Claudia Brant: All About the Song and Songwriters
Special to MIQ by A. Scott Galloway
Argentina-born songwriter Claudia Brant has passionately utilized her skills as a musician, communicator and collaborator to stake out a career that has found her words
and works embraced around the globe. Her professional career started as an artist at age 22, signed to Warner Music for which she released two successful albums. She later
won two of the most prestigious songwriting awards in Latin America: “The OTI Song
Festival” in Mexico and the “Viña del Mar” festival in Chile. Following a move to California in 1998, Claudia expanded her success with an average of 40 song releases per year in various genres and languages including Spanish, Portuguese, English, French and Korean.
Claudia’s songs have been recorded by Camila Cabello, Jessie Reyez, Carlos Santana, Barbara Streisand, Josh Groban, Ricky Martin, Michael Bublé, Fantasia, Enrique Iglesias, The Tenors, Tim McGraw, Pedro Fernández, Alejandro Fernández, Paulina Rubio and so many more. Claudia collaborates with producers and composers across genres, including: Dianne Warren, Lester Méndez, David Foster, Toby Gad, Martin Terefe, Danny Elfman, Julio Reyes Copello, Walter Afanassieff, Humberto Gatica, Desmond Child, Chris Destefano, Naughty Boy, Rafa Sardina, KC Porter and Lil’ Eddie Serrano, to name only a few.
Claudia has received some of the most prestigious awards in music, including a Latin Grammy for ‘Song of the Year’ in 2009. Claudia was named ‘Latina Songwriter of
the Year’ by SESAC for three consecutive years (2007-2009) as well as ASCAP ‘Latina
Songwriter of the Year’ in 2012 and 2015. Claudia was inducted into the Latin Songwriter’s Hall of Fame in 2016. Her latest album Sincera, released September 2018,
won a Grammy in 2019 for “Best Latin Pop Album”. Claudia was also appointed ‘West
Coast VP’ for The Latin Songwriters Hall of Fame and was recently reelected as a
National Trustee board member for The Recording Academy (L.A. Chapter, NARAS). She has also dedicated her time towards education, imparting several workshops and clinics throughout Argentina, Mexico and United States. In tandem, she started the non-profit “Canción de Autor Oficial” initiative.
Claudia recently signed a worldwide administration deal with Sony/ATV.
Q: What drew you to music?
A: My parents were not musicians but were great music lovers. So, I’ve been listening
to great records since I was 6 years old. As a single child. I was on my own most of the
time. My parents bought me a nylon string guitar that I locked myself in the bathroom
to play because it had the best acoustics! That’s how I entertained myself for hours after doing my homework. I took a few lessons but never really had any formal training.
Q: Was American Pop your first favorite?
A: My parents were into international music. There was Sinatra and Bing Crosby, the
boleros of Tito Rodrigues, and French music from Charles Aznavour and Jacques Brel. As
a teenager, I listened to more local Rock en Español and folklore, some tango from Astor
Piazolla. Then I discovered Brazilian music and that’s when I completely lost it! To this day, it is my favorite.
Q: When did you get serious?
A: I initially wanted to be an artist, like 90% of songwriters. I did the artist thing for a
while. But when I moved to L.A., I realized my writing was more important. Artists need
to have a lot of drive. The fact that I can work with the biggest artists in the world in my home studio wearing sweat pants and drinking my latte for 12 hours straight! I enjoy it so much. I don’t have to go see the world. They bring the world to me.
Q: What are your thoughts on formula songcraft vs. innovation?
A: I grew up on Bob Dylan, Carole King, Jagger/Richards, Lennon/McCartney. Songs
were written on a piano or guitar and by one or two people – that’s it. When I moved
to the States, I got to understand modern production, putting a top line to a track, etc.
Then when Reggaeton became popular, I was invited into those rooms as well. I always
give things a try because there’s always something to learn.
Then COVID hit, now you are online with over 5 people. It got a little tricky. I ask my
publisher or manager to minimize putting me in collaborations with more than 2 or 3
people. Before COVID hit, my schedule in my studio would have 3 days with an artist from Spain, 2 days with one from Puerto Rico and one day with an artist from Costa Rica. Now artists aren’t touring so they’re at home and they want to write. Now, via virtual, I have an artist in Mexico one day, next day Salvador, next Chile… It’s getting crazy. I’m working more now than before.
Q: What are the objectives of your “Canción de Autor Oficial” initiative?
A: We’re turning it into a foundation called SIPPA – a group of South American songwriters supporting receiving proper credits and payment. It’s about time we had a voice. I grew up opening vinyl and reading credits. I was very interested in finding out who was responsible for creating records. When streaming landed, young people lost track of that. You just skip through songs with half a finger on a button. It’s insane. All the rules about the number of writers on a song, the splits, what’s fair and registering a song – all have been forgotten. Now there’s also way more politics, songs are split with people who weren’t necessarily writers on the song. I have very strong ethics against these regards. I learned through the years that “no” can be a very good word to use. We need to bring that back to a young generation so they understand the ethics and discipline in getting the honor of being a songwriter. When I go to the Writer’s Society in Mexico, they greet me, “Buenos Tardes Maestra.” Maestra means master.
Q: What are the keys to being a coveted collaborator?
A: People that are experienced and humble, willing to learn and listen. It’s hard to collaborate with people that are not open. Sessions work better when nothing is about power or control. It’s all about creating the best song possible.
Many years ago, I worked on a project for Bruno Mars: someone extremely talented and 20 years younger than me. Bruno had signed a Latin female artist. Someone suggested
they work with me. All of my credits didn’t matter to him. He pushed me so hard. Bruno
would walk in the room and say, ‘Come on, girl. Give me a big copyright. I’ll be back in
two hours.” For a minute I was really mad. Then I thought the best thing I could do was
listen and learn. And I did.
Q: Does gender play a part in how you work with men vs. women?
A: It’s more about personality. If you’re strong enough and have a very defined
personality, no one is going to mess with you. I wouldn’t have survived all these years if I wasn’t strong or had my values set. Everything is for the benefit of making beautiful
music. My goal for every session is to write a unique song that will stand the test of time.
Q: What’s the story behind your Billboard Song of the Decade, “No Me Doy Por Vencido,” #1 in the Latin charts for 19 weeks?
A: I wrote that with Luis Fonsi in my house. I had the verses. He had the melody and hook. We had the song done in two hours. From the get go we knew that had to be the lead single. The licensing is never ending.
Q: Anyone left on your Wish List to collaborate?
A: Anyone new always brings something to learn from. I’d love to do more for film and
TV. I’d also like to produce more. I’m doing an album now on an artist from Dominican Republic named Techy Fatule, a singer songwriter/ multi-instrumentalist who attended
Berklee – such a pleasure. I also worked with an artist from Mexico, Ximena Sariñana.
Q: Why did you sign with Sony/ATV in July?
A: I was with ATV many years ago. I switched gears and went to Universal for 3 or 4 years. Every day I missed ATV. They are hungry and very aggressive. If I don’t want to sleep for 20 days, I can call them and I’ll be writing non-stop. I get along great with their teams in L.A. and Miami. Jorge Mejia (Head of Latin Music) has always been so supportive. I can call him late at night about a song and know I will hear back from him right away. He deals with the business but he has a heart for songs – a quality not so easy to find. I treasure that communication and glad to have it back in my life.
Q: Any advice for U.S. writers seeking to crossover Latin?
A: It goes both ways. You’ve got to get involved with the other culture to understand
it and be able to write about it. Listen to the music, learn the language. There are several forms of Spanish language and slang – so much to learn. Even when I work in the Mexican market, I want to write with someone who does that for a living. They’ll take the lead and I will listen. Likewise, if they want to come and do Pop, they need to listen to me.
Q: Has collaborating during COVID changed your process?
A: I live in the woods close to Topanga. When I’m stuck on a line, I want to be able to walk in the woods for an hour then come back. Now when we’re stuck, we just look at each other over Zoom. I miss that one-on-one “come play with my dogs for a few minutes” communication. Initially, I completely refused to do it. Now I’ve gotten kind of used to it.
Q: Do you think songwriting will ever get back to normal face to face?
A: Certain artists and writers I’ve been working with in person because I love the project
so much. They may live just over the hill in Santa Monica and we could write over Zoom,
but I’d rather take the drive, sit outside and be doing something closer to what I’m used
to – all safe. I have kids and must take care. I can’t wait for this to clear so I can jump on a plane to London get in the studio and get to work. I have 16-year-old twins: a boy and a girl. Going through this pandemic has created a hard time for teenagers. My daughter writes incredible songs but she doesn’t know if she wants to do that for a living. My son picked up my bass, took off to his room and plays every day. I gave him an amp. He’s more into computers and coding.
Music has saved us all over the last few months. That we can have music as an outlet
is a lifesaver… Music always heals.