Taking the spotlight from his partner Macklemore for a moment, Ryan Lewis was named The Top Producer in Music by Billboard earlier today.
He comes out on top of a list that counts a few notables, freelance sound artists with numerous hits for various pop stars including Katy Perry and Miley Cyrus that reach into the double digits. Lewis, on the other hand, is devoted to Macklemore alone and has “only” logged 3 hits in his career.
To be fair, the methodology used by the Billboard poll really plays in the 25-year-old’s favor, since it is based on chart position and sales accumulated from Setember 1, 2012 to August 31, 2013. The Heist, the debut full-length from Macklemore and Lewis, was released right at the beginning of that span, on October 11, 2012, with all three of its chart-climbing singles—”Thrift Shop” (No. 1, six weeks), “Can’t Hold Us” (No. 1, five weeks) and “Same Love” (No. 11)—coming in the year since.
Still, it’s kind of insane that Lewis is topping this list. As Macklemore, aka Ben Haggerty, recently wrote in his fascinating look back at the year that has passed since the release of The Heist , the emcee remembers sitting in a 500-square-foot studio with his producer just a year ago, staring at iTunes, hoping to move 20,000 copies of the independently released album in that first week. (They ended up selling 78,000 on their way to more than 1 million.)
“I was sipping from a bottle of Martinelli’s; Ryan a bottle of Jameson,” Haggerty writes. “Packing supplies and CDs were strewn across the space where Ryan and I had spent the last three years crafting the album we had finally completed.”
Billboard offers a snoozy summation of Lewis’s contribution to the duo’s success, but it might have missed one of the factors that landed him on the top of this list; the fact that he was a jack of all trades for The Heist. It’s difficult to summise the impact the duo’s branding has had on its success, but it is a part of the story and one that Lewis apparently had a major hand in. For this I reference an interview with Lewis that ran on the City Arts website earlier this year (which you really should read instead of the Billboard list):
“It was always such a genuine intrigue and passion to be writing music, to be recording instruments,” he told interviewer Jonathan Zwickel. “The mixing process I’m equally interested in, developing textures, making the vocalist sound a certain way. As well as going and sitting in on mastering and learning about that, and the flip side with digital photography, Photoshop, video production. And I love color editing. I love fonts. At some point, all this shit just kind of opened up and that’s why I think that I love working with Ben.”