Literally, these are good times for songwriters Brian Lee and Matthew Thiessen. Their recent songwriting collaboration with Owl City's Adam Young, "Good Time" featuring Carly Rae Jepsen, is climbing the Billboard Hot 100. The track will be featured on Owl City's forthcoming album, The Midsummer Station, which is due Aug. 14.
A classically trained violinist, Lee also has an affinity for melodic pop music. "I just love melody," says Lee, who is also a producer. "I think that's the main thing that gets your heart when you listen to things." Lee has collaborated with one of today's biggest hit makers, Lady Gaga, co-writing "Americano" and "Highway Unicorn (Road to Love) and contributing backing vocals to "Government Hooker" on her GRAMMY-nominated 2011 album Born This Way.
Thiessen is the frontman for the GRAMMY-nominated five-piece rock band Relient K, who scored a nomination for Best Rock Gospel Album for Two Lefts Don't Make A Right...But Three Do in 2003. His songwriting experience includes work with Katy Perry and GRAMMY-winning producer Glen Ballard, a collaboration that yielded "Long Shot," a song featured on Kelly Clarkson's 2009 album All I Ever Wanted. Thiessen also co-wrote songs on Owl City's 2009 album, Ocean Eyes, which reached No. 8 on the Billboard 200.
In an exclusive GRAMMY.com interview, Lee and Thiessen shared how they came together for "Good Time," their musical roots, memorable collaborations, and what they hope to accomplish in the future.
How did you come together to collaborate on "Good Time"?
Matthew Thiessen: Brian and I have written a couple times together. And I've also written with Adam [Young] from Owl City before. The second time we got together, it was for the "Good Time" session.
Brian Lee: We wrote it on the floor in Matt's living room, sitting Indian-style around a coffee table with Adam's laptop. And our only speaker was that Bose iPod thing.
Jepsen's "Call Me Maybe" is currently No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. How thrilling is it to be the co-writers of her hit follow-up song with Owl City?
Lee: It's amazing.
Thiessen: Yeah, it's a gift. I think Adam makes such amazing tracks and his sound is current and fun and not necessarily overthought. And her voice sounds great on his tracks. It's a beautiful pairing, and I'm glad that the melodies and the lyrics we came up with got to be a part of it.
Lee: I think it's exciting, but as writers, we always have to be on to the next [song].
Brian, what is your musical background?
Lee: I have played the violin since I was 3, not by choice — because you don't have a choice at 3 — but it's in my blood. The first non-classical CDs that I bought were 'N Sync, Boyz II Men and really awesome melody music like Ace Of Base. I just love melody. I love it so much. I think that's the main thing that gets your heart when you listen to things. People will hum lyrics at a show and they won't know the words, but they'll know exactly how the melody goes.
Matthew, how did working with Glen Ballard help your career?
Thiessen: I think meeting Glen Ballard when I was young was really important. He taught me a lot. I just kind of got to be a fly on the wall for a lot of songwriting sessions with him and [I] got to listen to him talk and watch how he worked.
What do you both hope to achieve in the future?
Thiessen: I'm making a pop record right now with my band [Relient K]. It's kind of similar to some of the stuff I've been writing recently. And Brian's been involved with a few of the songs. I feel like I'm writing some catchy music and just kind of continuing my band and also just writing with other people whenever I have the opportunity.
Lee: I just want to be known when you hear certain songs — like Afrojack, he has a sound. And Dr. Luke has his sound. They've all acquired some kind of staple on their sound. I think I've found mine. I just want people to be able to hear a song and [say], "OK, that's something that Brian did," [as] opposed to, "That's a good song. Who did that?"