Bastille's Dan Smith on How the 'Super Personal' Message of 'Happier' With Marshmello Struck a Chord
Singer/songwriter also talks to Billboard's Pop Shop Podcast about latest "Other People's Heartache" mixtape, "Grip" with Seeb & 2019 "Doom Days" album.
When Dan Smith took a trip to India and heard "Happier," his band Bastille's massive collaboration with EDM producer Marshmello, that's when he knew the song had officially gone global.
"Just hearing it there out of a shop and having that realization that this song -- we're lucky that it's sort of just done really well," he tells Billboard's Pop Shop Podcast, adding with a laugh that he was "feeling like a massive fraud in the back of a tuk tuk in a traffic jam in like a small Indian town. But yeah, it's still amazing to see how it's done -- really, really amazing."
In fact, the song is the highest-charting track ever for both Bastille and Marshmello on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at No. 3 last month, and it spends its 13th frame at No. 1 on the Hot Dance/Electronic Songs chart this week (on the chart dated Dec. 22). In addition, "Happier" spent four weeks at No. 1 on Pop Songs and hit No. 1 on Radio Songs too. Part of its appeal seems to be how its emotional message is resonating with fans across the world.
"It's so direct, and I think a lot about how the music we [Bastille] write is cautious and we sort of lean towards slightly probably bizarre song topics, so it's perhaps something that's super personal and very direct and straight down the line, so that's sort of what really hits people," Smith says.
Smith started working on the song without knowing where it might end up, and around that same time, he began hearing inescapable songs by a marshmallow-masked producer all over the radio at home, most notably "Silence," featuring Khalid, and "Wolves," featuring Selena Gomez. "I think there was something kind of interesting, kind of hip-hop-leaning and tasteful about his stuff," Smith recalls. So he sent him the beginnings of "Happier." "I ended up in LA going to his studio and spending the day with him and working with him. I'm really glad we got to work on it in person. I recorded some vocals; it was really properly collaborated on for a while."
In addition to "Happier," Bastille released part 4 of their Other People's Heartache mixtape series earlier this month, featuring covers of Cat Stevens' "Wild World" and En Vogue's "Don't Let Go," in addition to collaborations with Craig David, Kianja and James Arthur. "Our mixtapes are a space for us to collaborate with other artists and producers, and it's kind of the spirit of those mixtapes that led us to do 'Happier,'" Smith says.
The mixtape also includes the Seeb collaboration "Grip" -- a song Bastille had performed years ago but never formally released. Once the electronic duo got their hands on it, it became something brand-new. "There was this crazy drop where they pitched my vocals sort of all over the place and they sort of shoot way up into the stratosphere," Smith says. "I guess my first reaction was like, I think I kind of laughed a bit and was like, 'What is this?'"
Bastille are also finding time to work on their third studio album, titled Doom Days, which Smith describes as "an apocalyptic party record" and is due out next year. "Musically, it nods to '90s British dance music, but it's not a dance record," he says. "When I say 'apocalyptic dance party,' it's quite a sort of, like, British, rough-on-the-edges tradition of probably drinking too much, staying out late, like pubs and house parties and raves. It's not like champagne-popping parties, because that's not our life and that's not how we personally do things, so it's a kind of warm and fuzzy and a weird nighttime record, so yeah it's just kind of a slightly odd journey through the night. The title can be interpreted in whatever way you choose to interpret it, but it felt kind of fitting and there's something about, it just sounds quite dramatic, which I really love."
Also on the show, Keith & Katie break down the 2018 year-end charts, where Drake and Taylor Swift reign supreme.
The Billboard Pop Shop Podcast is your one-stop shop for all things pop on Billboard's weekly charts. You can always count on a lively discussion about the latest pop news, fun chart stats and stories, new music, and guest interviews with music stars and folks from the world of pop. Casual pop fans and chart junkies can hear Billboard's senior director of charts Keith Caulfield and deputy editor, digital Katie Atkinson every week on the podcast, which can be streamed on Billboard.com or downloaded in Apple Podcasts or your favorite podcast provider. (Click here to listen to the previous edition of the show on Billboard.com.)
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