Carter Lang is a hit songwriter, producer & musician who has emerged as a top-tier talent in the past two years. He co-wrote & produced the big hit “Sunflower” by Post Malone & Swae Lee (from the animated movie, Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse), which has reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Lang also co-wrote & produced eight songs on R&B/soul star SZA’s debut album, Ctrl, including the hit single, “Love Galore.”
Lang, who works mostly in his hometown of Chicago and in Los Angeles, is now an in-demand collaborator in several ways. With SZA, not only is he a writer & producer, but he is the bass player in her touring band. Lang also co-writes & produces frequently with acclaimed hip-hop artist, Chance the Rapper. He co-wrote the song “How Great” on Chance the Rapper’s Grammy-winning album Coloring Book, and the recent songs “The Man Who Has Everything,” “65th & Ingleside” and “Wala Cam.”
In addition, Lang creates beats and co-writes with top writer/producer Louis Bell (Post Malone, Camila Cabello and Halsey) and other hitmakers. Lang & Bell recently teamed up to co-write & produce the hit “Sunflower” for Post Malone & Swae Lee.
We are pleased to do this new Q&A interview with Carter Lang. He tells how he got started as a musician, how he began working with SZA, and how he co-wrote “Sunflower.”
DK: How did you get started as a musician? I read that you played classical piano when you were a kid.
Carter Lang: I did play piano after school when I was a kid. I got better at piano, but I didn’t fall in love with classical music. So I still had a lot of exploration to do, to figure out what I really loved in music, and how I could perform or create that. I didn’t know that’s what I wanted to do for a lot longer.
Then just before high school, I picked up bass and guitar and started making beats with a beat pad…you can make the songs and arrange them inside the beat machine. And I befriended a rapper, Zack Wicks, who was in my class at high school. We became super close, and started making great music together. I also formed a band called The O’My’s with some friends. The O’My’s are still making great music and are going hard in Chicago.
I started playing bass a lot—bass was kind of my gateway into making beats and playing music with my friends in The O’My’s. We were part of something that was creating a buzz in Chicago between 2005 and 2009. We played South by Southwest every other year, just doing cool stuff. And there were other musical acts who were coming up in the Chicago scene like Kids These Days, Vic Mensa and Chance the Rapper.
DK: I read that you attended Loyola University in New Orleans. Can you talk about your college years?
Lang: I went away to Loyola in New Orleans for a weird, well-rounded music business program that was amazing. I really started from scratch in New Orleans in a great way musically, and meeting new people and creating a whole new bed of experience. During this time I stopped being in The O’My’s, although we’re still friends and I work with them as a producer.
DK: After college, did you return to Chicago?
Lang: Yes, I returned to Chicago four years later, but it was like a new world for me. When I was at Loyola, I had separated myself into just studies and growing my life in New Orleans. So when I came back to Chicago, a lot had happened. Chance the Rapper had put out (his mixtape) Acid Rap, and Vic Mensa had put out (mixtape) Innanetape, and it was just a different scene in Chicago. It was starting to move and shake in a different way. So I came back into that scene with a new hunger to discover what I’m made of musically, and to work with new people. I started working with a lot of different artists in Chicago, leading me to the next step.
DK: You’ve had excellent success working with SZA. Did you meet her in Chicago?
Lang: Yes. When I got back from school in New Orleans, I was working around the different studios, bringing my instruments and working with different people in Chicago. One day, I was working closely with my friend Peter CottonTale, who is Chance the Rapper’s music director & producer. He had me come by a session that SZA was in, and we met. I was playing some guitars and she said, “that sounds pretty cool,” and I brought my analog synthesizer from my car. And we started talking, and I came back the next day and we worked on some music.
About a month later SZA called me, and she said “Hey, can you play Lollapalooza with me?” It was literally the day before Lollapalooza (in 2015). And I said, “Yeah, come over to my studio home—let’s vibe and go through some of the songs.” We just had a natural connection in the studio. Then we played Lollapalooza on the main stage in the morning, and it was a great show and that was the beginning.
After that, we started touring [and played the songs on] her Z mixtape. It was super cool to learn her songs and play live with her. I was like, “Man, I have a lot of love for what we’re creating musically and what you’ve already laid down.” So I was finding myself in this beautiful new relationship in life and in music, and I’m just stoked to be a part of it, and playing with the other band members as well.
Here’s the video of Post Malone & Swae Lee’s hit “Sunflower,” which
was co-written by Carter Lang.
DK: You had a hit with SZA on “Love Galore.” How did you work with her and the co-writers on this song?
Lang: We took some time to write music—we went to my family’s house in Michigan, which isn’t far from Chicago. So it was a comfortable, secluded environment to create music with each other. And it was just me, two other producers, SZA and the engineer. We rented some high-end studio gear to create the recording area for her, and we brought all my crazy instruments—analog gear—from my place in Chicago. We re-created my studio in the basement, so we had a system going and we were working on a bunch of different songs. And on one of the days there, we started a track together. I did a bass melody on a synthesizer, and Cody (Fayne) did the drums. And we were like, “this is cool,” so we started arranging it, and we brought it [to SZA]. Then she recorded her vocals and it sounded amazing. Later on, Travis Scott added his verse on the song, which was also amazing.
DK: Currently, you have a big hit on the charts that I like, “Sunflower” by Post Malone & Swae Lee. How did you get together with them and create this song?
Lang: I started working with producer Louis Bell—both of our managers work together through a company called Electric Feel based in Los Angeles. So I was working with Lou, and we made a cool beat that we called “80s Instrumental” (laughs). I did the drums with a DXM drum machine. Then eventually, Lou showed it to Post and Swae, and they cut it.
Then I got a text from Austin (Post Malone). He said, “Hey, this is a great track,” and it all came together. So I was very excited to hear how it all sounded, and how it worked in the movie (Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse).
DK: It’s great how you created this beat with Louis Bell, and then it evolved into the hit “Sunflower” and in the movie, too.
Lang: Yeah, it’s definitely one of those things…like out of nowhere. What Lou and I are able to create together is really special, and he inspires me to definitely outdo myself. And then hearing the way that Post and Swae got on the track together….it was amazing. I’m so excited. It’s become this [universally-known] track, based off of Lou and me vibing, and Post and Swae having this connection.
Here’s the video pf SZA’s hit “Love Galore” (feat. Travis Scott),
which was co-written by Carter Lang.
DK: Thank you Carter for doing this interview. Are there other projects that you’re been working on, that you can talk about?
Lang: I’ve been working with SZA, and with different producers. I also work with Chance (the Rapper). With Chance, I did “How Great” on his Coloring Book mixtape that received a Grammy (for Best Rap Album), so that was a crazy victory. Then about a week ago, I worked on a song that Chance put out called, “The Man Who Has Everything.” And I worked on two other songs that he put out a few months ago: “65th & Ingleside” and “Wala Cam.” So when I’m in Chicago and I’m not at my home studio, I’m with collaborating with new producers, i.e Westen Weiss, Trap Money Benny, Michael Uzouru and Nascen.