I first wrote about Grammy-nominated record producer and hit radio songwriter Yeti Beats in these pages in June 1999. At the time, Yeti was a 17-year-old kid named David Sprecher, who was finishing his first year in Santa Barbara. High School, about to release his band Slimer’s second album and hit the road all summer long on the Warped Tour. In the article, I intuitively described the teenage Sprecher as “a moving man who negotiates his way out of his childish frame.”
Now that boy has become that soulful man and more. As a producer and songwriter, Sprecher is nominated for multiple Grammys for his work with pop/hip-hop/R&B artist Doja Cat, which he discovered and developed as an unknown in 2013. He worked alongside Doja ever since and helped nurture her to become one of the defining pop stars of the Gen Z era.
Their nods at the upcoming 64th Annual Grammy Awards include the coveted trio for Song of the Year, Record of the Year and Album of the Year, among nominations in several other categories. With eight, Doja is tied for second in nominations with Justin Bieber and HER It’s more than Olivia Rodrigo, Ariana Grande or Billie Eilish! The 2022 Grammys will take place on Sunday, April 3 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
Sprecher was born in Los Angeles, but his family moved to Santa Barbara a few years later, where he attended Montecito Union School and eventually Santa Barbara High School.
Their good friends, the Fells, also moved to SB around the same time. Their son Adam Fell and Sprecher have remained close friends since kindergarten, and today Fell is Sprecher’s manager. Fell says: “In June 2013, Yeti brought this girl [Doja Cat] at Quincy Jones and told me he thought she would be one of the biggest stars in the world. Frankly, he had this unwavering faith in her before anyone else in the wider music industry.
After graduating from SBHS in 2000, Sprecher moved to Los Angeles to attend Occidental College, where the ordinarily gifted student ironically received a D+ grade in an introductory music business course. There he also began to expand his sonic horizons beyond the punk and alternative rock of his youth. A college friend and bandmate nicknamed him “Yeti” because of his long hair and full beard. Sprecher added “Beats” due to his newfound obsession with hip-hop, deejay culture, beat-making, sampling, and more.
In 2003, Yeti Beats began to focus on producing records in their home studio, carving out a niche in underground hip-hop and reggae, including working with modern SB reggae stars Rebelution. As his studio work grew, he opened a complex called the Himalayas, where he fostered a communal creative environment of producers, songwriters, collaborators, and fledgling artists.
Sprecher recalls discovering a young singer/dancer/rapper Doja Cat (née Amala Ratna Zandile Dlamini): “An intern at my studio was playing songs on SoundCloud, and he clicked on a really crude demo of a song called ‘So High” with only 42 “views” that Amala, then 16, had written and recorded by herself on her laptop in her room and recently uploaded.
Sprecher continued, “It immediately caught my ear. We looked it up on Facebook. She happened to live nearby. We messaged her and asked her if she wanted to come over and do some music.
He spoke to the girl’s mother, Deborah Sawyer, who was very supportive, and they arranged to bring her to her makeshift studio to work on songs together. The couple hit it off and he started looking for her every day.
Sprecher says: “She was shy, but despite her young age she already had a strong artistic vision, she could write great hooks, she could sing and rap – there was just something about her; she behaved like a superstar from the start.
Sprecher acted as de facto manager, collaborator, band member and executive producer. Their work began to manifest itself in a series of internet uploads, DIY remixes, and eventually a record deal with a major label.
After a slow start with the 2014 EP Purr!they finally gained momentum with their breakthrough in 2018 Amala, which featured the YouTube viral hit “Mooo!” They followed it up with the authentic radio hit “Juicy”. The hit album of 2019 Hot pink delivered a #1 radio hit, “Say So,” putting in play an exponential trajectory on the radio and streaming charts. Doja’s Billion+ Stream Collects Current Version planet she (2021), featuring hits “Kiss Me More” (with SZA), “Need to Know,” “You Right” (with The Weeknd), “Get Into it (Yuh),” and his latest, “Woman,” which , at press time, is his most popular song on Spotify and just hit No. 1 on rhythm radio, continues to build every day. Sprecher lovingly calls it “An overnight success…nine years in the making!”
Doja co-manager Gordon Dillard explained in a recent interview with Variety magazine, “Yeti fully understands Doja’s sound and performs every time, creating and being among her greatest records. They never fail together.
Despite his huge commercial success, these days the seasoned producer avoids the fancy big studios and prefers to work from home on his kitchen table with a simple MIDI controller, a pair of speakers and his trusty old laptop.
Sprecher humbly explains his process on his winning streak with Doja Cat: “We try to keep it fun and lighthearted. Amala is a unique talent. I just try to keep her inspired and give her a safe space to be creative.
“With every artist I work with, I try to capture their vibe, really listen to what they want, and create something authentic. It’s about seizing the moment. Some parts of me enjoy the thrashing of punk or the kick-back groove of reggae; I listen to funk, disco, house, jazz or just about anything. I don’t want to commit to making one kind of music. I aspire to be an eclectic producer.
Sprecher recently signed an exclusive publishing deal with Warner Chappell Music and is currently in the final stretch of a still-silent printing deal with a major record label.
For now, however, Sprecher is, as always, working on new music, his stream temporarily interrupted this week by the separate task of trying to figure out what to wear to the awards show.
He laughs, “Me and Doja have had a pact between a few friends since the early days – if she ever wins a Grammy, then we should all get cats tattooed on our butts!”
Director Adam Fell concludes, “To say Yeti has reached the ultimate heights would be an understatement – and yet he remains the humble, kind friend I remember from childhood. I also know that Yeti is just getting started.
Either way, tune in this weekend to support another 805 musical achievement and find out if new cat tattoos are in order!
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