weather icon Clear

How a Las Vegas production duo scored a No. 1 hit with Justin Bieber

Updated July 10, 2020 - 1:54 pm

One hour and a friend’s kitchen table.

That’s all they had to make it work.

That’s all it took.

In 60 minutes, a pair of Las Vegas music lifers reworked what would become one of the year’s biggest hits, an airy R&B mood enhancer that has become as synonymous with the summer of 2020 as face masks bearing the scent of suntan lotion.

The song, Justin Bieber’s “Intentions,” unfolds loosely, languidly, propelled by a bright, oscillating beat — a beat created by local production duo The Audibles.

“Intentions” has been streamed nearly 455 million times on Spotify and has been named one of the best tunes of the year by music publications ranging from Billboard to Uproxx.

On June 27, it hit No. 1 on the Pop Songs airplay chart.

Over a dozen years into a career in which they have worked with the likes of Chris Brown, Sam Smith, Zac Brown Band and dozens more and yet still somehow fly below the radar, The Audibles had their first chart-topper.

They didn’t just see it coming, they felt it.

“If we get the goosebumps, then there’s a good chance that someone else will get the goosebumps,” says The Audibles’ Dominic “DJ” Jordan, flanked by partner Jimmy “Jimmy G” Giannos in Eastside recording complex Studio A on a recent Monday morning. “With that record, we got the goose bumps.”

Good ‘Intentions’

Bieber dug the tune.

Nothing new there.

He’d vibed with a number of Audibles productions in the past, having worked with the duo on over half a dozen songs on previous albums “Journals” in 2013 and “Purpose” in 2015.

But this one was special.

There was just one wrinkle: After The Audibles submitted the music for “Intentions” on one of their frequent work trips to Los Angeles last year, Bieber had concerns.

“He was like, ‘This sounds like ‘Ice Cream Truck,’ ” Jordan recalls of Bieber’s initial reaction to the song. “The beat, the melodies — can you change it?’ ”

The clock was ticking.

“We literally drove to our friend’s house who lives in North Hollywood, reworked the melodies and the infrastructure of the record on his dining table,” says Jordan, clad in a Caesars Palace T-shirt while sitting behind the mixing board in the studio’s main recording room. “We sent it back to him within the hour, and he was like, ‘I love it.’ ”

He wouldn’t be alone.

“Intentions” would hit No. 1 from New Zealand to Malaysia to Belgium, having also spent nearly 20 weeks inside the U.S. top 10.

The song is a culmination of a partnership between two music obsessives that dates to 2007.

Jordan is a self-professed former band nerd and Stevie Wonder die-hard who began playing trombone in third grade. Giannos begrudgingly took piano lessons as a kid before getting a keyboard his senior year of high school and using it to decipher Neptunes tunes before crafting beats of his own.

They first met when Giannos sought to recruit an artist Jordan was working with for a project that Giannos was overseeing.

“When we linked up in the studio for the session, we played each other music, and we were both blown away at certain things each other did,” recalls Giannos, a laid-back presence with a friendly smile. “The next day he was like, ‘Come over to the house tomorrow and work.’ Literally, that was it. We were working together every day after that.”

Early years, late hours

Before the yachts — yes, there will be yachts — came slightly less glamorous modes of transportation.

Flash back to the early days of the Obama administration: Jordan is working at an Applebee’s on Craig Road.

He didn’t even have his own car yet.

Giannos had a ride — his mom’s — which he drove to his day gig handling guest luggage at Bellagio.

“After he got off of work, he would come to my house and we would work until we couldn’t see the screen anymore,” Jordan recalls. “We’d fall asleep, go back to work, and do it all over again.”

Early in their partnership, the two would relocate to Atlanta to gain tutelage from Midas-touch producer Polow da Don, returning home after two years to work with Jason “Poo Bear” Boyd, a then-Vegas-based producer-songwriter whom they were introduced to through a mutual acquaintance.

Jordan credits Boyd, a renowned hit-maker who’s become Bieber’s creative right-hand man in addition to working with other artists, with helping The Audibles refine their approach to songwriting.

“He really showed us the structure to make a hit,” he says. “We didn’t have that knowledge at that point in time. We were just making stuff that we loved. But we realized, ‘Hey, why don’t we make something that we love, give it structure, and figure out what the formula was for a hit?’ ”

It worked.

Not long afterward, The Audibles were celebrating their first Grammy nomination for their work on rapper Lupe Fiasco’s “Food & Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album Pt. 1.”

In the years that followed, they collaborated with R&B and hip-hop household names such as Mary J. Blige, Trey Songz, French Montana and numerous others.

Their division of labor in the studio: Jordan handles the drums, the rhythms, while Giannos often focuses on melodies and chord progressions.

“When it comes to the music, I’m more of the guy who makes you move and he’s the one who makes you feel,” Jordan explains. “But we bounce off of each other. Jimmy has the greatest ear on what will work on today’s market.”

Though the duo’s sound is rooted in R&B, it’s not confined to that genre — or any other. The Audibles’ second Grammy nomination came for their contributions to reggae group Common Kings’ “Lost in Paradise” album.

“We could make a song that could be used for Broadway,” Jordan says. “We could make a song that’s for reggae. We could make a song that’s country.

“It doesn’t matter,” he says flatly. “There are no boundaries in music.”

A game-changing hit

He didn’t even read the email before posting a screenshot of it on Instagram.

It turned out to be a congratulatory message from music publishing company BMI.

That’s when Dominic Jordan’s phone started to ring.

“Everyone’s calling me, ‘You know you’ve got a No. 1 record?’ And I’m like, ‘No,’ ” Jordan recalls of the moment he learned “Intentions” had topped the charts after a weekslong climb. “Low-key, a tear came out. I hugged Jimmy and let him know, ‘This is huge for us.’ It meant a lot.”

Boyd commemorated the achievement by inviting the duo for a getaway in Marina del Rey, California.

“He rented this huge, like, 150-foot yacht for us,” Jordan says. “We were on there with his family to celebrate. It’s surreal, you know?”

Jordan is especially proud of the song’s uplifting bent, its lyrics, on the surface, extolling the virtues of a lover, but with an appreciative, laudatory sentiment that’s easy to apply elsewhere.

To underscore this point, Jordan shares an anecdote about hearing the song on local radio station Hot 97.5 (KVEG-FM), the DJ giving a timely shoutout.

“He was like, ‘I’m dedicating this song to all the first responders because your guys’ intentions are good,’ ” Jordan recalls. “This record really has a meaning behind it. It stands for something. Ninety-five percent of all of our music has a good message behind it.”

The Audibles are readying their first artist record, due out later in the year, with a buoyant new single “Up,” featuring Poo Bear, which will be released in the coming weeks.

“This is definitely the next big chapter for us,” Giannos says, “building our brand, coming out as producer-artists, breaking our own records, helping break artists that we’re producing.”

The theme of the record: What’s the point of having a theme, exactly?

“We have songs that are country-rock vibes to R&B to straight hip-hop. We have a reggae record,” Jordan says. “Music is endless. You can do whatever you want with it. Quincy Jones said it best, ‘There’s only two types of music: Good and bad.’ That’s really it.”

In the meantime, outside of the studio, Jordan is trying to put The Audibles’ elevated platform to good use locally.

He wants to speak at Las Vegas high schools about his experiences growing up in a rough stretch of North Las Vegas, getting bullied during his straight-A tenure at Mojave High School.

He grins when relating how some of those bullies have since come to him seeking beats for aspiring rap careers, having once mocked Jordan for those very same aspirations — a career in music.

“I want to talk to these kids and let them know, ‘I came from a crazy, messed-up childhood to where I’m at now. You can do the same thing,’ ” he explains. “A lot of people don’t have hope — especially kids where I grew up.

“I didn’t really have too much hope growing up,” he acknowledges, “but I did have music.

“Music is what gave me hope.”

Contact Jason Bracelin at jbracelin@reviewjournal.com. Follow @JasonBracelin on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Entertainment Videos
Television shows could fuel Las Vegas tourism rebound - VIDEO
CBS reality dating competition series “Love Island" and ABC’s “Shark Tank” are set to film upcoming seasons in Las Vegas. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Garth Brooks reschedules concert at Allegiant Stadium - Video
The country superstar made the announcement Wednesday morning that he has moved his Aug. 22 date at the stadium back to Feb. 27.
Bart Torres of ‘Highway Vibe’ memoriam
Vegas broadcaster Bart Torres of ‘Highway Vibe’ dies at 54. He was inducted into the Nevada Broadcasters Hall of Fame in September 2018. (Greg “Gonzo” Spillane/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Naya Rivera confirmed dead after body is found - Video
Naya Rivera, the "Glee" star, went missing during a boating trip with her 4-year-old son at Lake Piru in California last week. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Actress Kelly Preston dies at 57 - Video
Kelly Preston, actress and wife of John Travolta, had been privately battling breast cancer for two years. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas bar workers frustrated, angry as restrictions return - VIDEO
In Southern Highlands, the Italian restaurant Spaghetty Western, while remaining open, had to shut down its bar. Bartender Scarlett Brock, who is still waiting to receive unemployment payments from the initial shutdown, calls the financial impact of being out of work again “a knock in the face.” (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
'In the Dark' at the Las Vegas Natural History Museum - Video
Laurie Thomas, controller for the Las Vegas Natural History Museum, discusses the new exhibit, "In the Dark," in Las Vegas on Thursday, July 9, 2020. (Elizabeth Page Brumley/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Summertime Dole Whip Cocktails
Black Tap Craft Burgers & Beer at The Venetian has two new Dole Whip cocktails. The Golden Tiki, which offers a line of Dole Whip cocktails, is reopening Wednesday.
Lin-Manuel Miranda says 'Hamilton' criticism is 'fair game'
Lin-Manuel Miranda has responded to people claiming he presented an idealized version of the Founding Fathers. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Charlie Daniels, 'Devil Went Down to Georgia' singer, dead at 83 - Video
Charlie Daniels, the country music star, was struck by a hemorrhagic stroke in Hermitage, Tennessee. His death was confirmed on Monday. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Jennifer Romas takes her 'Sexxy The Show' to Dreamland Drive-In - Video
Jennifer Romas, producer, director, choreographer and star “Sexxy The Show" at Westgate took her show to Dreamland Drive-In at FreshWata Studios in Las Vegas. The show, which is currently dark at the Westgate, is a benefit for charities Golden Rainbow of Southern Nevada, The Actors Fund and Pawtastic Friends. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Wynn Las Vegas’ ‘re-imagined’ buffet - VIDEO
On June 18, The Buffet at Wynn reopened to customers with what the resort called “a re-imagined all-you-can-eat concept that combines the abundance of the traditional buffet with the benefits of a full-service restaurant.” (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Jimmy Kimmel issues public apology for past blackface sketches - Video
On Tuesday, late-night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel took to Twitter to apologize for his blackface impression of NBA star Karl Malone. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Kurt Cobain's MTV Unplugged guitar sold for record-breaking $6M - Video
The 1959 Martin D-18E, which was often out of tune, was expected to fetch between $1million and $2 million. The iconic guitar was sold during the online 'Music Icons' sale hosted by Julien's Auctions over the weekend. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Joel Schumacher, director of 'Lost Boys' and Batman films, dead at 80 - Video
Schumacher died in New York City after battling cancer for a year. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
'We are not a monolith' - Video
Lance Smith, a multidisciplinary artist, talks about how black artists should be acknowledged for their work and not tokenized or only have their work connected to trauma. "Blackness, we are not a monolith, we deserve to live and create in a world that respects us as we are." (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Amid protests and pandemic, black artists view works as means to empathy, healing - Video
Erica Vital-Lazare is an artist, writer, sometimes activist and professor at the College of Southern Nevada. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
PodKats! with Ross Mollison
On this edition of PodKats! Review-Journal columnist John Katsilometes is joined by the founder of Spiegelworld and producer of Las Vegas Strip shows such as "Absinthe," and "Opium," Ross Mollison.
Paramount pulls 'Cops' series in wake of protests - Video
Paramount Network recently confirmed their decision to cancel the long-running reality show, "Cops." (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Restaurants add COVID-19 surcharge - Video
Some Las Vegas Strip restaurants are adding a COVID-19 surcharge to their bills to help offset the additional costs of reopening. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Kats hangs at Mayfair Supper Club as Bellagio reopens
Las Vegas Review-Journal man-about-town columnist John Katsilometes visits The Mayfair Supper Club at the Bellagio on the Strip in Las Vegas on the first night after reopening Thursday, June 4, 2020. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Las Vegas performers adapt to pandemic restrictions - Video
The coronavirus pandemic has forced creative people in Las Vegas, a city that thrives on live performance, to adapt to new or changed ways to entertain. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas woman brings Blue Angel to life - Video
When Las Vegas shut down during the coronavirus pandemic, Victoria Hogan created the Blue Angel costume and performance, emulating the statue locals know and love in order to connect with others in a time when connection isn’t as possible. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
‘Hamilton’ postponed as Smith Center remains dark indefinitely - VIDEO
The hit musical 'Hamilton' was supposed to run from September through October at The Smith Center’s Reynolds Hall has been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
ZZ Top frontman Billy Gibbons rides a bicycle on the Strip with Kats
Las Vegas resident and ZZ Top frontman Billy Gibbons rides down the Strip with his wife Gilligan Stillwater GIbbons and Las Vegas Review-Journal columnist John Katsilometes Wednesday, May 20, 2020. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
ZZ Top frontman Billy Gibbons rides a bicycle on the Las Vegas Strip with Kats - Video
Las Vegas resident and ZZ Top frontman Billy Gibbons rides down the Strip with his wife, Gilligan Stillwater Gibbons, and Las Vegas Review-Journal columnist John Katsilometes on Wednesday, May 20, 2020. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Ex-WWE star Shad Gaspard found dead on beach - Video
Shad Gaspard, 39, the former WWE wrestler, was found dead Wednesday morning on the shoreline of Venice Beach in California. Gaspard went missing over the weekend. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Buffets won’t reopen soon, but they may return eventually - VIDEO
In a Tuesday earnings call, Frank Fertitta III, CEO of Station Casinos parent company Red Rock Resorts, said buffets won’t be among the amenities included in the early stages of the resorts’ reopenings. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
'Hamilton' to debut on Disney+ in July - Video
The film version of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s popular musical was originally set for theatrical release in October. The musical’s director, Tommy Kail, shot three live performances featuring the original Broadway cast. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Little Richard dead at 87 - VIDEO
Little Richard, the pioneer and rock 'n' roll originator, died on Saturday, May 9. His son, Danny Penniman, confirmed the news but the cause of death is unknown. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)