Superstar Songwriter, Record Producer, and Author benny blanco Makes His Stern Show Debut

benny blanco just might have the Midas touch. The superstar songwriter, record producer, and music exec has 11 Grammy nominations and five BMI Songwriter of the Year awards, all of which are well earned considering he helped craft over 30 chart-topping singles while collaborating with iconic artists like Rihanna, Justin Bieber, Katy Perry, Adam Levine, SZA, Britney Spears, Sia, Ed Sheeran, and Selena Gomez, the last of whom is now his girlfriend. Indeed, blanco has been at the top of his game for over 15 years and nearly everything he touches turns to gold, even TV shows (see FXX’s “Dave”) and culinary endeavors like his brand-new cookbook, “Open Wide: A Cookbook for Friends.”

There’s no doubt everyone wants a taste of what the prodigious 36-year-old producer turned celebrity chef is serving these days, but when it comes to cooking up hit songs, benny openly admits he can’t fully explain how the sausage gets made.

“Music, I really believe it’s magic,” blanco told Howard during his Stern Show debut on Tuesday morning. “Everyone always says, ‘How do you do it?’ I swear to god I black out, and I wake up, and there’s crumbs all over me, and a song is done.”

benny was as candid and personable as could be in his epic, two-hour long conversation with Howard, which touched upon everything from his low-profile upbringing in Virginia to what it’s like to date one of the biggest celebrities on the planet. While talking about his success as a producer, he revealed he fell in love with music at an early age but doesn’t consider himself a naturally gifted musician. “I don’t really know how to [play] anything,” he told Howard. “I’m truly the definition of mediocre at everything, but … I can hear the whole song in my head.”

Part of his skillset also includes coaxing songs out of artists. “Basically, I’m a therapist. That’s my job,” blanco continued. “I try to find whatever the worst problem or insecurity is in your life is, and then I have hours to get it on a page, so that you love it, I love it, and hopefully a bunch of other people like it, too.”

In the case of singing and songwriting luminary Ed Sheeran, benny and his close friend have written almost too many hit songs together to count. “When we were making [Ed’s album] ‘Divide,’ me and Ed wrote five other number-one songs that didn’t make the album,” blanco said. “You get these moments with these artists where you have this flow with a person, and you just need to squeeze all the juice out.”

One of those extra songs was “Love Yourself,” which Ed and benny eventually gave to Justin Bieber. Looking back at how he and Sheeran wrote that song, benny revealed the turning point came around 2 a.m. while they were on a tour bus in Canada. “We’re writing it, and it just doesn’t feel genuine, and I’m like, ‘What’s going on in your life?’” blanco recalled. “He was like, ‘I don’t want to give the satisfaction to this girl who is on my mind right now, so I don’t want to write a song about it. And I was like, ‘Well, let’s write a song about not wanting to give the satisfaction to them.’”

What many people don’t know is Sheeran originally wanted to give his breakup anthem a different title: “Fuck Yourself.”

“I changed it,” blanco told Howard, explaining he doesn’t love cursing in songs and hoped to leave a little to the audience’s imagination. “[They] know you’re saying, ‘Go fuck yourself’ — you don’t have to say it.”

The Heart Wants What It Wants With Selena Gomez

benny has known actress and singer Selena Gomez for years, but when the two became romantically involved in 2023 it caught even him by surprise. “When we went out on our first date, I didn’t even know it was a date,” he confessed to Howard. “I remember sitting there and she’s like, ‘Well, I would have worn something different for this date,’ and I was like, ‘What? We’re on a date?’”

Despite the initial confusion, blanco’s clearly a man in love. “She’s the coolest, the nicest, the sweetest,” he said of Gomez. “She’s truly just like my best friend … we laugh all fucking day.”

Adding to the laughter are Gomez’s “Only Murders in the Building” co-stars, Martin Short and Steve Martin. “They’re the last of a fucking generation — those guys are genius-level brilliant,” benny noted. “Steve is so funny … Marty is dropping gems every day and you can’t help but have a stomachache from laughing every time.”

After blanco revealed that he wants kids in the future and broke down the thoughtful lengths he went to for Valentine’s Day, when he swept Selena off her feet by renting out a movie theater for a night of fried pickles and “Almost Famous,” Howard predicted wedding bells for the couple. “You and me both,” the producer agreed.

Living His Teenage Dream With Katy Perry

When producing multi-platinum records for pop superstars, Katy Perry proved to be anything but “The One That Got Away.” She and benny have collaborated on four of her No. 1 hits, including 2008’s “Hot n Cold” and “I Kissed a Girl” — two of his first breakthrough production efforts — and “California Gurls” and “Teenage Dream,” which both featured benny as a co-writer.

Speaking on their continued success, benny revealed Katy had already put together a demo for “I Kissed a Girl” before he got the opportunity to lend his talents. “I had just stopped flying at the time, big fear of flying … I’m supposed to go out to L.A. to work on Katy’s album [and] by the time I get there they go, ‘Hey, shit, we actually finished the album.’”

blanco was “bummed out” he couldn’t lend more of a hand, but he didn’t let that deter him. “I go into the side room and start making some beats, and the first two tracks we started were ‘California Gurls’ and ‘Teenage Dream’ — which is probably my favorite one I’ve done with her,” he said, explaining he crafted the latter track with the help of famed producers Dr. Luke and Max Martin, who overheard him working on the beat in a “teeny” snack lounge. “We write a song. It’s good … We re-write the song seven times [over] seven full days,” blanco said of “Teenage Dream.” “We had so many versions of the song, and then it just clicked.”

For “California Gurls,” benny revealed the goal of the song was to make an epic West Coast anthem. “I listen to the song, and I feel the palm trees, I feel like I’m in L.A.,” benny said, adding that the cherry on top was getting iconic Southern California rapper Snoop Dogg to lay down a verse. “Snoop is the coolest guy … He says my name cooler than it’s ever been said,” benny laughed. “I’ve never felt more like a loser than when I’m with Snoop … It feels like my limbs don’t work when I’m around him. I feel like everything I’m doing is awkward.”

Shining Bright With Sia and Rihanna on ‘Diamonds’

Barbadian superstar Rihanna has a boatload of No. 1 hits to her name, but few have been as successful as her 10-times platinum 2012 track “Diamonds,” which benny both co-produced with Stargate and co-wrote with Stargate and Sia. “Sia writes a song in under five minutes. It’s the craziest thing I’ve ever seen in my entire life,” benny marveled before sharing the story of how “Diamonds” came to be. “[Sia] was waiting for a cab — this was before Uber — and they said it was going to be 15 minutes. She said, ‘Oh, just load up another [track].’ Song, melody, lyrics, harmonies — everything [was] all done before the cab comes, and she’s like, “Yeah, that’s pretty good.’”

Howard was curious why Sia gave away the surefire hit to Rihanna instead of releasing it herself.

“You never know how a song is going to feel or how it’s going to hit you — and you know Rihanna is such a special artist that the second her voice touches something it’s like a firework. She has so much tone and personality,” benny explained before going on to reveal they’d also tried giving the track to rappers Kanye West and Eminem at one point. “But then once Rihanna sang it, I was like ‘Oh my god, this is something,’” blanco concluded.

Recording With Billie Eilish When She Was 13

blanco has collaborated with artists all over the spectrum, from Snoop Dogg and Britney Spears — who were already megastars when benny met them — to burgeoning artists like Billie Eilish and her brother Finneas O’Connell, who hadn’t yet found fame.

“I recorded with Billie Eilish when she was 13 years old,” benny said, explaining he was first made aware of her talents by his lawyer, who also represented her. “I listened to a song, and I said, ‘Oh my god —bring them over!’ They came over together, and they are some of the most talented people I’ve stepped in the room with.”

To this day, benny has nothing but love for Billie and her family. “Billie’s great and Finneas is a very close friend of mine,” he said. “Their whole family is incredible. They’re like the perfect example of like how to raise your kids and still stay grounded and be famous.”

benny Reveals What He’d Do 4 Prince

When Howard played Prince’s “Partyman” off his “Batman” soundtrack for benny, the producer lit up. “He’s actually my favorite artist of all time,” he said of the late icon. “Everything ’92 and before is perfection.”

After noting that Prince once remixed one of his songs but never released it, benny elaborated on the artist’s intricacy. “Prince felt so childish but complex … There’s a certain innocence to everything he does … He was the entire package,” blanco remarked. “He made the song, he wrote the song, he produced the song, he would mix the songs — he was everything.”

In fact, relaying the experience of a friend who worked on “When Doves Cry,” benny revealed the bold move Prince made in the production. “He said, ‘I don’t like the bass guitar anymore,’ and he took it out,” blanco recounted. “The label said, ‘Hey, you’ve got to put this back in,’ and he said, ‘I’ll stop releasing music unless you release it this way.’”

But his adulation and respect for Prince might also explain why benny wouldn’t have made music with him. “I don’t want to be the guy who makes his shitty album when he’s 80,” he explained before adding that he likely would have just been a yes-man. “I would do anything Prince said … I’d probably fuck him … I would just do anything he said at any moment.”

The Dark Knight Exposed

Speaking of Batman tracks, Howard was curious about the song benny infamously co-wrote with Ed Sheeran and Dave Burd (a.k.a. Lil Dicky) for “The Lego Batman Movie.”

“I never write songs for movies, but I really loved the first ‘Lego Movie,’” benny said. “And we submitted this song, and it was all about Batman’s penis.”

How did it go over?

“The people wrote us back and they said, ‘You’re disgusting. This is childish. Please don’t ever send us any songs ever again. You should be ashamed of yourself,’” he said, revealing the story took another turn six months later when the studio reversed course and told benny they’d use the song if he changed just a few lines.

“It’s a cool way to write,” Howard said after hearing the story. “You can’t censor yourself.”

“That’s always my thing. I’m like let’s write about a cock. That’s always my first idea,” benny agreed before getting more serious about his love for creating music. “When you’re coming on to like that hit song, you get this feeling in your stomach, in your chest. It feels like you’re kissing someone for the first time, or you’re about to get hit by a car. That’s the feeling — that’s the feeling we chase.”

How Therapy ‘Saved’ benny’s Life

As a major producer in the spotlight, benny hasn’t shied away from talking about his struggles with anxiety and panic attacks. But that wasn’t the case when he was younger. “I always kept it to myself,” he admitted to Howard. “I was like, ‘Oh, of course the room spins when you’re about to take a test when you’re 12.’”

After having such great success at such an early age, benny experienced a mental breakdown when he was just 21 years old. “You’re not supposed to be that successful when you’re that young,” blanco remarked. “All these things are happening … You can get anything for free, there’s women, there’s this, there’s that, and it was all happening to me so quickly.”

With the help of a therapist, he found cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). “Saved my life,” the producer said emphatically. “It was very important to me to be able to get this toolbox where whenever I was having anxious thoughts, I could reach [in] and help myself get over it.”

While he’s overall in a much better place, blanco is aware that his issues with anxiety and imposter syndrome will never go away. Thankfully, he knows how to keep busy. “I always want to give myself a new thing because sometimes the music’s not coming,” he said. “[So], I go and I act in a TV show, I go and I write a cookbook … I always just want to challenge myself to stay inspired.”

‘Open Wide’ and Epic Dinner Parties With Friends

“Open Wide” serves up more than just delicious food recipes, it also contains benny’s recipes for success when throwing an epic dinner party. His cookbook is stuffed with advice on everything from who to invite and how to make them leave after it’s over to what drinks, food, and weed one should serve to enhance their shindig. In terms of marijuana, benny recommended erring on the side of caution: “I’ll say, ‘Hey, this is strong weed. Maybe just take a hit and see where it takes you. Don’t try and be a hero. Let’s take one hit because we’re going to smoke a lot.’”

If surrounded by celebrity musicians, he urged restraint. Never put them on the spot and ask them to perform, but keep the instruments plugged in just in case things take a turn.

“If something needs to be turned on and started, it’s ready,” benny said of his own parties. “I remember Charlie Puth was at my house one time, and he did this thing where it was like, ‘Oh, let’s all have a sing-along,’ … And it was so fun because music brings everyone together.”

So, which celebrities does blanco dream of hosting for his next dinner party? “I’ve had three that I wanted,” he told Howard. “[You], Larry David, and [President] Obama.”

“That’s a good list, but don’t invite me — I can ruin every party,” Howard joked.

Will benny and Howard Collaborate on a No. 1 Hit?

While benny has worked with many of the greats, one artist still eludes him: the King of All Media himself. But Howard hoped to rectify that soon. “Next time I see you I also want to jam and create a number one song,” he told benny with a laugh.

“This is my dream. I swear to you,” blanco responded. “I think I could.”

“You couldn’t do it. No one has been able to. It’s impossible,” Howard said, explaining how several people before him had tried. But after a little more conversation, Howard decided to play benny a song he’d been working on.

“How long you been working on it?” benny asked.

“His whole life,” co-host Robin Quivers joked.

“It sounds like the beginning of a Bruce Springsteen song,” benny said after hearing it, though he admitted there was still work to be done. “We gotta get in and do some more to it, [but] my dream is to be the one who cracks it for you.”

benny blanco’s “Open Wide: A Cookbook for Friends” is available now.