Giveon on Working With Justin Bieber and Fan Influence on ‘Heartbreak Anniversary’

Giveon Hitmakers Facetime
Courtesy of Brian Ziff Photo

A couple anniversaries have passed since the breakup that inspired fast-rising singer-songwriter Giveon’s platinum-certified 2020 hit “Heartbreak Anniversary.” But the Long Beach, Calif., native’s distinctive, soulful vocals and poignant lyrics have led to several other, happier dates on the calendar that he can celebrate in the years to come. Chief among them: the day “Peaches” — the Justin Bieber smash featuring Giveon and Daniel Caesar — debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in March.

Despite the hurdles that came with the COVID-19 pandemic, Giveon released an EP of his own, “Take Time,” just weeks after the world shut down. Newfound fame will be the subject of his upcoming full-length debut.

What’s your songwriting process like?

It starts way before I’m in a studio. The situation happens, and then I talk about it with a friend or someone like that, and I’ll keep notes of it. In the studio, I like to have the music first: I’ll sit with the music for like an hour, on loop, and just let it tell me what it feels I should do. Then I’ll get in the [vocal] booth and lay down melodies. It goes music, melodies, lyrics.

How did you link up with Justin Bieber and Daniel Caesar for “Peaches”?

Justin always has his ears to the street for new acts and new talent. He came across my music and reached out, [writing], “I’m a fan of what you’re doing.” One day, I was finishing a session [when Bieber] FaceTimed me, saying, “The reason I called you is because I have this song I want you to be a part of.” [I said,] “OK, send it over!” It was super organic.

What inspired “Heartbreak Anniversary”?

I don’t know what possessed me to check what the date was, but I realized, “365 days ago, I actually was going through a breakup.” I opened my [iPhone] Notes and was like, “I’m gonna tell that story eventually,” and ended up writing the song months later.

What do you think was the tipping point for the song?

Once the kids got hold of it, that’s when [the song] took on a whole new life. When I was making these songs, I thought people my age, like 25 and up, [would relate to it]. I don’t know why I thought kids don’t go through heartbreak — I definitely went through stuff as a kid. So once they got hold of it, that’s when it really started to spread globally and have its own moment.

Do you think the lockdown led to people reflecting on past heartbreaks?

I think that definitely played a part. [Couples] I knew and thought would last for a long time, the pandemic kind of expedited the process [of them splitting]. You discover things that you didn’t know. So I was hearing about a lot more heartbreaks during the pandemic.

How do you spend heartbreak anniversaries yourself?

I would hope the first heartbreak anniversary is the only time you feel it, and then after that, you don’t really even notice.

Things you didn’t know about Giveon:
Age: 26
Before he was making music: He was a server at Bubba Gump.
Musical influences: Drake, Frank Ocean, Frank Sinatra
Favorite cities to perform in: London, New York City, Toronto
Dream collaborator: Adele
Favorite forms of self-care: Haircuts, working out, spending time away from the phone