Melanie Fontana and Michel ‘Lindgren’ Schulz are not your average songwriters. They have written over three hundred songs together behind-the-scenes, and of those that have seen the light, two songs have made it into the Billboard Charts as #1 singles back to back. They are not just a perfect duo as musical colleagues; they are a real-life married couple.
Meet Melanie Fontana, a fearless Connecticut-born gal with a chic blonde bob and a husky voice that can transform any real-life scene into a perfectly improvised song. By her side is ‘Lindgren’ Schulz, co-producer and music engineer originally from Berlin, who basically works part-time as their talented furniture builder with a snazzy hair bun. Together, they have breathed life into the songs “Boy With Luv (feat. Halsey)” and “Euphoria” by BTS, “Crown” by TXT, and “Bon Bon Chocolat” by EVERGLOW, just to name a few from their catalog full extensive sounds that range from sentimental ballads to rugged dance beats.
From the onset of the interview, we were able to sense that these two do not shy away from the spotlight that they deserve, thanks to the record-breaking tracks they've written with and for BTS. They embrace the collaborative process fueled by the synergy produced with the artists and the mutual understanding that is present among the fans. Justin Garza, founder of The Dream Adopters who manages both songwriters, is confident enough to say that the two are well-versed in each K-pop artist’s historical sonic development and individual music backgrounds. Although they have produced huge records for major Western artists such as Justin Bieber and The Chainsmokers, Melanie and Lindgren have maintained a love for a universal music tone that is embraced by all, “regardless of race, sex, color, or religious beliefs.” Garza says, “Melanie and Lindgren together and separately are a true creative force to be reckoned with. They have an organic approach to ensuring that the artist feels comfortable and free to create without confines, all while pulling the best lyrics, melodies and performance out of the artist.“
Melanie, the original female voice in “Boy With Luv”, shared the stage with BTS back in April on 'Saturday Night Live' as the backing vocalist. She and Lindgren have worked day and night for magical moments like these, but not without savoring the joys along the way with the emotional depth that feeds the intricate and arduous songwriting process. From writing these hits for Big Hit Entertainment to building direct relationships with BTS for the first time, the duo had a lot to share with AllKpop. They laid out the details of their lifestyle to their typical work routine, and just like their original songs, they exuded a bubbly personality and a down-to-earth modesty that proved to be an innate quality that makes everyone feel welcomed in their lovely, pastel home-studio in sunny Burbank.
How does it feel to create new music for BTS, knowing that this is going to impact a lot of people globally, young and old?
L: I would just say that the primary emotion is pride. It’s just so, so cool. It’s just such a cool thing to happen to a person that makes music for a living. And, suddenly, you see the reactions on Twitter. My phone is literally dead four times a day just because of the notifications. I should just turn it off, but then I can’t engage! M: It feels amazing! This feels like this was what I was meant to be doing. While talking to the fans, I was frankly honored. Honored that BTS had chosen our melodies, honored that they let us collaborate. Because, it was a very collaborative song. The guys also wrote on it, and we wrote on it.
What was the creative inspiration behind “Boy With Luv”?
M: The melodies just came out of our heads. We sit with the beats that [the company] sends us, we set up in our studio, then we listen to the track. I say, ‘hold on, I have a melody idea for this part’. And then, you finesse it. L: You just fill in the gaps. M: You just throw things against the wall, and whatever is the most beautiful, you leave it. I’m a firm believer in gut instincts. I don’t like too much over-thinking, because if it doesn’t sound natural, it’s probably not good. L: That’s why we work so well together. She has all the gut instincts, and I’m more of the editor. I cut it down, put stuff here and there, and then arrange things to make them flow together. I’m more of the glue, and she’s the wood. And, Pdogg produced the track, so we went back and forth with Big Hit Entertainment for hours on that pre-chorus. And then, we fine-tweaked that here in our studio. It was around 3 AM in the morning. M: Yep, definitely 3 in the morning. And, we were just trying to make sure that they were happy with it. They said they liked it, and then they came back with some changes. I didn’t know this was happening at first, but now I know that RM had a whole studio set up. I feel like they were with them in the studio at the same time, when were technically going back and forth with the guys through their A&Rs. One day, I would just love to be in the room with the guys!
And, RM gave Melanie a shout-out on ‘V’ Live!
M: Yes! And, I think that was important because there are some people that don’t understand that there are other songwriters involved. And there are fans that don’t understand or even want to understand that I’m helping. They say, ‘you’re not BTS’, and I relate! I know I’m not BTS. I couldn’t do what they were doing, even if they gave me a million dollars. They are another level of human. They are like another tier of being. But, it certainly helped for him to shout me out, because it legitimized me as a writer on the song.
What were your first impressions of the MV for “Boy With Luv”? Were you also counting down just like all the other ARMYs, waiting for the video to be released?
L: We were already in New York. And, yes, we were counting down, but it was going to come out at 5 in the morning. M: We were trying to stay up late, but I knew I had to perform the next day. So, I said, ‘there was no way I could stay up late for this -- I’ll just have to look at it in the morning.’ And, first thing I did was -- literally, I woke up and reached for my phone. L: We reached it with one eye open, and then a second later, I opened the other one. M: Our eyes just popped open immediately and we were both so excited.
Speaking of New York, we want to hear all about your experience at SNL! Was it exciting to finally meet BTS for the first time, to say the least?
M: SNL has a very strict policy, so Lindgren was only able to come and meet the boys when they were at the rehearsal space. L: I wouldn’t have felt more honored if the queen of England had walked in. They are the kings of the world right now! And then, them shaking my hand and saying ‘thank you’, and me saying, ‘No, no, no, thank you!’ They are the sweetest. M: They are nice guys -- genuinely nice. When I first met them, we had this split second moment of them recognizing me -- I obviously recognized them -- but then they looked at me, saying ‘are you the..?’ AKP: they knew. M: Because I was singing when they came in! L: They instantly recognized her by the voice. M: As they were walking in, I was singing the part, ‘oh, my, my, my!’ I’m such a fan of BTS, so to have them respect me as a co-writer was just the greatest feeling in the world. We even ended up talking about how crappy we all sleep and a little bit about the status of the music industry, about songwriters and songwriters’ rights. RM is very informed. He’s in it. And, so did the other guys. I’d sit at the edge of the stage to talk to RM, then he’d translate to the rest of the guys. L: People have been saying 'honor and a privilege' way too much so it’s lost its meaning, but it really is. M: It's an honor and a privilege, but how else do you explain it? That’s what it is.
Even though you’ve already worked with many big artists in the U.S., how was it like having Halsey on board with the song?
L: Halsey has been one of my white whales. M: I’ve always wanted to write for her, but I never thought it would happen like this, because Halsey is such an image. When I found out that Halsey had collaborated with them, I literally fell on my knees in the bathroom and cried. I was so excited. Because I knew that that meant that BTS was going to cross over. Well, first of all, BTS, they don’t need anybody to legitimize themselves. They don’t. They are already legitimate. But the fact that Halsey jumped in on her own free will and decided that she wanted to lend her fans ears to BTS – that was the moment when I realized, ‘wow, we must have really co-written the right song.’ Because she wouldn’t have done that for just anyone or any song. So, I was so grateful. I cried. The whole weekend at SNL, the guys would be rehearsing in front of me, and I would just try to hold it together. (laughs)
How would you describe the difference between BTS and TXT in terms of music?
L: BTS has already laid their groundwork, and TXT is a touch more palatable off the bat. It’s a touch more – ‘this is pop’. And BTS are pioneers. M: Yeah. BTS comes out with stuff that sounds like nothing you’ve ever heard, but still reminds you of something from the past. All at the same time. It’s reminiscent of your past and it also makes you say: ‘what is that?’ L: And TXT has a more clean-cut sound. M: Yes. Clean-cut beats, clean-cut rhythms and flow. L: Quite honestly, a little more Western, I would say? M: Just a little more. But, BTS are just pioneers. L: BTS is a little more disruptive. Now that we’ve broken the wall with BTS, here’s TXT as a dessert! M: And the “Cat & Dog” visuals are insane. L: Also, to have written both recent singles? It is so amazing. M: It’s rare. And I hope that they understand that. And, if they ever read this – the team, the label, BTS, TXT, all of the guys – we are just honored to have been asked again. It’s not like I expect it. I know that it is a serious blessing.
How would you describe BTS’s Track #2 “Mikrokosmos”, which you two also wrote?
M: First of all, “Mikrokosmos” was a very heartfelt, beautiful ballad of the album. One that’s on the light side of the forest, while “Dionysus” is more on the dark side. L: Quite honestly, “Mikrokosmos” was mostly done when we got to it. It was done about 70%. The label just said we needed to help writing a couple parts that needed figuring out. They said, ‘since you guys did so well with “Boy with Luv”, would you like to fix the song? Don’t change this part, but here’s this empty part that we need you to write.’ ”Mikrokosmos” was also written by DJ Swivel, Candace Nicole Sosa. Two very good friends of mine -- a great team by the way! L: the “Euphoria” team! M: Yes, the “Euphoria” team. The really hilarious thing is, we both didn’t know we were on the same song until we saw the split sheet.
So, of course we have to talk about "Euphoria”, a song that’s become an all-time favorite for many. Did you know that it was going to be Jungkook’s solo?
L: Melanie and Jungkook sang “Euphoria” together at the SNL rehearsal. M: Jungkook just murdered it. L: The piano player just started it. They just started the chords on the piano and the two started singing together. M: Then, I said to Jungkook, ‘you are the cause of my euphoria.’ And, he smiled and just went, ‘ah!’ But, I had no idea that it would be a solo. I wasn’t sure if it was going be a group song, but I’m perfectly satisfied with how it turned out. L: It was so gorgeous.
What lyrics originally accompanied the song? Was the original title “Euphoria”?
M: As with all K-Pop songs we write, we write them in English first. Just because we know that language and it’s easy to write. But, with lyrics, I tend to make things a little busier, because I know that Korean is a language that is slightly more percussive than English. English is more drawn out. L: Also, you have words that end on different stresses, and with Korean, it’s pretty much two syllables at a time. And you just take that into account when you write K-Pop. But, we always write full English songs that actually make sense. M: The original [title] idea was actually “Time To Kill”, and it was about being young and youthful and saying, ‘don’t worry about the consequences -- you‘ve got plenty of time to kill.’ But it was a joyful love song. And, I think the Korean lyricists really got that and turned it into “Euphoria”. But we just knew that was meant for big things. You know when you just have that feeling? I had a feeling about that song. When I first played it to Lindgren, he said… L: Man, you can’t give this to anybody. M: So, when the BTS team showed interest in it, we said, ‘holy crap, yes, yes, yes’. The answer is a million times yes.
How long does it take, on average, to write one K-pop genre song?
L: One to two days? M: On average. L: But, with maybe 4-hour bursts of writing. So, we might do a 4-hour writing, then get feedback. And then, we do another 4 hours. And, then we will call it a day. The next day, we will go in saying, ‘hm…do we love everything we did yesterday?’ So, we re-listen and do a third edit. We might get notes back on that and so…it’s about one to two days, but it could sometimes just be 3-4 hours. M: “Crown” did not take long. It was instantaneous. L:” Crown” was very much, just us. M: I felt very proud of that. And when that video came out, again, I cried. L: And for TXT, it was the first single ever and it was the biggest debut of a K-Pop song. It was so groundbreaking. M: Yes. It was #1 on digital sales for a few weeks, and then “Boy With Luv” became #1 on digital singles! He and I had the most digitally downloaded singles within the last month. I'm getting spoiled now! (laughs) And Everglow, “Bon Bon Chocolat”, that debut topped 5 in Billboard World. L: It was #1 on viral 50 for almost a week on Spotify, too. M: So when my friend sent me a screenshot of that, I said to myself, 'am I good at writing K-Pop songs? I think I might have a knack for this thing!' (laughs) L: We do have the perpetual artistic self-doubt. M: Yeah. I’m just never sure.
So, out of the K-pop songs you've written so far, which one is your personal favorite?
L: Let’s just put “Boy With Luv” just as a hard #1. M: Yeah, that's definitely a song. L: But honestly, I’m just so proud of “Bon Bon Chocolat”. M: It’s like this for me: “Boy With Luv” and “Crown” are tied. “Mikrokosmos”, “Ninano” by Minzy for me, which Lindgren also produced the beat for. Wait…“Euphoria” is on there too! L: It's so hard! They are all our babies. You can’t choose favorites! M: I can't pick a favorite, but the top five would be: “Euphoria”, “Boy with Luv”, “Ninano”, “Mikrokosmos”, and “Bon Bon Chocolat.” In no particular order.
On top of music, are you both interested in other areas of South Korean culture nowadays, such as K-entertainment programs, K-fashion, K-beauty, and K-food?
M: Yes, we’re very big on Korean fashion. We are planning on going to Seoul in two weeks. When the days we’re not writing there, we’re going to go shopping. I just love Korean fashion. L: Face masks? All day. M: I go to this one k-beauty shop! I’ve been into masking for years, and I didn’t realize that it was a K-beauty thing. I look at the labels, usually, but I never really noticed that half is in English and the other half is in Korean. And I’ve always loved Korean BBQ, so although we have to drive over to Koreatown, we literally go down there twice a week. L: The Korean BBQ place knows us by our name.
How was it like meeting each other for the first time and starting to create songs together?
M: We definitely met and connected on a music level, so we became friends right off the bat. We work so well together. So, when Big Hit reached out to me, to do more stuff for BTS and TXT, I said, we have to do this together. L: Before our engagement, we probably wrote about three hundred songs? M: Yeah. Just in September, he and I have written a hundred songs together. He gets my weird strange things and I love his weird, strange things. And, I think that having a unique sound is important. Also, for collaborators that come in! We have a very well-oiled dynamic. We want to make people feel at home. We want to make people feel that we are instant friends, that there’s no weirdness. It’s not three people meeting for the first time when they walk into our studio.
How does your daily life affect your work life? Has living in Los Angeles been a huge factor?
L: We are both very affected by weather. M: I don’t want to write when the weather is gross! L: It’s not fun when the weather is not good. That’s just what it is, and we just write better when it’s sunny like this – not a single cloud up in sight! LA does get too hot in September, but that’s about it. M: This is the perfect place to write songs for BTS. L: Also, there’s a stereotype of artists for not being structured, that they keep their head in the clouds, but we have a structure. M: First, I wake up a little before him; I make myself a cup of coffee, then I come outside with my cat Vanderbilt. Then, I would sit out here in the backyard. After I let Lindgren get his extra 30 minutes of sleep, I make him a cup of coffee. I bring it to him in bed, and give him his phone. There’s usually a bunch of e-mails for us. I say, ‘here you go!" L: I check my e-mails and drink coffee in bed for about an hour. That’s my office time. M: And then, we usually start sessions around 1:30 PM? Artists will come in or we will get tracks we need to work on. Then, we will go right into the studio, make a cup of coffee… L: It all revolves around coffee. M: Yeah, somehow coffee is the center of it all! L: We work until 7 or 8 PM? M: At night, usually. Maybe sometimes a little later, depending on whether we are going back and forth with Korea on changes. Because I would much rather have instant feedback from them than wait. L: And then, we are on the couch by 10 PM. M: 10 or 11. Then, Netflix! I just have to shut down. After pouring your heart out all day. L: I need to not create. M: Yes, I need to watch someone else’s creation.
What is the most exciting thing about writing songs for K-pop? Or, better yet, to be a part of this giant collaborative process that is K-pop?
M: The potential of it. The potential is so exciting. The idea that the end goal could break a record. Because, who knew that was going to happen? So, that opens up the world of possibilities for other K-pop acts. Like, ‘this is possible.’ L: Also, it’s so exciting to see K-pop influencing Western music now. Not the other way around. Because, I haven't been doing K-pop as long as Melanie, but even I realized that this reputation of K-pop used to be always, ‘oh, they are a little behind, or they copy Western music.’ But, that’s not the case anymore at all. They innovate, and we follow. M: We also know that without the talent of the artists that we’ve been lucky enough to work with, such as Hyorin, Minzy, EVERGLOW, BP Rania, BTS, TXT, or IOI, our art would have just sat dormant on our computers. So, while they might say, ‘oh without the songs, we wouldn't have this’, it’s a cycle of talent feeding other talent. And, I love the collaborative part about songwriting. Because, we don't go out a lot. I almost look at my songwriting as my social time. That’s why I would invite co-writers, I would invite them as humans, so we can all have a moment to talk and chat about life. L: It's not work. Our social time is our therapy and fun, overall. And, that’s how it has to be. Because, if it’s not fun, then why make music? M: Yeah! Why would you pick a career that’s so volatile and so hard, if you aren’t having fun? And so, for me, it’s all about the fun.
What are your future goals, and how do you see yourselves in the far or near future as songwriters, producers, or artists?
M: Off we go to Seoul to do some writing, with a few different production teams and hopefully some people at Big Hit as well. Then, we’re going to Tokyo, to potentially work on some BTS’s Japanese works. And, off we fly to Europe to do some sessions in London, then we’re going do a writing camp in Cannes and speak at MIDEM. And then I think we’re going to Paris and then fly home. L: As for the goals, I just want to work on establishing what I feel like should be pop music. Because, everybody has their vision and everybody has their sound. I just want to make what I hear in my head to be heard on the radio. M: I feel like he's a young Mark Ronson-meets-Skrillex. For me, my goal is to just find peace in knowing that my music is going to find a home. I would love for this success to drive more of our music, into the arms of other artists as well, and obviously to continue to write for BTS. Also, I would love to buy a house in Brooklyn. I would love to have a second home in New York City, because being back on the east coast with the guys made me realize how much I miss that way of life. The walking, the subway, the metropolitan, the restaurants in the corner, the bodegas, the New York energy, made me realize how much I missed it. So, I would just love to have a little escape place. For some creativity. In a different state.
How has it been getting feedback from your listeners, and overall, being part of the history of BTS? Any last words you'd like to share?
M: For the most part, it’s been a pleasure. L: Pretty much nothing but love. M: Nothing but love, with a very small exception of a few people who say, ‘you didn’t do that! Be humble!’ To that, I say this. Look, I know that BTS has paved the way. I owe so much to them for letting me do this. However, you don’t know me. And, I’ve been doing this for over a decade. I gave up my high school. I gave up a regular life. I gave up most of the normalcy of my teenage-hood because I wanted to be a musician. I wanted to be a songwriter and I was dedicated to my craft, because I knew I could do something great. So, when people tell me to shut up, sit down, and be humble, to that, I say, ‘hell no.' I’m going to stand up with BTS, and as long as they are letting me stand up with them, I’ll be by their side as their writer behind-the-scenes. I don’t care if that means a few fans will say, ‘be humble, you don’t deserve BTS, you didn’t write their songs.’ Well? Go ahead and Google it. Because, you know what? I don’t really care. I’m happy and proud of myself, so I’m going to talk about my collaboration. L: I mean…what matters is RM walking up to you and shaking your hand and saying 'thank you'. M: And, in the end, what matters is my relationship with the guys, my friendship with the label, and making sure that I always deliver the best, dopest quality material to them as humanly possible. I’m very used to being on successful albums. But, I’m not used to being on the one who co-wrote the single. With the love of my life, to top the cherry on top of that sundae! For the best band in the world.
Follow Melanie and 'Lindgren' on their respective social media pages above! Are you excited for more sounds they will come up with together in the future?