Evan Bogart remembers the first time he ever heard a stranger singing a song he had written. “I was walking down Melrose Avenue and four girls in a Jetta pulled up next to me singing ‘SOS’ at the top of their lungs,” recalls the L.A.-based co-writer of Rihanna’s global No. 1 smash. “That was pretty amazing. I want the songs I write to affect people in an emotional way. I want them to drive down the highway with the top down screaming the lyrics. I want people to feel fully engaged. And I want my songs to be events.”

Bogart has achieved these goals numerous times over the course of his songwriting career, having had a hand in some of the most indelible hits of the past decade including “SOS,” Beyoncé’s “Halo,” Jason Derulo’s “It Girl,” MKTO’s “Classic,” and Hot Chelle Rae’s “Tonight Tonight.” Proof of his versatility lies in the stylistic range of the artists who have cut his songs — from female pop superstars (Madonna, Britney Spears, Jennifer Lopez, Demi Lovato) to male solo acts (Jason Derulo, Adam Lambert, Sean Kingston, Travie McCoy) to pop-rock bands (Hot Chelle Rae, Simple Plan, R5) to indie-minded alternative artists (The Mowgli’s, Robert DeLong, Oh Land), and even to boy bands (Big Time Rush, Emblem3, NLT). Bogart has also written for Carly Rae Jepsen, Donna Summer, Enrique Iglesias, Fantasia, Leona Lewis, The Pussycat Dolls, Lindsey Stirling, Tokimonsta, Hilary Duff, Brandy, and many others. Bogart’s “Halo,” which he co-wrote with Beyoncé and Ryan Tedder, was nominated for three Grammy Awards, and won for “Best Female Pop Vocal Performance.” Bogart’s songs have also won several BMI Pop Awards.

The son of the late Neil Bogart (who founded Casablanca Records and signed KISS, Donna Summer, the Village People, and George Clinton’s Parliament) and Joyce Bogart-Trabulus (who co-managed KISS and Donna Summer), Evan “Kidd” Bogart is also that rare creative who combines a killer ear with ample business instincts. In addition to writing hit songs, his career trajectory includes time spent in the A&R department at Interscope Records (where he was instrumental in the label’s signing of Eminem) and working as an agent for APA (multi-platinum band OneRepublic was an early discovery). He also co-founded several management, music publishing, and artist development companies, where his clients have included the pre-Maroon 5 group Kara’s Flowers and writer-producer J.R. Rotem, and currently include Grammy-nominated songwriter-producer and recording artist Ricky Reed, blues-rock singer ZZ Ward, rising music producer/recording artist FRND (who has collaborated with blackbear, Steve James, and SweaterBeats), and singer-songwriter Jessica “Harlœ” Karpov (whose credits include Charli XCX, Britney Spears, and Kelly Clarkson).

Bogart’s success is borne out of a mix of sheer talent, gut instinct, pop smarts, and considerable personality. He is a good-humored and engaging raconteur with an endless supply of stories about everything from spending time around his dad’s friends Neil Diamond and Burt Bacharach as a kid, to attending his first-ever concert (The Jackson 5 at Dodger Stadium), to slipping an Eminem demo tape into Jimmy Iovine’s take-home pouch, to having a quarter-life crisis at 27, moving home, and working at his stepfather’s cousin’s lighting store on Melrose, to quitting drugs and alcohol and making a spectacular comeback with “SOS.” His positive nature and ability to connect with creative people have made him someone artists and producers want to have around.

“I think one of my greatest strengths is that I bring fun into a room,” Bogart says. “I bring understanding. I bring compassion. And I go in there trying to make everybody else in the room better. That’s key to being a great co-writer: reading the room and understanding whether it’s my turn to take the lead or if I should sit back and support someone else’s idea. I’m really quick to figure that out.”

Though Bogart’s parents were both in the music business, Evan’s father died when he was four and his mother quit managing artists shortly after he was born. “So I grew up on the periphery of the music business, but not really a music business kid,” he says. He was, however, a devout fan, with older siblings who introduced him to mid-’80s New Wave and ’90s hip-hop. “I became obsessed with music, buying everything that came out and transcribing the lyrics to all my favorite songs so I could sing along to them,” he says. “I was the kid who would wear a jean jacket with Metallica, Guns N’ Roses, Nirvana, and Pearl Jam patches, then I’d have a Public Enemy medallion around my neck. That’s how I would dress in seventh grade, which is when I decided I was going to be DJ and producer and started writing rap songs.”

Bogart was, self-admittedly, not a good rapper or a good DJ, so in tenth grade he set his sights on an internship at a record label. “I was being pre-judged for being Neil Bogart’s son, but getting none of the nepotistic benefits,” he says with a laugh. “So I wanted to work at a company that had no connections to him at all.” Bogart had been “booking” his high-school friends’ bands (including an early iteration of Kara’s Flowers at the all-ages club The Troubadour) and was enamored with hip-hop, so Interscope (home to 2Pac, Snoop Dogg, and Death Row Records), was his first choice. At 16, he began interning there, then was hired in the mailroom in 1996. Shortly after, Tupac Shakur died and then-president Tom Whalley asked Bogart to work under his tutelage in the A&R department, collecting and cataloging every unreleased 2Pac song in the Interscope vaults. “I would drive to this compound where there would be guards and Tupac’s mom and his brother and his crew,” he says. “They’d sit there at night with everybody getting high and talking about stuff that I should not have been hearing as a teenager. And I was all up in it.”

Bogart project-coordinated Shakur’s multi-platinum, chart-topping posthumous album R U Still Down (Remember Me), and A&R’d The Slim Shady LP by a then-unknown rapper named Eminem, whom he first saw battle at a freestyle contest in Inglewood. “I walked in and immediately saw this pudgy, brunette, white kid from Detroit just destroying people one after the other with the most amazing disses I’d ever heard in my life,” he says. Bogart championed Eminem at Interscope, making tapes for everyone in the A&R department, and wound up slipping a cassette into a pouch that Jimmy Iovine took home each night. Others have taken the credit for Eminem’s signing, and Bogart calls it “my first real lesson about the music industry.” In early 1999, he decided to go into management.

Bogart formed BAT Management with Walt Taylor and the late Jordan Feldstein and specialized in underground West Coast hip-hop like Mystic, Planet Asia, Zion I, Living Legends, and Styles of Beyond. “But none of us knew how to run a company and it fell apart after a few years,” Bogart says. He then launched Casbah Management and steered the career of an up-and-coming keyboard player named J.R. Rotem. Around this time, Bogart’s drinking and drug habits had gotten out of control. “I ended up with no clients, no job — nothing. I was broke so I had to move back home,” he says. Humbled, he took a job answering the reservation line at his mother’s friend’s restaurant (“Morton’s, which is now Cecconi’s, where they used to have the Vanity Fair parties”), then three days a week he worked at Fantasy Lighting on Melrose. “That was my life,” he says. “And honestly, I was so embarrassed. I had no idea what to do. I didn’t know how to rebuild myself.”

Bogart decided his best plan of action was to learn the touring world, where no one knew him. An old friend of his who worked at Agency for the Performing Arts hired him as an assistant (“we both knew full well I was going to be a terrible assistant”) and within a few months Bogart was bringing in bands. “I was listening to Jeff Buckley, Muse, and Coldplay and falling really hard for this certain sound of rock music,” he says. “Initially, the last thing I cared about was actually how to book shows. I wanted to discover bands so badly that, at first, I didn’t really give a shit about being an agent.” He brought in The Outline (which eventually spawned members of Grouplove, Captain Cuts, and Milo Greene), as well as a pre-“Apologize” OneRepublic after seeing them at the Roxy in 2004, thus beginning his fruitful writing relationship with frontman Ryan Tedder.

In 2005, Bogart got sober and “my brain started waking up,” he says. “I started feeling really creative.” He began writing raps for fun, and he and Rotem decided to put together a girl group. “I thought it was going to be my big comeback,” he says. As they shopped the group to labels, executives were more interested in the songs Bogart and Rotem had written than they were in the group. They ended up selling the songs. “The second song we recorded with the group became Rihanna’s ‘SOS’,” Bogart says. “Five months later it went to Number One in 15 countries. That same day, I was made an agent at APA. But J.R. was asking me to come to the studio every day and write with him.” Bogart had to choose between the stability of a day job or the uncertainty of trying to make it as a writer. He chose the latter. “I looked at the writing thing and thought, ‘How cool is that?’ I could go to the moon or I could fall flat on my face. But I knew I wanted an extraordinary life and that if I didn’t try, I would look back and regret never taking that chance.”

Bogart threw himself into songwriting, signing with Rotem’s company Beluga Heights. Together, they wrote several hit songs for Sean Kingston and Jason Derulo. In 2007, Bogart launched The Writing Camp with David “DQ” Quiñones, and together they nurtured the careers of other songwriters, and created the reality show Platinum Hit for Bravo. By 2011, Bogart was itching to discover artists once again. He partnered with his writer-director brother, Tim, and TV writer-producer Gary Randall to establish multimedia company Boardwalk Entertainment. On the TV/film side, they created the show Majors & Minors (which followed 12 aspiring kid musicians who were mentored by stars like Avril Lavigne, Brandy, and will.i.am), and currently have a script for Spinning Gold, a biopic of Bogart’s father, set to commence production in 2018 with Justin Timberlake attached to star. The records and publishing division signed ZZ Ward, who recently scored a Number One Blues album with her sophomore release The Storm, and Ricky Reed, who has written and produced hits for Meghan Trainor, Twenty One Pilots, Fifth Harmony, Kesha, and Jason Derulo, among many others. Boardwalk independently released Reed’s former artist project Wallpaper., which had success with the singles “#STUPiDFACEDD” and “Fucking Best Song Everrr,” before partnering with Epic Records to record and release his solo artist project. Additionally, Bogart and frequent collaborator Emanuel “Eman” Kiriakou formed the artist development companies The CRE8IVE Company, which signed pop duo MKTO (who scored a global platinum hit with “Classic”), and Crooked Paintings, whose roster includes several up-and-coming recording artists and songwriters, including FRND and Harlœ.

After spending the past several years balancing the development and management of his artists, songwriters, and producers with writing and producing songs for others, Bogart is now focused on reaffirming himself as a go-to songwriter. “I think I inadvertently took myself out of the songwriting game a little bit in 2014 and 2015 by focusing so much on my own artists and songwriters, which is a trap that people sometimes fall into,” he says. “At pivotal points in my life, whether it was leaving Interscope and going into management, or getting sober and learning how to be an agent, or leaving the agency to pursue songwriting full-time, I’ve had to virtually start over from scratch. It’s not new for me to readjust and rebuild when I need to. It’s never too late to press the reset button. For me now, everything is connected to songwriting. If the songwriting isn’t there, the house of cards falls. It’s the foundation for everything I do.”

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[November 2017]