Justin Bieber and Simon Cohen

Justin Bieber and Studios 301’s Simon Cohen Create a Global Number One!

When you see Justin Bieber and Ed Sheeran’s name together you know that whatever it’s tied to is going to be big, and that’s definitely the vibe attached to arguably the biggest song in the world right now. On November 9, 2015 Justin Bieber released the ode to his ex- titled “Love Yourself”. The track co-written with Sheeran and producer Benny Blanco has received massive acclaim globally, but what you might not know is that the vocals were recorded right here in Australia, by our very own Vocal Producer Simon Cohen.

Here’s what’s gone down since the release:

  • “Love Yourself” has gone #1 on official charts globally including the USA, UK, Sweden, Ireland, Denmark, Australia and New Zealand.
  • It’s sold over 1.1 million copies in the USA alone.
  • It’s equalled John Lennon’s UK chart record, by being 1 of Bieber’s singles to occupy the entire top three in the UK charts. ‘
  • Remember Craig David? (Yep that guy who was only too happy to “fill you in” wanted to know “what your flavour was”? Well he got in on the action, covering the song for BBC 1Xtra Live Lounge – adding his own spin on it of course), a move that has seen his career reignited and his own album “Born to do It” from August 2000 back in the UK charts.
  • It’s the first ARIA #1 Single of 2016, and Justin’s longest running Australian single to date.

Pretty cool huh? So where do we come in on this? Great question. As mentioned, Simon Cohen our very own engineer at 301 Studios, not only has worked with Bieb’s in the past, but was hand picked to work on this project! Simon was Justin’s go to recording engineer on his recent trip to Australia in September, and well as they say “the rest is history”. So what’s it like to work with JB? How did this all come about? Well we managed to steal a few minutes of Simon’s time for a quick Q & A, so all you Belieber’s out there could get the 411.

When you were working on the track did you think it was a hit?

SC: They had told me that Ed Sheeran had co-written it, so I had high expectations of the songwriting. I got the files before I flew down to Melbourne so I had heard it a couple of times and I was singing it to myself as I was flying down thinking, “this is a great song!”.  You always hope that people can hear what you hear in a song, and in this case the overwhelming fan reaction has been amazing.

It’s a point that I have spoken to a lot of people about recently. I think we are kind of going back to this amazing place where, because the playing field is leveled production wise, it’s back to who has the best idea, the strongest song. This is the perfect example as it’s literally a guitar and a vocal. Its the skeleton of a song in its purest form and it’s the one that’s connected with everyone.

Is this the biggest single you have worked on?

SC: Yes, I think its going to be hard to find anything that compares to this one. A lot of the work I have done with big name artists has been great but nothing has been as big as this single. Particularly when working with touring artists a lot if their main singles may already be done. In other cases, it might be months before anything eventuates from something you worked on and then you’re like “Oh great, that song finally came out!”.

What was it like engineering a Justin Bieber session? What was the setup?

SC: Justin works pretty fast, so as an engineer you have to get your settings as quickly as you can and it’s all about capturing that amazing performance. He has one of those very finished voices to start with, so I imagine he would sound phenomenal on just about any mic you put in front of him. But in this case it was an LA type set up, a Telefunken ELA M 251 going into a NEVE Pre and a Tube Tech CL1B Compressor. One of my favourite mics into one of my favourite pres, into one of my favourite compressors. You can’t go wrong with that chain.

This is the second time you’ve worked with Justin now. How was working with him the first time around?

SC: That was in 2014 here at Studios 301 and then they flew me to Perth too. It was all a bit up in the air, because after last time we worked together he went on a bit of a hiatus. We’d worked on a bunch of songs over a couple of different days, and the next thing I had heard, he wasn’t doing music anymore. Hopefully not because of me! (laughs)

Being a big part of such a big record. Does it change anything or the direction of where you’re headed?

SC: I think it just affirms what I have been doing and it definitely feels like I’m on the right path. Obviously number one in so many countries is a bit of a tough one to beat. Lol we’ll see.

When did it hit you, that this was actually quite massive and was something big?

SC: Probably when I started getting texts from people with screen shots of it already charting in the US even before it was released as a single. You always hope when you do a one off some with someone, that it will become their hit single. It just continued to chart and chart without any official release. It was awesome. It’s cool to hear the track playing and people know the words. You can smile knowing you were involved in that. Very humbling though. A lot of my friends seemed to be listening to it over summer! Some have even done their own covers on YouTube and I was like “Did you know I worked on that track?” I was met with a lot of “What? No Way?”. All good feedback too.

So let’s talk about covers of tracks then, what do you think about Craig David jumping on this and covering the track? Have you heard it?

SC: Haha, what a career move huh. I have to say, now that Craig David has been linked to me in some small way I think I can die a happy man. Career goals met!!

So what’s next for Simon Cohen? 

SC:  Hopefully just moving on to more really great records, and helping people fulfil their dreams. Hopefully soon, it might be time for a “Thundamentals” record – I’d love to be involved in that, but hey who knows. I’ve got a good feeling 2016 is going to be a big year for music. Let’s hope so!

For studios enquiries or to book Simon Cohen please contact us.

Listen here: