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Inside the no-sleep hustle of Grammy-winning songwriter The-Dream

He’s penned hits for Beyoncé, Mariah Carey, and Rihanna, has his own prolific R&B career—and recently enrolled in design school. How The-Dream gets it done.

Inside the no-sleep hustle of Grammy-winning songwriter The-Dream
[Photo: courtesy of Roc Nation]

Ironically enough, Grammy Award-winning songwriter and producer The-Dream doesn’t sleep.

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Born Terius Nash, The-Dream has penned songs for any number of top artists working today: There’s Rihanna’s “Umbrella,” Britney Spears’s “Me Against the Music,” Mariah Carey’s “Touch My Body,” Justin Bieber’s “Baby,” and a slew of hits for Beyoncé, including “Single Ladies,” “Run the World,” “Partition,” “Love On Top,” and her verse on Megan Thee Stallion’s remix to “Savage.”

If his writing for other artists wasn’t prolific enough, The-Dream has his own weighty catalogue, most notably his ambitious Sextape series that spans four albums in a little over a year.

Oh, and while in self-isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic, he also enrolled in Savannah College of Art and Design in preparation to start his own fashion line.

“My grandfather used to say there’s a lot of talented people in the graveyard,” The-Dream says in the latest episode of Fast Company‘s podcast Creative Conversation. “I’m not the most talented person in this universe. I aspire to wake up every day to be the person that outworks you the most, though. It’s trying to figure out how much non-sleep I can get.”

Listen to the full episode and read highlights from the conversation below.

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Mind over the matter at hand

“It’s easier to physically get something done than it is to think about getting it done because you can mentally beat yourself up about something. You make it harder than what it is. That’s how I patterned my life. Just do that thing next—make sure it’s great and move on. And that’s me in a nutshell.”

Capitalism/capitalizing

“I was never the one to waste time. So, I figured out pretty quick that I could do music from the standpoint of [songwriting]—not more so falling in love with the artist part of it, but the idea that, hold up, producers and songwriters get what again?! And most people can take capitalism and think of it just one way. The second meaning to that is to capitalize on your talent or whatever it is that you’re good at. That’s a version of capitalism, too—finding that thing inside yourself that you know you’re great at and overexpose it. Don’t leave it sitting in there waiting until you’re 49, like, ‘Ah man, you know what I should have did? I should have started a cupcake factory.’ Yeah, it’s too late now. It’s over.”

There’s no such thing as writer’s block

“I hear about this writer’s block thing, but I don’t know what it is. There’s always something to write about. I don’t start working the problem until I know the solution. If you play me a track right now, I’m not going to get writer’s block, because I’m not going to start it because it’s not time to start yet. I’m not starting just because there’s a track playing.”

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About the author

KC covers entertainment and pop culture for Fast Company. Previously, KC was part of the Emmy Award-winning team at "Good Morning America," where he was the social media producer.

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