Matoma's Documentary 'One In A Million' Is a Portrait of a Man, Not Just a DJ

Matoma, "One In A Million"
Courtesy Photo

Matoma, "One In A Million"

Matoma was understandably nervous when he opened his life to documentarian Tobias Frøystad.

“I'm a very social and outgoing person, but it has to be on my terms,” he says.

The Norwegian DJ and producer was familiar with the filmmaker's work on the comedic travel series Dexpedition, and though he admired his eye and sense of storytelling, it was the time and conversations they shared in person that clinched the deal.

“He's such a character, and his personality just glows,” Matoma tells Billboard Dance. “His positivity and good energy is just incredible. Being surrounded with that guy for two years was just a very joyful and inspirational moment for me. He contributed so much input that I wasn't used to.”

If anything shines through in the resulting film, it's that Matoma -- nee Tom Lagergren -- cherishes family, honesty, hard work and down-to-earth personalities. One In A Million follows the entertainer from 2014 to 2017. It's a story of highs and lows, sickness and health, family and friendship. Most importantly, it aims not to glamorize or fetishize stardom, but only to humanize Lagergren as one man doing what he must to follow his passion and spread loving energy wherever he goes.

“I've met so many DJs that have that ego,” he says. “They've been around for five months, had like one song and they are so high on themselves. Five months later, they're gone, because they didn't have that workload, didn't have that passion in the same way. You really need to put everything you have into this, because competition is so high and so hard. If you slack, then you will be forgotten.”

His family-first approach pervades the film. He chose Andrew Jackson as his manager not because the industry man showered him in fancy dinners and expensive gifts, but because he took his prospective client to his home to meet his family. Much of the footage from his time on the road is spent beside his tour manager Stian Reinhartsen, a man he comes to love like a brother. Meanwhile, the sweetest moments are shared between Lagergren and his true older brother, Dan, whose pride and approval seems essential to Matoma's enduring strength and creativity.

There are intimate portraits of the Lagergrens at home, sourced when Frøystad joined the family for Christmas celebrations. It's from these quieter moments Matoma draws when things go awry on the road, like the time his equipment broke mid-way through a set for a small, American college town. Instead of throwing a fit, canceling or even rescheduling the show, the DJ quickly moved the party to a larger venue, noting on voice over that it is far more important to play a show to a half-empty room than to leave one's ticket buyers empty handed.

“If you don't treat your fans as your family, they will leave you, because loyalty is the key to success in this business,” he says. “You can have one hit and feel that you're invincible, but if you live on that for half-a-year, and then you make some shitty music, if you don't have loyal fans, they won't come to your shows, and that's that.”

Lagergren's professionalism is another huge focal point, whether intentional or not. He is always conscious of how drinking or partying is portrayed on camera, often chiding Frøystad for filming he and his friends taking shots or holding liquor bottles. He's far from a sober man, but for Lagergren, the job comes first.

“I've seen other DJs bigger than me that come, they are there to do a job, and they are so sloppy,” he says. “They don't care, and they're almost nasty. They're not being in the conversation, they're just making their own little world. I just feel like, if I go to a place where I know they've worked hard to promote the show and they booked me, I'm there to do a concert, and I want to do it in the best way I can.”

Time and time again, he speaks of spreading love with his music, his performances, and his interactions with fans, reporters and peers in the industry. His tropical-tinged sound tries to capture the carefree joy of summer, a season of warmth and freedom he came to appreciate in wintery Norway. He always makes time for charity events, like a recent show in Detroit that raised money for cancer research, or how his recent One In A Million tour offset its carbon footprint by calculating costs from travel and energy resources down to the clothing, food and travel of every ticket buyer, then donating those total costs back to the United Nations climate change initiatives. It's easy in this light to see why he was tapped to perform at the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in 2017.

“You can have bad days. I have bad days. I can wake up and feel really shitty, but that doesn't mean I should put my shitty energy on another person, because they don't deserve that,” he says. “I've learned this from my father and my mom, that you should always wake up in the morning and be happy about your life, because you never know when it ends. You should always think 'this is your last day on Earth' and go out with a bang. Go out with positivity. Go out with good energy, and go out with the best of yourself, because life is too short to not.”

One In A Million is now available in full on Apple Music. It's a real emotional tear jerker, and if Frøystad accomplished his goals, it's a film everyone will relate to, dance fan or not. It certainly does much to inspire the viewer, if not to follow their dreams, than to strive to kindness and openness in everything they do. It's a pick-me-up for rainy days and an invigorating view into the realities of life on the road. It's also got a pretty stellar soundtrack.


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