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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.

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