2009 was David Guetta’s year. And for good reason: he was the producer of “I Gotta Feeling,” which became the best-charting single of the Black Eyed Peas’ career, and “When Love Takes Over,” which become Kelly Rowland’s second #1 single in Europe. Coincidentally, the success of both singles dove-tailed on various international charts—flip-flopping positions at the summit of music charts in Ireland, Czechoslovakia, Belgium, Spain and Switzerland.
Unafraid to take musical risks, David Guetta successfully blended the best of Europe’s electronic beats with America’s hip-hop sensibilities. His fourth studio album, One Love, was released on August 21, 2009, and features collaborations from Akon, the Black Eyed Peas, Chris Willis, Estelle, Kelly Rowland, Kid Cudi, Ne-Yo, Novel, and Makeba Riddick.
In the midst of a promotional tour for One Love, David Guetta managed to squeeze some time out of his busy schedule and settle down for an interview with Clayton Perry—reflecting on his first deejaying gig, his multiple collaborations with Chris Willis, and the inspiration behind One Love.
Your production work on the Black Eyed Peas’ "I Gotta Feeling" helped to turn the single into the breakout hit of 2009. To date, it is the longest-running #1 single on Billboard’s Hot 100 Chart in 2009, and the single is currently tied as the second longest running Hot 100 #1 of all time. As you saw the song sit at the top of the chart, week after week, what exactly was going through your mind?
Well, you know, it's crazy how big this song became. I still remember when the song was used on Oprah Winfrey and like 10,000 people were dancing together with the huge choreography. I remember watching that, and I was like, "That is so crazy!" It was so big and I try to remember every detail of me and Will recording, but we never expected it to become that big.
So the story behind the song: Will, at the time, was embracing the electronic music from Europe. Other artists have taken sounds from us and incorporated it a little bit. But what I respect a lot about him and the band is that he fully immersed himself in the culture. He called me, and he was like, "Okay. I love that sound and I want to experiment with it a bit." So I sent him some tracks, and he selected a few. Then, I went to Los Angeles and we worked together. When the song started coming together, I got a crazy feeling and I was screaming: “this is huge, this is a monster, this is crazy.”
Will came up with a hook of a hook! It has such a positive vibe. And I think a lot of success with the song is because of that really positive message, especially at the time when things are difficult for everybody. So it was just an amazing experience, and the deal was I was going to help him with the Black Eyed Peas album, [The E.N.D.], and he was going to help me with my album, [One Love], in return. We ended up recording “I Gotta Feeling” and “Rock that Body” for The E.N.D. and we also made two other songs: “On the Dancefloor” and "I Wanna Go Crazy." Our music is the bridge between electronic culture from Europe and hip-hop culture from America. This is the music of the future. It’s not electro. It’s not hip-hop. It’s electrohop.
It's interesting to hear you say that, because the promotional sticker on your album noted that it would be genre-busting. Did you think this new style was going to be received well, because I know you have noted in the past that it might be risky for you to go into an urban direction?
Well, we both had that feeling, but we didn't care. There's always going to be some people in the hip-hop community that are going to say, "Why work with somebody in the electro world? " And of course, there's always some haters that feel bad about themselves, and they're going to say, "I don't think what you’re doing is going to work." But I think — and this is where the title of my album, One Love, comes from—at the end of the day, for us, it's one love for the music. Good music is good music, regardless where it comes from. And actually, it made us so happy. We have a feeling that we're creating the music of tomorrow. It’s something completely different. And so refreshing.
You have a lot of collaborators on this particular album, but one particular person, you've featured on all your albums is Chris Willis. What kind of special bond do the two of you share? I know you have mentioned in the past that you tend to focus on the music before you jump to the voice? So what is it about his voice that you find so captivating?
Well, he's an amazing singer, and I always wanted to keep working with him, because he brings me luck! [laughing] I'm very lucky to have met him. We met in Paris, by accident, between friends. At the time, he was recording primarily gospel songs and he didn't know anything about dance music. So I invited him to the studio and we made our first song, "Just a Little More Love " in thirty minutes. And it was crazy! I never heard somebody that could sing like that and we just had the magic together in the studio, as two guys that love music.
Since the release of “Just a Little More Love” in 2001, your life has been fully immersed in the world of music. What about the years beforehand? When did you start contemplating music as a profession?
Wow, I probably was twelve or thirteen. I always wanted to be a DJ and I would practice every day. And early on, I made special edits of other people's music, because I wanted it to be more danceable. And then, I started to create tracks of my own. And only lately, I started to make music for other people, like “I Gotta Feeling” and “Rock that Body” for the Black Eyed Peas. So it all started with me being a DJ, really.
Do you recall your first deejaying gig?
Oh, yes! It was a party in my basement. I invited everybody from my school, and it cost them $1 to get in [laughing]. I was fifteen or sixteen at the time.
Did you use the profits for lunch money? [laughing]
I can't mention. It's too private [laughing]. I didn't make any money.
Coincidentally, you met your wife in a club, and upon your first meeting, love definitely took over. Over time, the personal and professional aspects of your lives have intersected, and in a way, she has become the backbone of your career.
Well, she has always been my greatest supporter. She's my wife, she's my lover, and she's my partner, too. Every year, we throw our F**k Me I’m Famous parties in Ibiza, and she organizes all of this. So she definitely helps me a lot and deserves a great deal of credit.
For more information on David Guetta, visit his official website.