At 26 years old, the dutch EDM superstar is living the dream. But in the end, he says, there’s no place like home.
Maybe there’s something in the air over in the Netherlands. It can’t just be a coincidence that trance pioneers Armin Van Buuren and Tiësto, jetsetters Ferry Corsten, Fedde Le Grand, Sander Van Doorn, Martin Garrix and Hardwell all hail from the little country saddled on the North Sea. It’s tempting to write that Dutch DJs and producers have practically sculpted the EDM scene, and it’s in no small part thanks to 26-year-old producer Nicky Romero.
In a country where the production climate is clearly competitive, it’s a wonder how anyone can break through, much less become so successful in the EDM scene. Many of its DJs and producers get paid more per annum than a small village could ever spend (Calvin Harris made almost $50 million USD in 2013, and Tiësto wasn’t far behind). As Romero tells us, it takes extreme dedication. “I really worked my hardest to get to where I am today. I had to invest all my money and stay entirely focused in order to make my dream reality.” As with many branches of this industry, Romero also thanks his connections for his success: “I managed to reach out to the right people , which really helped me out.”
Romero’s beginnings stemmed from a passion for music in its rawest form. “I think people may often overlook my foundations as a musician. It was due to drumming that I was able to even consider a career in music,” he says. Touching a drum kit for the first time at the age of six, he developed an ear for rhythm. Six years later, he owned his own drum kit, and played on it obsessively for three years before learning about the musical possibilities in turntables.
In no time, his career launched. A skill for remixing sculpted the early, newly-signed stages of his career, garnering attention from the likes of David Guetta and Sidney Samson. In 2010 he released his first chart-topping track ’My Friend’. Then, in 2012, the release of track ‘Toulouse’ on Spinning’ Records (considered by many as his most original work) sat him comfortably, once again, on the top end of the Beatport charts.
After collaborating with Avicii on multi-platinum hit ‘I Could Be The One’ in 2012, he had no reason to look back. He was headlining EDM festivals as major as Ultra Music Festival, Electric Daisy Carnival and TomorrowWorld. By this point, you would expect Romero had developed a formula for creating failsafe, chart-topping tracks. “I wish it was that easy,” he says. “Although, my experience in producing means I can tell which tracks are going to go well from an early stage.”
This talent is perhaps largely to thank for the success of Rihanna’s track ‘Right Now’, which he co-produced, and Britney Spears’ ‘It Should Be Easy’ on her 2013 album Britney Jean, which he produced and co-wrote. On the collaborations, Romero notes, “I have always loved a variety of musical genres, and I find it hard to stick to one. I love working on projects where I can blend styles and experiment with different sounds. These two collaborations definitely enabled me to do that!”
Perhaps the most notable collaboration, in that it’s more or less been a matter of mentor and protégé, is his long-running work alongside French mega DJ, David Guetta. As a business employee finds a boss who favours them, Romero found Guetta. “At first I started off doing a few remixes for him, and once he saw what I could do, he offered me a record deal on his label. I have learnt so much from him; he really took the time to teach me and develop my knowledge. He showed me tricks on arranging and recording tracks, writing piano parts, editing vocals, and so much more.”
Since beginning work alongside David Guetta, Romero’s production style has certainly developed. There’s no denying a profound difference between the underground trance sounds in ‘Toulouse’ and his 2015 release ‘Warriors’, an uplifting and lyrical stadium-house track fit for a festival of thousands. Asked to define the musical elements in his music that make it so successful, he replies, “I think people love the music I play nowadays because it’s pretty full on, yet it sparks emotions in people through the vocals and lyrics. It makes you forget about all else going on and just makes you want to dance.”
He gives advice regarding the ultimate set-up of a studio for aspiring producers: “Before setting up a studio, you need to do thorough research before spending your hard earned money. Don’t just buy what others have. Do your research, play around, ask around, and find your own preferred set up. As a starting point, I would recommend buying some great studio speakers. If they’re too expensive, invest in a great pair of studio headphones. That already makes a real difference.”
Despite living the dream, travelling internationally to play to horizons of euphoric crowds, Romero says that in the end, “There’s no place like home.” If his career could be put on hold and he could go anywhere, he’d head back to his hometown, where the important parts of his success become clear to him. “The thing that makes me proud about all of this is being able to give back to my parents. They’ve done so much for me, and being able to treat them makes it all worthwhile.”
Though he might be humble, his set is world-famous. Romero again: “It doesn’t matter what language you speak, or what your religion is, people are drawn to [EDM festivals] for the love of music.” On the prospect of our first taste of Ultra Music Festival at Road to Ultra in Macau on the 13th, the headlining Dutchman promises he’ll show us his very best: “I’m going to have the best tracks ready to spin, to show you guys what Ultra is all about. I’ve got a very big place in my heart for this festival.”