French producer Martin Solveig has been making smart, disco-inflected house music for over a decade. But in 2011, his track "Hello" with Canadian electro-pop group Dragonette exploded, peaking at No. 46 on the Hot 100 and selling 1.1 million downloads in the U.S., according to Nielsen SoundScan. The song landed a memorable sync in a Trident ad spot, and the accompanying music video has over 17 million YouTube views and counting.
Then, Madonna called: In July 2011, the pop diva invited Solveig to a writing session in London for the project that would become "MDNA." What started as an idea for one song became three (first single "Give Me All Your Luvin," "I Don't Give A," and "Turn Up The Radio"), entering Solveig into a exclusive brotherhood of dance producers who have helped keep the Material Girl sounding both current and progressive.
Billboard caught up with the producer on the eve of his set at the official "MDNA" release party at the Delano Hotel in Miami, sponsored by Smirnoff.
Billboard: William Orbit, Stuart Price, Mirwais. A lot of great EDM producers have worked with Madonna. Were you intimidated?
Martin Solveig: I tried to forget that very very fast because I would have been too intimidated to line up with all those legendary producers. At first I thought we were going to work on one song; that was the original plan. Let's try to work on one song and take it from there -- not spend too much time thinking about the legend, and do something that just makes sense.
But one song turned into three.
We really got along very well. We had a lot in common in terms of music taste, perception of things, cinema taste, food taste, wine taste. And also, she has a very dry humor. More of her English side, perhaps - she has many sides of course. I'm a very good audience for that kind of humor. It makes me laugh a lot. We did one song and another song, and we were having fun making music. And actually it was a very privileged time. She wasn't under any kind of pressure, she had time to spend on it; it was the only thing she had to work on.
"Give Me All Your Luvin'"
Tell me about a film that both you and Madonna like.
That one is very easy: we have the French film "Le Samouraï." We talked a lot about movies; she has a very impressive knowledge of French film from the '60s. It's the story of a killer, a very solitary person; the cinematic of the whole movie is really special. We liked it very much, and talked about that for a little while. On the next day I had a draft of another song called "Beautiful Killer" referring to that. [The track is rumored to appear on the "MDNA" deluxe edition.]
Her other producers have said that once they got over the intimidation factor, she was a very giving and open collaborator.
That's very true. I came to the conclusion that none of the songs would have been the same without her. It's not like the songs were written before; she sings them, and it's done. It's definitely a collaboration; definitely a 50/50 collaboration. She really wants you to do stuff, and she really wants to explain her vision of the song. It's a tennis game.
How did "Hello" change your career?
This song changed it all, of course. It's actually one of the greatest things that's ever happened to me. It probably got me to work with Madonna, because she wouldn't have heard of my work if it wasn't for this song in the first place. That's the kind of magic that can come from a hit record. It's great to have one - or even a couple!
"Hello" is included on Solveig's album "Smash," released overseas in June 2011, and set to drop in the U.S. sometime this year.