Reporting Jay Tilles
Quite unexpectedly, Avicii’s uplifting bluegrass-tinged electro-blazer, “Wake Me Up,” was the jam of the summer. Featuring the vocals by underground Los Angeles artist, Aloe Blacc, and the Incubus guitarist, Mike Einziger, “Wake Me Up” is blowing up the charts for many reasons, including its ability to transcend musical genres. With 12 weeks on the chart, the runaway hit is currently at No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100, edging out Jay Z and Lada Gaga.
In a rare appearance, Blacc and Einziger stopped by the KROQ (A Radio.com station) studios for an interview with Ted Stryker about how “Wake Me Up” came to be. The two also performed an acoustic version of the track for the first-time ever (as seen above).
Einziger told Stryker that he met AVICII (real name Tim Bergling), through a mutual friend from Interscope Records. Bergling had expressed interest in writing songs for an album with Einziger, who co-composes songs for Incubus. Einziger explained he “wasn’t quite sure how that would work” because of Bergling’s DJ background, but Bergling came to his studio in Malibu and gave Einziger the opportunity to do something “new and different.”
“I didn’t know at the time how it would turn out, but I’m really glad that I was open to it, that he was open to it, and that Aloe was open to it,” confessed Einziger.
After creating the musical backbone and chord progressions of “Wake Me Up,” Bergling told Einziger that he had a meeting with Blacc; essentially, he was double-booked. Einziger thought, why not come write with us? Blacc accepted the proposition and drove to Einziger’s house with lyrics that would make up “Wake Me Up.”
“I came to to that session with one strong song in mind and it was this idea, ‘Wake Me Up,’” elaborated Blacc. “I have a whole bunch of others, but I just felt like I’m going to meet basically two captains of industry and I’m not going to go in empty handed. I want to go in showing I’m ready to play ball. When I had walked in, they already created the chord progression and when I heard it I felt like what I had prepared was just right.”
Einziger agreed that the songwriting process was “magical immediately.”
“In my experiences, with songwriting, the songs that have really mattered the most have always felt like that to me,” described Einziger. “There’s some sort of effortless magic thing where it’s not labored over…And it was just natural because that’s not the natural way…most of the time when people get together there’s this awkward sort of struggle, especially people that don’t know each other.”
Part of the process was that they all wanted to make something timeless. While “Wake Me Up” has modern elements, it could be transposed into any generation of music and have cultural relevance. Einziger confessed that some of his songwriting was inspired by his bluegrass-loving fiancée, Anne-Marie Simpson.
In the end, they hit it “out of the park,” as Blacc says.
“I had no idea that this song would be on KROQ and it’s awesome,” said Einziger. “ It’s so unexpected. Every time we write music, every time I write music. I’m sure it’s the same for you,” said Einziger to Blacc, “we don’t expect people to like music. We hope people would like it. When they do, it’s always surprising to me and pleasantly so.”
AVICII’s first album True, featuring “Wake Me Up,” was released September 13 on Universal Island Records
–Nadia Noir, KROQ-FM with additional reporting by Jay Tilles