record of the Year alongside the superstar. It might come as a surprise to some that a song that stayed on repeat for so much of the past year wasn’t always part of the vision for Lizzo’s second full-length studio album, Special; in fact, Slatkin shares, it was the very last track to be added to the album.


    Below, the producer shares behind-the-scenes stories for “About Damn Time,” memories of working on fellow Grammy history-making track “Unholy,” reflections from working with SZA, and more.

    Lizzo — “About Damn Time”

    I feel like I say this about every song I work on, but this really was one of the craziest processes. I’d been working with Lizzo for a bit — I was already the biggest fan of her — and we already had a bunch of songs that we loved. I got a call from the label saying we needed one more song. I was so proud of everything we’d already made, and Lizzo thought we had it, too. We had a big push to go back into the studio one more time.

    I’d never worked with Ricky Reed before, who’s incredible, and I’m the biggest fan of him. We got in the studio and were just jamming, and I wasn’t thinking about it and hit some chords on the piano; I don’t even know how to play piano. I don’t like being proficient on every instrument because happy accidents happen that way.

    I was messing around and Ricky was like, “That!” I thought he was kidding. 45 minutes later we had most of what you hear on the record. We FaceTimed Lizzo, who wasn’t going to come to the studio initially, and had said, “If you guys make something that sounds like a hit, I’ll come to the studio.” I watched her hear the bassline and it was over. She said, “I’ll be there in 10 minutes.”