EMILE HAYNIE, A GRAMMY-WINNING producer originally from Buffalo, New York, won a Grammy for best rap album in 2010 for Eminem’s Recovery, then went on to co-produce Kanye West’s hit single “Runaway.” From there he ventured into pop. After working with artists like Fun. and Bruno Mars, as well as producing Lana Del Rey’s breakout album, Born to Die, Haynie made the decision to follow his dreams and record his own solo album, We Fall. Deeply personal, it features guest appearances by his famous and talented friends, including Brian Wilson, Rufus Wainwright, Charlotte Gainsbourg, and Lykke Li. Here in conversation, Lykke Li and Haynie share an intimate discussion about the creative fuel of heartbreak, the sacrifices of an artist, and the state of the music industry today.
LYKKE LI: Emile, what’s your current state of mind?
EMILE HAYNIE: For the fi rst time, happy. It’s weird. I’ve never had to put out my own record before so it’s this strange ball of anxiety that’s been brewing for the year I’ve been making it. It comes out today and I actually woke up at 7:30.
LL: Your album was sprung out of heartbreak — would you say you still feel heartbroken right now? Do you still believe in love?
EH: It’s not broken, but it’s taped together. And yes, more so than ever.
LL: So what is love to you? Would this album have been made if you hadn’t had your heart broken? Do you think there’s a correlation between heartbreak and creativity?
EH: Love is a complete combination of acceptance and joy from whatever is loved, whether it’s a song or a family member. Looking back, the funny thing is that when I was supposedly in love, I wasn’t doing anything I was excited about. It was getting out of it that made me excited about my work again, but I wasn’t thinking about that at the time. I was just drowned in heartbreak.
LL: Would you say it was all worth it?
EH: I hope so. I do wonder if I’ll let myself get to that place again. I got hurt and fucked over and now I put up this guard, but I hope I can take it down again.
LL: It’s really interesting that you surround yourself with flowers, because they represent healing. Also, a flower grows from seed to flower and then eventually dies, so it’s a cycle, just like love and creativity. Do you think you’ve come out of this a stronger person? Is love worth fighting for?
EH: Stronger is an understatement. And yeah, love is the only thing that’s really worth physically fighting for.
LL: An album is a great way to examine heartbreak and also get to know yourself and what you want. Do you wonder if you find love that you won’t make another album?
EH: I’d love to make an album about how in love I am.
LL: Talking from experience, that does not work.
EH: Is that not possible?
LL: No, you just get fat and watch TV.
EH: I’m down to get fat, watch TV, and write some shitty, cheesy songs.
LL: Who’s your dream date?
EH: Rosario Dawson. I’ve always loved her.
LL: She’s hot.
EH: Yeah, and just cool.
LL: And do you practice safe sex?
EH: Yes, of course, every single time. I wouldn’t dream of not doing that.
LL: There’s always a trade-off for paradise, right? Do you feel like you’ve made a lot of sacrifices to be where you are creatively?
EH: Yeah. I look at my friends, the guys I grew up with in Buffalo — who are a bit older than me, so it’s maybe unfair to compare myself — but they’ve already figured out their home life. They have these beautiful families, and they’re so good to them. I have a lot of guilt for not being a better family member. I grew up with cats who make music, and they still do and are cool with it, but they love their kids way more. They’re amused by what I do but it’s not an “I wish I was doing that” kind of vibe. I want to have kids — but can you do both? Some people have kids and manage their career and work but put their family first and are able to exist in both worlds. Not everyone is that kind of person, but I hope I am.
LL: What is your motto on life and in art?
EH: At age 34, these last couple of years are the first time in my life that I’ve felt comfortable and secure in what I’m good at. And more importantly, it’s also knowing what I’m not good at. I don’t feel regret or loss or missing out if I turn down working on something that isn’t me, even though it might be massive, if I’m not comfortable. I feel no guilt. Before, I forced myself to do things I wouldn’t necessarily want to do.
LL: What made you take the step from making beats to writing songs and singing? How did you pick all your collaborators?
EH: I’ve always loved melody. I grew up doing hip-hop and loved making beats, but wanted more. I’ve always loved collecting these old records and taking parts of them
and turning them into hip-hop songs, but I’ve always had the urge to make the music myself. I wanted to figure out, like, why am I attracted to David Axelrod and old choirs and fuzz guitar and mellotrons. I never knew how to make it myself, so I would take it from other sources. But now, I’ve sort of figured out how to do it on my own. Most of my collaborators are people I’m around — my true friends who are actually also some of my favorite singers in the world, which is a really lucky coincidence. Then I have a few other heroes that I really felt like were important to get. I was listening and studying their music so much, like Randy Newman and Brian Wilson.
LL: A lot of artists are in L.A. now. What do you think attracts so many artists here?
EH: L.A. is an escape. I’m a New Yorker; I was there for 16 years but started to get a bit fatigued by the way the city operates. You get weirdly addicted to New York and having constant access to everything you want, which at first was such a beautiful thing but then kind of got in the way of what I should have been doing. The beauty of L.A. is being able to just focus on how nice the light is and how it makes you want to sit around and write songs.
LL: If you could live anywhere, where would
EH: Strangely, I would want to live here. I want to live up on a hill with a view and a hammock. I used to have this dream of the perfect downtown Manhattan scene, but now I want to garden and cook and grow rosemary and have a hammock.
LL: What do you think you’d be doing if you weren’t making music?
EH: I’d be working with interiors. I love old, vintage furniture. I think it’s my mom’s fault. She was always obsessed with classic furniture and design. Growing up in Buffalo, there’s a famous Frank Lloyd Wright house not far from where I grew up and we would always go to that. The first cool chair I had was this Charles Pollock chair from the 1960s that my mom picked out of the garbage from uptown Manhattan. She doesn’t buy these things; she finds them. She’s a treasure hunter.
LL: Something I experience a lot, is that after a period of making and writing songs, the world completely opens itself again. Are you sad now that the process of making your
album is done?
EH: Yeah, today I woke up so happy that it came out, but also a bit like, “Aw, the ride is over.” I imagine that’s what it’s like when you do your last show from a tour. You wake up and you’re like, “That was so amazing, but what the fuck do I do now?”
LL: Yeah, it’s a separation anxiety.
EH: You seem to have it all figured out. I really envy you: I’ve never seen you stagnant or unhealthy. I’ve never heard you repeat yourself and I’ve never seen you appear bored.
LL: Wow, that’s great. I am curious about life. If you could have anyone in the world, dead or alive, over for a dinner party, who would you choose?
EH: Besides you?
LL: We have so many friends that we love, but I would also have Bob Marley and Joan Didion.
EH: Bob Marley is a pretty good guest.
LL: You and I have shared a lot of good meals together.
EH: We had lunch when we met and then you made me get up and change my seat like 14 times. You were trying to find the perfect seat. I figured out who you were right off the bat. You just wanted the perfect light where you sat. I thought it was cool.
LL: I am fucking cool. And then what happened?
EH: I think we talked about making music and we talked about food more than anything. We talked about having dinner parties, because I’d go on about how much I cook.
LL: Yeah and then I guess you asked me, “Hey do you want to sing on this song?” No, it wasn’t really like that. I just came in. I remember you had a little hook and I came into this wonderful room. There’s a view, there’s flowers, and just a natural vibe.
EH: Yeah, but you rewrote the hook, though. You made it cooler.
LL: It seems like music in general now, and especially this year, is at a low point. Maybe that’s too negative.
EH: When it comes to award shows and that sort of thing, people are scared to be weird.
LL: I don’t know if they’re scared, it’s just the industry is scared.
EH: That’s what I mean. But isn’t the best ratings and stuff when people go crazy and there’s weird scenes happening and something’s completely inappropriate? I don’t really get it.
LL: Do you want to be famous?
EH: I would like to be known. If you make music, you put it out publicly, so of course you want the public to recognize it. There are so many different levels of fame but I don’t think I’d be comfortable with much more than that. I want the public to hear it; I want them to know I made it.
LL: So Tom Petty or Sam Smith?
EH: Tom Petty. I love Sam Smith,
LL: Iggy Azalea or Azealia Banks?
EH: Iggy Azalea.
LL: Lykke Li or Lady Gaga?
EH: Lykke Li. Can I ask you why you have such a morbid sense of humor?
LL: Because I’m Swedish.
EH: Is that what Swedish people do?
LL: Yeah. So how many times would you say your parties get shut down? There are a lot of parties.
EH: Well, that’s because it’s like the anti-party. It’s weird being a behind-the-scenes dude who works heavily in the music business, and then you get invited to go to some big red carpet party and you might not get let in by security because they have no idea who you are.
LL: Has Miley Cyrus ever been to one of your parties?
EH: I think so. Is that the most juicy fuckin’ tidbit you could pull out, has Miley Cyrus been to my parties?
LL: What do you think are the benefits of smoking?
EH: It makes you look a lot cooler when
you’re doing an interview.
LL: Who would you say is your style icon?
EH: Sean Connery. But of course, now there’s also Gérard Depardieu. I want to look like Gérard Depardieu when I get to be his age.
LL: Last question: How important do you think ergonomic footwear is?
EH: Actually, I think it’s extremely important. This interview would’ve gone completely awry had we not had ergonomic footwear to support it.
LL: It’s fairly comfortable in this day and age. Comfortable style. What’s more important to you: style or comfort, or just both?