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BLK Beats: I wrote a Grammy-nominated hit in my Glasgow bedroom

A 20-year-old music producer whose career began in his Glasgow bedroom is in the running for a Grammy award.

Despite being relatively unknown in his home country, Blair Ferguson has worked alongside stars such as Justin Bieber and Diddy.

He contributed to his first top US top 10 album when he was just 16.

The former Kelvinside Academy pupil will find out later whether his work on SZA's smash hit Snooze will earn him the prestigious gong.

Under the name BLK Beats, he wrote the music for the song which peaked at number two in the US Billboard charts in July.

It is the only song to have spent the whole of 2023 in the Billboard Hot 100.

"I was in an Uber recently and Snooze came on the radio," he said. "It's crazy to think that's happening around the world and I made the song in a makeshift studio at my aunt's house."

The Grammy nomination for best R&B song means the young Scot is in the running for one of the most prestigious awards in the music business.

He has also contributed to three albums which have been nominated in four categories for the 2024 Grammys.

They include SOS by SZA which has made the shortlists for album of the year and best progressive R&B album.

Diddy's The Love Album: Off The Grid, and Girls Night Out by Babyface, both of which Blair worked on, have also been nominated.

The award ceremony in Los Angeles is due to begin at 01:00 GMT on Monday.

Blair started making his own music when he was just 15 and quickly developed a talent for creating melodies and sample tracks.

SZA
Blair wrote the original demo for SZA's hit song Snooze from her SOS album

He started sending his music to hundreds of producers and songwriters in the music industry, with hopes that one could be picked up by an artist.

"Realistically, for a small kid with not much of a name for himself, these big artists were not going to work with me because they had no idea who I was," he said.

"However, the producers and songwriters tend to be smaller names in the industry, even if they are working with the biggest artists.

"I reached out to the producers and the songwriters in the hope that when they took their records to bigger artists, mine might be the one they picked. And that's exactly how it went."

Within months, he was invited to LA to make music with another budding musician called Nunu during the school holidays.

"The whole experience surrounded me with these people who genuinely believed in what I did," said Blair.

"It was shocking to them that I was so young but still able to help them make songs that were some of the favourite songs that they'd ever made."

https://www.instagram.com/p/CzpF1K5sq4n/

Less than a year later, the Covid pandemic hit and Blair told his parents that he wanted to leave school and pursue a career in music.

Within months, he had written a song for hip hop artist Lil Tecca for his album Virgo World which charted in the US Billboard top 10.

Blair went on to work with other big artists including Diddy, 24kGoldn, and Justin Bieber.

And in 2021, he wrote the music for the Grammy-nominated Snooze by SZA which topped charts around the world.

He told BBC Scotland News he was asked to work on ideas for SZA for a Women in R&B project while living in his aunt's attic in Glasgow.

"I had a makeshift studio and I was in a bit of limbo," he said.

"But I made the original demo for Snooze and sent it through to my friend and co-producer Leon Thomas and they expanded on the session - and the rest was history."

Justin Bieber performing on 12 August
Blair has worked on a version of SZA's Snooze featuring Justin Bieber

He said he originally thought the song was too laidback to chart well.

"But I was completely wrong," he said. "Which is very nice, the charts completely ate it up.

"SZA is just a genius and she's able to transform any record with the way she comes up with a melody. I don't think any other artist could have made that track."

It was certified double platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America in August for selling more than two million units.

In September it peaked at number 18 in the UK charts.

Despite his success, he still shares a flat with four school friends in Edinburgh and splits his time between Scotland and Los Angeles.

And now Blair hopes to inspire other budding musicians at the independent school in the west end of Glasgow where he was, until recently, a pupil.

He will help Kelvinside Academy launch a YouTube channel, with a view to providing pupils a platform to showcase their talents to a wider audience - and potentially follow in his footsteps.

He said his tutors at the school were very accommodating with his music career before he left.

"My musical mentors at school were really important to me and really shaped me as a person," he said.

"There was a mutual understanding that I wanted to pursue music and they were really flexible when I was working on a music project outside of school.

"I want the school to have as many facilities as possible in order to keep giving that to other people."

Despite his parents urging him to consider a career in music since he was young, Blair dismissed it for years as he did not think it would be possible to get a well-paying career from music.

"Not everybody wants to follow down the academic path and a lot of kids in the school system can feel lost," he added.

"I want to help people feel like they have an option."


An earlier version of this story was published on the BBC News website in November.