Justin Tranter is in the midst of a massive week. The renowned hitmaker is up for the songwriter of the year award at this Sunday’s Grammy Awards and will also host the Premiere Ceremony prior to the 2024 Grammys, live from Peacock Theater in Los Angeles.
Ahead of Grammys week, Billboard‘s senior music correspondent Katie Bain sat down with Tranter to talk about why the Grammys’ addition of the songwriter award is so important. 2024 marks the second year the songwriter of the year Grammy is being awarded and marks Tranter’s first nomination in the category. (They were previously nominated for song of the year in 2018 for Julia Michaels’ “Issues.”)
Tranter says they found out they were nominated when when they were out walking the dog and suddenly, 300 congratulatory texts came through.
“I think it’s important because we almost always get the short end of the stick in this business,” Tranter says of the Grammys acknowledging songwriters with the new-as-of-last-year songwriters category. “We’re always kind of thought of last; we’re always treated the worst, and I do think it is intentional because we are so powerful, that if we are allowed to recognize our power and flex our power, we would run the industry, and people don’t want that.
“So I think that this award is very important,” they continue, “because it lends visibility to songwriters, and without visibility we have no power, because we live in a world where if you can’t see something, you can’t hear something, it doesn’t exist.”
Tranter also shares stories of working on each of the songs they were nominated for in 2024, including Reneé Rapp‘s “Gemini Moon” (“She was mentioning her moon is in Gemini, and I’m a Gemini…and we Googled and that day the moon was also in gemini…”), Maneskin (“I DM’d them on Instagram when they won Eurovision and said ‘you are the coolest band I’ve seen since my band, we should work together’”), and Miley Cyrus (“we had one day together, and she was in the beginning of a new relationship and was feeling really sexy and fabulous and wanted to write something, in her words, pretty f—ing filthy and sexy”).
Tranter has worked with some the biggest superstars in modern pop music, and says building rapport with artists like Justin Bieber and Cardi B during the writing process is about sharing part of themselves.
“I can’t be afraid to ask slightly more personal questions than you’d usually ask someone you met an hour ago,” Tranter says. “But I think if you ask them with respect and also share at least a little bit about my life, then it feels like we are in this together. And I am very lucky too that I was just born pretty confident, and so I think me being a very femme queer person who is also very confident creates a space that’s [like] ‘if I can be confident in this, then you can be confident in what you’re in, what you’re living through.’”