Quite unexpectedly, AVICII’s uplifting bluegrass-tinged electro-blazer, “Wake Me Up,” was the jam of the summer. Featuring the soulful vocals of underground Los Angeles artist, Aloe Blacc, and the imitable talents of Grammy-nominated Incubus guitarist, Mike Einziger, “Wake Me Up” is blowing up the charts for many reasons, including its ability to transcend musical genres.
In a rare appearance, Blacc and Einziger stopped by the KROQ studios for an in-depth interview with Ted Stryker about how “Wake Me Up” was dreamed up, created, and the effortless magic behind the whole process. The two also performed an incredible acoustic version of the track for the first-time ever, which you can see above.
Interview Part 1
Rocker Einziger told Stryker that he met AVICII, or Tim Bergling, a hugely-popular Swedish house producer, through a mutual friend from Interscope. Bergling had expressed interest in writing songs for an album with Einziger, who co-composes songs for Incubus. Einziger said 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 bones of “Wake Me Up,” all the way down to the chord progressions, Bergling told Einziger that he had a meeting with Blacc; essentially, he was double-booked. But Einziger got the idea that Blacc should come write with them and Blacc was down enough to drive all the way to Einziger’s house in Malibu. He came bearing some of the lyrics that would make up “Wake Me Up.”
Interview Part 2
“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.”
Interview Part 3
Part of the process was that they all wanted to make something timeless. While “Wake Me Up” has modern sound 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, and Bergling’s strong ideas as a producer.
In the end, they swung it “out of the park,” as Blacc says, and are surprised and happy that the song “made a blip” and was not only played first by such an iconic radio station as KROQ, but played on stations all over the world.
“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.”
“It’s unbelievable to me because KROQ is kind of a home to me in many ways. I grew up listening to KROQ. It was like one of those dreams when you’re a kid in a rock band to get your song played on KROQ. And you guys were the first,” concluded the guitarist. “And so, the fact that you’re playing the song is just really amazing. Because I wouldn’t think that this would work, but the audience obviously loves it, and why deny them.”
Interview Part 4
AVICII’s first album True, featuring “Wake Me Up,” was released September 13 via Universal Island.
–Nadia Noir, KROQ