Swedish DJ/producer Alesso wrapped up 2014 on a high note, scoring his first Billboard Hot 100 hit with “Heroes (We Could Be),” a collaboration with fellow Swede Tove Lo. He hopes to continue that hot streak into the new year with his debut album, due “March or April,” he says.
Two days after he headlined a sold-out show at L.A.’s Shrine Auditorium, Billboard met up with Alesso at the Hollywood offices of Dash Radio to discuss the album, his rock influences and his admiration for Chris Martin.
When you go back and listen to your music what influences do you hear?
I hear a lot of the ’80s. I’m very influenced by ’80s. Also, I’m very inspired by rock music too. I was a big Red Hot Chili Peppers fan and Keane and Coldplay, so I think I just get inspired by those sounds, really.
How far along are you on the album?
It’s pretty much done. There are just one or two tracks I’m still working on. I’m not a hundred percent happy with the vocal parts. Then there’s a little bit of tweaking, the mixing and mastering. So that’s pretty much it.
Are there moments where you listen to this record and you can proudly hear those moments where you stayed true to yourself?
There’s one record that’s probably gonna be my next single. I made that song a year and a half ago, the instrumental, not the vocal part, and I think it still sounds fresh. So I think it’s because when I made that I was thinking about creating something that’s hopefully timeless, that has a combination of electric guitars and acoustic ones. So I try not to create something that’s popular at the moment. I just try to create something that I think will last.
How gratifying is it then to have crowds respond to songs a year later?
It’s the best feeling in the world. When you had a vision of a song and it gets fulfilled, knowing people respond to it as you wanted it’s everything.
What are a couple of those songs for you from other people?
Coldplay’s “Magic.” I think that song is unbelievable because it’s a journey, that whole track is so honest. I get goose bumps just thinking about it. It’s so powerful, the more you listen to it the better it gets. And towards the end it feels like you’re in heaven. It’s so powerful and I think that’s very rare today. That’s why I love Chris Martin’s music so much, ’cause you can really tell he doesn’t think, he just goes with what feels right and I love that so much. That doesn’t happen a lot these days I don’t think. A lot of music on the radio is very structured, which is fine.
That’s very diplomatic of you. I think there needs to be more spontaneity to music.
Yeah, true. I haven’t been around that long, but I feel it’s very different from what it used to be, how the radio was before and what it is now. How was it?
I remember Daniel Lanois telling me about his “happy accidents,” those moments that come from mistakes and sometimes when things are too produced, too perfect and too structured, you lose those.
That’s what we did with “Heroes.” When Tove Lo was doing the demo vocal we were like, “This is great.” Then she started polishing it and we were like, “Wait, stop, we need to go back, the demo was the best one.” So we went back to the first demo, just because we didn’t want it to be that polished. We wanted to get that feeling back where it started.
So it must be very rewarding that you went with your instincts and it is a huge hit.
Definitely, I’ve always been like that. I need to really feel a hundred percent sure. That’s why I haven’t released that many records, because I’ve always been very picky and I learn new stuff every day. But definitely when we went through that track I’m very happy how it ended up because I had a version I went, “Yeah, it’s great.” But then we listened to it a couple of times and I thought, “There’s something there, it’s not a hundred percent, it’s 90.” So it was a big part of the polished vocal we worked through, making it rougher.
Would you want to work with her more in-depth, like maybe do an album together?
Yeah, I could see when I played some music for her she responded the same way. We’ve kind of got the same vision. We were talking and playing other people’s music, playing some of my stuff that hasn’t been released and she responded in the exact same way. That’s why we also do have another record on the album with her, which is completely different from “Heroes.” I wouldn’t even call it a dance record because we said, “Let’s make a track where we really feel it. I want to cry listening to this song. I really want to make the most of this record creating a world around your voice and chords.” Like how “Magic” really is, it’s the same thing, but it just gets bigger and just creates this whole atmosphere and takes you to another place really. We wanted to prove how music can really take you to those places without taking drugs and alcohol.
Music can do that. Are there songs on your album or from others that do that to you?
I think some records really takes you to those memories. There are some records it’s hard for me to listen because I relate them to tough moments in my life that I went through. And some, I guess when it comes to my records I think it’s really now I have the courage to write about stuff that I went through. I think this time I really have the courage to go full with this album. So you’ll hear on this album, all the lyrics that are there, it’s me basically trying to tell what I went through, what I think, what really matters or what really has big impact in your life. So yeah, it’s basically me describing myself and telling stories.