INTERVIEW: DAVID GUETTA TALKS EDM, POP, HIP-HOP AND HIS FAVOURITE AUSSIE
David Guetta is one of the biggest producers of all time. The French producer defined the peak of EDM’s world domination and has been consistently able to diversify his sound to ensure his relevancy and his own self-satisfaction.
Now, on album number seven, appropriately titled Seven, Guetta sounds as excited as ever. The album spans several genres from pop to mumble rap, recruiting big names like Nicki Minaj, Bebe Rexha and Sia. As always though, Guetta has his eye on new talent and has shined a light on promising newbies Saweetie, Ava Max and Faouzia. That’s without even touching on side two of the record, a house-flavoured set of songs that plays out like one of his Ibiza DJ sets.
It’s hard to know where to start when talking to someone with a resume as lengthy as Guetta’s but we covered plenty of ground when we spoke to the producer over the phone from his current home of London. Guetta told us about his current album as well as what it’s like to work with Rihanna, Nicki Minaj, Sia and more.
Where are you in the world?
I am in London right now. I actually live in London part of the year. I have my kids there so right now I’m just being a Dad.
People see David Guetta as the huge DJ and producer touring the world everywhere but you’ve also got this other side to you that people don’t see too much. Was it difficult to strike that balance in the beginning?
Oh yeah. I actually didn’t. I was working all the time and nothing else but since the past two/three years, I’ve been trying to balance my life a little more. Also, I think we all learned our lesson from Avicii to be honest.
Is it nice that now you’ve got songs on the radio and you’re booking shows everywhere. It must be cool to see you’ve found some sort of balance?
Yeah but it’s an everyday struggle because right now for me it’s midnight and I’m talking to you. There’s always something. Even though I’m having time off for my family, my label needs me to promote the album. There’s always something. The last time I had holidays was last March or February but I now I’ve been based in London for like four months. I think my children are the only ones that can force me to say no to things. It’s a good thing because otherwise I would say yes all the time.
Where do you think you’re pulling inspiration from now in terms of your sound? The new record has two very distinct sides plus there’s so many musical genres on the first side.
Honestly, the electronic part comes from DJing and being in Ibiza. I play a lot of house in Ibiza at the end of my set and people would get so excited. It was working so good so I would go home after my show and start to work on beats immediately. I decided I wanted to make more of this. For me, this is the main motivation for me, making music that I can play as a DJ. The pop side, it’s really everything. I feel like I’m growing as a producer and I don’t want to limit myself to only one style now. I love challenging myself in different styles. On the pop side of the album, there’s Latin music with J. Balvin, pop with Anne-Marie and even hip-hop with Lil Uzi Vert and G-Eazy. There’s a wide variety of production so as a producer this is the most fun I could have. I feel totally free to do whatever I want.
That’s awesome that you’re able to do that on your seventh album. You’ve been there right through everything with EDM. There would have been a point where you’d suggested the second side of the album and people would’ve said no.
You know what, that’s what happens. You can always try the same thing your entire life but it becomes a little boring. It was not really making me happy to apply the same formula again. I think it’s more challenging and more exciting. I like to learn so doing different genres is so exciting. I feel like if I’m happy and I’m excited people are going to feel the same way and listen to my music.
You defined the EDM/pop sound and most people in Australia will credit you with the first time they heard EDM on the radio. You’ve been able to diversify your sound too. Was there one song you created where you saw yourself going in a different direction stylistically?
Actually, it was with an Australian artist. I really, really started to blow up first with Love Is Gone and then When Love Takes Over. That’s probably the one that made me crossover. Then, after When Love Takes Over I started doing collabs with RnB and urban singers. That became a huge trend. I actually think it’s still happening now in a different way. But, at that same time after two albums I decided I wanted to do something different and I met Sia. It was more indie-pop music and Sia was not the superstar she is today. It’s funny when I think about because this record [Titanium] was single number seven off the album. Nobody saw its success coming. We thought it was a great record but no one thought it was the biggest record of the album and one of the biggest records of my career. You never know with music really.
Sia wasn’t 100 percent comfortable with her vocals being on a big pop song was she?
Oh yeah, I had to beg her. I had to literally beg her. And she was like, “Ok but this will be my last song, I won’t be an artist anymore.”
And now she features on your seventh album.
Yeah. I think she’s just the best. She’s my favourite artist. She’s an amazing singer but she’s also, to me, she’s the best songwriter I know. I’ve worked with so many songwriters so to have someone that can sing like she can and sing like she can, it’s really unique. I have to say too, she’s so loyal. Now she doesn’t need me, she’s a big, big, big star but she makes time for me always.
When I think of your best collaborators I think of Sia and Nicki Minaj. You guys were pioneers in mixing hip-hop and dance. She blends the two so well. Do you remember what it was like working with her for the first time?
The first time we worked together was when I played her a record I did with Flo Rida Where Them Girls At. I wanted her to do a rap verse. I was so fascinated by her I was like, “listen, I feel like you’re so much bigger than a rap star.” I felt like she was just a star, period. “Why don’t you try to sing,” I asked her. She didn’t know and she wasn’t sure about it but then I played her Turn Me On and she was like, “I love this, let’s try to do it.” We tried it and she killed it. The time she started to sing, that was influential in making her not only the most credible rapper but also one of the biggest popstars on the planet. Not that I’m taking credit but I’m just saying when you’re with people and you experiment, it’s such a beautiful adventure.
It felt like a really liberating part of her career and one that has allowed her to work in so many different genres. It must be so great for you to be able to work with artist early on and then watch what they do. Are there any artists on your new record that you’re particularly excited about?
The record Say My Name with Bebe I think it’s going to be really massive. It’s actually crazy because looking at the numbers people always tend to listen to the songs that are on the radio but Say My Name is doing like 5 or 10 times more than any other record on the album without us promoting it. That’s crazy. It’s a genuine hit even without being worked. There’s this record called Battle that I think is very, very big with a new artist who is only 17 Faouzia. And Ava Max. That record Let It Be Me is also looking very loved.
One of the artists I was most excited and perplexed to see on the album was Lil Uzi Vert. I was not expecting him to come into dance so quickly but it works so well on your record. What was it like melding with Uzi?
I always loved urban music and I’ve combined those two genres in the past so for me it’s pretty natural to do something like this. A record like Hey Ma Ma for example was pretty big. I even produced a hip-hop record for Rihanna. People don’t know I did it.
Phresh Out The Runway?
Ah, you know. Wow, ok.
I remember being surprised.
Yeah, even Rihanna was shocked. She was like, “Whaaaaat?” I love doing those songs. In my early, early, early days before house music, I was a hip-hop DJ so I will always like all genres.