Mike Hawkins has begun a new chapter in his career and his music is embracing all the change. Billboard Dance is exclusively premiering the Danish DJ and producer’s all-positive-vibes “Follow,” his first single since departing Spinnin’ Records and joining Armada Music.
Hawkins gained attraction for his remixes for fellow producers such as Martin Garrix, and Nick Jonas’ “Chain,” which helped the singer lock up the No. 1 spot on Dance Club charts last year. He announced his split from Spinnin’ earlier this year in a Facebook post to fans, writing that the mutual agreement to end the deal left him with an exciting future ahead and over a year’s worth of written material.
“I greatly appreciate everything they (Spinnin’) did to help develop my career, but I was constantly yearning for something new, something deeper, something unique,” Hawkins tells Billboard. “I respect the Spinnin’ team and what they have done, and do for many of their artists, but personally for me, it was just not a great fit”
Along with joining Armada, Hawkins also landed a deal with UTA and says he took some time off from touring to spend the past few months soul-searching.
“Follow” reflects every part of his inner journey, setting the tone with uplifting ambiance that incorporates vibrant beats and rhythm guitars. Hawkins says the single was created right after the shift and expresses a side of him that’s “felt locked up for a while. Each chorus of “I will follow” seems like his inner cry out to the world.
“It’s back to the grit and good times of some of my best musical memories from childhood,” Hawkins adds. “There was an instant chemistry in the studio with Disfunk and Oisin, mostly because we grew up with a lot of the same influences. Oisin came with a fantastic vocal that perfectly complements the record and I feel like we really connected on this one.”
“Follow” is out April 4 and Hawkins says more music will soon follow. Check out the single below, along with an interview with Hawkins on his transition and new music.
What was a reason behind the label switch and how has the transition been for you?
I’m at a point where I feel its necessary to stay true to what I do musically and continue to evolve as an artist and I felt limited in being able to reach the full spectrum of what we wanted to do. The transition has been great and there’s been instant chemistry from day one with the people at Armada. I’ve got a great team around me, that believes in putting the artist and the vision above all. I couldn’t be happier how everything is going.
Armada has given me unlimited creative freedom, so it feels almost like something “clicked” and unlocked in my brain knowing that there are virtually no boundaries. Naturally, it also means I have to be very aware and responsible as an artist with what I do, but the main change has been that “fun” is now in the picture again.
What have you been up to since leaving Spinnin’?
I’ve been in the studio almost nonstop for the past four months, and I’ve really gone far and wide experimenting with different sounds and styles. All inspired by what made me fall in love with electronic music in the first place (and music in general) and to create a catalog of music that I feel represents the next stage in my career.
You incorporated rhythm guitars on “Follow,” was this the first time you’ve done that and how did that come about?
I love guitars and have actually used them in a lot of my previous records, just not this up front and centee. I grew up with rock music and funk guitar, and it felt very right to bring that into my new music. It’s definitely the first record to feature the instrument so prominently, but it won’t be the last!
The single has a radio friendly sound to it, were you looking to go for a new sound or was it something that just happened?
Even though it just “kind of happened”, I don’t believe in coincidences when it comes to music. There’s definitely a sound to this that’s larger than just this record, and it’s big part of me. There’s a lot more where it came from and while “Follow” is a very happy, uplifting record, I have definitely not lost my teeth. I’m pretty sure most of my fans and followers will be surprised to hear what’s next.
I wanted to make a great record first and foremost. The synths, sound and melodies of “Follow” are admittedly very “pleasing” in its sound, but I definitely didn’t go into the studio saying I have to make a radio hit. It mostly spurred from a desire to work with something “analog” and warm, playing with old monophonic synths and filters, running them through guitar amps and what not. I even bought a few old analog pieces of gear to try bring some of that authenticity to the music.
You’ve worked on several new records the past half year, are you currently working on more material or are you revisiting the work you’ve already done?
A bit of both. My next 6 singles are ready and scheduled with Armada, which are a combination of club and radio records. With the saturation in the electronic landscape, now more than ever you need quality records. I also have hundreds of early ideas that I’ve just sort of “scrapped” along the way, constantly trying to push boundaries and deliver fresh music that people can emotionally connect with. I’ve kept most of them though and at this point I’m revisiting a lot of my open projects. I’m also working on a lot of new material right now, all very wide on the spectrum but all true to what I want to convey musically and artistically right now. It feels right.
How has your break from touring been?
I feel like when you’re touring 24/7 there’s not much time to look inwards and ask yourself if you really enjoy what you’re doing, and so you risk stagnating musically. Time off is important, because when you’re away from all the parties and the attention you’re forced to make peace with yourself in a way, and often that’s when you start feeling miserable if you’re not creatively following the path you want. It’s sort of taking a step back, looking at everything, and asking yourself if it all still feels good – if it doesn’t, it’s time to change. That’s a big problem in the electronic music industry, most DJ’s are “constantly on” and it means you never get that necessary time to feel yourself out.
What are your next plans?
I’ve gotten myself into some really cool and different collabs right now with very different artists – I’m not even sure all of them will work out, but I love the challenge. There’s everything from metal to funk, but all rooted in my musical upbringing – and heavily influenced by the likes of Daft Punk, The Police, Queen, Justice and Kavinsky. Besides that, we’re planning the year in touring right now, and as always we’re trying to aim as far and wide as we can without compromising the quality of the shows.