GRAMMYS

Composer Stephan Moccio on Why The Weeknd’s ‘Earned It’ Wasn’t a Sure Thing

by Stacy Lambe 1:35 PM PST, February 11, 2016
Photo: Getty Images

Classically trained songwriter and composer Stephan Moccio, who came to the U.S. from Canada to compose film music, has been quietly adding a sophisticated sound to the pop world -- first writing for such adult-contemporary artists as Celine Dion and Josh Groban before scoring bigger hits with Ne-Yo and Miley Cyrus.

Most recently, he was invited to work with The Weeknd, who wanted to expand his sound on his second studio album, Beauty Behind the Madness. "It's very rare that you find an artist that's so astute and knows exactly what he or she is looking for," Moccio tells ETonline about immediately hitting if off with his fellow Canadian. "It's one of the reasons the relationship worked really well."

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The two ended up writing three songs together, including the No. 1 single, "Earned It (Fifty Shades of Grey)." It's a sultry track, seducing listeners with The Weeknd's voice and sultry piano-led composition.

"Everything aligned so beautifully on this one," Moccio says of the theme song, which on paper, he explains did not have the components -- "It's a waltz with an old-timey feel, and there's [The Weeknd's] falsetto" -- of a typical hit. Ultimately, it earned an Academy Award nominationthis year for Best Original Song and Moccio also picked up three GRAMMY nominations for his work onBeauty Behind the Madness.

While the two clicked, Moccio insists the bond formed with The Weeknd isn't always easy to come by. Having worked with several major artists, the composer has found that just because they're a success doesn't mean they will connect creatively in the studio. "If the artist is in more pursuit of fame, I typically am not as interested," he reveals, adding that The Weeknd's reclusive vibe is what drew him in. "He's a very enigmatic kind of guy."

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And once you're invited into The Weeknd's camp, it seems that you stay put. Jason Quenneville, who helped craft the singer's sound, worked on his first two albums. As for Moccio, he says he's already back to work on The Weeknd's follow-up, revealing they are five weeks into discussing sounds. "We know that the next album has to be better and bigger than the last one," he says.

"I kind of know my role, particularly with The Weeknd," Moccio adds of formulating new song ideas. "I pull a lot on my classical roots and he is a real big fan of that."

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