Shaun Frank quickly mastered the art of collaboration. In the last few years, he's released tunes with Borgeous, Oliver Heldens, DVBBS, KSHMR, and Steve Aoki. Frank's knack for teamwork recently earned him a credit on the No. 1 hit in the country: he helped The Chainsmokers' Andrew Taggart compose "Closer" in the back of a tour bus.
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"I felt like, because the lyrics were so interesting, it had the potential to be a hit," Frank recalls. "And because [the Chainsmokers] were doing so well with everything. But you have to remember, this was back when 'Roses' was just breaking. We wrote this song when 'Don't Let Me Down' was just getting released."
Still, Frank believes in the power of a good hook. "I knew that the kids that come to their shows would love it, because of that sing-along kind of chorus," he adds. "Now it's the No. 1 song in the world."
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Frank has a new single of his own, "Let You Get Away," out Friday, and its premiering exclusively on Billboard today. It's a collaboration with the singer Ashe, who faces a romantic dilemma: "Everyone says you're hot, that you mean well, but you're not a keeper," she sings. "But if I let you loose, I might look back at you and I'll wonder." The beat oscillates between an easy glide and a fierce drop.
Frank spoke with Billboard Dance before a recent set at Electric Zoo - his first ever performance at the festival. These are excerpts from the conversation.
You got your start in rock bands?
I started in about three bands. Since I was 13, I was playing in bands. I grew up in the basement of my parents' house - playing drums, playing keys, singing. A couple of my bands had success around the world, I was touring in Asia. I was the singer. My last band, the one before I Started doing this, we actually signed to Gene Simmons' record label and toured with Kiss.
What was the name of the band?
The Envy. And then it went a little south. We got a little fucked by the record company. I don't want to blame them completely, but it was one of those things. And people started asking me to sing on their dance records. I was dead broke, sleeping on my friends floor in Toronto, and singing on people's dance records for cash. One of those records turned out to be really big.
I was always a big fan of house music, and I was always making it in my laptop, but I had never really gone out and experienced the whole scene. I went on this tour in Europe with the DJ, Marien Baker, whose song I sang, and I was like, I think this is actually what I need to be doing. So I came home, I pulled a bunch of the ideas out of my laptop, and I started to finish them up. That led to the Shaun Frank project.
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How did Baker find you?
They found me from the band and really liked my voice. I sang this song, and it was like a No. 1 in Spain. It turned out to be this big thing.
A lot of your releases so far have been collaborations like that.
I was doing a bunch of remixes. Guys like Oliver Heldens were playing my remixes on their radio shows. Then I would meet them when they came to Toronto, make a point to try to meet these guys. I met Oliver one night, he came to my studio, saw what I was doing, and heard the vocals that I'd written for that song "Shades of Gray." He's like, I'd love to do this track, we did it together. One collab has led to the next. Now I'm kind of done with that phase and I'm moving on to my own music.
All those collabs were all produced out somewhat but somewhat unfinished. I was always gonna finish them myself, but I remember I was in L.A. with KSHMR, and he heard the song called "Heaven," and was like I would love to work on this. I'm like ok, let's do it.
And how did you connect with KSHMR?
He heard the Oliver track. He walked up to me and Oliver at Ultra last year and was like I love both of you, I love Shades of Gray, here's my number, please call me. The DVBBS guys, I've known them forever, cause they're in Toronto. They heard the La-La record and it was the same thing.
When did you start working on the new single?
I wrote this like six months ago. It's a really exciting song - every time I play it live, it goes off. Last night at Red Rocks, it was a huge song in my set. Fingers crossed on that one. You never know, but I feel like if I put my best stuff out there, that's the best shot I have. I always put a lot of care into the lyrics - telling a really good story, really caring about the song. I've always really cared about the song. Even when I was making just club house music, it was always about the song.
Is it nerve-wracking to step out on your own?
I think I'm ready. It doesn't have to be a worldwide smash. If it can just do as well as the last one, I'll be happy. It's the kind of song that I think a lot of people can relate to.
How did you meet Ashe?
She's awesome. She's got a sick, cool voice. I found her on Facebook, she was singing on another record. She came up to Toronto and we wrote like seven songs together. This was one of the ones that really stood out. It's a got a real festival, trappy drop, so it really works live. I knew that I wanted to put something out that really hits live.
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With the success of "Closer," are a lot of people hitting you up to co-write?
I'm now a published songwriter. I'm working in L.A., writing a lot of songs, working with all these dudes that are writing big songs now.
I love it. It helps me keep my chops up. When I'm touring a lot and not working on songs - it's a muscle. It forces you to write more. Unfortunately what happens is sometimes I write something great and I have to give it someone else. That kind of sucks. I'm not really into that part of it. But as I do this more, if there's something I really love, I'm going to be like, guys, I really love this. Can I have it. The bigger I get as an artist, they'll let me have it.