Jack Antonoff's Newfound Optimism

jack antonoff, photograph byalex lockett
Jack Antonoff's Newfound OptimismAlex Lockett

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“Freedom to me is the ability to move,” says songwriter and producer Jack Antonoff. “Any stillness can make me feel trapped.”

As one of today’s most prolific songwriters and producers, it’s hard to imagine Antonoff is ever in stasis. Over the past decade, Antonoff has earned eight Grammy awards for his work on culture-making albums by artists like Taylor Swift, Lana Del Rey, and Lorde and recorded four more with his ’80s-influenced rock band, Bleachers. “Working across lots of genres is something I’ve always done,” he says. The death of Antonoff’s younger sister, Sarah, when he was in high school, has often loomed large over Bleachers’s music. But the group’s most recent effort, self-titled and released in March, features a newfound optimism, musing on love (Antonoff and actress Margaret Qualley got married last year), healing, and learning to live in the now. “The big thing that I was figuring out on this album was how to move forward with aspects of my life that weren't tethered to death or loss,” he explains. "This is an interesting thing to do because the weight of remembering people that aren't here—it's how we in some ways show love to them."

Whether he’s working on his own music or with someone else, his ultimate goal is for the project to convey some type of candor. "What really matters is having a gut feeling about something," he says. “You could have the most beautifully recorded and produced thing, but if it's not telling a truth, then it's Hudson Yards,” he says.

For this issue, Antonoff assembled a playlist around the theme of freedom. Along with “La femme d’argent” by French synth-pop duo Air and Delta Spirit’s uplifting “California,” he included Fiona Apple’s piano ballad “Paper Bag.” “To me, she sounds like the freest person in the world,” Antonoff says of the singer. “Her expression is so clear that you can’t help but feel it for yourself.”

Listen to Jack Antonoff's playlist exclusively on Apple Music.

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