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[Herald Interview] Making music to sing along: Jonas Blue hopes to become No.1 DJ

Record-breaking DJ shares his musical journey, from a local London bar to world stages 

Oct. 26, 2022 - 18:37 By Hong Dam-young
Jonas Blue (Universal Music Korea)

Back in 2015, Jonas Blue, hailing from the United Kingdom, was behind a DJ booth in a local London bar called “Harry’s Bar” under his real name, Guy James Robin. About seven years later, he is performing in front of thousands who are singing along to his songs at big name festivals all around the world from Ibiza to Amsterdam to Miami, just to name a few.

Blue, the 33-year-old DJ and producer, landed in Korea for the first time in four years since his first gig in the country in 2018. Earlier in October, he headlined an outdoor music festival titled “Slow Life Slow Live” in Seoul, successfully spicing up the night with a string of his anthems such as “Fast Car,” “Perfect Strangers,” “Rise” and “Mama.” The musician sat down with The Korea Herald in Seoul the next day to share his musical journey that has led to where he finds himself now.

Speaking about his priorities in his musical career, Blue said “In terms of my original music, yeah I keep it pretty quiet and happy. I love making songs that people can sing and that would never change ... that’s the most important reason for me doing this (music)."

After releasing his breakthrough single “Fast Car” in 2015, Blue has been churning out feel-good pop dance music that is largely built around ear-pleasing melodies and uplifting lyrics, sing-along-ready songs that are definitely different from hard club-bangers. He has collaborated with big-name artists and DJs such as Rita Ora, Tiësto, MK, R3HAB, RAYE, JP Cooper and Why Don’t We, and most recently in September, he dropped a new single “Always Be There” featuring British singer Louisa Johnson.

The musician attributed his tropical, bright sonic style to the capricious weather of where he came from. “Growing up in the UK, the weather is terrible the majority of the year. I always wanted to make music that feels summery, beach-type songs. The interesting thing is when I go to LA, which is always sunny, and try to make my music, I can’t make it,” he said with laughter.

With a world tour back in full swing this year, Blue has been prolific more than ever. He’s currently working on his collaborative project “Together,” for which he’s been teaming up with various DJs and musicians to spread the message of global positivity, from which “Always Be There” was a third single. “I’m cooking up something with Galantis at the moment, and we are really looking forward to it. It’s going to be a great album,” he hinted about the upcoming record.

All of this, Blue says, was a genuine reflection of his earlier years previous to Jonas Blue, where he learned to play piano, write songs, play all different types of music to the general public at bars and weddings, and just see how people react on the dance floor. He even met Sam Smith for the first time at London’s “Harry’s Bar,” where Smith was working as a bartender and Blue as a DJ. Now that both musicians are signed to the same record label both in the US and UK, Blue recalled, “I still remember the day Sam left the bar to record the song titled ‘Latch,’ and about two years later, I went to record ‘Fast Car.’ It was crazy.”

Jonas Blue (Universal Music Korea)

Even after he shot to fame, his musical essence remained intact. When crafting music, his utmost rule is to play the tune on the piano, the reason why his songs are usually melodic, simple yet earworm, and then move into the production phase. “First thing is, I try to keep the simplicity in all of my songs, which is very difficult to do. I was once in a phase of adding so much in one song, just to be really creative and over the top, but I realized I was over-complicating it,” he explained. Maybe another key to his success was his core life values, which were to make music not for the money but rather for the listeners’ pure pleasure, as well as generally just wanting to be a nice person.

“In this music industry, there are definitely not so nice people ... (and) touring is definitely tiring, but my rule is to treat your team well and treat other people well.” As a sidenote, he shared that one of his priorities is working out in a gym, a daily routine that he tries to stick to whenever he has time between tours.

While the rest of the year is jam-packed with his global tour schedule, his future plans include working with some Korean musicians. And Blue said that he already has been speaking to industry people, sharing that it’s surprising to see how his music is so in line with K-pop.

“As much as I’d love to work with BTS, I’d also like to find some new people, like who’s next, like New Jeans?” said Blue, referring to some acts in the K-pop scene he's noticed.

Blue went onto say he’s grateful for being able to see how music grows on listeners over time. He still remembers the day he played his hit anthem “Perfect Strangers” for the first time at the Belgian electronic dance music festival, Tomorrow Land, which, as Blue recalls, everyone was just standing still.

“I think some people even left because they didn’t like it. But now I can’t play ‘Perfect Strangers’ without everyone singing along to it. It’s crazy. I love how songs develop and take time and then people around the world sing them,” he said.

“I want to be the biggest DJ in the world, that’s one of the things I always said I will do. Bigger than David Guetta. Shout out to David, (laugh) but I will beat him. That’s just the goal in my head, but I’m super happy with everything now.”