‘It Was Just Such a Roller Coaster’: Sean Garrett Talks Crafting Summer Walker’s Album ‘Still Over It,’ Addresses the Hold on Usher Releasing New Music

Hitmaker Sean Garrett has hit yet another stride in his career with the success of Summer Walker’s album “Still Over It.”

The chart-topping songwriter served as executive producer and has writing credits for nearly every track on the album released Nov. 5. The album marks Summer’s second studio body of work but is also her first to debut at No. 1 on the R&B charts, a feat that was last accomplished in 2016 by none other than Beyoncé with her album “Lemonade.”

Sean Garrett and Summer Walker. (Photos: @seangarrettthepen/Instagram, @summerwalker/Instagram)

Garrett, who is known throughout the music industry as “The Pen” for inking hit records such as Usher’s “Yeah,” Ciara’s “Goodies,” and Summer’s current single “Ex For a Reason,” spoke with Atlanta Black Star about the process of crafting the latter singer’s latest album. Plus for fans chomping at the bit to finally hear new music from Usher, Sean weighs in on what might be holding up the release of his next anticipated album.

How did you working on Summer’s project come to fruition?

It was just such a roller coaster. … We [LVRN music company’s Tunde Balogon and Garrett] were trying to elevate Summer’s profile in reference to her audience. She had already, like, did the urban space, and there’s only so many urban stations. She’s definitely a humongous social superstar on social media, obviously, but as far as radio is concerned she’s a radio artist too, and she streamed really, really well — you can hear Summer Walker music in the morning, in the afternoon, 6 o’ clock drive — like, her music can play all the time on the radio.

We had meetings in reference to enhancing her audience. For us common sense was we need rhythmic radio, we need rhythmic stations too, we need to not intentionally cross her over from the perspective of changing her sound, compromising her sound, but enhancing her audience. That’s a very tricky thing, you gotta really know what you’re doing, and so quite naturally “Ex For a Reason” was a record that she wasn’t too fond of, but at the same time you know she was playing team ball as much as Summer gon’ play team ball. We just put in a lot of work, and it was really amazing process. 

Your name is literally all over this album, just down the track list. When it comes to writing songs for Summer, what did you have to tap into? 

You know, I’ve written countless and countless hit records for females. You know, I’m a mama’s boy, I’m a real heterosexual male who loves women and at the same time admire women. I really admire women on a number of levels. I have respect for women. I know they go through a lot dealing with us, and so you know my mom had thirteen brothers and sisters — eight sisters — from the perspective of just knowing some of the dos and don’ts I’ve just learned a lot from females, and I tend to pay attention to life a lot in reference to what people go through, I tend to care a lot about life and people’s feelings.

I’d probably say I’m an emotional guy but at the same time not the type of emotional guy — you I know I would say I’m a sensitive guy — and so I take life seriously. So she is probably one of those same type of people who take life seriously, she cares about her feelings, she loves hard, you know I love hard, she’s like my little sister. And so from the perspective of like her hurting, I didn’t like to see her hurt, I really didn’t, and it was just the perfect match. 

What is your favorite record on the album and what is the story behind it?

“4th Baby Mama” definitely one of my favorites from the perspective of, like, Summer did not like the idea of being called a fourth baby mama at all. So she didn’t like that one, but then we found a way to sort of match the idea, the song, and ended up keeping my original demo on the record, and then she added her side to it, and it was just crazy. That’s what’s so beautiful about working with Summer. She got a crazy pen too. It was so cool, because we kind of matched each other’s fly, we didn’t get in each other’s way, she gave me a lot of respect, and I appreciated her for that.

You know, honestly, she’s the only person out of all the artists I’ve ever worked with — as many number ones I’ve had — to thank me, like, publicly. It was just really thoughtful, and she didn’t have to do that, and I love her for that. That was really appreciative. When you work so hard over the years you want to be appreciated, and it felt good. 

Sean Garrett and Usher. Photo: @seangarrettthepen/Instagram

When it comes to determining which of his hit records cemented his penmanship in the industry, Sean says matter-of-factly the reigning record is Usher’s “Yeah.” The single was released in January of 2004, has sold more than four million copies, and is ranked second on Billboard’s Hot 100 decade-ending chart for 2000-2009.

Usher’s alleged new album, where is it? Are you still involved?

It’s on the way. I think Usher — it’s the timing of it, and you know Usher’s a very precise [individual], he’s a thinker. We like to say about our brother, ‘Usher, sometimes you be overthinking!’ But you know when you get to that level it’s got to be right, because when you’re at that level anything that’s not right is going to be all the way wrong. I think that where he’s at in his career it’s OK.

It’s just like the Summer album. The fans wanted it so bad right now, and they wanted it the way they wanted it, but that’s not how it works. You gotta take your time and get it all the way right, because when it’s right it’ll erupt, so it’s coming. And, yes, I’m still working with my brother Usher. We gon’ always work together, I love him, that’s my brother. 

I guess we’ll be patient, since we don’t really have a say in this.

You know what? You do, you definitely do. We hear you. That’s the one thing that fans — I must say everything they say we hear them, we hear y’all. You know you just try to balance it all, and he just did a magnificent stay at Vegas, it was incredible. It’s just great to see him do that. It’s just an elevation in his career. So, I gotta go over there and get focused, but you know I gave it something that I thought we could have came outside before, but sometimes it be a lot of people, a lot of cooks in the kitchen too. But shout-out to my man Jermaine [Dupri], who I love dearly, he’s so incredible. He and I were working on some stuff, you know. It’s coming. 

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