Photo Courtesy Universal/Spinnin' Deep
Exclusive: Felix Jaehn On Collaborative Songwriting, Working With Marc E. Bassy
The young German DJ shares the inside scoop on what went into his brand-new debut album
German tropical house producer/DJ Felix Jaehn's career took off on a rocket in late 2015 when his remix of OMI's "Cheerleader" shot to the top of the charts in the U.S., U.K. and in at least 12 other countries.
Since then, his creative output has remained strong, clocking in another five Top 10 or higher charting singles and remixes over the next three years.
Then, on February 16 of this year, Jaehn released his long-awaited debut studio album I. The record is a massive double-album collection of 25 tracks comprising a variety of genres and many years of work, all tied together by Jaehn's signature blend of bouncy Caribbean melodic elements interpolated into modern dance music with a decidedly island-influenced aesthetic.
Jaehn took some time to chat with the Recording Academy in advance of his spring tour of Germany in support of his debut album, which kicked off in Hamburg on April 5.
The album has a lot of tropical/Caribbean sound – where did a guy from Germany discover and fall in love with that sound?
Jaehn: I started doing this kind of sound when I was in London, after high school. I went there to study music for one year, and I was just starting to experiment with new sounds. That's when I first used the marimba on my early bootlegs, just because I felt like it's a great sound. There's no strategy behind this or something, it's just that when you produce – when you're working on a song – you try so many different elements and sounds. As soon as I love it, when I'm emotionally connected to that sound or that vibe, then I'm going to stick to it. So I'm not quite sure why I love the happy, tropical sound so much. It's just something that happened really naturally.
What was your songwriting process like? Are you a sit-and-write every day kind of guy, or do you write when you are inspired?
Jaehn: Mostly I write with other people. I love doing songwriting sessions. "Don't Say Love," for example, I was in a session with Bruce [Fielder] and Rob Harvey in London. "Millionaire" was in Copenhagen with Tim Schou …so I love doing those songwriting sessions, just because you're in the moment doing it together and it's really fun working with others.
And then of course there are songs as well where I produce the instrumental before, and then we try to find the right top line for it. Or sometimes songwriters send ideas of songs they have written and then we finish them together.
Can you choose a song and tell us the story of where you got the inspiration?
Jaehn: I think track three, "Don't Say Love," is probably the most personal song on the album. It was also [from] one of my first songwriting sessions. It's like, you [have] a voice telling you, "No, just don't say love." The song goes like, "I'm afraid of what I feel/ you are ready/ am I ready?" I think a lot of people – and me specifically – have a lot of doubts when it's about love. You might be dating someone, you might find them attractive, but going the next step into a relationship and committing yourself is really a big step emotionally. This was a topic that was driving me a lot when I was younger, and I was thinking about it so much. So when I did my first songwriting sessions, it was something that I really wanted to write about and get out there and put into words.
What collaboration were you most excited about and why?
Jaehn: I think it's got to be Marc E. Bassy. Just because he's such and amazing singer, and a great songwriter as well. I love his album Gossip Columns. We're label homies, so it was really easy for me to reach out and check if he liked the song and wanted to work on it. Luckily he did. When we met at the video shoot, it was a really cool vibe as well. He is so humble and chill. I think that's one of the coolest collaborations on the album.
Music is all about moments, and it's really cool to create those moments with others. – Felix Jaehn
What did the actual production of the album look like? Do you have a studio space at home or somewhere you like to work?
Jaehn: I have a studio at home now, which is great. I moved into my new place about a year ago now, and finally I have the perfect. Before, I was quite often working on headphones on my laptop. But also, [the album] was done in studios all around the world where I went for songwriting sessions, and where I went to work with the engineers, for example in Berlin, of Vienna, or L.A. as well.
What is some of your go to gear or plug-ins you cant live without?
Jaehn: I pretty much do everything in the box. I like synths and plug-ins to be easy and handy to use, because when you're in your session it just has to go quickly and easily. I think the Valhalla Room is one of my favorite reverbs to use. I love the FabFilter EQ. There's a synth that I use quite often called Chromaphone – it has great mallet sounds. One of the only actual hardware synths that I used on the album was the Prophet 6. The pluck mallets on "LOV" (feat. Sondr, Andrew Jackson) were from that synth. But yeah, most of the stuff is just happening "in the box."
This is a massive album track wise, why was in important to release so much music amazing music on your debut album?
Jaehn: Well, first of all, when I did an album I wanted it to be a lot of new songs. So the first 15 tracks is like the new album, with all the new material. [It has] a really diverse sound – there's an acoustic song on it, there are clap songs on it, there are pop songs on it like "Cool" (feat. Marc E. Bassy and Gucci Mane) or "Hot2Touch." Then the last 10 tracks are kind of like a Best Of: "Ain't Nobody," "Cheerleader," "Bonfire," "Photograph" (Remix). All of those songs I also wanted to include in my debut album, because it's part of my story, part of my music career and part of where I came from. I wanted to have both an all-new album, but also the classics. So that's why it's 25 songs in the end.
Felix Jaehn's debut album I is available now wherever music is sold or streamed. For more information about him or his upcoming tour dates, please visit his official website.
Allen Hughes' "The Defiant Ones" Wins Best Music Film | 2018 GRAMMY
Director Allen Hughes' four-part documentary takes home Best Music Film honors for its portrayal of the unlikely partnership that changed the music business
The team behind The Defiant Ones celebrated a big win for Best Music Film at the 60th GRAMMY Awards. The crew awarded include director Allen Hughes and producers Sarah Anthony, Fritzi Horstman, Broderick Johnson, Gene Kirkwood, Andrew Kosove, Laura Lancaster, Michael Lombardo, Jerry Longarzo, Doug Pray & Steven Williams.
In a year rife with quality music documentaries and series, the bar has been set high for this dynamic category. The Defiant Ones is a four-part HBO documentary telling the story of an unlikely duo taking the music business by storm seems better suited for fantastical pages of a comic book, but for engineer-turned-mogul Jimmy Iovine and super-producer Dr. Dre, it's all truth.The Defiant Ones recounts their histories, their tribulations and their wild success. These include first-hand accounts from those who were there in Iovine's early days, such as Bruce Springsteen and U2's Bono, as well as those on board when Dre and Iovine joined forces, such as Snoop Dogg and Eminem.
The competition was stiff as the category was filled with compelling films such as One More Time With Feeling, Two Trains Runnin', Soundbreaking, and Long Strange Trip.
Portugal. The Man To Aida Cuevas: Backstage At The 2018 GRAMMYs
Also see James Fauntleroy, Reba McIntire, Latroit, and more after they stepped off the GRAMMY stage
What do artists do the moment they walk off the GRAMMY stage from presenting, accepting an award or performing? Now, you can find out.
Also see Best Pop Duo/Group Performance GRAMMY winners Portugal. The Man posing with their first career GRAMMY Award, Best Roots Gospel Album GRAMMY winner Reba McIntire right after she walked offstage, Best R&B Song GRAMMY winner James Fauntleroy, Best Remixed Recording GRAMMY winner Latroit, and many more, with these photos from backstage during the 60th GRAMMY Awards.
Bruno Mars Wins Song Of The Year | 2018 GRAMMYs
The Hawaiian native takes home Song Of The Year for "That's What I Like" at the 60th GRAMMY Awards
Feeling the 24K Magic, Bruno Mars' successful progress through the categories he's been nominated in at the 60th GRAMMY Awards picked up another one at Song Of The Year for "That's What I Like."
Christopher Brody Brown and Philip Lawrence co-write with Mars under the name Shampoo Press & Curl. The other winning songwriters for Mars' hit tonight in this category are James Fauntleroy and production team "The Sterotypes" — Ray Charles McCullough II, Jeremy Reeves, Ray Romulus and Jonathan Yip.
The Album Of The Year GRAMMY Award wrapped up the night and wrapped up Bruno Mars' complete rampage through his six nominated categories — now six wins.
Photo: David Crotty/Getty Images
Mariah Carey Tells Fans Fire Music Is Coming With New Album 'Caution'
The sultry R&B/pop superstar has announced she will release her 15th studio album next month – what will she bring us this time around?
Never one to do things quietly, the GRAMMY-winning R&B/pop diva with the angelic voice Mariah Carey came boldly onto the scene in 1990 with her GRAMMY-nominated debut self-titled album. At the 33rd GRAMMY Awards she took home her first two wins: Best New Artist and for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female for "Vision Of Love," which she performed on the GRAMMY stage. The song was the album's first single and Carey's first No. 1 song. Since taking center stage at the beginning of the '90s the star hasn't looked back, releasing 13 studio albums and plenty of hits over the years. Four years after the release of her last album, she has announced that her next one is a month away. What will she serve up on her 15th LP?
The star recently shared on Twitter that her latest album is called Caution and will be released on Nov. 16, 2018. We first got a hint of a new album on Sept. 13 when she announced an album was in the works and released the lead single, "GTFO." The album's second single, "With You," followed on Oct. 4.
On "GTFO" she confidently asks a soon-to-be-ex lover "How 'bout you get the f* out?" in breathy vocals over a slow, melodic beat by GRAMMY-winning producer Nineteen85. "With You" feels like a classic Carey R&B love song with her angelic vocals backed by snapping and a melodic slow jam groove produced by hip-hop beat maker DJ Mustard, who lets her voice shine on an uncharacteristically mellow track for him. These songs hint that her latest release will give us songs that not only showcase her incredible vocal range and versatility, but also give us both nostalgia-inducing tracks as well as radio-ready hits.
"GTFO" gives us a taste of some of the new flavor that she is bringing to her new album, singing the song's coy lyrics completely in more-understated breathy vocals without belting any big high notes, not even during the chorus. It's a catchy, playful breakup song, as she confidently sings "get the f* out/how 'bout you take your tings and be on your merry way?/Fly off with the wind, bye bye baby/How 'bout you scusami, Mimi'll call you a valet."
The song was co-written and co-produced by Jeff Jefferies aka Nineteen85, who is half of OVO R&B duo dvsn and is responsible for producing some of Drake's biggest hits, including the GRAMMY-winning mega-hit "Hotline Bling." On the Drake's song "Emotionless" from his latest album, Scorpion, he samples Carey's lyrics from remixed classic hit "Emotions." Hopefully Jefferies has some catchy hits up his sleeve for Carey, and maybe even brings in some OVO artist surprises.
Carey has released some great collabs over the years, a majority with R&B and hip-hop artists, including Boyz II Men on heartfelt slow jam "One Sweet Day" from 1995's Daydream and Jay-Z on the upbeat classic belter "Heartbreaker" from 1999's Rainbow. We can only hope that the new album will offer some new, soon-to-be-classic hits with some of our other favorite artists.
Her most recent album, Me. I Am Mariah… The Elusive Chanteuse, released in 2014, had more collab tracks than usual for her, which could perhaps point towards some hot features on Caution. The deluxe edition of the 2014 album had six songs with other artists, including rappers Nas, Fabolous, Wale and R. Kelly as well as R&B singers Miguel and Mary J. Blige. The album's lead single, "Beautiful," has Miguel and Carey singing a soulful, feel-good duet, while "Dedicated" features a bounce-y, electronic-infused hip-hop beat with a verse from Nas. Seeing that she worked with big-time hip-hop producers on the new album's lead singles, we can only hope that they not only offered their production genus to more of the tracks, but perhaps brought some of their friends into the studio as well.
Fans only have to wait a month for the full dose of new music from Carey, but until then we will send our prayers to the music gods that the album will feature all of our dream collabs, perhaps some old and new friends, and offer up some new favorite songs, with some to slow dance to and others to belt out in the shower.