He dominated the charts around the world with his breakout hit ‘Waves’ and has since proven himself to be quite a diverse artist and now, Mr Probz continues his climb to the top. On his recent trip to South Africa, I sat down with the star and dissected his smash hit, his songwriting and he gives us a glimpse into what he has planned next.
The Robin Schulz remix of ‘Waves’ became such a massive hit around the world. How did that remix come to life?
The original version was doing well and it started charting around Europe and we were getting many requests from DJs to remix the track. Robin took the original version and put his spin on it and after we heard it, we called him up and decided to go into the studio with him. It was playing in Ibiza and we knew that if we would release a radio version of the song, it would be this one – and it became the most successful song of our careers.
What inspired the lyrical content of the song?
Heartbreak. Pain. That’s why it resonates with so many people. I was writing it and crying at the same time because that’s how I go through my music. If I’m going through something, I put pain to paper. The concept is about two people going through conflict and each battle pushes them further apart. I write in a way that everyone can interpret everything differently and that’s the power the song has.
You’ve said you never perform the Robin Schulz remix live. Why not?
I like performing the original because that’s my vision of the song. It’s the way I wrote it and the way I brought it to life. But, when I was on stage with Armin Van Buuren at Ultra South Africa for example, we do a hybrid version where he slows it down and I sing it and then he speeds it up and we sing and he slows it down again. With the remix, only a few people like Chris Brown can perform it on that BPM. Me? I cannot do that. I cannot sing that fast.
Do you ever go into the studio with the pressure to produce a hit song?
With the songs that performed the best, I was worried the least about making a hit record. I was just worried about making good music and that’s what it should be about. I did get caught up in trying to make a hit song after ‘Waves’ because the whole world was watching but it wasn’t organic. I need to wake up and feel the need to put something on paper and that’s when a ‘hit’ is born.
Every single you release has been do different to the one before. How important is sonic experimentation for you?
It’s what I live for. Imagine eating your favourite dish every day for breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert. But, if you switch it up, it’s still your favourite dish and that’s what this process is like for me. I like to challenge myself. I’m like a musical nomad. I have to challenge myself. Otherwise, I feel like I’m trapped. That’s why after ‘Waves’, people were confused that I changed my sound but I had to. As an artist, you can’t do the same thing twice because the audience is not stupid. They don’t want the same thing wrapped in a different package. I can’t do that.
What is the toughest part of the song creation process for you?
Reliving it. It’s hurtful to go back to that moment sometimes. Songs like ‘Do It All You Can’ made me transform into a kid again and relive that moment. Lyrics shouldn’t be about something that sounds good but they need to paint a picture. I like writing in a way where you’re quickly transported into the story. So, when I write, I need to dig deep.
What is the one piece of advice you can give aspiring South African musicians about making it big?
Be unique. Why would you want to be the next someone else when you’re the only you? If I want to play the violin and sing about cats because that’s what my guy tells me to do and I don’t look left or right and I don’t listen to anyone and I keep doing it, there will be someone who is looking to consume that real thing. Keep it real even if that means making hard decisions when everybody else is saying something else. That’s harder than giving in.
What does the rest of the year have in store for you?
I have a new single titled ‘Whatever You Like’ in the pipeline that I cant wait to share with everybody. Other than that, I hope to come visit again soon and more into my music here in South Africa.
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