Zedd Breaks Down His Most Iconic Tracks

Superstar Zedd shares how he started making music and breaks down some of his most iconic tracks, including 'Clarity,' 'Spectrum,' 'Stay the Night,' 'Beauty and a Beat,' 'Break Free,' 'Stay,' 'The Middle,' 'Lost in Japan (Remix),' and 'True Colors.'

Released on 12/10/2018

Credits

Starring: Zedd

Transcript

00:02
That's a lot of platinum's.
00:05
[Zedd laughs]
00:06
[techno music]
00:07
My name is Zedd,
00:08
and these are some of my iconic songs.
00:10
I got interested in making music just because both
00:14
of my parents make music.
00:15
I think when I was like four or five,
00:17
is when I started writing music.
00:19
And my parents...
00:21
We would rent keyboards, and then they would record us...
00:25
Write our songs, and perform them.
00:26
So, I think our first recordings are from
00:28
when I was four or five,
00:30
and my brother was seven or eight,
00:31
when we started writing our own songs.
00:33
When I was growing up, we didn't really have much,
00:36
so when we got a keyboard, that is what we had,
00:39
and my parents would work all day,
00:40
and my brother and I would just sit
00:42
and write music, and record music.
00:43
[Clarity by Zedd]
00:45
♪ Why are you my clarity ♪
00:48
Clarity is definitely a song
00:49
that shaped my career a lot, I would say.
00:52
It kind of established me an electronic dance music artist,
00:56
that puts a lot of focus on vocals, and emotions, lyrics.
00:59
I was working on a song called Lost At Sea,
01:02
which is also a song on my album.
01:03
And I asked Matthew Koma to write a vocal for it.
01:06
It was way too emotional for the track that Lost At Sea was.
01:10
And the track Lost At Sea wasn't really giving
01:14
the vocal what it needs.
01:15
So, I told Matthew, I'm gonna write a song for that vocal.
01:17
I'm not gonna use it on this,
01:18
but I'm gonna do something with it later.
01:20
Then I randomly threw just the acapella,
01:23
'cause it's the same BPM, and happened to be in the key.
01:26
Just threw that on top of the Clarity instrumental.
01:29
I was like...
01:30
This is really good.
01:31
This is really strong.
01:33
I had goose bumps, and I felt something special.
01:35
So, originally Matthew was the vocal on Clarity,
01:40
but the highest note in the song was out of his range.
01:44
I was just gonna pitch the note up,
01:46
because I think it's fine,
01:48
but I know that he was really adamant
01:49
about not pitching his voice.
01:51
I mean, the song's really high.
01:52
For a guy to sing that song is crazy anyway.
01:55
♪ If our love's insanity, ♪
01:58
♪ Why are you my clarity ♪
02:01
So, we went through a couple singers, and I wasn't happy.
02:04
And we were getting close to the point
02:06
where I had to leave track off the album.
02:08
Just because I had my deadline,
02:09
and my manager just was showing me some vocalist,
02:11
and I heard Fox, and I was like,
02:13
wait, this could be awesome.
02:15
So, I got on a Skype call with her,
02:17
and kind of talked through what I want,
02:18
and how I want the song sung.
02:20
She was in England.
02:21
She recorded the next day, sent it back,
02:23
and then...
02:25
Clarity ended up being on the album. [laughs]
02:27
♪ Why are you my clarity ♪ [Spectrum by Zedd]
02:30
♪ We'll run were lights won't chase us ♪
02:33
I think Spectrum was the first song Matthew Koma
02:35
and I worked on together.
02:37
So, I was in the studio,
02:38
and I already kind of wrote 10 ideas for a track,
02:41
which is basically an album.
02:43
So, I was kind of like, well, I might as well do something,
02:45
so I started writing a song,
02:46
and I remember my idea and that little post-drop
02:50
section was to put as many sounds together as I could.
02:54
Different sounds, different samples,
02:56
and see if I could create something smart out of that.
02:59
Just getting those sounds together,
03:00
took a really, really long time.
03:02
But since I had so much time, and I waiting,
03:05
it was like, I might as well spend that time,
03:07
and do something with it. [laughs]
03:08
[techno music]
03:13
With Spectrum, I was just playing chords,
03:16
and then I got into like, the first, four, five, six chords
03:19
of the progression, Spectrum, until it loops around,
03:22
is kind of a lot of chords,
03:24
and I don't know if there's ever been a song
03:26
with the exact same chord progression as Spectrum,
03:28
which is really hard to do.
03:29
♪ Lying inside our quiet drama ♪
03:36
So, I just did the piano part.
03:37
I record that, and then as I record everything I'm playing,
03:40
there's the many, essentially,
03:42
gives you the notes that you played.
03:44
So, I can take those notes into the computer,
03:46
and then start applying sounds to it.
03:48
So, I just did that and made the whole instrumental.
03:51
And then, I needed a vocal.
03:52
And then, I had Matt come in to the studio
03:54
and we started writing.
03:55
I went to the bathroom for two minutes,
03:57
and I had that, like, [imitates music].
04:01
Something like that, but what we were working on
04:03
that we couldn't really figure out.
04:05
I was like, wait, this is great.
04:07
And I came back in.
04:08
I was like, Matt, this, and this, and that.
04:09
And then, we tweaked it, and then Matt wrote the lyrics,
04:12
and then, Spectrum was born. [Stay the Night by Zedd]
04:14
♪ Are ypu gonna stay the night ♪
04:18
Stay the Night, was kind of the follow-up single to Clarity.
04:21
And I've always been a huge Paramore fan.
04:24
I really wanted to work with Haley.
04:26
And I think before Clarity, it was just so hard for me
04:29
to find anybody that would be willing to work with me,
04:31
because people always thought DJs are DJs,
04:33
and they're not musicians.
04:34
That was the stigma.
04:35
Haley was somebody who thought that I'm more than just a DJ.
04:39
And I gave it a shot and sang the song.
04:42
And it was a huge honor, and big moment for me personally,
04:44
because I'm such a big fan.
04:46
So, to get her on a song
04:48
was a really, really great moment for me.
04:50
[Beauty and the Beat by Zedd]
04:51
♪ 'Cause all I need ♪
04:52
♪ Is a beauty and a beat ♪
04:55
So, I made four songs, of which Beauty and the Beat
04:58
was the fourth one.
04:59
And I had Justin's NR in the studio.
05:02
He was just visiting,
05:03
And I said, what are you working on?
05:05
It was like, well, this is all the stuff I'm working on,
05:06
this is a track I wrote.
05:08
And he's like, oh, my God.
05:10
Can we please have Justin on it.
05:11
I sent the song to Max Barton,
05:13
and then he wrote the vocals to it.
05:15
And then, we met Justin in the studio,
05:16
and then, he ended up sounding really awesome on it.
05:19
So we never tried anybody else.
05:21
I often times tried 10, 15 singers on a song.
05:23
And Justin was the only one on the record.
05:25
And then we needed somebody for the bridge.
05:28
And they suggested Nicki.
05:29
And I absolutely love Nicki.
05:32
Sure did. [laughs]
05:34
I think its awesome.
05:35
I think it was his idea.
05:36
I don't think I was around to be in it,
05:37
but I also don't remember if he asked me to be in it.
05:40
I also don't know what I would have done in it.
05:42
I mean, I love pools and swimming.
05:43
So, maybe I would have been one of those dancers
05:46
in the pool. [Break Free by Zedd]
05:47
♪ This is the part when I break free ♪
05:50
Break Free, was a track I made,
05:52
similar story to Beauty and the Beat.
05:55
It ended up not feeling like the right song for me.
05:58
But I love the song.
06:00
I sent it to Max Barton, and he wrote the top line.
06:03
And he then called me, and was like,
06:05
hey, I'm in the studio with this girl called Ariana Grande,
06:07
do you know her?
06:08
I'm like, yes.
06:09
I sure do know her.
06:11
Would you want her to give it a shot?
06:12
I'm like, yes. [laughs]
06:14
Yes, please.
06:15
So, she sang it.
06:16
It sounded, obviously incredible.
06:18
But her voice was way higher.
06:20
So, I had to reproduce the song,
06:22
I think, five semitones higher than it originally was.
06:25
I'm super thankful, honestly for the experience,
06:27
'cause I love Ariana.
06:28
I've always been a big fan,
06:29
and just that I got the chance to work with her on a track,
06:32
is something that means a lot to me.
06:34
[Stay by Zedd]
06:35
♪ The clock is ticking, so stay ♪
06:38
[clock ticking]
06:39
Stay with Alessia Cara, basically, I was way overworked,
06:41
and I played too many shows, and I made too much music,
06:44
and I needed a little bit of break.
06:45
For six weeks, I didn't do any music what-so-ever.
06:48
Didn't go to the studio at all.
06:50
And then I felt refreshed.
06:52
And I was like, I'm ready to make music.
06:54
And I started making Stay.
06:55
I heard Alessia's voice on the radio.
06:58
I was like, wow, she's really good.
06:59
But I didn't know her.
07:00
I didn't know anybody from her team.
07:02
And randomly, Nickelodeon called,
07:04
and was like, we would like you and Alessia,
07:07
basically to do a collage of Zedd songs.
07:09
And she would sing one.
07:10
And I was like, yeah, perfect.
07:12
So, we did this little collage.
07:13
And that's the first time I ever met her.
07:16
She happened to be in L.A. the next day,
07:17
or week, or something, and we recorded it.
07:20
And it ended up being, I think,
07:22
quite a big song for both of us.
07:23
[The Middle by Zedd]
07:23
♪ Oh, baby ♪
07:25
♪ Why don't you just meet me in the Middle ♪
07:28
So, The Middle, is a song made with Gray,
07:30
and Maren Morris.
07:31
And that song went through, I think, 13 vocalist.
07:35
At first, it was really hard to find somebody.
07:37
And then, everybody wanted to sing it.
07:39
Some of the singers on the song
07:41
were people I've always wanted to work with,
07:42
and it was the most heartbreaking thing to say,
07:44
I love you, but this is not the perfect time
07:47
for us to work on a song together.
07:49
So, we were really close to giving up,
07:50
and I heard Maren's demo,
07:53
and I thought that she was incredible.
07:55
So...
07:56
the next possible day,
07:58
I flew to Nashville to record her vocal,
08:01
and then I flew back and comped the vocal,
08:03
and finished the song.
08:04
And in between, I was trying to find singers.
08:06
We even had two singers who sang the song,
08:09
who I loved, who then jumped off the song, last second.
08:12
So, it was just, it was like giving birth to a child,
08:15
and it just took forever. [laughs]
08:16
[Lost in Japan [Remix] by Zedd]
08:17
♪ Let's get lost tonight ♪
08:19
♪ Let's get lost tonight ♪
08:20
So, when you remix a song,
08:21
you typically try to keep the core of it alive.
08:24
While, when you make a song, you build the core.
08:27
With Lost in Japan, it was just a little bit different.
08:30
'Cause, usually, I takes songs,
08:32
and I try to make a completely new world around them.
08:35
That's kind of how I approach it,
08:37
but with Lost in Japan, 'cause I love the song.
08:39
Love the original.
08:40
My approach was rather to pick a Shawn Mendes song,
08:44
and put my twist to it,
08:46
to the point where it's not just a Zedd song.
08:48
Like a remix would usually be.
08:50
But it's a mix of both of us.
08:51
And it's what it would have been
08:52
if we both wrote the song together.
08:54
I love the remix.
08:55
I love playing it.
08:56
I love listening to it.
08:57
It's a different vibe than I normally make,
09:00
'cause it's much more chill and groovy.
09:02
And it also, definitely, different for Shawn.
09:04
But I feel like this combination
09:05
just kind of worked magically together.
09:08
♪ You got this night ♪
09:10
♪ I'm a couple hundred miles from Japan, and I ♪
09:14
We were wanting to work together for so long,
09:16
so this was a really great opportunity.
09:18
And as I was working on the song,
09:20
I was just sending him, you know, ideas,
09:22
and he was giving me feedback.
09:24
'Cause we weren't in the same room together,
09:25
So it had to be via phone.
09:27
And then, we finished the song to the point
09:29
where we both loved it the way it was.
09:31
[True Colors by Zedd]
09:32
♪ My true colors, it ain't your rainbow ♪
09:36
True Colors, is the title track to my album True Colors.
09:40
And I released the song.
09:41
And then I read about some of the news about Kesha online.
09:45
And I just tweeted her,
09:47
hey if you need somebody to make music with,
09:49
or if you need help, I'm here.
09:52
I didn't know if she was aloud to make music.
09:54
Or, I think she wasn't actually allowed to make music.
09:56
So, at that point,
09:57
I was approaching it more like a therapy thing.
10:00
'Cause I know she's a musician.
10:01
She loves to make music.
10:02
We decided, why don't re-record True Colors,
10:05
and make your story out of that?
10:07
So, we got in the studio, we re-recorded the song.
10:10
And then, Dr. Luke's label, or whoever was in charge,
10:14
heard that we were working together,
10:15
and they said that if it's true,
10:17
they are gonna give us permission to release it.
10:19
For whatever reason.
10:20
I don't know if that had anything to do with me,
10:21
or whatever was going on.
10:23
Suddenly, we're like, wait, we could actually,
10:24
maybe release your voice again.
10:27
So, we finished the song, and then we got permission,
10:29
and we released the song in a time
10:31
where I think she was in a really, really dark place,
10:34
and I think it felt really good
10:35
for everybody to see her shine again.
10:38
♪ It's time to light the flame ♪
10:42
♪ Right before it rains ♪
10:45
A lot of my fans don't know where I come from.
10:48
And I come from classical piano,
10:50
and being a drummer for longer than I've been a DJ.
10:53
So, playing instruments and making organic music
10:56
is where I come from.
10:57
And I felt like after I had success,
11:00
more or less overnight, if you wanna call it.
11:02
People forgot my past,
11:04
and forgot that this is still a part of my heart.
11:06
Making a statement by making an album called True Colors,
11:09
and showing people my true colors,
11:11
and the title track being Organic Instruments,
11:14
I think was a really important step for me.
11:17
And ever since, I feel like people have accepted
11:20
me more as an artist, and less as just a thing.
11:24
And if I now come up with something new and different,
11:26
people know that, you know, this is part of me.
11:29
At this point, I kind of accepted the fact that my songs
11:32
will probably be played on the radio,
11:33
or TV, and most places you go.
11:36
But it still catches you off guard.
11:37
No matter how many times I've heard my song on the radio,
11:40
every time it starts playing, it still kind of like,
11:43
that's awesome. [laughs]
11:45
And, yeah, to be able to have a song,
11:47
and then everybody...
11:48
Maybe they don't even speak the language,
11:49
and they still know the words to the song.
11:51
That's just something really, really magical,
11:54
and kind of shows you how music can really bring
11:56
culture together and eliminate all barriers that,
12:00
you know, there might be.
12:02
[techno music]