Recording a duet in a hotel closet

American singer Charlie Puth had to do that with Selena Gomez as they did not have access to a proper studio

Charlie Puth's debut album, Nine Track Mind, comprises mostly ballads and saccharine pop numbers.
Charlie Puth's debut album, Nine Track Mind, comprises mostly ballads and saccharine pop numbers.PHOTO: CATIE LAFFOON

On his recently released debut album, Nine Track Mind, American singer Charlie Puth has a duet with pop princess Selena Gomez.

Instead of a sleek recording studio, Gomez's vocals for the song, We Don't Talk Anymore, were recorded in a closet in Puth's hotel room.

Speaking to The Straits Times over the telephone from Baltimore, Maryland, where he is promoting the album, the 24-year-old says: "I had to record her in a closet since I didn't have a proper vocal studio."

Getting Gomez, 23, on board for the song was relatively easy.

They met at an MTV Video Music Awards after party and became fast friends. All it took was a telephone call.

"I finished (the song) in Los Angeles and I called Selena up and she came over and recorded it," he recalls, adding that it was "really quick for her".

"She knocked it out because she's super talented."

The sultry track, a conversation between two former lovers, has a tropical house vibe, which Puth reveals was inspired by a classic Lionel Richie number.

"I was actually listening to Lionel Richie's All Night Long," he says, before launching into the song's chorus. "It kind of has that dancey, tropical vibe, so I guess that's where it came from."

Puth - a Berklee College of Music graduate who started his career making jingles and posting videos of his covers on YouTube - already has three hit singles, including the Motown throwback Marvin Gaye with Meghan Trainor, the ballad One Call Away and worldwide No. 1 hit See You Again with rapper Wiz Khalifa.

He features as a guest vocalist on See You Again, which appears on the Fast And Furious 7 (2015) soundtrack as a tribute to the late actor Paul Walker, who was killed in a high-speed car crash in 2013.

The song, which Puth co-wrote, has garnered the former bedroom producer three Grammy nominations this year, including the coveted Song Of The Year award. The Grammy Awards ceremony takes place next Monday in Los Angeles.

While penning the song, Puth drew on memories of a friend who also died in a car accident.

He told MTV News last year that he wrote the song in only 10 minutes. He admits that he does not usually write songs that quickly, but "all the stars aligned that day".

"It's almost like (Walker and my friend) helped me finish the song," he says.

At the Grammys, the track is up against the likes of those from pop juggernauts Ed Sheeran (Thinking Out Loud) and Taylor Swift (Blank Space) and Puth admits the nominations came as a surprise.

"I never expected that to happen so early in my career," he says, adding that he was on a plane when he found out about the nominations.

"When I turned off the Airplane Mode on my phone, I had 200 text messages from people saying, 'Oh my god, congratulations!'"

Describing the entire experience as "crazy", he confesses to shedding a tear while "trying to be manly".

When he started out in music, he never thought he would make it this far.

"For a while, I thought maybe I'll just be a producer, but it's worked out really nicely," he says.

In the meantime, though, he is set to embark on a North American tour that will kick off next month, but promises that an Asian tour is in the works.

"Oh, Asia's coming, believe me."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 10, 2016, with the headline 'Recording a duet in a hotel closet'. Subscribe