Santell is the West Coast songwriter behind countless, current pop and dance hits. A key influencer on the West Coast new music scene, Santell DJ’s, collaborates and produces 24-7, creating post-internet sound montages to theme his daily feels.
Working alongside Major Lazer, Lido and Diplo, Santell previously worked behind the scenes, creating under aliases and turning down song credits. More recently he dropped debut track “Do Dat”, a preview to the highly anticipated, forthcoming EP.
Now, get to know Santell in his own words, with this essential guide to our new favourite R&B songwriter / old school garage producer.
A lot of people don’t know this, but the first person to ever discover me was producer, turned solo artist Jermaine Dupri (TLC, Mariah Carey, Usher). He signed me when I was 16, during the early Bieber era. I was a kid who grew up on Usher and 90s R&B, I felt like I hit the jackpot when Dupri approached me. I was lucky with how the whole experience benefitted me, helping shape the music I make today. Dupri is responsible for naming me Santell.
Mad Decent was also a key player in helping me carve out my solo career. The first time I met him, I was working with Lido. We were working on a song for our project “Lady’s A Hoe”. Me and Lido felt stuck lyrically and kept trying to feel out the perfect concept, then all of a sudden Diplo peaks out from under a blanket on the couch in the studio and gives us the idea that I should be having an affair with Lido’s girl and confessing to him in the song. I had no idea he was in there the whole time. Since then I’ve written a lot for this Chinese pop star, Luhan. It’s pretty crazy how phenomenally popular he is, his fans are on another level.
I really hate the term ghost writer. My voice is actually on a Madonna record, but it got credited as MNEK! Songwriting is an honourable career, people dream of writing songs that others can sing, to bring a new energy to. I want to be able to make music that inspires people. I respect everything that is happening with R&B right now, but I do feel there’s a lack of variety in the sound. The vibes are so calm, there’s a time and place for that but, sometimes, I want to feel charged up when I listen to music. That’s what I’m trying to achieve through my music.