Martin Garrix is only 18-years-old, but he's already an experienced and accomplished musician with a level head in an industry that loves imbalance.
Garrix swooped into Las Vegas last Saturday to DJ at Hakkasan's multi-million dollar new nightclub called Omnia inside Caesars Palace. The next afternoon, the Dutch DJ/producer met with BreatheHeavy.com in his two-story suite to discuss finding balance with work, his collaborations with Usher, Ed Sheeran (and maybe one day Britney Spears & Madonna), attending Coachella and the music streaming service TIDAL.
His over-sized room was eerily quiet upon entering. I mistakenly assumed to see lingerie hanging from ceiling fans, pillow feathers descending from the upper level and his peers passed out on whichever couch they ended up at the night before. Instead, it was just Garrix, dressed in all black, unassuming and ready for our chat. We walked over to a 10-foot-tall window and looked out at the Strip for a moment before sitting down.
Aside from super-stardom, millions in the bank and boyish good looks, Martin Garrix is like any other youngster. He likes spending time with friends and family, watching concerts and listening to his favorite songs (recently played on his iPod include the Magic Tape mixtapes by The Magician, Flume, Major Lazer & DJ Snake's "Lean On" (feat. MØ), Jack Ü and Justin Bieber's "Where Are Ü Now" ["insane, I heard it for the first time and said 'what the fuck"], Sam Smith and Disclosure). Could he anticipate the incredible success and hectic touring schedule after his single (mother fucking) "Animals" shot up the charts? Absolutely not, but he took the challenge head on and never looked down.
What's it like to play in Vegas?
Vegas is such a big part of the industry right now. It's cool. If you can play Vegas, you can play anywhere in the world. The crowd here... they are fans, but also people who are here to see the club because they're on holiday. It's like home base training. I love the clubs in Vegas - they're beautiful. Beautiful people inside. It's like a movie. This is definitely one of the most interesting cities.
What is the message behind "Don't Look Down" featuring Usher?
Usher and I wanted to make a positive song, a happy song, because the summer's coming up. We wanted to make a song with the message: enjoy the moment. It was really insane to work with Usher. I'm a fan of him. I love his super old stuff, and his recent stuff as well. For me to work with him, it's like 'is this real?' He's so smart. He comes from such a different angle in the music industry. I got my own vision, he has his own vision. It was cool to find a balance in the middle point. We're super happy with it. I was with him yesterday [April 18] - we did a show together in D.C. He jumped on stage with me in Miami during Ultra. We're doing a lot of shows together.
Is it crazy to be jumping from city to city?
Super crazy. Last year I did over 200 shows I think. 250 flights in one year. It's exhausting, but you get used to it. Right now the nice thing is I don't tour by myself anymore. I can bring friends, family, of course the team I work with: management, visual, light guy, sound guy, tour manager. It's crazy. I'm super happy in general that I get to travel the world and do what I love to do.
Do you feel like at times this life is too much?
Not too much. After "Animals..." the track became so big. I didn't expect it. It was like out of nowhere. That shocked me and the entire team. We were totally not ready for that, and we got all these requests for the sickest shows. For every sick show we were like 'we'll do it, we'll do it, we'll do it.' Then suddenly, we had an entire summer full of shows every day for like six weeks long. Then after the six weeks everyone was like 'hey, which record's coming next?' And I didn't have the time to work on music. At that point I was freaking out like 'fuck what should I do?' We scheduled a break to get back into the studio and realize everything that has happened. Everything was going so quick I didn't really notice what was happening. When I went back into the studio, I re-evaluated everything. Did a bunch of new songs. We learn from everything. Right now we found the perfect balance between family time, time with friends, shows and producing. The most important thing [are] the tracks to stay relevant.
Is there constant pressure to stay relevant?
Hmm no. I had it after "Animals." The problem is if you go like this (raises his hand up), you can go very quickly down again as well (lowers hand). That's the challenge... to stay relevant. The longer you stay relevant, the longer you don't have to release a big hit. [I have] a bunch of new stuff coming up. I've been in the studio with Ed Sheeran, David Guetta, Avicii...
Tell us about working with Ed Sheeran on your song together called "Rewind, Repeat It."
He's a singer-songwriter. He has such a different sound. To have his voice on a house track was very challenging for both of us to make sure both fan-bases would like it, and for people to know it was really a collaboration, not just a Martin Garrix record with Ed Sheeran vocals on it, or an Ed Sheeran record produced by Martin Garrix. We wanted it to sound like a collab. We were both really, really involved with everything: lyrics, melodies... we had so many different versions. You try new stuff, you don't do the usual.
Last year you performed at Coachella, but this year attended just as a fan.
It was amazing. I loved it. The festival is so amazing. I was watching acts the year before, but always with my set in mind. Like, 'oh what are they doing visual wise. What are they doing production wise? How does the stage setup look?' Then this year, I was like 'fuck it!' I will just go as a fan, as a visitor. Nothing in my head, no pressure. No need to perform or deliver a great show. I was just there. I watched all the acts I loved as a fan. Very inspirational; lots of fresh air.
Who were your favorite performances?
The Weeknd, Drake.
What'd you think when Madonna kissed Drake?
[Laughs] Interesting [then hid his face in his hands].
Would you ever work with Madonna?
It would be a pleasure. She's an absolute legend.
Would you ever do a song with Britney Spears?
It would be crazy. I didn't think about it yet. I did a remix for Christina Aguilera ("Your Body"), but I've never thought about Britney or Madonna.
Britney's releasing her new song "Pretty Girls" in two weeks...
That would be sick!
What are your thoughts on people paying for music with TIDAL versus free streaming with Spotify?
In the end it's what they do with [the music]. If it's someone at their house streaming music, I don't mind they don't pay. In the end, you get more famous if they listen to your track all the time and they show it to their friends. Then they buy tickets to your shows anyway. The amount of money artists get from touring is ridiculous. You're talking about millions, millions, millions. I get TIDAL, but I also get Spotify. I'm not choosing a side. I appreciate both.
TIDAL's logic says if artists make more money per stream, they can distribute that to the writers, producers, sound engineers of the song etc.
That's cool. That's something I really do support because writers, producers... they don't go on tour, but then you can also think about giving them a profit off the tour.
What does being successful mean to you?
Doing what you love. I would never put out a record which I didn't like myself. If you do that, you're not successful. You're just being a sell-out for the money. For me, I'm successful because I can bring my friends and family on tour. They can enjoy it. I did a show in my hometown. It was just a Martin Garrix show, and there were 18,000 people - sold out - which is super crazy, and I'm super happy with that, but the thing for me which made the night the most successful was that I brought my family and friends. There's so much more to being successful than money, how many tickets you sell, or the number one hit you have.
The sun glared over the gargantuan hotels alongside Las Vegas Boulevard. Our interview was coming to a close, and I wondered if Garrix could give any advice to fans his age.
It sounds super cheesy, but YOLO! You only live once. Enjoy [life]. Don't look down. Sometimes people focus too much on the future... they forget to live in the moment. I don't mean YOLO like you should fuckin' party, do drugs, do stupid shit. You only get a specific amount of time on this Earth. Don't be 60 years old and look back and think 'fuck, why didn't I do this, this, this, or this?'