Bill Bottrell spent 14 years “behind the glass” in studios all over the world before Michael Jackson encouraged him to write songs and play his own instruments in 1985. His patience was rewarded with the best mentors, friends, and collaborators.
Michael Jackson and Madonna shared his time. "Like a Prayer" was an artistic and commercial triumph for her. “Black or White” would stay at number one for 7 weeks, kick-starting sales of 30 million copies of Dangerous.
There was also Jeff Lynne, his friend and mentor, as well as George Harrison and Tom Petty albums, leading to the Traveling Wilburys.
Bill had been playing two poles of the pop music planet for a decade when he decided to create his own planet, build his own studio, and write and record exclusively with new or emerging acts.
Guiding his crew of hand-picked iconoclasts known as "Tuesday Night Music Club," where the song and story came first, he would develop the sound for an unknown singer, Sheryl Crow. The sound embodied the full mix of his diverse previous work.
He kept to the “song first” ethos through the '90s, working for more new artists like Rusted Root and Linda Perry, and developing Shelby Lynne’s I Am Shelby Lynne — another critical artistic and media phenomenon.
He spoke out publicly against record companies’ new-found risk-aversion, advocating for the power and independence of the artist.
Production and writing for Five For Fighting, Kim Richey, Christina Aguilera, Rosanne Cash, and a reunion with Sheryl Crow took him through the 2000s.
The song’s the thing, and though Bottrell would be off the global radar by 2010, he would keep writing a catalog of new material while collaborating and making recordings with new artists like Nahara.
There were 11 diverse Grammy nominations, including Record of the Year (which he won), Song of the Year, Producer of the Year (twice), Best Engineering (twice), and Best New Artist (winning twice).