Nicky Romero's Personal Journey With Anxiety: 'I Wanted to Quit Music'

Nicky Romero
Courtesy Photo

Nicky Romero

Nick Rotteveel, the cosmopolitan DJ and Protocol Recordings founder commonly referred to as Nicky Romero, has cultivated a loyal worldwide following for his music.

Ever since his breakout single "Toulouse" in 2011, he, along with his arsenal of progressive records, has become a staple at music festivals from Tomorrowland and Coachella to Electric Daisy Carnival and Stereostonic.

It has been a relatively quiet fourth quarter for Romero in 2015, however. The Dutch act courageously decided to open up to his fans in a personal message via Facebook on Nov. 15 as to why his production output has been rather stagnant as of late.

Nicky Romero Opens Up About Anxiety Issues

"Of course this has to do with less time in the studio because of touring," he confides, "but the biggest cause was anxiety." Billboard spoke with Romero to delve deeper into his personal journey with anxiety.

How did you figure out you had anxiety?

I didn’t know what was going on with me so it took me a while before I realized that it was not just depression or lack of sleep. It was a pattern that I was stuck in. Rest would not solve the problem. I read about 10 books and spoke to 12 different therapists and they all had their techniques on how to recover, but they didn’t understand what I was going through. I didn’t know how to describe what was going on to other people. How can one possibly recover from something that people, even doctors, don’t understand? The book Paul wrote really describes everything perfectly -- that there’s hope and how to actually recover as long as you follow the procedure.

Did this affect your studio sessions and live performances?

If I got invited in for a studio session, I would go but I wouldn’t be able to perform at the level I normally perform at. It would be very hard for me to acknowledge that I couldn’t perform at a certain level due to my symptoms and a lot of people did not understand. I was disappointing a lot of people and colleagues. One of my friends, David Guetta, was able help me out in many ways. I was too scared to tell him sometimes that I couldn’t perform or that I did not know what was going on with me because I was afraid he would ask someone else for help with something. I knew that if I were to be at my normal condition, I would be able to do it in two hours and fix the song. It was nothing about David because he would be asking me a normal question. It was all about my own thoughts. I think I have had anxiety since 2013, about two and a half years now.

Describe your relationship with David Guetta during this time.

David was very patient. He was very positive as a friend and never put any pressure on me, which I’m really thankful for. He was one of the few people who was a true friend and still is. He told me he had similar symptoms a long time ago, at the beginning of his career, and found out how to get through it with his life. That was very inspiring to me because if David was able to do it with all the pressure, then I would say everybody can do it because he is one of the biggest stars among us. There was relief that I could actually do this work without having these symptoms.

Did you notice any other artists going through similar symptoms?

One of the members of Blasterjaxx was suffering from depression so I called him up and had a long conversation with him. I told him that if he needed my support, I would be glad to talk about it with him. I also sent him the book. I just try to share my knowledge and help people deal with it.

Were there days you did not want to be Nicky Romero anymore, and just wanted to be Nick?

I knew from the beginning that all these feelings I was having weren’t really me. They were just thoughts that came up. There were thoughts that I wanted to quit music, but I knew at the same time that it was not me. I was just the one observing the thoughts; I wasn’t the thought itself. I could see that it was not me wanting to stop music, but rather this negative energy trying to take over. Music has always been my passion. I’ve never wanted to do anything in the world but music. The only thing that was holding me back was the fact that I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t access my creativity energy and that was what was holding me back, it wasn’t the music itself.

How did your touring schedule affect you?

It’s almost attack on the body itself. It’s not healthy in general -- the jetlag, lack of sleep, the food schedule. But basically, you can live with it if you let it pass, rather than worrying about things or taking the stress personally. It’s the fear of going down or not making that hit or not being able to perform that is the hardest part of this job.

What was it like for your management during this time?

It was very hard for my management. Obviously they want me to tour and want my career to go up. At the same time, I was really happy if I could maintain my career. My management did their best and maintained things with me and the shows. I was happy that I could still perform for my fans; it still gave me some energy. I just did not feel I deserved to be onstage if I didn’t have a hit song.

What do you do on a daily basis to try and maintain this positive flow of energy?

I think the most important thing is to focus on what you want to achieve today rather than the problems of yesterday or the problems of tomorrow. Worrying will not get you anywhere -- it’s useless. It’s a habit that we all suffer from, especially people who have a profession that is very demanding. It’s the one thing that will push you away from your goal. We should be able to live in the now and focus on the now. Tomorrow is not going anywhere and yesterday is already gone.

What do you have planned for 2016?

We are working on this trilogy -- this three-song-based video clip. “Lighthouse” is part one. I finished a really cool record with Nile Rodgers -- he’s a guitarist, producer, writer. He co-wrote “Get Lucky” by Daft Punk and so many other records. He’s a legend. I also wrote a song that is 120 bpm. I’m trying to find a gap in the market, just like everyone else. In my case, it’s a little more groovy stuff that’s still melodic, and stuff like Kygo -- it’s a little different. I think I may have found something here that is a little different than all the other stuff going on. I’m working on another song called, “The Moment Is Here.” I am working with a really big band on a new song as well, but can’t say much about it yet. I’m focusing on a lot of new music for 2016.