Louis Bell is not yet a household name, but lately has found a home atop the charts. In the last six months alone, the studio manager-turned-vocal producer has seen Post Malone’s “rockstar” and Camila Cabello’s “Havana” — both which he co-wrote, and the latter which he also produced — go to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, and has worked on standout tracks from Shawn Mendes and Cardi B. “You can’t build a reputation on things you’re going to do — you have to actually do it,” says Bell, 36. “Once it’s on your résumé, they can never take that away.”
Bell says his close musical partnership with Post Malone, who he first met through the rapper-singer’s manager, Dre London, provided his big break. (He produced most Post Malone’s second album, beerbongs & bentleys, and half 2016’s Stoney.) He has a simple explanation for why the relationship works: “We’re people persons. The way he works is so easygoing. He doesn't shoot an idea down in a negative way — he always keeps the energy positive, even if he doesn't like something.”
While Bell was in the studio putting the finishing touches on bentleys, he also joined an entirely different project, thanks to a hook-up from producer Frank Dukes (The Weeknd, Lorde), an executive producer on Cabello’s debut album, Camila. Bell wanted to help distance Cabello from the pop-inflected style her former group, Fifth Harmony. “This industry is such a copycat business,” says Bell, who worked on singles “Never Be the Same” and “Havana,” his second (and her first) chart-topper. “The risk when you make something that doesn't sound like anything else on the charts] is, you have to hope] people will embrace it. But by doing that you’re creating your own lane.”
Bell was recruited to produce the hip-hop superstar’s vocals on the fiery “Thru Your Phone,” co-written with Andrew Watt and Ali Tamposi and featuring production by Benny Blanco. “Cardi is like, ‘I trust you guys and this is what you do’ — she has no ego in the process,” says Bell working with her on the song, which wound up on her blockbuster debut, Invasion Privacy. “She’ll literally try it as many times as you want] because this is your field expertise.”
Mutual fans Bell and Mendes initially met to talk shop and wound up hitting it f. “He showed me ‘Lost in Japan,’ which he had started with Teddy Geiger, and said he’d love for me to take a look to see] what I’d do differently with it.” Bell then sat with the track and added his own touch. “Lost in Japan” was the second single (reaching No. 68 on the Hot 100) from Mendes’ self-titled third album, which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 earlier in June. “I loved the funkiness it,” says Bell the song. “I felt it could be helpful tightening everything up.”
This article originally appeared in the June 15 issue Billboard.