How Emile Haynie Went From Producing Hip-Hop to Florence + the Machine's 'High As Hope' Album

How Emile Haynie Went From Producing Hip-Hop to Florence + the Machine's 'High As Hope' Album


Its a Friday afternoon in Los Angeles and Emile Haynie is sitting in his car after a personal training session. This is something I would have never even thought about doing in New York, laughs the former longtime Big Apple resident who recently cut ties on his Manhattan studio, noting how the industry has shifted to the West Coast. No ones out in New York anymore.

Relocating to the City of Angels is the latest chapter thats still unfolding for the hodgepodge career of the Buffalo, New York native who got his start in hip-hop and later transitioned into a genre-hopping songwriter, producer, and artist whos helped craft an array of landmark hits for a slew of household names. I dont know how much of a goal it was to genre hop, says Haynie, who notes influences from the likes of Dr. Dre, DJ Premierand Pete Rock, and whose early production work includes cuts for The Roots, Raekwon and Ghostface Killa. I think getting an education in hip-hop opens your mind up to all sorts of music, especially in the era that I came from. You search for old records and get this understanding of soul music and jazz music and rock n' roll. Then you go deeper and get into psychrock and prog rock, and then deeper and get into funk, and you start to absorb all of this shit. It gets to the point where eventually youre looking for things like Italian movie soundtracks and Brazilian folk records.

Perhaps its that range of influences that spurred Haynies wide-ranging discography, whether producing Kanye Wests 2010 signature track Runaway (based on an afterthought demo he originally thought the superstar wouldnt take to) or smashes for the likes of Bruno Mars and his ubiquitous Locked Out of Heaven (working alongside frequent collaborator Jeff Bhasker). Haynie has also made a mark as one of Lana Del Reys go-to collaborators, writing and/or producing the singers trademark tracks Summertime Sadness, National Anthem and Blue Jeans, among others. So it stands to reason that he instantly clicked with another timeless-sounding crooner whose epic tracks are also rife with strings and bursting with drama.

The first time Haynie met Florence Welch, it was during the making of Baz Luhrmann's 2013 dreamy adaptation of The Great Gatsby. Enlisted to pitch on the films music on all fronts, from scoring to writing and producing, it was the demo Welch contributed to the soundtrack (Over the Love) that stood out to the producer. I tried turning it into something that would not only sound good for her but also fit the scene for the film, he explains, noting he was unsure of the final result at first. It was one of those things where she had her vocal cut and we were in a hurry. It wasnt until after the process when Haynie met Welch for the first time. She gave me a big hug and was crying, saying how beautiful it sounded. She was so appreciative of the way I did it and the relationship developed from there.

In the intervening years, Haynie and Welch fostered a friendship and dabbled in a grab bag of projects, from a track for the soundtrack of the video game Final Fantasy XV (Stand By Me) to another cinematic collaboration in the form of a song for Tim Burtons 2016 film Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (Wish That You Were Here). It was around this time when Welch started creating early cuts for what would become her fourth studio album, which would later be titled High As Hope. Shed play me these demos and they sounded amazing, remembers Haynie. That sort of seamlessly transitioned into us working together. It was pretty natural and was one of those things that felt right.

Working between Haynies Los Angeles studio and Peckingham, England studio of Welchs longtime engineer Brett Shaw, they chipped away at the evolving project. Creatively, the front of Haynies mind waswhat would become a legendary performance at Coachella in 2015 during which Welch broke her foot. It was one of the greatest live shows Ive ever seen, he explains. For me, it was about, how do you capture that energy? Shes so full of life and such a constantly moving spirit. How do you (replicate that) in the studio and put it on a record? The answer, Haynie found, was to just let her go and find a balance in the production. Her and Brett got all of this stuff to tape and it wasnt overly edited, filtered or processed and that was so cool. (I didnt want to) go back and resync things in a different way, but also (had a goal of) bringing in an advanced level of production and strings. Having them all conform to Florences spirit was really important. If anything, I hoped to achieve that.

The resulting album is a mix of cinematic anthems and heartfelt ballads, with singles Hunger fitting the former description and Big God fitting the latter. The second she sang Hunger, I knew it was extremely powerful, says Haynie, noting that Welchs penchant to physically express herself in the studio was an important aspect of their process. She has these dance moves when shes playing a demo or singing out loud. Everything is choreographed instantly by her. When shed do a song like June, you can see her movements were very beautiful. She just kind of naturally shows you the energy of the song in addition to the singing. My job is to help her come up with the sound shes hearing in her head already and her dancing helps captures that. Even on the subdued Big God, one is even able to hear Welchs studio physicality on the actual record. That was literally her in a room with a mic and a piano shes playing with one finger, stomping, hitting drums, and clapping all with her bracelets jangling.

Another aspect that seeped into the production was the disparity of the rooms the team recorded in, whether the minimalism of Shaws Peckingham digs (outfitted with just a ProTools and some synths), to Central Londons cavernous AIR Studios founded by Beatles producer George Martin. Shed come to L.A. and work at my place for a few weeks, then wed take a week to go to London, then wed track at AI with a string section, he says, noting tracking strings is a standout part of the entire process for him. Between all that theres a juxtaposition, but thats what the album is all about; the balance of those worlds.

Its a similar juxtaposition that provides a thread between Haynies work, specifically with Del Rey and Welch; two deeply unique artists with singular voices, yet similar in a distinctly timeless and cinematic quality. I dont think either of them are making music thats timestamped, he muses. Its weird because coming up doing hip-hop for so many years, its such an of-the-moment sound focused on the future. With pop and rock, I appreciate it when it has a bit of a timelessness to it.

Its also a quality hes focused on with his future producing work (none of which hes ready to talk about just yet) or his follow-up to a 2015 solo album coming down the pike at some point as well. Im definitely sitting on a bunch of ideas, he says of his own future sound, no doubt continued to be inspired by his move from New York to Los Angeles. Theyre based around instrumentals and chants and vibes and that kind of stuff. At this point, the amount of music I have complied is a bit insane so its hard to say whats gonna happen next.