Avicii: EDM’s Star Takes a Rock Approach to His New Album

By Brian Ives 

Avicii is one of EDM’s—and pop’s—biggest stars at the moment, but that doesn’t mean that he’s letting the genre’s rules restrict him. Not that he’s ever stuck to a formula: mainstream America mostly discovered him via his bluegrass tinged collaboration with Aloe Blacc, “Wake Me Up.”

On his new album, Storieshe again teams up with vocalists, including Zac Brown, Matisyahu, Wyclef Jean and Chris Martin. He spoke with Radio.com about those collaborations, and also addressed some that didn’t make the album.

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How did you choose the singers for this album?

As I did with True, I chose to collaborate with artists that I really love, regardless of the genre. I reached out to the artists I wanted to collaborate with, and once our schedules allowed, we’d head for the studio.

Obviously, a lot of people outside of the dance music world discovered you through “Wake Me Up,” which was a great bluegrass/EDM hybrid. What was the reaction that you got from the country and bluegrass communities?

Really positive actually, so that was incredible. “Wake Me Up” was even getting some airplay on country stations in the U.S. “Hey Brother” was another track that struck a chord with that genre as well.

Related: Avicii and Zac Brown Band Collaborate on New Song ‘Broken Arrows’: Listen

Speaking of which, talk about working with Zac Brown. Like you, he seems like a genre-bending guy. How did you hook up with him?

We met through a mutual friend. He’s a great guy, and his voice is amazing. He has this soulful, earthy tone to his voice that is just so captivating – it was the perfect addition to the track.

Talk about working with Chris Martin on a track on the album.

I’ve always been a huge fan of Chris, so working with him was a dream come true. He’s not only an incredible musician, but a good friend as well. He has a great ear, and with him, every part has to be perfect – which is definitely not a bad thing!

You mention in the bio that you have a song with Matisyahu and Wyclef Jean that’s an old school reggae protest song. Talk more about that song. What inspired it? Did you co-write the lyrics with those guys?

I love this song. At first, I wasn’t sure where to go with it, but then everything came together. ‘Clef and Matis­yahu are incredible lyricists, but we all carefully considered the lyrics with this track. All of the songs have a story to tell, which the album title, Stories, reflects.

Doing a protest song can bring you into the world of politics, which is something that people may not expect from dance music artists. Many listen to dance music to escape from the real world. Are you worried about that at all?

No, I see it as a different way for people to see how other people in the world feel, and to connect with their concerns. And it’s another way to reach a new audience, while still involving your fan base, and hopefully people can relate to it.

The bio says that all of the songs were written on acoustic guitar. What was your writing process? Do you play guitar?

Yes, I do. I played guitar and piano while developing the melodies for Stories, and then I built everything else around that. It is so much more fun and engaging writing a song on a guitar with a talented musician, than it is alone in your bedroom with a laptop! And that’s how I did it on most of the tracks.

Do you think that you might do any performances in the future that were all based on doing live instrument arrangements of your songs?

That’s how I debuted “Wake Me Up” at Ultra in March 2013. Although the initial reactions were mixed, I thought it was an incredible way to perform it. I’ve toyed with the idea, but I’m not sure if I would do it for all of my songs.

Do you worry that by experimenting you might risk alienating your fans?

I don’t see it as a risk. I’ll never forget where I come from, and I’ll always love house music. It’s just fun to mix it up. Stories is just one project, it doesn’t mean it’s the music I’ll me making from now on.

You told Rolling Stone that you collaborated with Billie Joe Armstrong and Jon Bon Jovi. ­Will those songs come out on a later volume?

I haven’t decided if I’ll be releasing any of the unreleased tracks in the future, but it’s definitely a possibility!

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