The Tranquil World Of Felix Jaehn
Driven by his freshly altered artistic perception, the 27-year-old German producer reflects on his journey, upcoming studio album and the role meditation plays in his artistry
“What’s this song’s name?” It’s a recurring question that echoed across towns and cities every time “Cheerleader” by Jamaican vocalist OMI boomed through speakers. While first OMI sowed the song’s seed in 2012, 27-year old German producer Felix Jaehn is the mastermind behind the track’s resurrection and viral success throughout 2014 and 2015.
Born in Hamburg, Jaehn first relished the sweet nectar of creative expression through the violin when he was five years old. As he grew up, Jaehn kept himself busy playing football, tennis and of course, the violin in his local orchestra. Over time, with shifting preferences and priorities, his creative bug bounced off the violin and landed straight into the world of electronic dance music. “I became a teenager,” Jaehn chuckles, explaining why he decided to experiment with EDM. Sitting comfortably in a black round-neck T-shirt, Jaehn’s candid outlook is anything but gloomy like the skies behind him. “I started to prioritize and at that time, I wanted to focus on sports. So I stopped playing the violin–And two years later, I got injured. So I couldn’t play sports for a while.”
Around the same time, Jaehn was enthralled by the pulsating world of EDM. Thanks to hitmakers like the late Swedish producer, Avicii and supergroup Swedish House Mafia, 15-year-old Jaehn was creatively stimulated more than ever. ” I always wanted to be in charge of the music,” he says. “I didn’t just care about getting drunk, dancing and partying– I was always thinking about what could be the next track that makes people dance. So I started by plugging in my laptop and selecting songs from a playlist. Through that, I discovered my passion for DJing. And yeah, that’s what I’ve been doing for 10 years.”
A decade-long career captured in countless tours, live performances, records and pure-adrenaline hits, Jaehn’s work is a reflection of his balanced perceptions and drive to create anything but ordinary. Arguably one of his biggest singles to date, Jaehn’s “Cheerleader” remix was a mega-viral success globally. The breezy tropical remix played an integral role in landing OMI the top spot on the highly competitive Billboard Hot 100 chart and, adding on to the innumerable accords, “Cheerleader” also rested as the Number One track on the UK Singles Chart for four weeks consecutively.
Outside of remixes, Jaehn’s body of work has made its fair share of appearances on worldwide charts. Armed with a pulsating mix of sounds and a wholesome storyline that hits the right chords, Jaehn and Robin Schulz’s latest release “I Got A Feeling” featuring Georgia Ku aims to get you out of the loop and into a serene, trance like groove. Co-written by Jaehn, Ku and Schulz alongside eight other contributors, “I Got A Feeling” is an ode to the version of yourself you deserve to be– when sandwiched between low spirits and sorrow, willing to accept happiness; “I didn’t break, I made it out/ Those heavy things don’t bring me down anymore/ I found a way to make ’em count/ ‘Cause I let the light in, yeah.”
Keeping things on the lighter side, the music video for “I Got A Feeling” bases its story on an elderly woman letting the trace-like state of Jaehn and Schulz’s beats take over her. Grooving and moving, the woman finds herself embracing happiness in what society deems as one’s twilight years– a prolonged period of mundane events leading to their inevitable death. Choosing to be happy, she is seen waltzing and skating to the nearest rave where Jaehn, Schulz and Ku are seen performing.
Jaehn’s work is a reflection of his state of mind– a map to figuring out where his heart lies. Performing from a young age and trying to blend with the ever-demanding modern age rockstar-like lifestyle, Jaehn found himself jaded-physically and mentally. Turning his undivided attention to meditation to gain a perception of his true self and tranquility, he found it offered him more than what he had sought. “I would say I gained a completely different level of consciousness. It’s like I used to have tinted shades on all the time and now I see clearly–I can’t even compare the way I am now to how I was before,” Jaehn says about his meditative journey. “And of course, that’s also influencing my art, especially on this upcoming album, Breathe. It is clearly inspired by meditation. The lyrics have lots of references to meditation and the personal transformation that came with it. I would say this new album is even inspired by meditation.”
In an exclusive interview with Rolling Stone India, Jaehn sits down to discuss why he took three years to curate his forthcoming album, his journey as an artist and why India holds a special place in his heart.
How has 2021 been so far? I see live gigs are opening up in Europe. How’s that experience been? Any favorite gig?
It was amazing-like words can’t even describe it. I’m getting goosebumps, just thinking about it again, because it was a feeling I had almost forgotten. I was already playing at live shows at the age of 15 and then I couldn’t do it for a year, which was fine. I found other ways of spending my time and it wasn’t bad. But when I had the first show again, I was getting ready, looking for tricks to play, and getting an outfit ready. I was like, ‘how does that even work?’ This experience of going to the show, being backstage and then finally performing with everybody singing and dancing together was blowing my mind. I was like crying on stage feeling the adrenaline. I don’t know–it’s like, my phone ran out of battery and someone plugged it into the socket.
Let’s go back to your earlier days. You started learning the violin at the age of five and by 16, you were DJing. How did this shift come about?
Yes, I did and I played the violin for like seven years. I haven’t played it in a long time. This is where I would say my first connection with the music was made and where a lot of my roots originated. I guess that’s also why I still use a lot of live instruments in my productions. I always like to combine electronic music with real instruments.
What is your larger artistic vision for your forthcoming album Breathe? How is it different from your debut album?
I was really focused on the lyrics on this album. In my first album, I was DJing, producing and remixing. I still do that as well, but with this album, I went deep into songwriting– I wrote over 100 songs to come up with the songs for the album. And because of that, songs like “Close Your Eyes,” “I Got A Feeling,” and “No Therapy” are all inspired by my personal path to a happier life. This album is even more personal. I would say that’s the main difference.
What was your experience of collaborating with a bunch of different artists on Breathe? Is it chaotic or an enriching experience?
It’s a bit of both. I mean, there’s a reason why it took three years for me to release my second album. After the debut album, I had to figure out what I wanted to do and the direction I wanted to go. It does get a little chaotic sometimes with so many artists on the album because everybody has their own brain, schedule and opinion. Sometimes, I feel like a team leader on a holiday camp– bringing everybody together and making sure they’re happy. To me, the most amazing thing about making music is making it together with other people, and getting to know them through the process as well, because making music is really personal. Whenever I step into the studio and have songwriting sessions, sometimes I write with people that I’ve never met before, just because a friend recommended them and, like, two hours later, we’re writing lyrics about our deepest feelings. So it’s like a very intense way of getting to know each other. I feel really connected with all the artists that I’ve worked with and blessed to have met so many amazing and talented people.
I always have a standard question for multi-hyphenated artists such as yourself– where do you feel the most connected to your artistry? Is it as a writer, producer or performer?
I don’t even know if there’s an answer to this for me personally, because all of them do in different ways. For me, when I get into this artist-y version of myself, it’s about being in a flow state. It’s about stopping my brain from thinking or judging stuff–it’s about channeling, it’s just like being in the moment and letting it happen. I can also experience this when I’m producing, writing or when I’m on stage; when I’m into the music and I’m working on a transition, I’m interacting with the crowd. I get into this amazing creative zone in all of the aspects, which is also why I enjoy all of them. I guess because it’s a very beautiful space to be in. When I stop thinking about the world and what’s around me, I’m in the process. The process is just happening, that very, very beautiful feeling.
“I Got A Feeling” is accompanied by a vibrant and lively video. Are there any never-heard-before stories from the set you’d like to share?
Well, something that surprised me a little bit is that Robin almost kissed me. He was totally going for it. I was like, ‘Yo, wait! I have a boyfriend all right!’ No, I’m just joking. Other than that, it’s been so much fun, especially with elderly people–really fun for me to work with the grandmas and grandpas. They had such calming energy on set. Plus, spending two days with a group of elderly people in one room to listen to their stories and talk to them… It felt really nice to have that old wise energy around me. It gave me a really chill feeling on set. I think my personal highlight was shooting the DJ scene together with Robin because we played a DJ set for like an hour. It just felt great to be out again and to do something and to have a crew to have the team to be there together with Robin and Georgia.
If you were to go back in time and give advice to a young Felix, what would that be?
Take it easy– everything’s gonna be okay. All of those standard advice sounds so generic, but they’re so true. I used to be a perfectionist. I was always working seven days a week, chasing my goals. I guess that’s one of the reasons why I got to where I am. It’s also a good thing to know what you want and work for it, but It’s also important to live because nobody knows how long we’re going to be on this wonderful planet. That’s paradise to me. Maybe I don’t have to do everything right now. I can take a little break, breathe and enjoy the moment.
What do you think the younger Felix would have to say if he were to take a look at the Felix of today? What do you think the first impressions would be?
I don’t really know… It could go two ways. One way could be being a little intimidated because I never dared to dream this big when I knew I wanted to make a living from music and not from an office job. This is my dream. I want to DJ, play at parties and make records. But I’ve never thought about being an international superstar DJ. So if the younger me would already know where I am and what comes with– like the downsides of fame, travel, attention and all of the struggles that come with it– I don’t think the younger me would have had the same energy to pursue it. I think he’d be stuck thinking ‘Okay, do I really want to go that big? Is that really healthy? Do I want that?’ On the other hand, we can look at it from a positive lens. As I said, I’d just chill and relax, because the younger me would have already known that everything’s going to be fine and can live off doing music. That would reduce the pressure. In the beginning, a lot of the pressure came from finding a way of being successful enough to make a living out of music and proving to my family that this is a real thing. I was always like, ‘I got to show them! I have to work even harder.’ That really put me under pressure.
‘The last time you visited India was in 2015. Do you recall your experience?
I remember that was one of the first and biggest festivals that I’d ever played at– Martin Garrix was also playing at the festival too and it was so exciting! Back then, I didn’t even have a tour manager. So I just took a friend with me and we were on a big adventure to India. I was like, ‘Okay, what’s happening?’ I left home on the 26th of December– right after Christmas celebrations with my family in Germany. We arrived in Goa and the stage was epic! It was so big and filled with many people. And yes, I remember every single second of it. It’s where I met Martin Garrix for the first time which was really cool! I just hope I can be back soon. Like, right now, I’m just asking myself, ‘Why did we never manage to come back?’ I guess the answer is simple– the world is big and I used to suffer from mental health struggles as well. Luckily, I dealt with it consciously and I didn’t turn to drugs; instead, I turned to meditation. But right now, I’m feeling good. I’m happy with the music and want to travel again.
Do you have a message for your Indian fans?
Stay healthy, happy and strong. Enjoy music or whatever makes you happy. Thank you so much for your support. It means the world to me. And I hope I can see you again very soon.