In a truly star-studded affair, global superstar Rita Ora joins forces with Dutch music legend Sam Feldt for theirupcoming single ‘Follow Me‘, co-penned by Ella Henderson and dropping worldwide TODAY on Kygo‘s Palm Tree Records.
A stunning collaboration between the headline artists, ‘Follow Me’ sees Ora’s distinctive, golden vocals beckon fans deep into the heart of Feldt’s trademark uplifting production. Gently padded percussion in the lower ends and rising rivulets of euphoric piano and instrumental chords provide a beautiful backdrop for Ora to soar across, her voice gifting the single real warmth and depth.
Sam, you’re releasing new single ‘Follow Me’ with Rita Ora today. Tell our readers more about this single and your collaboration with Rita.
I’ve always been a fan of Rita Ora’s voice, especially when she did a song with Kygo. I was like, wow! It’s this combination of tropical house, melodic house. Blend it together with her voice and it’s a match made in heaven. So when she approached me and she said she wanted to do a song with me, that was a dream come true for me.
The song itself is all about sticking with somebody through thick and thin, through the hard times and the good, following somebody no matter what kind of place in life they’re in. I think that’s a very powerful message and it’s one of optimism, positivity, one that I think matches really well with the production on the song. Working with pop stars like Rita is great. I did a song with Kesha earlier this year and I was able to work with Sam Fisher, who’s super talented and also more established in the pop world. So the move into pop is really a conscious one and something that I had planned for 2021. I want to do more songs like that, that kind of solidifies the direction which I’m going in.
You’re an entrepreneur at heart. You launched your label Heartfeldt Records in 2020. What is that special something that distincts your record label from others?
I think the name says it all, it’s “heart felt”. The music that I decide to release on the label has to come from a place where I can really stand behind it. Of course, it also has to resonate with me personally too, I want to be able to play it in my live sets. The label is essentially a home for all the good music that I discover. That’s actually how I started out, finding music on SoundCloud and Spotify and putting it all together into a mixtape, it was how the Sam Feldt sound got out there. I would discover new artists, showcase them, put the spotlight on them, all the way from back in 2014 and 2015, that’s been a driving passion of mine. My radio show, my mixes, my live sets, it’s all about showcasing great artists that I find, supporting them, giving them a podium whether that’s online via streaming platforms, booking them at my events, for Heartfeldt’s pool parties, or supporting them in my radio shows. Ultimately, it’s about creating the Heartfeldt family that I’ve always dreamt of.
You’re also a sustainability pioneer. With your Heartfeldt Foundation project you’re actively working towards a more sustainable dance music industry. Why do you believe sustainability is so important in the music industry? What are the main goals you would like to achieve with this project?
The reason why I started the Heartfeldt Foundation is because I was brought up by two modern day hippies. My mom for example, she drives a VW van, she’s vegetarian, she grows her own vegetables in the garden. It’s really a kind of minimalistic lifestyle. Yet there I am, touring the world. I can still actually remember that exact moment when it hit me. I was sat in a private jet, flying across Brazil and I remember thinking how much I love touring the world, love doing these shows, love making my fans happy, spreading joy around the world, but all of a sudden wondering how I can do it in a way that’s more sustainable and more in line with how my parents brought me up. So that’s basically the idea behind the Heartfeldt Foundation.
It started out just me, reflecting on what I was doing, how I could continue to do shows but in a way that’s more sustainable. We started doing flight offsetting, taking the train to shows, carpooling, things like that. I started researching my actions and putting changes into practice. Ultimately I am hopefully leading by example, getting people to join me in this mission. I think the music industry is definitely making steps. Especially the festivals, they are on the right track when it comes to becoming greener. But I think the artists have their fair share to do as well. I feel like there could be a lot more done by the artists, because in the end we are the ones who lead by example.
How did your music career begin? In your own words, what is the highlight of the beginning of your career?
I’ve been DJing since I was 11 years old. I had my own drive-in show and when it was my birthday, I would ask for money and go buy like a smoke machine or an amplifier. Then I would convince my dad to drive me to a birthday party at my friends, where I would set everything up for six hours for 50 Euros. That was basically my job when I was 11 haha. I’ve always DJed, I’ve always loved to entertain. Around that same time, I discovered FruityLoops, which is a production software. I actually still work in FL Studio. So that’s how I got started and it grew from there.
The first time I went to an actual club was when I was 17 and in Portugal. I saw the DJ there in the DJ booth and was like “wow, I want to be that guy”. I wanted to be controlling the dance floor, not just on the dance floor enjoying the music. I wanted to produce something that could produce a certain energy in the venue. That’s when I started thinking more seriously about DJing, but it still took me another five years to get signed to Spinnin’ Records. That was definitely my first breakthrough moment when I thought that this could actually become my full-time career. Then of course ‘Show Me Love’ dropped, which went to number two in the UK charts and really kick-started my career.
We would love to hear which words would you use to describe your music and your style.
It’s always uplifting, it’s melodic, it’s very vocal, it’s emotional. Definitely nine out of ten times it’s got some summer Dutch vibe to it, so it always reminds you of the feelings of summer, the positive energy of the sun, of the beach, of the pool. I’m actually in Cabo right now, playing the Palm Tree Festival together with Kygo. I think that’s the perfect example of how my music should be enjoyed. On a beach, at a pool, at a festival outside in the sun or in a tropical climate. Even if you were listening to it from home or I don’t know, in Norway where the light doesn’t come up as much and you have very little sun, I still want you to close your eyes and be able to imagine yourself at a beach.
How do you approach music production when laying down new ideas?
The process for me usually starts with a very strong vocal because the majority of Sam Feldt songs are very much vocal driven. I start laying down some chords, then I’ll go for a walk around and then think of melodies, like top lines that could go well with that chord progression. When you find a melody, hum a vocal, it doesn’t have to make sense. That hum can transform suddenly to an actual lyric. When we have the vocal in place, then the real production process starts. I always begin with the vocal and build around the arrangement and actually the drop is the least important part for me. With a lot of other DJs, they often start with the drums, so maybe that’s a little bit different for me. I work a lot with live musicians, I have a lot of live saxophones, drums and bass guitars, which definitely makes it a lot of fun. I also perform with the Sam Feld live band, so when I play at a big festival, people can actually see the band members that played the song and it just makes it a really organic and genuine experience.
How do you get inspired for new music?
It really differs per song. I can get inspired by a video game, I can be inspired by a sample, I can be inspired by another song, another genre. You can’t really say that there’s a fixed process. Sometimes I start with some chords that I heard in an old song, an old soul song for example, and then I put those chords down and then that becomes a foundation for a track. But it could also be just a great vocalist sending me a lyric that’s already finished and then building off of that. It’s pretty hard to describe the process in one sentence to be honest.
What are some of your favorite tracks that you still love listening to this day?
There are a lot of old songs that I am starting to rediscover that I put out in 2015 and 2016. For example, I did a remix for I Am Oak, which was definitely not my most popular song, but I had such a good time producing it together with my friend Jay from Bloombox. We just sat in the studio a whole day, made a bootleg first and then got the band involved. It was such a cool process. I still love listening to songs like that, that may didn’t get the attention like ‘Show Me Love or ‘Post Malone’, but were definitely a lot of fun to make.
You’re based in the Netherlands. How do you compare Dutch dance music scene with dance music scene globally?
I think we’re a very mature dance music scene. We’ve had electronic music since the eighties. Comparing that to, for example, America where EDM and electronic music is still fairly young, we’re absolutely ahead of the game. Genres like techno, we’ve had that for many, many years. We have these big concepts around it, like ‘Awakenings’ for example. Contrast that with where I am right now, here in Mexico, where it’s only in the last few years that you’ve seen techno parties start to happen. It’s a lot of fun to be at the forefront of dance music especially when we’re such a small country. That’s also what makes us special. I think the reason a lot of Dutch DJs are successful is that because we’re a small country, we’re really proud of the DJ scene that we have, the export that we have. We support each other, and also logistically it’s easy to get around. If you want to have a meeting with a label, it’s only 30 minutes or an hour away. You can also really easily produce with other people in the studio. There are thousands of DJs living in a radius of 30 minutes by car, which is crazy when you think about it. So I think that’s a really big part of what sets us apart in the Netherlands.
You’ve played at numerous festivals already. If you had to choose one as your favorite so far, which one would that be?
Coachella. It’s a really diverse festival. You’ve got me playing, but also AC/DC and then also Rüfüs Du Sol. It’s not only DJs, it’s very diverse. A lot of bands, a lot of soul, great food. I’m a big foodie. They have got amazing Michelin star chefs doing pop-ups at the festival. They’ve got great wine, great cocktails, everything is so clean. The people are nice and it attracts a certain crowd that is respectful. I really love the vibe. That’s just one of the few festivals I actually buy tickets for and go to myself.
Is there any specific festival that you haven’t played at yet, but have always wanted to?
I’ve played EDC in China, but I’ve never played the EDC in the United States. So that’s definitely on my bucket list because I feel like the crowd there is really wild and I would love to experience that once in my life.
Tell us one thing that people don’t know about you.
Maybe it’s that I’m overall a very fairly quiet guy. I love being home with my cats and my fiancée. I love going out for dinner, having a nice glass of wine. I’m not like the typical DJ stereotype who just wants to party. It may come across a little bit like that in my social media, but it’s not who I really am. I really enjoy spending time with a small group of friends and going to bed early. That’s something that I rediscovered during the pandemic.
How do you spend your free time? Do you have any interesting hobbies?
Good question! I love playing video games. Music is something that I did way before I even got paid for it. I definitely like cooking. And I just completed a wine course, so I’m officially a sommelier now. So all that and then hanging out with friends. I’m a simple guy.
What are you most excited about in the near future of your career?
I’m excited for my release with Rita Ora, I think it’s going to be great. It’s coming out today. Everybody’s really excited for it. We’ve got a great music video that we filmed. Rita Ora is the best, she’s super friendly, really professional and the song is great. And then I’ve also been working on a bunch of really cool collabs for next year as well. So, it’s the music that I’m most excited about, seeing that grow and seeing how my fans will react to it.
Are there any other special project or plans that you can share with us and our readers?
I’m also an entrepreneur, so I’ve been working very hard on ‘Fangage’. Fangage is a platform that we’ve built for creators to get their own platforms outside of the algorithms of social media, giving them the power to take back control over their own audiences. We just raised two and a half million dollars with that. We’re building it out right now, servicing close to 5.000 creators on the platform. It’s a project that I am personally invested in and have been part of for six years already. It’s really cool to see it taking off and the world finally getting the idea behind it. So that’s definitely something that I’m really excited about. And then of course also seeing Heartfeldt Records grow, seeing us being able to sign bigger artists, perform better with every song, grow our playlist. As an entrepreneur I love seeing things grow and these are definitely the two projects that I am most excited about.
This interview was done for Numéro Netherlands by Jana Letonja.