How Johnta Austin, a songwriting saint, rewrote his career

It's early 1990s, and Johnta Austin, a preteen, is working in the studio on his debut album. He's joined by Chad Hugo and Pharrell Williams.

How Johnta Austin, a songwriting saint, rewrote his career

The artists created magic by sharing ideas, listening to beats, and writing melodies with Joe, a future Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter.

Austin was not yet puberty.

Austin explained that Austin signed him when he was 13 years old and dropped me at 15 years. "My voice changed, and the administration who signed me left."

He wrote one of his songs, the sultry R&B ballad "Sweet Lady,", and it caught the attention of Tyrese, who was Austin's replacement on the RCA Records roster.

He said, "I was like, ‘I don’t want to sing a song for him.’"

Austin took his businessman hat off and gave away the song. "Sweet Lady", which was released in 1998, became a hit and earned Tyrese his first Grammy nomination. It also helped Tyrese's debut album go platinum.

Fast forward almost three decades, Austin has won two Grammy Awards. He also co-wrote a few other multi-platinum hits that were considered R&B icons, such as "We Belong Together" by Mariah Carey and "Be Without You" by Mary J. Blige. And his debut album, which he began working on when he was 13, finally came out in 2019, Austin being 39.

It's been a long wait. He said "Love, Sex & Religion" was the reason he was so happy to finally have this album.

Austin, who turns 41 next Wednesday, talks to The Associated Press about his career, the Grammys and getting dance tips and advice from Janet Jackson. He also discusses writing hits for Carey Blige and Aaliyah.

We miss you

Austin wrote the song “Miss You” originally for Ginuwine's album. But then Aaliyah saw the track and wanted it to be recorded.

"She loved Miss You. She was like, "This is amazing. Austin said, "I want to cut it."

Austin had already sent her another song, 'I Don’t Wanna' and his crew wanted that late icon to record it. They made a deal.

Austin said that Austin's manager was at the time like, "You have to cut ('I Don’t Wanna') to get ('Miss You’)."

After Aaliyah's tragic passing a year earlier, "Miss You," was released in 2002. The music video was a tribute and celebration of her life and legacy. Jay-Z and Missy Elliott made cameos.

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