IN CONVERSATION WITH MARTIN SOLVEIG
words by MAREK BARTEK
My phone lights up and starts vibrating. On the display, I can see a number with a French prefix. I’m not going to lie, I am a little nervous to talk to someone like Martin. It’s not everyday that I get to chat with one of the big names in the music industry, whose songs I have been dancing to since my teenage years. I take a deep breath, repeating in my head not to do anything fangirl-y that would bring me embarrassment in the months to come, and pick up the phone.
Martin’s voice sounds comforting as we exchange the wishes of “Good morning.” I can hear quite some noise in the background. In the most stereotypical way I imagine him sitting at the cafe in Paris, sipping on coffee, reading a book and then sparing the 20 minutes to call with me. “Are you ready for the interview,” he asks. The nonchalant tone with a hint of French accent creates a weird sense of charisma and encouragement. I shake off the last bit of stage fright and finally start.
We dive right in and start talking about the latest release ‘Now Or Never.’ Though the writing process started already in 2022 as a way to deal with everything that has been happening, it was only this year that Martin felt like we reached the state of realized emergency and desperately needed some sort of relief to be able to continue enjoying ourselves. “There are a lot of aspects in our lives that are now or never,” he comments as we continue talking about the importance of letting go and seizing the day, which is the overall theme for this track.
As Martin’s songs usually do, this one, too, features a singer, a 23 year-old Moroccan-Canadian artist Faouzia. The difference is, though, that this single comes out after a several-year break. And so, choosing the right artist for the collaboration seems like an extremely crucial step. As we progress further, I find out just how much work and research goes into choosing that right person.
“I started from the instrumental I made. And then I understood that I need someone with a lot of technical skill and wide range because I knew I was going to try to work on the idea of starting low and going up high and really bring an evolution into the performance,” says Martin: “And so, I basically did what anyone would’ve done, I went on Spotify and started to go through tons of profiles of new singers who have this vocal skill, came across Faouzia, thought she would be probably the best for this song because of her vocal talent for this song. And then I just sent an email, got in touch and started collaborating quite fast.“
In a true post-COVID fashion, Martin shares with me that the majority of meetings happened on ZOOM, including the lyrics writing and recording session. “We found each other at the moment when she (Faouzia) was in Jordan, I was in Paris and so we organized a remote session because she was touring at the time. It was so funny but I think it also added some spice to the process,” he laughs but then assures me that though it wasn’t an easy thing to organize but once they got on the call, everything ran smoothly.
With my following question I try to dig even deeper to understand the Martin Solveig of 2023. Unlike his previous work, this one has taken on a whole new direction. Not only in terms of sound but also elevated lyrics but also a visual presentation in the music video. “Well, I wanted to make a song and actually worked out an album and the fact I was doing an album took away some of that pressure of matching my previous work because I could work on eleven to twelve different songs,” says Martin, while single handedly answering my next question about the coming album.
“In the dance music industry, we are basically making singles after singles, trying to make every single a hit. And that’s how I worked before. The idea of working on an album made me feel a lot more free to try to explore the music and new things and it was extremely important at that point in my life.” As we both agree that having the freedom to explore oneself as an artist is absolutely crucial, it makes me curious to find out if all the songs follow one style in a sense of experience realized, or rather a continuous exploration. It feels as if Martin knew exactly what I was going to ask because a second later he shares with me that though all the songs are a little bit different, the way they are ordered in the album creates one journey. “Every song has a theme that I just knew was relevant to our time. There is a song called ‘Coffee at Tiffany’s’, which is inspired by my talks about social media and how we shape our lives and most private parts into telling a story but it has nothing to do with reality, ‘I don’t wanna wok’ is a very strong one, probably is going to be a single but I don’t want to spill everything, just to give you examples that every song has a context that I just thought would resonate in 2023 and the times we live in,” he ends and it makes me even more excited for October, when the full album comes out.
Martin’s career spans over more than twenty years, which to me sounds absolutely crazy. It’s not only long lasting but also successful and still very active. I can only imagine this comes with a certain level of high expectation to deliver. And so my next question focuses on how he experiences pressure to maintain his legacy. “I feel so privileged to have had a long time span career, it is an incredible gift. It’s true it delivered me a little bit from the pressure of releasing every song as a hit. Nowadays it’s quite impossible, unless you’re maybe a Calvin Harris,” he laughs, as he tells me more about his vision for the future of the music industry.
“Musically things are changing so fast. When I started making music and the challenge was to break through, it was about vision and technical skills because you had to find a technical way, find the right machines and the right tools to transform your vision into something that is good.“ I can hear a little bit of nostalgia in his voice and just for a second in the back of my mind, I hear all his hits almost as if I were on the dance floor. “But in the coming years,” he continues, “all the tactical aspects will be extremely synthesized to the level the only remaining thing will be the vision. And it’s not a bad thing, because actually being an artist is having a vision. A vision of the work that you want to do and the message you want to share. But there will be millions and millions and it’s already happening. The number of releases is skyrocketing. Number of songs released on Spotify in 2018 is 20,000 per day and in 2023 100,00 a day. Can you imagine?!”
I eat every word because just listening to this, I know I talk to someone who knows the whole music industry from the inside and is aware of what the possibilities of the future are, someone who understands what it means to make it and keep making it and wants to see people succeed. And so, there is nothing else left but my final question: “Do you have any words of wisdom for the people who aspire to become artists?”
“Yes, absolutely!” He says it with enthusiasm and for some reason it makes me feel really hopeful. “It’s going to be about the vision of the music, the message it carries and the promotion, and it will all have to be integrated in a solution. That implies social media because it will always be possible to promote a song. But if you want to embrace that you’re not only a carrier of the message you need to truly engage as an artist.”
He then closes by saying: “Be creative, be inspired, be different and distinctive and trust your vision.”
I thank him for the time and we wish each other a nice rest of the day. As I hang up the phone, I have a funny feeling of lightness. I open YouTube and play ‘Hello’ by Martin Solveig, featuring Dragonette.