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Exclusive: Tiësto On Ultra, Working With Gucci Mane & The "Magic Hour"
One of the greatest DJs to come out of the Netherlands, Tiësto is at the point in his career where he can pick and choose exactly when he wants to play during the biggest dance music festivals in the world. His choice for this year's 20th-anniversary installment of Ultra Music Festival? Sunset on Saturday night, of course.
"I think it's the magic hour. I love it when the sun goes down — you get into the darkness of the night and you have the best of both worlds you play a day party and a night party at the same time," Tiësto told us backstage at the festival just before his set. "The colors in the air are always so beautiful. I used to always close Ultra Fest on Friday night, and then the first time they said, 'Let's try something different,' I played the sunset set and since then I've played it every year because I really love it."
In fact, in the illustrious two decades of Ultra's history, the superstar DJ/producer has only missed the festival once. According to Tiësto, the reasons are clear why he and his peers make the pilgrimage year after year to Miami.
"Here in Miami, the dance music family comes together every year. You have to be here," he says. "It's a must. You see all your old friends. You see new DJs. You hear new sounds. You see new trends. … Miami is a beautiful place to be."
This year, Tiësto mixed things up by kicking off Miami Music Week with a secret show at an exclusive Uber party on March 22 for just 300 fans, a rare occurrence for one of the world's biggest DJs. The "Sweet Nothing" remixer told us how thrilled he was to present something special this year when we were interrupted by a voice passing by in the hallway.
"I heard Tiësto didn't prepare his set," Afrojack boomed from the other side of the pressroom curtain, feigning his friend wasn't in earshot. The joke interrupted our interview momentarily before the two exchanged gregarious "hellos."
— Sprout (@sprout_nl) March 15, 2018
"He's a good friend. He's a good guy." Tiësto says, smiling warmly.
Before long, you get the sense the only thing more important than music to Tiësto is people. Specifically, connecting with his fans, supporting his peers, entertaining people, and serving as a positive influence to all those who have followed the trail he's blazed.
"I always say that my biggest achievement in my life is that I inspired other people," he says. "Guys like [Martin] Garrix and all the other young DJs, they have a career because they saw me perform. That's just the best feeling you can have."
In the recent documentary What We Started, which premiered during Miami Music Week, Garrix credits Tiësto's 2004 Summer Olympics performance as igniting the spark in him to become a DJ and bring joy to audiences through his own music. Tiësto's message of positivity and hope has touched countless lives at this point in his 20-plus-year career. When asked about his impact on the landscape of dance music, the superstar is quick to shift the focus.
"When people are not healthy and they listen to my music and it gives them positive energy and they get better," he says. "I have cancer survivors who listen to my music daily and it gives them positive energy. I think that's the beauty about music and that's why I'm doing this."
All these years into building his legacy, Tiësto is still finding new ways to bring his fans pleasure. Earlier this year, his latest collaboration with rapper Gucci Mane on the track "Boom" showed that the crossover appeal between dance and hip-hop is only beginning, with Gucci's smooth verses staccato hook chopping on the beat right before the drop.
"I liked how it was originally an instrumental, and it was doing very well in the clubs and was going viral everywhere, and then Gucci Mane gave it another life with his vocal on top. It gives something extra," Tiësto says. "It's just a cool thing that started in the clubs and built and built, and with a famous rapper like him on it, it goes to another level."
Tiësto is accustomed to taking tracks to another level.
His 2014 driving remix of John Legend's soulful modern classic "All Of Me" earned him Best Remixed Recording, Non-Classical at the 57th GRAMMY Awards. As inventive as Tiësto's treatment of the love ballad was, transforming it into a dance-floor anthem, what he did with the actual GRAMMY Award he received for his efforts was just as creative.
"After I won the GRAMMY I had it traveling around for a year, a bit like the Stanley Cup idea, because a lot of people were involved in me winning the GRAMMY, supporting me my whole life," he says. "So, I sent it to my mom first and it was there for a couple weeks, and to all my friends and all the people at the studio. ... After a year it came back to my place and it's in New York standing there on a nice desk."
All of his success aside, the 49-year-old seems immune to the pressures of creating more hits, opting to go with what feels natural in music and in life.
"I just go with the flow, live in the present. I take everything one step at a time. I really enjoy my life, I enjoy what I do."