Mike Waters may consider himself something of a late bloomer, but he’s been quietly writing and producing hits for other artists for some time now. With songwriting credits alongside everyone from Louis Tomlinson to Illy, Grace VanderWaal to John Legend, Waters has had a hand in making a slew of pop gems over the past few years.
Late last month, Waters released his new solo single, ‘I’m Doing Fine’. It’s a raw and introspective cut that sees the songwriter open up about the importance of discussing mental health, particularly among men. “It came from me telling my own story of when I was hit by a really intense bout of deep, dark depression, that I’ve never experienced before,” he explains. “I learned that the thing I needed to do to get through that was to talk to people. This song is about people who say to their friends that they are fine but on the inside, they are falling apart.”
Waters has looked back on five tracks he’s co-written, giving an insight into his creative process and sharing the stories of how they came together.
U Move, I Move – John Legend ft. Jhené Aiko
I co-wrote this song in LA with two legends named Trey Cambpell and Jonas Karlsson. We all loved the idea of writing a song about commitment and vulnerability from a guy’s perspective, and this is what we came up with. I really wanted to pitch it to some male artists initially (or at least a duet) but nobody could figure out which male artists might be interested in being that openly vulnerable. Instead it got pitched to some female artists, but thankfully never got picked up, because John Legend heard it and he had some ideas. He and Jhené Aiko were 100% the perfect fit for this song, and with their contributions I feel like it’s become something really special.
My Best Life – Kshmr ft. Mike Waters
On the day Kshmr and I wrote this song we really only ended up with a first verse, a chorus and a minimal backing track, it was basically an acoustic ballad. We could both hear something great in there, and I sort of expected this to be like a lot of other sessions where we loved the song, but it never got finished, so when he sent me the nearly finished production months later I was blown away by how huge it sounded! I remember I was working out of a co-working space in Hobart at the time and we didn’t have a second verse yet, so I used these little soundproof booths meant for conference calls to record voice memo ideas into my phone and text them to him.
Clearly – Grace Vanderwaal
I came up with the idea to reimagine this song at a songwriting camp for Demi Lovato in a big house in California’s wine country. We originally pitched the idea to Demi but she didn’t want to do it, and then Grace heard it and wanted to take a shot at it. I’m glad she did because she absolutely nailed it and I really love her version. It’s a song about depression and breaking through to the other side. The original song doesn’t actually have any verses or pre-choruses, it’s pretty much all chorus, so we wrote verses we wanted to tell more story. Fun fact, I’m singing backing vocals in the hook.
Bright Blue Skies – Mitch James
This song was born in my lounge room on the day Mitch and I met. As is always the case with Mitch he’s super honest and open when writing songs, and this was no different. On this particular day he wanted to write a bit of a fuck you song, and we landed on this idea that paired that idea with a super light and fun melody. We figured it was too good to be a once-off, so we booked some more sessions and we’ve since collaborated on a ton of stuff together including his singles ’21’ and ‘Sunday Morning’. This is the one that started it all.
Drowning – Max Frost x Mike Waters
Max was in Melbourne on tour and our managers had booked us a writing session. I thought I was there to write a Max Frost song and he thought he was there to write a Mike Waters song, so we ended up just doing something that landed square in the middle of both of our styles. It wasn’t really “me” and it wasn’t really “him” but we both loved it and decided to put it out together.