Zedd doesn’t rest. On top of having two summer bangers—“Stay,” featuring Alessia Cara, which was #1 at Top 40 radio for six consecutive weeks and won the MTV VMA for Best Dance Video, and “Get Low,” featuring Liam Payne, which has racked up over 89 million streams—the Russian writer/producer/mixer somehow found time in his schedule to launch his own pair of high-definition headphones, Double Zero, as well as plot a headlining North American tour. Ahead of his Labor Day weekend performance at New York City’s Electric Zoo festival, Complex caught up with the Grammy-award winner over the phone to talk about his live shows, creative process and how his positive music is helping uplift a world that needs it now more than ever.
Did you know “Stay” was going to be such a smash hit when you were creating it?
Whenever I make a song that’s big for me, I always joke saying that’s the “smash” and of course I hope that it’ll actually become one, but there are so many factors that play into whether a song will be successful or not that I can’t control. I knew that the song was really special, that’s something I knew for sure, but whether it’s going to connect with people is a different thing.
When did you know you wanted Alessia Cara to be on it?
Far along, I didn’t know if I was gonna be able to get her on the track or not. We performed on TV and were asked to play a Zedd collage with her and Hailee Steinfeld.The two of them sang bits and pieces of my songs, and that was the first time I met her. I told her I was working on a song that I thought she’d sound really great on, so I played her the track and she loved it.
You’re North American Echo Tour kicks off in September—how have your shows evolved and what do you want them to become down the line?
My shows have evolved from me being a DJ in a way to me performing a concert. When I started DJing, I used to just play other people’s music because I didn’t have much of my own, maybe one or two songs. On my tours now, I really like to plan a set. I like to sit down with my team and really focus on what we want to do together—it’s a lot more prepared and a lot more focused on a tight package. And it isn’t just the music that I play, but also the band behind the scenes, which is Gabe running visuals, Stevie running lighting, Cam running the laser effects….all of that is a part of the viewer experience, and that’s all really important to me. Going forward, when my music makes sense with this format, I can imagine playing instruments live instead of using the DJ format.
How involved was Liam in the making of “Get Low?”
I played him all the stuff I was working on, he really liked “Get Low”—we pretty much changed the topline entirely to fit him. The way the song was before, I had a hard time because the “drop” wasn’t fully there because it didn’t have a vocal. It was kind of cool and I just didn’t know what to do with it, and then Liam jumped on the track and the hook is right on the drop. That’s really what the song was missing before and I don’t know if we would have had that part if he wasn’t part of the song.
“Get Low” and “Stay” have distinct sounds. If you release an album, which direction do you see it going in?
If I will release an album, it’s truly hard to describe the direction I’m going in. I think all the songs I’m working on right now have a tendency to be a lot more positive than my previous songs. And by “previous” I mean my previous albums. That doesn’t mean they’re all as happy as “Get Low” because that was specifically a summer song for me, but a lot are very energetic right now. There are a few that I’m working on that are just a piano and a voice that I’m really excited about. I still don’t know if I’m going to release an album, I’m working on each song individually.
Everyone thought, and still thinks, it was great that you collaborated with Kesha in the midst of a lot of her legal troubles. Can you see you guys collaborating again in the future?
I would love to. We’ve been in touch throughout the time, ever since a year before the song, when we started working on “True Colors.” I wasn’t involved since day one, I heard about all the news like most other people had, so when we started working on some music I had no idea that we’d ever be allowed to release any of it. That wasn’t really the intention though, I think subconsciously we both thought it was never going to come out and it was more of a therapy in a way. The fact that we even got to release a little bit of it is kind of incredible. Of course I could never speak for her or imagine what it must be like to be in her shoes but I think the fact that she’s now releasing an album is incredible and she’s waited so long for that moment.
Echo Tour Dates
9/29 - Vancouver, CA
9/30 - Seattle, WA
10/7- San Francisco, CA
10/8 - San Francisco, CA
10/12 - Chicago, IL
10/17 - Boston, MA
10/18 - Boston, MA
10/19 - Philadelphia, PA
10/20 - Philadelphia, PA
10/21 - Washington, DC
10/24 - Houston, TX
10/26 - Dallas, TX
11/1 - Ciudad de Mexico, Mexico
11/3 - Monterrey, Mexico
11/4 - Zapopan, Mexico