Coming from Germany’s capital of Berlin, 24 year old Ukrainian born music producer and songwriter Wassily Gradovsky is on his way to the top, in the pop music scene. After having his first success in Asia with production credits on EXO’s album “The War” and Girls’ Generation “Holiday Night”, which sold 3 million copies combined, his ambitions are finally taking shape on the west. His latest work has just been released by multi-talented singer Leon Thomas, who is known for acting on Nickelodeon’s “Victorious” alongside Ariana Grande and writing songs for Chris Brown, Toni Braxton (which earned him a Grammy) and many more. Leon’s freshly released debut single “Favorite” features Pharell’s protégé rapper Buddy and is a groovy R&B/Soul track, that will make you want sing and dance. It so happens that Wassily played a big part in it, and we’re about to find out how it all came together.
Let’s start from the very beginning. What is your musical background? Have you always been passionate about creating music?
Absolutely. My parents were both passionate pianists and music lovers in general. I grew up listening to The Beatles, Sting, Classical artists like Mozart and Bach, Jazz musicians Pat Metheny and Keith Jarrett and of course I was taught playing the piano practically since birth (laughs). A great amount of my youth consisted of musical education.
If I’m correct, you and your parents moved to Germany when you were seven. How did your musical development shape from there?
Like anyone in their teenage years, I started forming my own taste which parted from my parents’ taste a little. I started listening to modern pop and R&B music and writing songs in that genre, while they wanted me to play classical and jazz music, arguing that these styles were more sophisticated. I agree to a certain extent and you can now hear elements of these genres in my music, but this is a whole different topic which could take up many pages of analyzing (laughs).
I ended up catching feelings for the sound of Justin Timberlake, Beyoncé, and Chris Brown and was inspired by their music in my first written songs. Soon I started recording those songs and this is how I ended up producing music. Since then, my passion has always been the hybrid of producing and writing.
That genre mashup makes sense, you can also hear Jazz and Gospel influences in your favorite artists’ music that you mentioned. Did you listen to Ariana Grande, too? And did you know about Leon Thomas producing many of her songs?
I didn’t! I discovered Ariana Grande as soon as she released her debut album and I fell in love. I’m a fan of jazzy chord progressions and her music was full of it. And at the time I only knew about other producers she worked with, Harmony Samuels and Tommy Brown. I tried to contact them like a crazy fanboy (laughs). But as expected, with no result.
So you were always passionate in bringing your music into the US market? Which steps did you take since you produced your first songs?
Absolutely, it was a dream that seemed impossible to achieve from inside my bedroom. After a couple of years of practice, I got accepted at a well respected Pop Music College (“Popakademie”) in the German town Mannheim, which gave me a great boost in the quality of my music. Also I got to work with a couple of important people like the producers Crada (who made Drake’s “Fireworks”) and K-Pop hit maker Albi Albertsson, whom I later had my first platinum sale numbers with. There were many years of learning, practicing, experimenting and experiences. I’m very grateful for the direction that I took during these years.
So you had no connections to US musicians by that time, right? How did that happen?
I was trying to reach out to labels and producers by email, but got no response. That’s one thing I learned about Hollywood: if you are a newcomer, no one will really care about your distant shots. I knew I just needed to be there, so I took the money I earned from my first K-Pop cuts, packed my bags and went straight to LA. I went to dozens of labels and management companies and tried to plug my productions in person. Luckily, very soon a manager became interested in my music (shout out to Franny Graham!) and connected me to some great musicians, including producer Roofeeo, whom I worked with almost every day during that time. On one of the days, another artist came into his studio, and I very soon realized that it was Ariana Grande’s producer Leon Thomas.
Tell me about the session you had together!
It all started out as a relaxed bike ride on Venice Beach we did all together, since Roofeeo was good friends with Leon. At first I didn’t know who Leon was, up until some girls started taking pictures with him. I got curious and soon he told me he is part of The Rascals, the Grammy winning production duo that also made some of my favorite Ariana Grande songs. I got very excited, since it was the first time I had ever met someone who worked on songs that I’ve been listening to every day. After a short lunch we ended up in the studio and I was really looking forward to creating something great. I knew that one of Leon’s produced Ariana songs, “Lovin’ It”, had very cool jazzy chords in it and I decided to sit at the piano and play chords with a similar vibe, kind of trying to impress Leon (laughs).
Sounds exciting, what was his reaction?
It worked! Him and Roofeeo loved it. I pushed “record” on my iPhone Voice Memos and we ended up using this low quality recording for the final song. It was unique and also funny, because you can hear the guys say things in the background like “That s**t’s fire bro” (laughs). You can hear the whole loop in the intro of the song. Leon had the cool idea to chop it up and make the chords play as 1/8th notes. Together with Roofeeo, we created a cool beat on top of the piano loop and soon, a catchy and groovy instrumental came together, which everyone loved. The melodies and lyrics for the song came entirely from Leon, as far as I remember. This guy is a true talent, he also played the synth bass riff for the song. All in all, the song ended up exciting everyone we showed it to. Definitely my best session on that trip to LA.
Well, publicly the song seems to be going in the right direction so far, being on the Spotify Viral Charts and getting close to 2 million streams. Good luck with that! What is your plan for the near future? Are you going to continue working with Leon and Roofeeo?
Thank you! Yes, we are still having sessions and will hopefully create more amazing songs together. I hope that this is just the beginning for me, I am excited to produce and write more songs for the US market, let’s see where it goes!