Justin Tranter and Scott Goldman
Songwriter Justin Tranter: Women Tell Awesome Stories | "Required Listening"
He's a Berklee grad. He's fronted his own alt-rock band. He's opened for Lady Gaga. He's written songs that have yielded millions of streams and hit the top of the charts. He's a Song Of The Year GRAMMY nominee. And he's a huge advocate for the LGBTQ community.
By now, you've heard plenty of ear candy that has been sweetened due to Tranter's gift for songwriting. He's written songs for some of pop music's biggest artists, including Justin Bieber ("Sorry"), Selena Gomez ("Good For You," "Bad Liar"), Maroon 5 ("Cold"), DNCE ("Cake By The Ocean"), Britney Spears ("Slumber Party"), and Hailee Steinfeld ("Love Myself").
But it was his collaboration with fellow songwriter Julia Michaels on her breakthrough solo hit, "Issues," that earned him a first taste of big-time recognition in the form of a Song Of The Year nod at the 60th GRAMMY Awards.
"The first text was from [Sarah Kate Ellis,] the CEO of GLAAD, being like, 'Congratulations,'" recalled Tranter, who amplifies the voice of the LGBQT community as one of the organization's board members. "That's also pretty cool because I worship her and she's a huge activist that saves a lot of lives. So, to have her text me and be like, 'Yo, GRAMMY.' You're just like going, 'How did I get here?'"
As an alumnus of Berklee College of Music, and as the previous frontman for alt-rockers Semi Precious Weapons, Tranter knows his way around on packaging a hook. His solid résumé, which includes opening for Gaga, has helped inform his personal approach to songwriting.
"In my band, for so long I got to write, and sing, and say, and wear, and do exactly what I wanted for 10 years, and it was all pretty f***ing extreme," said Tranter.
In the case of working with Michaels, the duo's personal bond proved to be the key ingredient in yielding something that ultimately resonated with millions of ears.
"Obviously, me and Julia have written an insane amount of songs together. At that point, when we wrote 'Issues,' we were already really close," he said. "To write something as raw and honest and bare your soul as 'Issues,' you kind of really need to know somebody."
Formed in 2006, Semi Precious Weapons recorded three studio albums during their near decade-long run. As is sometimes the case with unique music success stories, Tranter fell into the songwriting occupation by accident.
"I'm here to facilitate and … make things a little more fabulous and a little more urgent." — Justin Tranter
"I was in the band and we were on Epic, and they refused to release our album. And we had a publishing deal," recalls Tranter. "And this woman named Katie Vinten came into Warner/Chappell, and she listened to the new album that we made and she's like, 'Well, this is amazing, but I can't help you. I don't work at Epic, I work at Warner/Chappell, but I could put you in sessions to write for other people if you want. I think your songs are amazing, do you want to try that?'"
Tranter hasn't looked back since. As big of a believer he is in establishing a personal connection with a collaborator, Tranter is quick to point out that his focus is always on the artist.
"Once I got into pop songwriting, I was kind of just ready to help other people tell their stories. … I'm here to facilitate, and structure, and grow, and make things a little more fabulous and a little more urgent."
"How do you do that?" interjected Goldman.
"You have to get to the truth."
As a teen, Tranter was inspired by the truths of "the whole '90s era of female singer/songwriters," including Ani DiFranco, Tori Amos, Paula Cole, and Courtney Love. As far as strong women he'd like to collaborate with in the future?