Neil Jacobson ’99, the senior vice president of A&R and management for Interscope Records, also comanages Jeff Bhasker’s career. During their Berklee years, the two became best friends. Even after working with tons of A-list artists, Jacobson still maintains that Bhasker is the most talented musician he’s ever met and that he’s the hottest producer around. “He easily crosses genres from Florence and the Machine to Kanye West to Adele to Fun. to Pink to Alicia Keys,” Jacobson says.
During their Berklee years, Jacobson asked Bhasker if he could be his manager. “With a grin, Jeff said, ‘No, you’re not ready yet, but you can be my roadie,’” Jacobson recalls. He eagerly took the job and started carting Bhasker’s equipment around to his Boston gigs.
As Jacobson followed the many twists and turns of his own career—from Berklee to a job as a wholesale carpet salesman to internships at Arista Records and Star Trak Entertainment to a position at Interscope—the two maintained their friendship. Jacobson honed his music business chops after serving for five years as an international publicist for acts including the Black Eyed Peas and received mentoring from legendary Interscope/Cherrytree Records A&R man Martin Kierszenbaum (with whom he comanages Bhasker), and Interscope CEO Jimmy Iovine. In 2006, with Jacobson’s business career aloft, the two finally shook on a deal that made Jacobson Bhasker’s manager.
It was Jacobson who nudged Bhasker to meet with Fun. at a time when he was slammed producing projects for Beyoncé, Alicia Keys, and Luke Steel of Empire of the Sun. “He said he was too busy then to take on a developing act,” Jacobson recalls. “Then Jeff went to New York, and I saw an opportunity to get them all together, and Jeff agreed to meet with them. Nate [Ruess] sang him the chorus to ‘We Are Young,’ and Jeff called me and said, ‘Find me a studio.’”
After Fun.’s Some Nights album took off, Taylor Swift and the Rolling Stones were among the diverse acts wanting Bhasker’s sound on their records. “Jeff is a very cool character and seems unaffected by all that’s going on,” Jacobson says. “But every once in a while, when something big starts to happen, I’ll catch his eye and we’ll give each other the ‘Whoa, dude’ look.”
Jacobson is looking forward to the next chapter in Bhasker’s career. “I want to make his Billy Kraven solo project as successful as possible,” Jacobson says. “I’d love to see him touring his own music; he is a tremendous performer. I’d love to see him work with a few great artists and continue to push the sonic boundaries of music as he did with Fun. It would also be great to see him start a label and develop artists from the ground up.”
With Bhasker’s career moving at the speed of light, having a trusted, capable friend in the cockpit with him is a great asset. “Seeing Jeff’s career explode has been one of the most gratifying experiences of my life,” Jacobson says.