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Canada's Jenna Andrews opens up about writing BTS's 'Butter' and why she started a mental health podcast

The Calgary native is known for collaborating with Drake, Jennifer Lopez and many more artists

jenna andrews

It's been a huge year for Canada's Jenna Andrews, and the final month of the year was a bit like the icing on top: A few weeks ago, BTS's "Butter" received a GRAMMY nomination for Best Pop/Duo Performance. 

The track, which was released earlier this year and was a top-10 hit in more than 30 countries, was co-written by Jenna. It also hit number one on the charts in the United States and in BTS's home country of South Korea, and eventually remixed to include another artist-of-the-moment, Megan Thee Stallion. The deeply nostalgic track features plenty of references to '90s hits such as Michael Jackson's 'Man in the Mirror' and 'Smooth Criminal' and uses that path to create something truly unique. 

WATCH: Jenna's 'Tumblin' Down' was a hit on the U.S. R&B charts in 2010

Before this, Jenna was already well-known for her success as a songwriter, having worked with Drake, Jennifer Lopez, Lily Allen and many more artists in addition to releasing her own solo material. Grey's Anatomy fans will likely already know her well, since her "Tumblin' Down" was featured in the hit TV drama's sixth season back in 2010. 

She also acquired newfound attention in 2020 when she began hosting her The Green Room podcast, bringing singers and songwriters on to talk about mental health and the music industry at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. The show also became a hit, featuring beloved artists such as Tegan and Sara, Rebecca Black, Lennon Stella, Kiesza and many more. 

HELLO! Canada caught up with Jenna while she was in Miami in October to chat about the success of "Butter" and her unique approach to working with artists. 

HELLO! Canada: You've had an amazing year and, frankly, you also had a pretty awesome 2020. Can you tell me – you've collaborated with so many different artists, worked with so many different people. What are some of the biggest things they've learned from you and you've learned from them?Jenna Andrews: I think every artist comes out learning something new about their voice... and that's my job, really. But to have them come out being like, 'Oh, I didn't even know I could do that,' or like, 'Oh, I didn't know that this harmony would lift this part or these type of things.' I find that's something that oftentimes they learn from working with me. And also, just to be honest, just learn different ways to use their own voices, which I love.... 

I think a lot of times [when people work with me], they also learn to open up because I'm the type of person that's very... I started a mental health podcast. Mental health is something that's really important to me. I'm very open, I love to be able to express everything that I'm feeling. And I think for all the artists that I work with, if they're not necessarily built that way, I can help them become more comfortable doing that. So I feel like I'm almost carrying a therapist role a lot of times, in that it's generally... and most often times I think 9.8 out of 10 brings th best song. Sometimes it's really hard for people to open up in that sense, and I think it takes a little longer. But generally, I feel like that's a really good way and I think just to develop relationships to make something real and authentic and all those type of things. 

Kiesza appeared on The Green Room in June 2020 to talk about mental health and isolation during the coronavirus pandemic

HELLO! Canada: I feel like music is such an emotional thing that you're going to be feeling things in the studio, and I guess being more present and more with what you're feeling and able to name the feelings would make people better creators in some way, more creative as well, right?Jenna: Oh, yeah. That's the thing. If you think about it, sometimes you don't even know what's bothering you. That's the thing. There's been times with my mom I'll be like, 'Oh, what's wrong?' She's like, 'Nothing's wrong. Why do you keep asking me that?' And the next day it'd be like,' Oh, something was wrong. How did you know?' So I just think it's something that's always been very natural to me to know. I can just feel things very easily, which is a good and bad thing because when you feel things intensely, sometime it's overwhelming in the sense of you just take on so many feelings and stuff like that. But I think... it really makes you a great songwriter because I thin you can really channel into what's happening from your side or their side. But it can be draining emotionally. 

WATCH: 'Butter' has already won 15 different awards since its release in May

HELLO! Canada: I read that when you worked on 'Butter,' there were something like 50 different trial and error sessions before it came together. Can you tell me a little bit more about that?Jenna: So the original song, which had the hook melody, was that it was Stephen Kirk and Rob Grimaldi. They had that song. It was a totally different lyric, but just the same melody and chorus. And I heard it. I was like, 'Oh, my God, this would be amazing for BTS.' And so we got on Zoom and that's when we did so many rewrites until the night that Ron Perry suggested we do something like [Michael Jackson's] 'Smooth Criminal' and then I just thought of, 'Smooth like butter, like a criminal undercover.' And that's when we were also like, 'Oh, this is it. This is the lyric that we were fishing for.' So I think at that point that's when we really were like, 'Game on,' because we had the melody arrangements and whatnot...

And I think lyrically just being very conscious on... I don't know if you noticed this, but just a lot of nostalgic lines from the '90s, the Usher line. And even things just in the pre-chorus, "When I look in the mirror." Just the word mirror from "Man in the Mirror," or "Rock with Me" in the chorus. So just little things like that, where I feel like just made people turn their ear and be like, "Oh, interesting that it's referencing those things." And then having a song called 'Butter' is bringing in the Gen X crowd where it's like, "Okay, this is now versus then." And that was sort of the goal where it's like, "How can we make a song that's going to resonate across 30 years of people?"

WATCH: Tegan and Sara spoke about coming out, mental health and how to support LGBTQ+ women and girls in their Green Room appearance in December 2020

HELLO! Canada: Let's talk bout the mental health podcast you were working on in 2020. What are some of the things that you learned about yourself and you learned from other people in putting that together?Jenna:  I think that every time I would do it, I would get really nervous because I have really bad anxiety, which is why, again, I wanted to start the show. 

But I think for me, what I learned is it was almost like I was playing a show – I'd get so nervous before we started it. And then as we got into the conversation, obviously it made my nerves feel more calm. But I just feel like every topic that we discussed, even if I didn't know about it, which is I think sometimes what would make me nervous because I want to make sure that I'm being the right support system in this environment to things that I'm not necessarily aware of or can't speak on in the same way that obviously they've gone through.

So I think in that sense, I came out really realizing how empathetic they were on their side, and also just understanding that I was learning about it and I felt really cool about that. And also I just learned so much about different type of things that people go through, to be honest. For example, Tegan and Sara, they talked all about coming out and what that experience was like growing up as kids, but also twins and also female artists and all those type of things. And you hear stories of course, but when you hear an in depth story, like a therapy session, it teaches you so much more about what it actually was like to go through it.

HELLO! Canada: Can you tell me some of the ways that you've been looking after your own mental health over the last almost two years or so now?Jenna: Honestly... The Green Room was a blessing just because it felt like real therapy and it was real therapy. We have real therapists on there and that was a super cathartic process. And just even being able to invest my time in that, be able to think of things... 

When you do something that feels selfless and more... Especially when you're learning about other people's struggles and it's not about yours. So yeah, the selfless aspect of it is very healing. So that for sure. 

And then secondly, I think for me, just music really is healing. It always has been. It's brought me out of so many hard times in my life, and I think being able to, yes, have the success has been amazing. But more than that, just being able to make the music and continue to make music through a time that was so challenging.

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