He shot to fame aged 19. Five years later, Felix Jaehn is one of the world's top DJs. His new single and recent coming-out as bisexual tell the story of a young man who fought hard to find himself.
He could be considered the voice of a generation — if he actually sang. But Felix Jaehn's talent rather lies in piecing together the many ingredients of a hit.
The 24-year-old German DJ travels the globe, playing at the most prestigious locations and music festivals. From time to time, he releases a remix or an original track and hits the top of the pop music charts — and makes it seem effortless.
Having signed his first deal with Universal Music at barely 19 years old, Felix Jaehn shot to the top of the charts, with many naysayers expecting him to be a one-hit-wonder. In 2015, his remix of "Cheerleader" by Jamaican singer OMI became a sizzling summer hit; not long thereafter, his remix release of Chaka Khan's "Ain't Nobody" further cemented his reputation as one of the hottest DJs around. In 2018, the first album followed. The rest, as they say, is history.
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But despite this stellar success as a DJ, Jaehn is no a stranger to scrutiny — be that because of his youth or his recent outing as bisexual. He's had to develop his own coping mechanisms to deal with all this attention, something he now highlights in his music.
'Love on Myself'
Jaehn's latest single "Love on Myself" featuring British vocalist Calum Scott speaks about self-care — a topic that he is repeatedly quizzed about in interviews, and which is clearly important to him. The star-DJ stresses that striking a balance between travelling the world playing at sold-out venues and taking time for himself to reflect on the matters that he personally cares about plays a crucial role in his life.
The chorus goes, "I need to put the love on myself before I give it to someone else," and summarizes Felix Jaehn's overall approach to life:
"I couldn't do what I do if I didn't seek a balance by staying active, working out, and meditating," he told German public radio station EinsLIVE in November 2018.
"I need a lot of silence, as well as company and family, which is why I still live in the same small village on the Baltic Sea and keep going back there because I'm aware of how much I need these things in my life.”
Struggles growing up
While many of his contemporaries seek to live in big cities like Berlin, Hamburg or London, Jaehn hopes to "stay home as a house husband with lots of kids" one day — presumably in his Baltic village. But Jaehn struggled to coming to terms with his sexuality during his youth there:
"Even though (bisexuality) is widely accepted in Germany today, it was a problem for me growing up as a child. I had to fight with myself and make peace with myself, and also discuss it with my family. And it has limited me as an artist, since the public didn't know about it. And all the while, there was so much attention focused on me. So I had to live with the fear of being outed all the time," he shared in a recent TV interview with German talk show host Markus Lanz.
"But eventually I learned that all those fears were completely irrational, and I'm glad that I dared to take this step and come out publicly."
A quiet revolt
This year, Jaehn performed for the first time as an "out" person at Gay Pride in Berlin; the event, which locally is known as Christopher Street Day (or CSD), attracts hundreds of thousands of people to the heart of Germany's capital where they celebrate the LGBTQ community at the Brandenburg Gate — the same spot where 30 years ago, the Berlin Wall fell.
Felix Jaehn knows all about self-love - though this image is only a publicity shot from the launch of his wax figure at Madame Tussaud's Berlin
Ordinarily, Felix Jaehn's DJ gig at Pride might not be surprising considering his coming-out, but this year's motto of the CSD rather poignantly reflects a great deal about Jaehn's personal journey as well: "every riot starts with your voice” (German original: "Jeder Aufstand beginnt mit Deiner Stimme").
That motto was chosen in celebration and commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots in New York this year, marking the first Pride celebration and protest in history. And Felix Jaehn, too, is — quietly and peacefully in his signature style — revolting and protesting, using the stage as the place to make his voice heard, promoting his uplifting new track and giving media interviews, in which he tries to push the envelope in his own ways:
"I don't have a clearly defined sexuality, which is why I said that I'm bisexual when I came out. It varies, and I don't want to be pigeon-holed. I understand this human need to categorize everything, but I don't know if I ever will choose one (gender) over the other. And I don't know why we have to choose anyway," he told Markus Lanz earlier in July.
"For example, look here, I enjoy wearing these three rings and jewelry in general, but I might not have done that in the past out of fear of coming across as too feminine. That's why I decided that I had to draw a line and be authentic with myself."
Down-to-earth and grateful
Despite waiting for the right moment for his coming-out, Jaehn presents himself as approachable and relatable in every single interview. He doesn't act like a superstar and stresses that remaining down-to-earth is truly important to him. He replies to questions like why he never sings on his own tracks with the honest answer that he suffers from having vocal cord nodules — a benign condition that limits most vocal activity usually to speaking.
He jokes about the one time when he had too much to drink before playing at an event, and reassures his fans that nowadays he only goes on stage sober. He speaks about how stressful the job can be and acknowledges that he can somewhat relate to Swedish DJ Avicii's burn-out. The 28-year-old died suddenly in 2018.
Through it all, Jaehn expresses gratitude and appreciation for the journey he has experienced as a DJ thus far: "I feel privileged but also isolated. Standing in front of a crowd of 30,000 people can be lonely. And emotionally, it's very abstract. So I actively seek interaction with my fans. I go down and speak to them after a show. That really matters a lot to me," he told EinsLIVE radio. "And that makes me happy Felix."
When asked what other things, especially little things, make him happy in everyday life, Felix Jaehn responds rather quickly: "putting my phone on airplane-mode," showcasing once more that acute sense of awareness that he seeks (and appears to find) in his own life. With an upcoming tour in the US and a gig in South Africa in the next two months alone, Jaehn will get to enjoy the comforts of the airplane-mode setting nearly a dozen times in coming weeks.
But from time to time, he might just choose to switch off his phone altogether, tune out from his busy schedule and visit his home village on the Baltic Sea coast to reconnect and meditate — far away from all the media scrutiny surrounding his fame and his personal life. And one of these days, he might just make that dream come true and become someone's house husband.
And whether they are male or female, won't matter.