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ARTY was with friends and family when he got the news. After months of loneliness on the road, he was ready to revel in the warmth and love of his Russian home, but once he read the text that Avicii had suddenly passed, he was devastated.
Avicii, born Tim Bergling, took his own life on April 20, 2018. A years-long struggle with depression, illness, substance abuse, exhaustion and more had left him feeling trapped. The producer gave the world huge, ecstatic house melodies from "Levels" to "Seek Bromance." He'd changed the sound of modern dance with singles "Wake Me Up" and "Hey Brother." He'd promised so much more with his last EP Avīci (01). More than that, he'd been instrumental in getting ARTY's international career off the ground.
Suddenly, he was gone.
"It was more than losing just the really good person, it was losing probably the biggest music talent that's been around," ARTY tells Billboard. "It was really hard to talk about it, to get the words out and think straight. I thought it would be easier for me to speak with the music."
Today, ARTY shares "Tim," a bright and vibrant progressive house track inspired by the moments and melodies Avicii shared with him and the world, the feelings and emotions that's coalesce and shape the dear memories of a lost mentor, icon and friend. For ARTY, it was the most difficult creative process of his career, but it was therapeutic and necessary. He releases it properly today (July 27) on Armada Records in hopes that it may help other fans out there who are feeling confused, too.
It took a few weeks to gather his senses, but when he finally sat at the studio desk, all the memories flooded back, inspiring each chord. There was 2008 when he heard Avicii's remix of Bob Sinclair's "New New New," the first moment he heard Avicii at all.
"I was blown away by production, because it was just such an inspiring song," he remembers. "When you dropped it club, people would go crazy, but at the same time it had such an amazing and happy feeling. You could see people start smiling. It was those chords that are so unique. You think it's simple but it's such incredible cords and melodies. Nobody else could do those."
He flashed back to 2011, when he and Avicii shared the bill of the Stereosonic Festival in Australia. ARTY was just getting started, and he saw Avicii play the main stage in the early afternoon. He dropped "Levels," and it was such a powerful moment, it was almost scary.
"People were screaming out loud every single note in the melody, the lyrics," ARTY remembers. "They were singing so loud, they were louder than actual sound system -- and trust me, the sound system was really loud. It was a stadium of like 60,000 people. That was one of the most exciting moments I've seen other DJs playing the show. I knew "Levels" was super big, but that was the moment I realized, 'This is not just one of the biggest dance records, it's the biggest record right now in the entire world.'"
The sweetest memory of all came a few months later when ARTY was asked to open for Avicii that New Year's Eve in New York City. It was one of the largest dance music events in the city's history, and Avicii sold out the venue in mere moments. A line longer than anything ARTY had ever seen snaked around the building, men and women shivering in the New York winter for the chance to experience the biggest DJ in the world. ARTY played to the biggest crowd of his career so far, and he even played the big midnight moment when Avicii's plane was delayed. It was the peak of Avicii's hectic schedule, and he'd played a show in Niagara Falls that same day.
Still, the headliner was not too tired or anxious to spend some time with ARTY after the following after-party. He was humble and kind, generous with his time and open to all of ARTY's questions.
"I asked him about 'Levels,' did he have the inner pressure about having such a huge record and how are you going to beat it," ARTY remembers. "He said, 'You know what? I feel no pressure whatsoever.' He was the person producing music for sake of whatever was making him happy. He was pushing himself toward it again and again. For him, the sky was the limit."
That New Year's Even show in NYC launched ARTY's North American career. It was the crowd upon which he debuted his track "Together We Are," a song directly inspired b Avicii and his magical melodies already. As the years went on, Avicii continued to support ARTY's work and career. He supported Avicii in Ibiza and on the road. He was always there to offer an open heart and ear, and his loss still weighs heavy. "Tim" is ARTY's way of trying to alleviate some of that pressure, as respectfully as possible.
"It's a bit hard for me to play this record right now," ARTY says. "I still feel not okay about everything that happened, but every time I play it -- and it's not a short record. It has really emotional spectrum breakdowns, but people still dance so well. They have so much energy.
"I made a track for my friend," he continues. "I just want to honor his memory. I want to do something right, and in my opinion its the right thing to do."
"Tim" is out now on Armada Records. You can listen to it and honor Avicii's memory below.
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