Over the past six years, songwriter/producer/artist Poo Bear has emerged as one of the top hitmakers in pop and R&B music. He is perhaps best known for co-writing several hits for Justin Bieber, but he’s also contributed to hits for other artists including DJ Khaled, Usher, Ed Sheeran, Dan & Shay, Chris Brown, David Guetta and 112.
Along with his success and a songwriter & producer, Poo Bear is also an artist who’s released a new single called “The Day You Left” (on BMG Records). In addition, he’s a music executive and business entrepreneur. He recently signed a joint venture agreement with Def Jam Recordings for his label, Bearthday Music.
With his collaborations with Bieber, Poo Bear has had an impressive string of hits and co-written dozens of songs for the pop superstar. He first began working with Bieber in 2013 for the album, Journals. Notably, he co-wrote eight songs for this album, including the Top 30 hits “All That Matters” and “Hold Tight.”
However, it was Bieber’s next album Purpose (in 2015), that established Poo Bear as a top hitmaker. He co-wrote nine of the 13 songs on the original album release, and he co-wrote 14 of the 18 songs on the deluxe edition. Purpose became Bieber’s best-selling album and was certified multi-platinum in many countries. Poo Bear co-wrote two of the album’s hits, including the #1 hit “What Do You Mean?” and the Top 10 hit “Where Are U Now” (feat. Skrillex and Diplo).
On Bieber’s follow-up album, Changes (in 2020), Poo Bear co-wrote all 17 songs, including the Top 5 hits “Yummy” and “Intentions” (feat. Quavo).
Along with the hits Poo Bear co-wrote for Bieber’s albums, he’s also co-written hits for major artists who have sung duets with Bieber. For instance, Poo Bear co-wrote “I Don’t Care,” which became a #2 hit for Ed Sheeran & Bieber. He also co-wrote “10,000 Hours,” which was a #1 country hit and a pop hit for Dan + Shay with Bieber. In addition, he co-wrote the big hits “I’m the One” and “No Brainer” for DJ Khaled feat. Bieber, Quavo, Chance the Rapper and Lil Wayne.
Here’s the video of Poo Bear’s new single, “The Day You Left.”
Poo Bear (whose birth name is Jason Boyd), was born in Connecticut, and he moved with his mother to Atlanta when he was 9. During his teenage years, he became a professional songwriter, and he co-wrote two hits for 112: “Dance with Me” and “Peaches & Cream.” Then in his early 20s, he co-wrote three songs on Usher’s multi-platinum album, Confessions, including the hit, “Caught Up.”
We are pleased to do this new Q&A interview with Poo Bear. He tells how he got started in the music business, and he talks about the hits he’s co-written for Bieber, DJ Khaled and other artists. He also discusses his artist career, and his record label, Bearthday Music.
DK: I read that when you were a teenager, you co-wrote hits for the group, 112. How did you get started at such a young age?
Poo Bear: I moved to Atlanta in 1991, and I started writing songs when I was 11. My cousin, Big Bear (Courtney “Bear” Sills), had discovered two groups at a talent show: 112 and Jagged Edge. They went on to get a deal with Bad Boy Records with Puffy. 112’s first album came out and sold platinum, and my cousin would say, “Hey, you can make money writing songs. I’m gonna put you with 112, and if you guys have any synergy, you could write something with them that could earn you money.” So he put me with Daron Jones of 112, and the first single that we did was called “Anywhere.” Then we also did a record for Pink on her first album, which was titled “Love Is Such a Crazy Thing.” So I have to thank my cousin Big Bear for putting me with 112, and allowing me to audition for them.
DK: What’s your main strength as a songwriter? Is it writing the topline—melody and lyrics?
Poo Bear: When I started out, I was doing the topline—writing melodies, concepts and lyrics. Then over the last few years, I evolved into being a producer. I would still write the topline, but I would also contribute to the music and make sure the chords were what I loved, and make sure everything was flawless. And that’s really the true value of producing. There’s a difference between beatmaking and producing. So when I produce a song, I need to be able to deliver the entire record. It’s more than just pushing buttons and making the beats. So I got into producing in the last few years.
Here’s the video of Justin Bieber’s hit “What Do You Mean?” which
was co-written by Poo Bear.
DK: You’ve had great success with Justin Bieber for many years. How did you first connect with Justin?
Poo Bear: I first connected with Justin Bieber in 2013. I was working with a rapper named Lil Twist, and at the time he and Justin were really close friends. It was Twist’s birthday, and Twist was staying in Las Vegas at a compound where I was residing. Twist invited Justin over to the house for his birthday, and that’s where I met Justin. And from there, we talked and we hung out. I’m not an aggressive person, so I didn’t try to show him my music. It was just cool to hang out with him and get to know him.
Then Twist played him some of my music that I had recorded for myself. That’s when Justin reached out to me said, “Hey, I love that record. Can you write something new for me?” And he gave me an assignment—take the Craig David chords from “Fill Me In,” and write a whole new song over it. So I did that and the song was called “Recovery,” and it was on (the album) Journals. From there he was like, “Hey, this is amazing. Can I fly you up to Boston?” Then he flew me to Boston, and he kept me on tour with him for about a year. And we wrote records, and that’s how Journals came about.
DK: What makes you and Justin such a good team?
Poo Bear: I think it’s just our energy. We both grew up in single family homes, we grew up in Christian households, we both struggled as kids…living with our moms. We can relate on a lot of levels, and his true musical love was my beginning, which was R&B. He grew up listening to Boyz II Men, and for me it was R&B as well with 112 and (gospel group) Commissioned. So I think when he heard my music, it resonated with him because we loved the same music. So from that, we were able to build trust in each other and a cool working system, where we were able to turn out records and really be honest with ourselves about them, and be able to grow together. I was able to learn so much about him, and vice versa, so it allowed me and him to have a relationship that was deeper than just based on music. And from there, we were able to flourish and make records that we loved. And in turn, the world ended up loving them as well, which was a blessing.
Here’s the video of DJ Khaled’s hit “I’m The One” feat. Justin
Bieber, Quavo, Chance the Rapper & Lil Wayne, which was
co-written by Poo Bear.
DK: I like Justin Bieber’s album, Purpose, which you co-wrote most of the songs. Can you talk about the making of this album?
Poo Bear: The making of the Purpose album…it was different. It was coming off of Journals, and at the time everybody was trying to paint Justin as this little kid who was a nuisance. And he was really just a teenager growing up in front of the world. Journals wasn’t received as well as it should have been.
After Journals, I didn’t think I would be working with him. I thought he would go and move on to another songwriter. But I wrote this record called “Where Are You Now,” and I played it for Justin in Colorado. He loved it, and we cut it and finished it in New York. That was a tester record to see if the world was back into the Bieber business. It turned out to be his comeback record.
We had been recording for a year-and-a-half prior to “Where Are You Now” coming out. So the whole time after we finished Journals, we were recording. We didn’t know we were making Purpose. But it ended up being Purpose that we were making the whole time. Then I remember when the track listing for Purpose finally came in, and Justin didn’t tell me what I’d made on the album,. When I saw the track list, I cried because I was blessed to do 16 out of the 19 songs on the album. And “What Do You Mean?” ended up being the first single, and it came out and went number one.
The whole Purpose project was so life-changing for all of us. It was one of those things that I didn’t see coming, and for me it opened the world. I’d been writing and co-writing hits throughout my career, but this is the first time where an artist really believed in me enough, that I wrote the majority of it. And Justin was so loyal and honest. When people asked him in interviews, “Who did you work with?”, he mentioned my name in every interview. It was weird, because I wasn’t used to getting that type of attention and credit. So it took me awhile to get acclimated to people actually recognizing me and being able to know who I was.
DK: You co-wrote two hits for DJ Khaled: “I’m the One” and “No Brainer.” How did those songs come together?
Here’s the video of Ed Sheeran & Justin Bieber’s hit “I Don’t Care,”
which was co-written by Poo Bear.
Poo Bear: DJ Khaled reached out to me around 2017. He had a new song, and he went to Justin Bieber’s house to play it for him. He had a record done and it wasn’t “I’m the One”…it was different. And Justin was like, “Yo…let’s see if Poo Bear could [rewrite it]. Other than that, I’m not really feeling it right now.” So then Khaled reached out to me and said, “Hey, Justin asked me to hit you, to rewrite [this song].” He told me to book a studio and I booked it. I would say within two hours, from the time he started calling me, I was in the studio at Westlake and I recorded “I’m The One,” with all of Justin’s parts. It took me about 35 minutes to knock it out. And I turned it in and Khaled went crazy, and Justin loved it. From there, it came out and debuted at number one.
After “I’m the One,” Khaled got that formula, and he called me. He said, “I’ve got another one.” And that’s how “No Brainer” came about. Then it came out and it connected, and it ended up being a successful record.
DK: More recently, you collaborated on two big hits with other artists: Ed Sheeran and Dan + Shay. Can you talk about those records?
Poo Bear: The Ed Sheeran record ‘I Don’t Care”…it was done, and they wanted Justin on there as a feature. Scooter (Braun, Bieber’s manager) reached out to me and said, “Hey man, go in with (top writer/producer) Max Martin and Ed Sheeran, and work on Justin’s part.” And I said “1000 percent; that would be amazing.” I had never Ed Sheeran. So I went to Max Martin’s place in West Hollywood. Ed was there, and we worked on “I Don’t Care” and got the record and we did all the parts. I sang background on the whole record—it’s my voice on all the background parts. I thought I was just doing demos for Justin, but Ed kept my vocals on there. And then the record came out and it was huge. Tt was a blessing to be a part of that record, especially to work with both Ed Sheeran and Justin Bieber.
For “10,000 Hours,” Justin reached out to me and said, “Hey, I got this record that Dan + Shay did – I want you to flip it. What would you do?” So I went in and I worked on the record, and re-recorded some things and changed a couple things. The record was mostly done—it was just getting Justin’s part and making sure it sounded normal and not forced or contrived. So we did the record and send it to Justin, and he loved it. Then he cut it and it came out. This was also a blessing, because I really, from the bottom of my heart, always wanted to have a country hit. And “10,000 Hours” became a number one country hit, and it won a Grammy for Best Country Duo. And Dan + Shay are amazing artists and great human beings.
Here’s the video of Dan + Shay & Justin Bieber’s hit “10,000
Hours,” which was co-written by Poo Bear.
DK: As an artist, you’ve released your new single, “The Day You Left.” Can you talk about this song and your artist side?
Poo Bear: On the artist side, I’ve always played around, recorded records and put out songs for fun. This record was done with my partner Nabeel Zahid, who’s a poet…he has such great words. I was like…You know what? It’ll be cool to put some melodies and step up the wordplay by working with Nabeel, and to see what could come out of it. It was experimenting, and the poem was done, and then I turned the poem into a song. And Sasha Sirota worked on it and played guitar.
At the time, the song meant one thing. But when my mother passed away on January 7 of this year, it took a whole new meaning. “The Day You Left” turned into this tribute and memoir for my mom. Then I sent it to Sonny (Skrillex) because I wanted to see if it inspired him. When he heard it he loved it, and he started working on it. He put that beautiful drop and turned it into this sad song that now has this double meaning, where it was light and dark, both sad and happy. I’m proud that it turned out the way that it did, and we’re excited to put it out.
DK: Are you working on an EP or album?
Poo Bear: Yes. We’re working on an album; it’s called Bars and Guitars. It’s pretty much done, with the exception of maybe one song. I’ve got about 10 records that I love, and “The Day You Left” will be on the Bars and Guitars record. It’s a nice body of work.
DK: I read that you have a record label called Bearthday Music, and you’ve signed a joint venture deal with Def Jam. Can you tell me about your label and some of the artists you’ve signed?
Poo Bear: I recently closed my deal with Def Jam, with (music execs) Jeff Harleston, Lucian Grange and Naim McNair. I’m extremely excited and I’m proud of my venture with Def Jam. We have some great artists: Bright B out of St. Louis, Sir Truly from Houston, Savannah Blue from Texas, and Marco Giovanni, who’s a young teenager. I’ve been working with these artists over the last year, and we’ve been getting records done that we love. We’ll be releasing music in the next 45 days.