Avicii (©Jacob Schulman/Dancing Astronaut)
A breakout electronic dance music star sells out Radio City after sharing the stage with Madonna and scoring tracks for Ralph Lauren
By Kathy Iandoli
Special to MSN Music
In the land of DJs, Avicii is in the front rank of dance music stars primed for mainstream recognition. Born Tim Bergling, the 23-year-old producer, mixer and DJ has enjoyed a whirlwind career over the past year, nailing the Grammy-nominated "Sunshine," a collaboration with David Guetta along with his own smash track "Levels" (released as "Le7els"). With electronic dance music (EDM) steadily building buzz as a vital genre now crossing over into pop and R&B, the photogenic young beat master is already one of the top 10 EDM moneymakers and a major headliner.
His remixes for artists such as Madonna and Lenny Kravitz have garnered him even more praise, the former leading to a performance with Madge during her Yankee Stadium show even as he geared up for his Radio City shows on Sept. 26 and 27. Then there's his contract with Ralph Lauren, providing music and also modeling for the fashion empire's Denim & Supply line, and a fan base that includes more than 2 million Twitter followers, which in turn inspired the new track "Two Million."
So how does a guy who started out tinkering with beats and realized he was a prodigy keep all of this newfound stardom balanced? By staying humble, of course & and wearing lots of plaid shirts.
MSN Music: Do you ever get stage fright when it comes to performing in front of so many people?
Avicii: Not really. [It] depends kind of on the setting a little bit. The only time I do get stage fright is if in my booth or my area, something is weird there. Like maybe the CD players are way too low, and I have to crouch over and then I know that I look like a hunchback or something. Then I'll get a little bit [nervous], but other than that, no, not really. In the beginning, I used to get really nervous before, but not really anymore. I get more excited.
How did your shows with Madonna happen?
Well, I mean, she kind of showed up at Ultra [Festival] and presented me in Miami for the Ultra Music Festival, and this is just kind of basically us returning the favor a little bit. Because she and her camp have been wanting me to play with her for almost a year or something, but it's just never been the right time. You know I've been so busy with the touring, but this time it's Yankee Stadium and it's just impossible to say no to.
Yeah, and you can't say no to Madge too many times right?
You sold out Radio City and they had to open an extra date. That's crazy too. Had you any idea when you started out that you were going to get this gigantic?
No, I don't know. Everything has come so quickly and I've been so busy touring so, like, I haven't really thought about it that much. It's kind of weird. I try to just stay focused on making my music and doing my shows. I haven't really thought about how big everything's gotten, but it kind of hits you sometimes and everything still feels completely unreal. You know, that I'm able to do what I love basically and the amount of people that actually come out for my shows now.
I think the actual turning point for me was probably this year's Ultra. That was really when I understood for the first time, because I was headlining the festival and it's one of those festivals that you dream of headlining as an upcoming DJ, so it was a huge personal goal of mine.
When you started DJ'ing at clubs, were you old enough to actually get in the clubs?
No, I was in Europe. I started producing and kept only producing for a long time until I met my manager and things started taking off. When I started producing, I wasn't thinking about DJ'ing, and then the DJ'ing part kind of came. You know, that's the only way to perform and make money, so it kind of came that way. Then the first couple of tours and shows I did in the U.S., I was 19, so I wasn't really allowed in the clubs. And then especially in places like Las Vegas, they kind of escorted me right to the DJ booth and right back out after. Like four guards to make sure I wasn't staying there.
How did you link up with Ralph Lauren for the campaign?
First it was just going to be an online movie thing, so it wasn't going to be a big deal. We've been approached before by lots of different brands, but Ralph Lauren just sounded perfect from the start because I didn't have to compromise anything with what I was wearing because I was already wearing Ralph Lauren. I love that brand and have for a long time. The Denim & Supply line I think is amazing, and a lot of the flannel shirts and plaid shirts they have, like I said, I already had. So it felt really good from the get-go, and then Ash [Avicii's manager] just started talking to them and it just turned into this really big thing.
So now do you have a lifetime supply of plaid shirts?
Yeah, pretty much. I think I'm well above 100 plaid shirts by now.
Are you serious?
What do you put on your tour rider for your shows?
I mean, in Europe I know we used to do Legos, but no one used to give us Legos. I've been wanting to do something crazy, but I haven't come up with anything.
You requested Legos?
Yeah, but no one ever cared about it.
Kathy Iandoli has written for publications including The Source, YRB, BUST, XXL,VIBE, RIME and Vapors, and her work has appeared online at MTV, AOL and MSN Music sites. She is the former Alternatives editor of AllHipHop.com and the current music editor of HipHopDX.com.