By now, the world has fallen in love with Lady Gaga’s big screen debut as Ally in Bradley Cooper’s highly-anticipated modern update of A Star Is Born. Her character goes through a familiar arc for any artist who’s fortunate enough to find success in their career.
And the music in the film is about as addictive as fans would expect from a film of this magnitude starring an icon of pop music like Gaga. From “Heal Me” to “Hair Body Face” to “Why Did You Do That?” the soundtrack seems to epitomize the career of a modern pop star. So, it only makes sense that Gaga entrusted a team that’s helped her create some of her own most memorable tracks.
One such member of this musical dream team is Paul Blair. But many in the industry and those who passionately follow it know him as DJ White Shadow. For the colorful and storied producer, collaborating on the film’s music was a bit of a culture shock.
“I mean It was definitely a different experience than just writing a normal set of pop songs because it's for a different human being,” Blair says. “Even though that character is being played by Lady Gaga, that's not Lady Gaga. It's like, we're both conceptualizing how to write songs for the character in the context of the movie, which was super fun and challenging, and I never thought I would be able to do something like that.”
The soundtrack has received just as much buzz as the film, placing at the top of the Billboard 200 in its first week. It’s nothing new for Gaga, who’s experienced many weeks at the top of that ranking in her illustrious career. And although fans of the film will understandably draw similarities between Gaga and Ally, Blair sees it as a story that any artist can relate to.
It’s a common thread with any artist in any genre,” he says. “If you're a creative writer or you're a visual artist, there’s an arc. As a producer even, you start off and you're sleeping on couches and making 100 bucks, sleeping wherever you can sleep and playing for nothing just because you love it. So, that's the arc of the character from the beginning of the story, even when Judy Garland was playing her. I think all of us identified with that in the writing process, and it's just trying to write songs that got from there to tell the story of somebody who winds up the top of the game.”
With a soundtrack that’s done just that, arriving at the top of the game, Blair finds himself in a unique new territory for a producer of his stature. Someone who’s become accustomed to the Grammys, he’s on the verge of Oscar recognition for his contribution to the film’s soundtrack. But it’s something that hasn’t quite fazed him as a possibility.
“I'm super happy to be part of the narrative of a footnote on the story,” he says. “Like that's awesome, but I haven't really thought about it. I guess if somebody hands me an Oscar, I'm not gonna be like, ‘Take it back.’ (LAUGHS) I haven't really thought about it too much.”
In addition to the acclaim he’s received working with artists like Gaga, the Black Eyed Peas, and Pitbull, he’s using his success to carve out a path not only for himself, but for other emerging artists.
With his own station coming to Dash Radio, he’s creating musical experiences across multiple platforms. He’s also staying busy as curator of the W Hotel chain’s music programs. From DJing parties to producing music festivals to bringing recording booths to the hotel, he’s contributing to the ever-evolving landscape of pop music.
“I'm just creating space for people to feel awesome and important and be creative,” he says. “It’s like a pay-it-forward thing. I never really had a space to go to or somebody to mentor me or somebody to ask for advice. So, as somebody that can kind of dole that out now and use whatever weirdo position I'm in to try and help other people out, finding a brand partner like the W to be a conduit to that is really a blessing.”
In addition, Blair is busy at work on a solo project. With plans to release his own music in early 2019, he’s deep in a new kind of creative process.
“It's still a work in progress right now,” he says. “But as it stands right now, it's a weird mix of trap songs and super dark poppy stuff. It's all like really hip hop driven, heavy bass anger, a little less DJ talent type stuff and more anger than what’s on the radio per se. But definitely I'm shooting for wild, wild emotions. It's very emotional.”
Given his contribution to contemporary music, Blair is due for a meteoric rise in his own right. But continued success and acclaim aside, he’s found his proudest moment to be producing Gaga’s most powerful anthem to date, “Born This Way.” He was recently validated once again, discovering it on a list of the best Pride songs, second only to Diana Ross’ “I’m Coming Out.”
“Let me put it to you like this; I'd rather have only done “Born This Way” and have that be the end of it than ever win any Oscar,” he says. “That was the best thing ever, for 20 million reasons. That was the first big song I ever did. But if you just scroll back to that time, I was super hyper sensitive about anybody who put any heat on that song for any reason whatsoever because it was such a big deal. Just for its intent, the motivation behind it and the incredible loving message that it spread to the world. I mean, I have it tattooed on my arm. It's like, I cried my eyes out when I heard it on the radio the first time, and even to this day, I swear to you…Some people get to put their names on the side of a library because they've invented a computer, and made like a bazillion dollars but my name’s always going to be on that song, and I'm good with that. That's pretty rad.”