R3HAB Breaks Down His 16-Track Album 'The Wave': Exclusive

Jochem Schuiling
R3hab

Roller coasters are the go-to metaphor for life. It's a ride that takes us through ups and downs, sometimes violently spiraling until it feels like we'll be thrown from the sides, but life isn't always violent. Sometimes it's soft and warm. Sometimes it flows slow only to swell with sudden, sweet urgency. That's why R3HAB ditched the usual and named his sophomore album The Wave.

"The Wave stands for the emotions and feelings that we experience in life," R3HAB says in an emailed statement. "Just like waves, they hit us and slowly and roll back. It usually doesn't take long to be hit with a new wave. The album has a record for each type of mood you are in, with its own vibe and identity. Blended and banded together with electronic production, it feels like a special journey to me."

From growing instrumentals to soulful vocal tracks, high-energy singalongs and playful, tinkering tunes, here is a breakdown of R3HAB's The Wave, straight from his own creative mind. 

1. R3HAB – "Eyes Closed"
My plan was to originally have this song be a 30-second intro to the album. Once I sat down in the studio, however, the production really began to take its own form and develop into more of a full track. My brain just kept developing the record, and it turned into the perfect opening track for the album.

2. R3HAB & Lia Marie Johnson – "The Wave"
Working with Lia Marie Johnson on this record was a great experience. We work together very naturally. Her voice on the album’s title track sets the mood for the album. I feel like each track presents a different mood and setting that lends to the overall theme of the album. “The Wave” is perfectly complimented by Lia’s voice. It gives me a nostalgic mid-summer feeling. It makes me want to close my eyes and think about long nights on a beach somewhere in Morocco.

3. R3HAB & Jocelyn Alice – "Radio Silence"
When I heard this song, I was standing in my kitchen in Belgium. When the chorus finished, the drop melody popped into my head. I started humming the melody into my phone because I didn’t have my computer. That ended up being the main melody in the drop of the song. It was one of those moments where the production came easy, and I knew this would be a part of the album.

4. R3HAB – "Cherry Blossom"
I was sitting in my studio one night with serious writer’s block, when I came across the opening sample for "Cherry Blossom." Sonically, it really reminds me of the classic Jack In The Box toy, which is typically kind of a creepy sound, but I've always thought it had a really cool texture to it. It wasn't really like anything else I'd ever made before, and I ended up making most of the track in one night. That's what my writing process is like. You may not have anything for a full week or more, but suddenly you find one sound and the creative flow sets in.

5. R3HAB & Conor Maynard – "Hold On Tight"
“Hold On Tight” was one of the main focus tracks on this album. I released it back in May just before summer. Working with Conor was awesome. He brings a lot of positive energy with him everywhere he goes. I feel like his voice works particularly well with the synths on this record. The track got a lot of great reviews, and it seems like most people can relate to it.

6. R3HAB & Quinn Lewis – "How You've Been"
This record represents what I was trying to achieve on this album overall, as I wanted each of the tracks to have a fun vibe to them that you could dance to but used chiller synths that also kept a clean feel to everything. In a way, I think that kind of encompasses my personality; I'm a pretty happy and energetic guy, but in a lot of ways, I'm somewhat of an introvert and really find peace in working on music alone sometimes. 

7. R3hab & Krewella – "Ain't That Why"
Yasmine and Jahan from Krewella have always been good friends of mine. They've been huge inspirations to me, and they're all-around badasses. Doing a track with them was such an obvious choice, and working with them exceeded my expectations. They have such a keen understanding of how to weave lyrics seamlessly into an existing instrumental melody. That's why they've been one of the most prolific dance artists over the past six years.

8. R3HAB & Sofia Carson – "Rumors"
I loved working on this record with Sofia. When she cut the track with her vocals, I knew we had something special. The track is playful and edgy, but also has somewhat minimal production. We shot the music video in the Amalfi coast and turned around the production in five days. We shot for almost 24 hours straight while I was on a layover on my way from Norway to China. Sofia was in town shooting a magazine cover. Once Sofia got involved, we knew we had what we had been waiting for with this record.

9. R3hab & Waysons – "Tell Me It's Okay"
The vocal from this track was super unique, and I distorted it somewhat to make it stand out even more. My favorite part of the track, however, is the birds chirping in the background, which reminds me of some of the exotic places I've been in my life, especially Asia. I've been so fortunate to have fans all around the world and to have toured some of these places. In a way, the birds in the background can serve as a shout-out to my Asian fans.

10. R3HAB & Kaela Sinclair – "Whiplash"
This song was written by one of my favorite new artists, Ella Vos. Kaela Sinclair had been touring with M83, and I thought her vocal complimented the airiness of the track perfectly. I love how ethereal it sounds. This is one of the more technical records on the album. I had a lot of fun using a Juno 106 synth to craft the drop. I spent hours recording different synth variations and fine tuning it. We recorded all the little synths in the drop by varying the LFO settings on the synth, and then chopped them all together to create the right feel. In the end, this came out to be one of the most technical records on the album, and one of my favorites.

11. R3hab & THRDL!FE ft. Olivia Holt – "Wrong Move"
“Wrong Move” was another fun track to make. I've never really released any music that falls into the "deep house" realm, but I've always been inspired by some of the production. I thought it would be cool to balance out some of the chiller productions on the album with a track that had a bit more of a "house" structure to it.

12. R3HAB & Noah Neiman ft. Miranda Glory – "We Do"
This record may be one of my favorite drops on the album. It's super catchy and fun overall. In a lot of ways, this track is most representative of the "R3hab sound" that I've become known for in the past few years. Although I wanted to get away from that somewhat on this album and experiment with some new sounds, this song was too good not to include on the album. 

13. R3HAB & Sakima – "Back To You"
I love the minimalism of this record. Sakima and I had been sending ideas back and forth for a few months, trying to find the right record to collaborate on. I’ve been watching his career for a while, after discovering him on Billboard. I love what he stands for and love how fun this record came out.

14. R3hab & Fabian Mazur ft. Louridiz – "Good Intentions"
“Good Intentions” is an amazing track and definitely a favorite from the album. I think the silky emotional vibes of the vocal compliment the track perfectly. The main inspiration behind this track was all the late nights I've had in Asia, specifically in Indonesia. Every time I hear the song, it takes me back.

15. R3HAB & Mike Williams – "Lullaby"
“Lullaby” is the perfect festival record, and I play it at almost every show. Whether it’s Greece, Indonesia or the USA, I always get a ton of energy from the crowd when I drop this one – ironically enough, because of the record’s title. Working with Mike Williams was awesome. He's such a talented producer, and it's been so fun to watch his rise to stardom over the past two years.

16. R3HAB – "Belle"
Just like “Eyes Closed,” the first record on the album, “Belle,” was supposed to be titled "Outro" on the album. However, while I was producing it, this track almost finished itself and we thought it was worth more than the simple title "Outro." Let “Belle” ease your mind and take you on a journey with glitched up vocals.