Phil Greiss (J Balvin, Jason Derulo) on the stories behind “Mi Gente,” “Savage Love,” and more

Phil Greiss is a Canadian producer and composer who has lent his talents to numerous award-winning records.

The veteran hitmaker is known for his sharp pop and hip hop sensibilities, and has worked alongside a wide range of artists spanning Canadian vocalists Corneille and Zaho to the likes of Jason Derulo, J Balvin, and David Guetta. Phil Greiss recently sat down with us to give us an inside look into his experiences working on a handful of particularly notable releases across his career—read on for highlights.

“Savage Love” by Jason Derulo and Jawsh 685 (2020)

Greiss: When I showed up at Jason’s spot that night, he already had laid down the foundation of the song on top of Jawsh’s beat, and the plan was to dive in and actually make it less “TikTok-ish”—can you believe that? [laughs] So, we came up with an entirely different version of the beat that really felt good, hooky, and slick at the same time. We were both really ecstatic about it. I laid down some guitars, a totally new vocal chop, drums, and some bass.

I’ll always remember the feedback we got: “Nah, it’s way too cool now. Go back to the sax.” Turns out it wasn’t that bad of a move—so, we made a hybrid version, with some elements of the new version mixed with the old one.

“Mi Gente” by J Balvin and Willy William (2017)

Willy and I have been friends for years, but we had never found another opportunity to work together after I had him scream some MC vocals for Zaho’s first album back in 2008. When he sent me the rough mix of what was “Voodoo Song” back then almost eight years later, I was truly blown away; I hadn’t felt that way about a beat since Timbaland’s “Indian Flute.”

The kick and 808 needed a little love, so I redesigned those and mixed the record. We tried multiple, multiple versions with the mastering—none of them really nailed it. The Beyoncé version has a totally different sound too; I’m not too sure what happened with that. Oddly enough, the actual released version of “Mi Gente” is the one that came straight out of my computer, in all of its clipped glory.

“Goodbye (feat. Nicki Minaj)” by Jason Derulo and David Guetta (2018)

After the success of “Mi Gente,” I remember telling Willy that we should bank on the sound and style of it. I had been presented a “Con te partirò” flip idea that I thought we could turn into some sort of follow up for “Mi Gente”—Willy got on board as a featured artist and I produced the track and made the chorus ‘Guetta-ready,’ to which David reacted right away and got in touch with us.

I met and got to know Jason Derulo through this record, and he was able to bring Nicki Minaj on board. I remember being blown away by Nicki’s verse; it felt spectacular right away.

What’s your favorite track that Phil Greiss worked on? Who would you like to see us feature next? Let us know in the comments below.

March 26, 2021

Harrison Shimazu

Harrison Shimazu is a composer, content strategist, and writer who’s passionate about democratizing music creation and education. He leads the Splice blog and produces vocaloid music as Namaboku.