‘I turn my hurt into gas, into fuel, to keep going and working harder.’

For many of us, the experience of COVID quarantine has brought with it hitherto unfamiliar levels of professional isolation and self-dependence.

Not so Poo Bear. The hitmaker, real name Jason Boyd, has been busy as ever these past few months – and says his brain has long been hardwired for a life of creative solitude.


You can listen to the MBW Podcast with Poo Bear via SoundCloud above, or on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, iHeart etc. via this link.


For one thing, he says he’s written “maybe 19 or 20” new songs with his long-term collaborator, Justin Bieber, during lockdown.

Plus, Poo Bear is readying his own new solo album, set to be released via Apple’s Platoon, called Bars & Guitars. (Poo Bear says the new LP, which lives up to its name in terms of instrumentation, is a more “stripped back” affair than his first solo album, 2018’s Poo Bear Presents… Bearthday Music, which featured the likes of Bieber, Jennifer Lopez and Zara Larsson.)

Poo Bear’s also been sharpening his views on the music industry’s biggest issues of the day – including what should happen now in the wider business in the wake of Black Out Tuesday.

“This is going to be a real sensitive time to see how much [music’s largest companies] value our culture,” says Boyd, adding that “the whole slave mentality carried over into the music industry, it carried over into sports, it carried over into all fields of entertainment”.


Poo Bear has overcome obstacles in his own life you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy. When he was on the cusp of turning nine, his father walked out on his family home in Connecticut. Two weeks later, said apartment was hit by a tornado, leaving Boyd, his brother and his mom homeless.

They eventually relocated to Atlanta, and began building their lives back up – in Poo Bear’s case, through his ability with music. In his mid-teens, via an intro from his cousin, he began writing songs for R&B group 112.

These songs spawned records which sold millions – and led to Poo Bear co-writing the 2001 global smash Peaches & Cream. From there, he has written and/or produced for the likes of Pink, Chris Brown, Usher, Lupe Fiasco and many more.

His most enduring professional relationship, though, is with Justin Bieber. In addition to co-writing smash hits like What Do You Mean?, Where Are U Now (with Jack U) and the record-smashing Bieber remix of 2017’s Despacito, Poo Bear most recently co-wrote and co-produced every track on Bieber’s latest studio LP, Changes, from which the worldwide hit Yummy was released in January.

Another big bit of recent news from Poo Bear saw him sell his catalog to Merck Mercuriadis’s Hipgnosis Songs Fund for an undisclosed fee.

Speaking on the MBW Podcast, Poo Bear discusses his jaw-dropping personal history, his relationship with Bieber, the Hipgnosis deal, and his thoughts on how the music business should change in the wake of recent events.

You can listen below, and/or read an abridged Q&A of the discussion…


You can listen to the MBW Podcast with Poo Bear via SoundCloud above, or on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, iHeart etc. via this link.


The first big newsworthy thing to ask you about is the pandemic. How has that affected you both personally and professionally?

Quarantining is something that, as a writer and producer, we do naturally. I’m an introvert; my [natural] habitat is locking myself away in the studio and creating. So the whole the the isolation part of it, I don’t feel like that was as tough [for me] as it was for the average nine to fiver, or somebody who is out and about all the time. I’ve basically been quarantined since I was 12 years old – ever since I’ve been writing songs.

Outside of that, it’s been pretty normal, because, this is how I create. Technically, as far as co-producing co-writing, we’ve still been able to record and create a number of songs. Me and Justin have written maybe 19/20 records over quarantine, with him in Toronto and me between Atlanta and the Bahamas.


The second big thing to ask about is the Black Lives Matter movement, and the knock-on effects in music. We’ve seen donations from the major companies to anti-racist causes, we’ve seen BMG say they’re going to look at contracts. how optimistic Are you that progress is going to be made?

I feel optimistic just because I just like to look at the glass as half full. Right now, just the fact that people are speaking up on it is an amazing thing. It would be awesome to know where this [major label-allocated] money for the black community is going to end up. We’re in an era right now where these problems in our system, they can’t be ignored – it’s so relevant, so in our face, that it can no longer be swept under the rug.

“This is going to be a real sensitive time to see how much [music’s biggest companies] really value our culture, because the whole slave mentality carried over into the music industry.”

This is going to be a real sensitive time to see how much [music’s biggest companies] really value our culture, because the whole slave mentality carried over into the music industry, it carried over into sports, it carried over into all fields of entertainment.

So I’m optimistic about change, but it will be interesting to see if is this [just] cool right now, a fad, or if people really are tired of this systemic discrimination and if they really put their money where their mouth is.


The lack of people of color at the top of music’s largest companies is a big talking point. What’s your view?

It is sad that you will only see maybe one or two, at the most, black executives in the music industry in the US market. Being that we have so much influence [by being] tastemakers and we kind of set the tone.

It’s interesting to see BMG going back to look at contracts. They’re clearly lopsided. Changing the standards in these contracts [must happen], because they’re not fair. They always leave artists in the hole, no matter how many millions of records they sell. It’s set up like that to keep artists in a certain position, for [labels] to keep the leverage.

“It will be amazing to see more people of color as executives in the music business – it’s been something that’s been kind of taboo over the years.”

It will also be cool to see more people of color in executive positions in the labels just because, when it comes down to it, [execs] say, ‘I know what a hit song is, I know X, Y, and Z,’ when they’ve never created, written or produced a hit. Yet these are the people making the final decisions on our on our music. It’s like a kind of slap in the face; they have to say something because they get paid a salary to say something.

So it’s like, okay, let’s get some more people that actually have created hits [and] actually understand these things in our culture; let’s get some of those people high up – that way we can have somebody in our corner.

It will be amazing to see more people of color as executives in the music business, and it’s been something that’s been kind of taboo over the years, just because everybody wants to be cool, and nobody wants to ruffle anybody’s feathers.


You can listen to the MBW Podcast with Poo Bear via SoundCloud above, or on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, iHeart etc. via this link.


Correct me if I’m wrong, but you seem to indicate not only you’d like to see more people of color at the top of record labels, but you’d also like to see more people who have creative experience more generally at the top of these companies.

Yep, correct – 1,000%. I’ve been blessed enough to write hit records since I was 16 years old. [But] there’s times where I’ll write a record, and I’ll think it’s just okay. Even writing hits, and being a part of successful records, you still can’t say, ‘This is 100% going to work.’

So to have people in [those] positions that have been part of hits, at least they can say, ‘Well, I did this, this and this, and that didn’t work.’ To [offer] a template to say, ‘Through trial and error, people tend to connect to these records more.’ As opposed to just coming from a place of, ‘I really don’t even listen to music at all… I’m just supposed to say something because I get paid a lot of money to be in this position.’

“It’s difficult; you’ll spend all this energy and effort creating the music, then it gets to the exec, and he’s like, I don’t really get this.”

That frustrates the artists and it waters down the music. At the end of the day, those people have the last say because they’re the ones that cut the checks that promote the music.

It’s difficult; you’ll spend all this energy and effort creating the music, then it gets to the exec, and he’s like, ‘I don’t really get this.’ And it’s like, but you’ve never got it and you’re not supposed to get it. We didn’t make this music for you to ‘get’ – we made this for a certain demographic.


When music business worldwide last interviewed you back in 2017, you told us that you’d recently heard a big record by a big star, and noticed a hook you’d written but you were uncredited on the track. With stuff like that in mind, how do you stay so optimistic, and prolific?

It’s crazy. I literally just experienced this: I was just looking at the Wikipedia page last night of Ed Sheeran’s I Don’t Care [recorded with Justin Bieber] and I’m literally the one songwriter whose name they left off the [songwriting credits].

It’s like, I’m 24 years in the music business, I just won an ASCAP Award for [that song], I’m extremely proud, and then I’m looking at Wikipedia and my name is not listed. And it’s like, ‘How do I take this? Like, they took the one black person’s name off of there? They left Max Martin, they left Shellback, they left Justin Bieber, and they left Ed Sheeran. But they took my name off? Am I even a songwriter on that record?’

“I try not to get jaded [but] it makes me feel a bit insecure.”

I try not to get jaded [but] it makes me feel a bit insecure like, ‘Wow, did [people] not want my name on there because I’m a black person? Or was it a legit mistake?’ I’d like to hope it was a mistake. But it’s really confusing and it hurts a little bit.

At the same time, I turn that hurt into gas, into fuel, to keep going and working harder. Because I feel like, no matter what I’ve accomplished, I’m still not really valued. I’m like, ‘Wow, I gotta keep pushing, no matter how many hits I’ve written, and how relevant I am right now, whatever I have on the [Billboard] Hot 100 – it doesn’t matter.’


The Wikipedia page example is one thing – and that sucks for anyone. But when you say you want to feel valued, Are you talking about the industry, or how you see yourself? highly creative people are often haunted – and very often motivated – by self doubt.

I never felt like I was a part of the music business. A lot of that had to do with me not having a manager or not having an attorney or not having the right circle of people that believed in me; they just looked at me as a check.

But about four years ago I got an attorney, Jacqueline Sabec [of King, Holmes, Paterno & Soriano], and it’s the first time I’ve felt like, ‘Wow, this person really genuinely cares about me, values me and isn’t just trying to make a quick dollar off me; she’s trying to protect me and my future interests.’

Feeling valued in the industry is something I’ve sought for a long time, unfortunately. Like, why do I need the validation of the [US] music industry? Why do I need to feel valued by my music peers? It’s always kind of made me a bit insecure.

But then when I go to anywhere in the world, any record label, it’s a different date – they greet me as a legend! I just don’t feel that when I go to a label [in the US]. I don’t feel like the music industry here regards me as a legend. Yet everywhere [else] I go, that is what they call me.

“I do feel like if I wasn’t black, I would be revered as possibly one of the greatest songwriters of all time.”

I feel like I would get more credit in the industry… I do feel like if I wasn’t black, I would be revered as possibly one of the greatest songwriters of all time. There might be people that feel like that now, but I feel, openly and outwardly, in the industry, you look at the award shows, all the people who are praised, and half of those people aren’t even the ones that are really making the music – they’ve just figured out a way to position themselves to reap the benefits and reap the credit.

I’ve always been the one in the background, and I give credit away. It’s tough, man. When people call me brilliant or genius, I don’t really feel those things about myself. It’s great, it’s cool and I appreciate it, but I’m constantly in a state of trying to impress myself. I just want to be better than I was last year and I want to grow.

I’m blessed enough to have co-written Justin Bieber’s last three albums; it’s amazing. But I never get comfortable. I never feel like, ‘I did it!’ That keeps me striving for greatness.


You can listen to the MBW Podcast with Poo Bear via SoundCloud above, or on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, iHeart etc. via this link.


the whole human psychology of what you’ve achieved despite the childhood trauma you experienced – your dad leaving, the tornado, living as a homeless family – is amazing. No-one would have complained had you been like, ‘I’m the guy who had all that terrible stuff happened to him, so I’m allowed to give up on life.’

Yeah. I feel like a lot of people go to jail for that reason; it’s like, ‘Oh, well, I just tried to feed my family and I did something illegal. So now I’ve got 10 years [in jail, without] any responsibility, living for free, getting free food.’ I feel like a lot of people use those things as justification to fail.

For me, it’s the complete opposite. I definitely wanted to make the best out of the worst situation. And I would always hear this little voice in my head like, ‘You’re going to be okay, right? You’re going to be great. You’re going to be the biggest songwriter.’

“I would always hear this little voice in my head like, ‘You’re going to be okay… You’re going to be the biggest songwriter.”

I used to hear these things in my head, not knowing where they were coming from.

When I had zero reasons [for confidence], when I was making horrible music as a kid, and everybody was telling me like, ‘Yo, this sucks, you can’t sing,’ all those words hurt but it just made me want to go harder.


You say that your motivation now is to help your family, and future generations of your family.  I’m guessing the Hipgnosis deal helped in that regard. Why did you do that deal with merck?

I picked Merck and Hipgnosis because he actually values music. I’ve had long conversations with Merck, it’s deeper than just money for him.

For me, of course the money [matters] – it’s about is being comfortable and for my family and everything– but it’s deeper than that. It’s about making sure that the music lives on and that it is pushed [via sync etc]. After [chart hits] are pushed through their record label, once they make a certain amount of money, that’s it. Merck is able to take catalogs and turn them into evergreens that last forever – you look up and your music is in something [like a movie, TV show etc] that it never would have been in it hadn’t been purchased by Hipgnosis.

“I’ve had long conversations with Merck, it’s deeper than just money for him.”

Him valuing the music for me was the most important thing. He was able to go through and really talk to me about the songs. It’s like, ‘Wow, you really love music – you’re not just a numbers guy.’

[Mercuriadis said], ‘Poobear not only do I value your catalog, but I want you to have a stake in in Hipgnosis.’ That for me was everything, just allowing me to be a part of my catalog even after I sold it; that was life-changing.

I don’t really feel like any other company would have offered that. That’s because Merck understands buying [a songwriters’ catalog] is one thing, but allowing [Poo Bear] to be a part of future earnings off that means he really values the creator. It’s not just a money play.


You seem to have a very special and enduring relationship with Justin Bieber. why do you have that sort of simpatico?

We just have a lot in common, growing up with single parents, growing up in a Christian lifestyle, growing up loving R&B; we have a lot of similarities.

Once we did meet each other, we had so much in common, it felt really natural for us to work with each other. He always pushed me to be greater.

“The norm in the industry [is] you move on to whoever the hottest writer is. What Justin has done is proven that if you believe in something wholeheartedly, if you really love something, stick by it.”

I’ve written a lot of hits for other artists and they’re [always] like, ‘All right, [this project’s done], on to the next.’ But with Justin it’s like, ‘I really love your songs. Why would I be on to the next if I really genuinely love your music?’

It’s just so anti-industry what he’s done [sticking] with me. The norm in the industry [is] you go on to whoever the hottest writer is, whoever’s popping. What Justin has done is proven that if you believe in something wholeheartedly, if you really love something, stick by it; don’t let other people talk you out of working with somebody or doing something that you genuinely don’t agree with.

Every time we have a conversation, he expresses how much he appreciates me and how much I’ve changed his life. And I tell him how much he’s changed my life.


If you were to meet a young songwriter and or producer today wanting to follow in your footsteps, what one piece of advice would you give them?

Don’t ever let somebody else discourage you. Also: just because you feel like something’s not good enough in your mind, don’t let that stop you from recording or writing it. Because you never know what the next hit song is.

That [approach] eliminates the whole theory of writer’s block; there’s no such thing. The block comes from you not feeling secure or confident about your ideas.

You just never know what that next smash is going to be. So get it out your system and don’t let your insecurity stop you.


You can listen to the MBW Podcast with Poo Bear via SoundCloud above, or on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, iHeart etc. via this link.

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