In the early 2000s, ASCAP writer-producer Jason “Poo Bear” Boyd emerged as a creative new songwriting voice in R&B with his hits “Dance with Me” and “Peaches & Cream” for 112, followed by three cuts off Usher’s epochal Confessions album. More recently, Poo Bear has earned respect as one of Justin Bieber’s most trusted collaborators, co-writing the majority of songs on Journals and Purpose, including the massive, multi-platinum hits “Where Are Ü Now” and “What Do You Mean.” A few weeks before the April 29th release of his new Red Bull TV documentary Poo Bear: Afraid of Forever [watch the trailer below], we picked Poo Bear’s brain about finding and sustaining a successful music career. See him in person at the ASCAP EXPO!
All music creators have experienced that moment when music – and the desire to pursue it as a career – first grabs hold of you and doesn’t let go. Describe your young self. What motivated you? What was the first significant break in your career?
My first significant break was when I was 15, going on 16, and my cousin Courtney “Bear” Sills told me you can make a career out of writing songs. He was the one who put me in with 112. The first song I did with 112 was “We Can Do It Anywhere.”
What form of musical education or experience best contributed to you being prepared when you were given the opportunity to advance?
I think being around 112 gave me a lot of experience. They accepted and believed in me. They gave me the self-esteem and courage to continue on. That was valuable for me and my career.
On your own career path, what was the biggest hurdle you had to overcome? It could be external or something inside you.
There was a period after my success with “We Can Do It Anywhere” and “Peaches and Cream” where I was musically transitioning and I thought my career was over. Around 2002 I was questioning myself, and thought all the success was an accident. I was in a period of doubt. I ended up going to Miami and ran into some producers who told me to go Philadelphia to work. While I was in Philadelphia I ended up working with Glenn Lewis and Jill Scott who were spearheading the neo-soul movement. That change of scenery enabled me to get over the creative hurdle I was experiencing at the time.
Everyone heading to the EXPO knows that pursuing a music career is hard work and entails a lot of sacrifice. What sort of sacrifices have you had to make in your career?
I think the biggest sacrifice I had to make was giving up time and missing out on things. Not going to college and getting the college experience. Or missing important holidays. All my time was spent in the studio.
Most music creators start out by playing to their strengths – writing a certain style of music. Have any of you worked on something that initially you felt to be outside of your comfort zone but ultimately turned into a blessing for your career?
I think my work with Andre Harris and Vidal Davis on “Confessions” was an example of me going outside my comfort zone because it was a 2-year process. We were working so hard with Usher and all the songs were based on his relationship with Chilli, and then they ended up breaking up. We weren’t sure our songs were going to make the album. But in the end, all three songs we worked on made the album and it became the biggest-selling album I’ve ever been involved with.
Let’s talk about discipline and commitment to work. After achieving success, everyone still needs to face that blank page, that guitar or piano sitting in the corner of the room, or a recording session. How do you sustain inspiration and fresh ideas well into your career?
I find inspiration by feeling like I haven’t done or achieved anything. I push all songs I’ve written to the furthest part of my mind so I am not thinking of what I’ve done. I continue to think on what I need to do. I always try to challenge myself. I don’t ever want to feel like I am not at the “beginning” of my career. I never want to feel like I’ve made it.
In most cases, writing music is a collaborative process. What are some of the benefits, both expected and unexpected, that can come out of collaborating? And how can you best foster a fruitful collaboration?
I think collaborating is like working on a house and trying to dig a pool. Wouldn’t it be easier to find someone to help you dig? At the same time, if the other person doesn’t know how to dig, it can take more time to dig the hole out. It’s a yin and a yang. People have to pull their own weight for it to be a fruitful collaboration. I think limiting the number of people you collaborate with can help as well.
Other than possessing a strong musical talent, what other qualities do you see in yourselves that have helped you succeed in your career?
I think just me being honest with myself. Honesty is so important. Understanding and not saying everything I do is amazing. With creativity, there is no right or wrong. Being genuinely humble and being myself has helped me succeed in my career.
Who are the most important people you work with that help you conduct your career successfully?
There haven’t really been many people who have helped, but Courtney Bear Sills putting me in with 112 was very important. Scooter Braun’s relationships have helped me in the latter part of my career. ASCAP has been there for me since I was 15. If I needed anything, ASCAP was always there for me. I am an ASCAP advocate. ASCAP has been a huge support system.
When you sit down to create, do you write for yourself, or do you write for an intended audience?
I am just applying my own formula to every artist and situation. The backdrop might change but I am still creating the same way.
From a purely creative standpoint, what does success change for you? What doesn’t change?
Success definitely changes your lifestyle. I can now help people and help my family. I can now help people I care about or the less fortunate. The one thing that hasn’t changed is me! I don’t dwell on my success. I don’t feel any different than I felt 10 years ago.
Emerging artists today are faced with a dizzying array of information and opportunities. The challenge is sorting through all of your options to focus on what is most important. In your opinion, what is that?
What’s important is keeping the integrity of the music. Making sure the music is progressive and inspiring. Honing your skills and constantly growing creatively. The challenge is to keep learning when you achieve success. You should continue to grow and be great!
Find Poo Bear online at poobearmusic.com, then follow him on Twitter and Instagram.
The documentary Poo Bear: Afraid of Forever is available via Red Bull TV on April 29th. Click here to find out more.
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