Bernard “Harv” Harvey is having a fruitful year. The songwriter, producer and bass player is riding high after co-writing and co-producing “Peaches,” the biggest single from Justin Bieber’s “Justice” album (2.6 million song project units moved, according to Alpha Data, and airplay of over 670,000 spins, per Media Base, year-to date), in addition to a turn co-writing/co-producing Skrillex’s “Don’t Go,” which also features Bieber (and Don Toliver).
“I had some album cuts before, but I never really had a big hit until ‘Peaches,’” Harv says via Zoom from his newly purchased San Fernando Valley home.
To hear the producer tell it, he was surprised the song shot up so quickly. “I went to sleep the night before it came out and I wake up at 8am and Scooter [Braun] texts me and says, ‘Congratulations, you have the No. 1 song in the world.’ It just went like wildfire, it was everywhere.”
Indeed, “Peaches” emerged as one of 2021’s most-consumed songs, and was nearly inescapable for music fans during the spring and summer. The track, which Harv co-produced with Shndo, is now closing in on 900 million streams on Spotify alone.
And while “Peaches” may be Harv’s first true taste of global success, the multi-instrumentalist is hardly new to the music game — outside of playing bass for Bieber tours and live engagements, he’s also the pop star’s music director for performances (you can see Harv hard at work on Bieber’s new Amazon documentary “Our World”).
“I never wanted to be a touring musician, but it just kind of happened,” he says. “But I’ve been blessed to travel the world that way.”
Traveling with Bieber helped Harv build a strong relationship with the star over the last decade that directly led to a few placements, and perhaps equally as important, trust.
“We would be in the tour bus and I would just play beats on the bus and Justin would always be, like ‘What’s that?’” he explains.
His first placement with Bieber was 2011’s “Fa La La,” (a Bieber collaboration with Boyz II Men), which Harv co-wrote and co-produced. Other more recent notable co-productions for Bieber include “Somebody,” “Forever” (featuring. Post Malone & Clever), and “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree.”
But 2021 proved to be a pivotal year for the musician, as not only “Peaches” took off, but a more recent Skrillex collab (“Don’t Go” featuring Justin Bieber & Don Toliver) saw release over the summer as well on OWSLA/Atlantic Records.
“’Don’t Go’ came from the ‘Justice’ sessions, and it didn’t make the album, but we knew it was a fire song and so Skrillex decided to put it out,” Harv explains.
“That session was just a vibe,” he says of the Los Angeles meet-up that spawned the song. “We were just hanging out and I started playing the chords and the melody, and then I grabbed my bass and it all came together quickly.”
More recently, armed with a new publishing deal with Brandon Silverstein’s S10 Publishing and Avex USA, together with Ryan Tedder’s Artist Driven Records (Harv was formerly with UMPG), the hitmaker has been in the studio with such names as Normani, 24kGoldn, John Legend and Bebe Rexha.
Says Harv: “When I was signed to Universal [for publishing], I needed more hands on to put sessions together for me, but now, I don’t really need that infrastructure, because I’ve built a name for myself where I can kind of put myself in certain rooms. And where Brandon [Silverstein] does come in handy is — his rolodex is so heavy that anybody that I want to work with, I can get in the room instantly with them.”
Harv reveals that he now almost exclusively writes directly for and with artists, instead of doing songwriting sessions with other songwriters or producers. So how does Harv know he has captured magic in the room with the artists he writes with? “For me, it’s weird, but when I hear a song that I think is special, my mouth gets dry,” he laughs. “Some people get chills, but for some reason for me, my mouth gets dry when I think a song might be a hit.”
And while there is no specific science to writing a global smash, Harv offers that “there’s kind of a blueprint to it — there are certain things that make a song go. … Simplicity is really important. Sometimes musicians forget that not everybody is a musician, so we think too complex, but for the common listener, the people who stream songs like ‘Peaches’ every day, the want to hear good hooks. ‘Peaches’ is a song that a 5-year-old to a 95-year-old can listen to and jam out to, because it’s so simple.”
Harv says several newly finished songs with Bieber have the same magic that helped “Peaches” resonate across the populace. He hopes fans will be able to hear the new tunes next year. And just like “Peaches,” expect the hooks to come in hard, heavy, and early.
“Streaming has definitely changed the way creators write songs now,” he says. “I always say, ‘Let’s give them the hook first’ even if it is just an 8-bar hook and not a 16, let’s just give them a taste and then go into the verse. You’ve got 30 seconds, if that, to grab the listener these days. It’s a complex thing to create a song, but you have to make it feel simple, and make sure the hook is so good that every time it comes around, it makes you want to sing along.”