It was a simple Tweet that informed Felix Jaehn he'd just landed a number one hit in the US. The young German DJ tells DW how he's avoiding the one-hit-wonder trap and what to expect on his new Album.
At just 21, German DJ and producer Felix Jaehn is the first German act in 26 years to land a number one hit in the US. As he told DW in an interview, he didn't grow up in a musical family, but started DJing and then mixing at a young age and posted his first tracks online at 16. During a year abroad in London, he strengthened his skills and dove head first into the deep house trend.
DW's Mikko Stübner-Lankuttis caught up with Felix Jaehn in Berlin.
DW: Felix, you're working on a new album right now. What's it going to sound like?
Felix Jaehn: It will have ties to house. The beat will be like it always is. And it definitely won't be boring. The important thing is that a positive vibe comes across. I can imagine doing a slower number too - something around 100 beats per minute. And maybe something quicker that's good in clubs and focuses more on the bass line than the vocals. And I'd like the album to be listened to as a whole unit.
You first worked as a DJ and later started to produce as well. Did you think, "Hey I can do that too"?
I've always been interested in finding out what it would be like to make my own music and not just read from a score. And then my next thought was of course, ok, what's the next step for me as a DJ? My dream has always been to make a name for myself as a DJ. And for that you need your own tracks, your own releases. And that's why I started working on this material.
Your big international breakthrough was "Cheerleader." How did that come about? Did you think it up, or were you approached by a manager or label?
The request for a remix came from OMI's record label - Ultra Records. That was in January 2014. At that time, I just had a few things online on Soundcloud, Facebook and on my website. I didn't even have a team back then. When the request came, I was really happy. It's really cool when a big label just gets in touch. And I also liked the song they sent me. I thought it had a lot of potential and a lot of people don't even know the original - a reggae-pop number from 2012.
How long did you spend working on it?
I think it took two weeks for me to send the remix, which is pretty good. I had a vision for the track right away. After that, it went fast. It's not worth making a lot of adjustments.
How did "Ain't Nobody" come about?
"Ain't Nobody" took a little bit longer. And it also took longer for the song to get noticed - at least among a mainstream audience, because it had already been on Soundcloud for a year and was at number one in the blog charts on Hype Machine. The idea to publish it came later.
Going back to the sensational success of your "Cheerleader" remix. The song went to number one in the US - something no German act has managed since Milli Vanilli in 1989. How did you find out about that?
It was just a normal day. I was sitting on the patio with my management and we were listening to music and making plans for the new album. Then I checked my phone and saw on Twitter: "Here's number one." That's how I found out about it. I was so happy. I still can't believe it.
Is there now a lot of pressure to follow up on that success?
Not really, I don't stress myself. I'm happy that after the "Cheerleader" remix, "Ain't Nobdy" did really well in Europe. That's my own thing - even if it is a cover. The remix worked really well. Of course I don't know whether I'll ever hit number one in the US again - obviously that would be amazing, especially with a song of my own.
You produce and do a lot of live shows. You were just in the Middle East and in December you're starting a US tour. How do you manage all that? I have the feeling you don't sleep at all.
I have shows every weekend, something also on Wednesdays and Thursdays. I'm on the road a lot now because the single was so internationally successful. But fortunately I can work on my album from my laptop when I'm traveling. I can also work with the singers and mixing engineers via Internet by sending emails. That's how we manage everything.
How big is your team?
My team is made up of management, publisher and booking agency. Then I have a video guy and people who help me with all kinds of things. It's a huge team. As far as the music goes, the main work is in my hands.
I have the feeling that you've made it to DJ heaven. Do you still have unfulfilled dreams?
I think the most important thing is to really establish yourself and not just create a short-lived hype. It will be really important that my next singles are also successful. And then of course the big goal and project is my album. It's important to me that the album is perceived as a unit. It would be great to have as much success with it as I've had with the singles.
What's the craziest thing you've experienced this year?
I think the craziest thing was my gig in Brazil at the Villamix Festival. It was the biggest stage in the world. I was one of just a few international acts that played in between Brazilian pop bands for 60,000 people. Representing Germany and Europe was really cool.
What is particularly German about Felix Jaehn and his music?
It's hard to say. I don't know whether my music is really German or international. I have English vocals and the sound is widespread in Europe. It could just as well come from France or Sweden. Maybe I should put a German-language song on the album. Then I'd have a good answer to the question.
Interested in music from Germany? Then tune into PopXport, DW's weekly music program.