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Five Indie Artists Who Wrote Massive Pop Hits

No one ever said that an indie musician’s life was a path to riches, let alone financial security. That’s why, increasingly, many of today’s indie elite use their cred, clout and songwriting skills to pen hits for more mainstream artists. Here are five of our favourites.


Day job: Playing in one of his half-dozen or so projects, including Fucked Up, Bitters, Yacht Club, Marvelous Darlings, No Warning, Young Guv; running his Bad Actors record label.
Greatest Hit: Sum 41 – “We’re All to Blame”

Playing in Toronto hardcore heroes Fucked Up brings in a lot of cred, but before he joined the group, Cook spent some time giving the popular Canadian pop-punk group some much needed edge. He penned tracks on Sum 41’s 2004 hardcore makeover, Chuck. However, his most surprising turn was a mid-tempo ballad for Canadian Idol alumni Hedley’s second album, Famous Last Words.


Day job: Bethany Consentino’s sometimes boyfriend; mastermind behind Wavves.
Greatest hit: Big Boi – “Shoe’s For Running”

As Wavves, Williams makes some pretty misanthropic music, but there’s no denying that the dude knows his way around a hook. So it’s fitting that he and producer John Hill teamed up to write a track for Big Boi. He says he also wrote tracks for No Doubt, but nothing’s surfaced so far. Unfortunately, other ventures haven’t been as successful – subsequent contributions to other artists reportedly ended up on the cutting room floor.


Day job: Produces for and plays in Vampire Weekend; hates on superfluous punctuation.
Greatest Hit: Charli XCX – “Die Tonight”

New to the ghostwriting game, Batmanglij Brit-Brat Charli XCX is his sole major credit so far. Given his songwriting chops and studio knowledge, though, expect to hear a lot more from him, albeit via another artist, in the future.


Day Job: Not making another Pinkerton with Weezer.
Greatest Hit: B.o.B. – “Magic” ft. Rivers Cuomo

The most unabashed pop fan on this list, Cuomo makes no bones about his love of collaborating with pop artists. Besides some questionable collabs for his own band, Cuomo’s penned tracks for alt-rockers Cold, hip-pop MC B.o.B., American Idol runner up Adam Lambert, Canadian pop-punkers Simple Plan and electro house producer Steve Aoki. He even wrote a track that was earmarked for Katy Perry’s bazillion selling Teenage Dream record, but in the end, it didn’t make the cut.


Day job: Bleeding the Bay Area dry of tattoo ink. Also fronts Rancid.
Greatest hit: Pink – “Trouble”

Even though the Gilman Street scene that birthed them was famously anti-sexist, Rancid’s music has never screamed female empowerment. But founder and front man Armstrong’s words found new power in the mouth of Pink. Armstrong wrote and produced the bulk of her punky 2003 record Try This. He found significantly less success working with Canadian singer Skye Sweetnam.

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