Over the past decade, Jenna Andrews has built a reputation as a talented pop songwriter and artist who has accumulated a wide range of credits. She was signed as an artist to Island Def Jam Records, and she’s co-written songs for many artists. In addition, she’s helped develop new artists as an A&R consultant, and she’s worked as a vocal producer.
Notwithstanding these fine credits, Andrews’ career has recently reached a much higher level. Last year, she co-wrote New Zealand pop artist Benee’s global hit, “Supalonely.” And now, she’s co-written two number one worldwide hits for K-pop supergroup BTS: “Butter” and “Permission to Dance.” Impressively, “Butter” was recently #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for seven weeks, and now “Permission to Dance” has debuted at #1.
“Butter” (which Andrews wrote with Rob Grimaldi, Stephen Kirk, RM, Alex Bilowitz, Sebastian Garcia & Ron Perry), has not only been a big hit in the U.S., but it’s reached #1 in many other countries including Japan, India, South Korea, Mexico, Malaysia and Singapore. It’s also been a hit in the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Canada and Australia. Along with this, the video for “Butter” has been viewed over 400 million times on YouTube.
“Permission to Dance” was written by Andrews, pop superstar Ed Sheeran, writer/producer Steve Mac and Johnny McDaid. Notably, the excellent video by BTS for “Permission to Dance” has already received over 174 million views on YouTube in one week.
Besides her hits with BTS and Benee, Andrews has collaborated with Drake, Jennifer Lopez, Little Mix, Tori Kelly and Jessie J, along with top writer/producers Max Martin, Diplo, Stargate, DJ Mustard and Illangelo. And as an A&R consultant, she has recently worked with rising pop artists Noah Cyrus and Lennon Stella.
Andrews grew up in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, where she learned how to play guitar at a young age, and she also plays some piano. She started performing and writing songs, and she was discovered on MySpace when a top Canadian manager heard her songs and offered to manage her. This led to Andrews securing a label deal with Island Def Jam Records, and she subsequently released an EP called Kiss and Run in 2012.
After being signed with Island Def Jam, Andrews eventually left the label and began to focus on writing songs for other artists, and doing production. She has worked closely with prominent label exec Barry Weiss (former Head of RCA/Jive Label Group, who now runs the label, RECORDS), who has hired her as an A&R consultant.
Here’s the video of BTS’ hit “Butter,” which was co-written by
Andrews also has a music publishing company called Twentyseven Music, which is a joint venture with Sony Music Publishing. One of the songwriters she signed, Rob Grimaldi, is a co-writer of BTS’ hit, “Butter.”
In addition, Andrews hosts a web series called The Green Room, which appears on Dash Radio and is produced in partnership with The Jed Foundation (a non-profit organization that protects emotional health and prevents suicides for teens and young adults) and She Is The Music (a movement to empower female creators). The series features artists and songwriters who discuss topics such as mental health and music.
We are pleased to do this new Q&A interview Jenna Andrews. She tells how she got started in the music business, and how she co-wrote the hits “Butter” and “Permission to Dance” for BTS, and “Supalonely” for Benee.
DK: I read that you’re from Calgary, Canada. How did you get started with music and songwriting?
Jenna Andrews: When I was five, my parents bought me one of the those little pianos, and I would teach myself to play songs. Then my mom was like, “Oh my God, she’s good at music” (laughs). So she started to put me in piano and vocal lessons. It consumed me at that age…it’s all that I wanted to do. In Calgary, I was in a youth performance group that traveled across North America, and I did shows with (singer/actor) Bob McGrath and the Sesame Street cast.
When I was 14, I started to write songs…it was something that I loved to do naturally. That’s when I recorded the first song I wrote, which was for a songwriting competition when I was in high school.
DK: You eventually signed as an artist with Island Def Jam Records and released an EP. Can you talk about your artist side?
Andrews: I was signed to Island Def Jam for seven years. I was discovered on MySpace, which is hilarious. My manager at the time, Chris Smith (who manages Alessia Cara and Nelly Furtado), found me on MySpace when I still living in Canada. At the time, I was living in Vancouver and I posted a song on MySpace, and then a lot of people hit me up. Chris Smith flew me to Toronto, where I did a showcase for him, and he signed me to management. And Nelly Furtado ended up being my mentor. Then they sent my music to (label exec) L.A. Reid, and that’s when I flew to New York to do a showcase, and when I got signed.
Here’s the video of BTS’ hit “Permission to Dance”,
which was co-written by Jenna Andrews.
As a young artist, they had me do [a lot of songs], and I had a bunch of music that didn’t come out. I ended up in a place where I only released one single and one EP, before being dropped from the label.
DK: How did you make the transition from being an artist, to writing songs for other artists?
Andrews: I still consider myself an artist. I think that once you’re an artist, you’re always an artist. I may still do an album of my own. [But] when I left the label, the producer Noah Shebib, who I knew, called me after I was dropped, and he asked me to develop (the duo) Majid Jordan, who they had signed to OVO (a label owned by Shebib, Drake & Oliver El Khalib). That was a project that I helped develop with songwriting and vocal production, and it was something I loved. I was surprised by how amazing it felt writing for other artists. That’s how I springboarded into what I’m doing now.
DK: About a year ago, you had a hit with Benee called “Supalonely.” How did you connect with her and write that song?
Andrews: I first met Benee when she met with (label exec) Barry Weiss at his company RECORDS, which I still consult for. Benee ultimately signed with Republic Records, but we really hit it off. I then went to a writing camp in New Zealand (where Benee lives), where I met her producer, Josh Fountain. I got to hang out with him and her crew.
I kept in touch with Benee, and we got together to write when she came to L.A. She did a show there, and then we did a session, and “Supalonely” was the first song we wrote. It was pretty cool.
DK: Congratulations on your number one hit with BTS, “Butter.” How did you connect with BTS?
Andrews: After “Supalonely” happened, Big Hit (which manages & produces BTS) reached out and asked if I had songs for their other group, TXT. That was how I started a relationship with them. Then when BTS’ hit “Dynamite” came about, Ron Perry (CEO of Columbia Records) played me the song and said, “I would love for you to help with some of the vocal production.” I said I would love to. It would be their first English song, so I knew it could be a major opportunity. So I ended up doing it, and I did a lot of the work from my garage (studio) during quarantine. I was working in my garage with my engineer for six months and it was really crazy.
Here’s the video of Benee’s hit “Supalonely (feat. Gus Dapperton),
which was co-written by Jenna Andrews.
DK: With your hit “Butter,” you wrote that song with other songwriters. How did that song come together?
Andrews: It’s an interesting story. Rob Grimaldi, who is signed to my publishing venture that I have with Barry Weiss and Sony/ATV Music, sent me an original hook that had that melody (she sings the hook). It had different words at the time. And I was like, “Wow, this song is incredible. There’s something about this hook that’s infectious.” Then Rob wrote that song with Stephen Kirk and Sebastian Garcia. Then I played it for Ron Perry and he was like, “Oh my God, this is amazing. I fully understand how you’re hearing this…it just needs a different lyric.” Then we went through various sessions working on different concepts, until we landed on “Butter.” Ron said he wanted something [in the style of] “Smooth Criminal,” and an idea popped into my head. I sang, “Smooth like Butter, like a criminal undercover” (laughs). Sometimes it just happens that way. As soon as I thought of that, we all looked at each other like, “This is it.” From there, we wanted to make sure we crafted the perfect song, because we knew BTS were amazing. There’s a lot of wordplay in the song and it’s really fun…I love crafting songs that way.
DK: “Butter” was recently number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for seven weeks. How does it feel to be a part of such a big song?
Andrews: It’s been absolutely incredible! It feels surreal and I could not be more grateful. It’s been such a crazy and horrible time over this last year with the pandemic and I really hope that records like these can spread joy and brightness into people’s lives. Music is emotional, it makes people feel. It has that healing ability in certain ways as well and I hope that it can bring happiness to a world that struggled together over the past year. For that aspect, I’m especially grateful.
I’ve been going back and forth with ARMY on Twitter and other various platforms as well. Receiving their approval and support has been so surreal. I can truly say that I’m reaching people all across the world with my art and that’s inspiring me to push harder and harder to keep that going.
DK: Congratulations on co-writing another single with BTS, “Permission to Dance.” I read that it co-written by Ed Sheeran, Steve Mac and Johnny McDaid. How did you write this song with them?
Here’s the video of Galantis, Little Mix & David Guetta’s hit,
“Heartbreak Anthem,” which was co-written by Jenna Andrews.
Andrews: Due to the obvious travel restrictions created by the Covid pandemic, the process was a bit tricky. Although difficult, I must say that it was still very interesting to say the least. Similar to “Butter”, a lot of the back and forth took place on WhatsApp and even email at times. Essentially, I would send lyrics, melody, and other ideas along to Ed, Steve Mac, and the members of BTS. Once ideas started to bounce back and forth and eventually solidify, we moved on to the next sections through that same process. It was our own virtual creative network so to say. Even though it was a very odd way to work, we made it happen through our little network and it turned out to be perfect in the end.
DK: As a songwriter, what would you say is your main strength? Is it writing the topline—melody and lyrics?
Andrews: Yes, it’s definitely melody and lyrics. As a songwriter, you always want to challenge yourself and become better as you progress in your career. And lately, I’ve been really honing in on the lyrics, and I’d call myself more of a lyric person.
DK: In addition to your songwriting, you’re a music exec who has a publishing company, and you’re an A&R consultant. Can you talk about the business side of your career?
Andrews: It’s really interesting. Being a songwriter in the music industry is really hard…it’s hard to get paid and get credit as a songwriter. It’s tough because you can see a song stream half a billion times, and [the songwriter royalties can still be small]. So at the end of the day, you almost have to have a hit every year to make a great living as a songwriter. So I thought…how do I monetize what I do, with my skillset? For me, a lot of times when I would go into sessions, what I would end up vocal producing the song. I’m a singer and artist, so I would just do it naturally. So I was like…Oh this is an actual job; you can get paid for vocal production. So that’s where it started, on the vocal production side. Then I met an artist named Lennon Stella. I met her seven years ago, when she was 14. She was on the TV show Nashville, with her sister Maisy, and they asked me to write for them for the show. Then we met, and we had a great connection.
Here’s the video of Noah Cyrus’ single “July,” which was
co-written by Jenna Andrews.
A couple years later, Lennon decided she wanted to do a solo project. Because we were close and I was already working with her, it was like…I really want to see if I can develop an artist. Having been an artist and being a female in this business, I can help her navigate this. Also, as a vocal producer and songwriter, these are the things I can bring to help develop a young artist.
(Label exec) Barry Weiss was willing to give me a shot at developing artists. So we basically ended up signing Lennon Stella to his company RECORDS. From there, Barry asked me to work with Noah Cyrus and Zhavia Ward (who was on the TV show, The Four: Battle For Stardom).
DK: Thank you Jenna for doing this interview. Besides your hits with BTS and Benee, do you have other singles or cuts that you’re excited about?
Andrews: Yes, I have a single out now with Galantis, Little Mix & David Guetta called “Heartbreak Anthem.” It’s doing well in the UK. I also have the new Dillon Francis song “Love Me Better” (with Shift K3Y & feat. Marc E. Bassy), and I have TXT’s current single called “Magic,” that I vocal produced with Stephen Kirk.