There is a strange phenomenon in dance music where different people get the inspiration to do the same thing at the same time. In the past few months, there have been several versions of Jade’s “Don’t Walk Away,” Everything but the Girl’s “Missing,” and, of course, Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car.” If this is a race or a competition, the tropical house version by newcomer Jonas Blue gets the checkered flag. His debut single topped the charts in Australia, Hungary, and the United Kingdom and with massive Spotify reach, it is staring to crossover to US pop radio. Combined with a buzz remix of Birdy’s “Keeping Your Head Up,“ the young twenty-something producer/DJ has created a blueprint for a unique sound and a successful career.
RS: I love your version of “Fast Car,” what inspired you to remake that record?
Jonas Blue: It was a song from my childhood, it was always that song playing on long journeys in the car with my mum. I think that it was a big song on the radio when I was younger so it was always on the radio. It just stuck with me as one of my favorite songs. When I became a producer I knew that I wanted to remake the song later on in life. That is kind of how it came around.
RS: One thing that fascinates me is this phenomena where 3 or 4 different people do the same song at the same time. Whether it’s Jomanda’s "Don't Walk Away," Everything but the Girl’s Missing” or “Fast Car” there are like 3 or 4 different versions. How did that happen?
Jonas Blue: I don’t know, it was last year that I had the inspiration to do it. Maybe it kind of caught the buzz of other people to do it as well. It has been done before, I used to work in a record shop so I have seen bootlegs of it before. It was just never quite done to how I envisioned it and how I wanted it to be done. I think that certain other people caught on about doing it as well and maybe it was the right time for people to do it.
RS: How did you find Dakota?
Jonas Blue: That is a crazy story. I finished the instrumental in one night, I had all the inspiration for the track so the instrumental part got done really quickly. I was looking for a singer for “Fast Car” but I wanted to stay true to the original but with a twist. Not many people know this but the actual music is in the original musical key of the original. When you listen to Tracy she sings very low so it is very hard to find a female vocalist that can sing that low. I said to my manager that we needed to find someone that could sing that low but bring something new which is the hardest thing ever. We were kind of looking but we didn’t get anywhere. One night we went out for a beer in an East London pub, we weren’t out looking for anything, we were just in there having a beer. This pub is kind of known for its new artists and acoustic sessions and things like that. We heard this voice coming from downstairs and I said that we had to go check out the voice, she sounded great. We went downstairs and we heard her singing and waited till the end of her set. I went up to her and said “it’s great to meet you, I think that you would be great on this new version that I have done of “Fast Car” but it is a dance version and I’m not sure if you have ever done anything like that.” She said she had never done dance music but she thought it sounded like a great idea. I told her the only thing was that we were kind of pushed for time and we needed to get her in as soon as possible and asked her if she come in tomorrow. She came in the very next day and recorded and we got the whole song done within a day. It was a great experience. What you hear on the radio today is that whole experience of me and my manager meeting her in the pub that night and getting her into the studio the next day to record it and that was it.
RS: So you worked in record shops before you made the record and you were a DJ?
Jonas Blue: Yeah I have been doing that a long time. When I was 15, I worked in a record shop called For the Record which was close to my home. It was a great learning experience; learning about new records, what works on the dance floor, and things like that as well as being a DJ, it all goes hand in hand.
RS: What kind of clubs did you play at back then?
Jonas Blue: I generally played in small clubs local to my house, capacities of 500-700. It was a cool time.
RS: What years was this and what clubs were these?
Jonas Blue: I was probably 17 or 18 and it was house and disco which was great. Where I live a lot of the people are really into soul music and 80’s music like the Fatback Band and stuff like that so it is a great area to be around and to play some of those kind of records.
RS: What were the names of some of the clubs that you played at?
Jonas Blue: There was a local club called Faces. I have played at Ministry. I played in another local club called Minks and some other London spots, there was also a place in Shoreditch that I played in.
RS: I listened to your Blueprint sets. They are very cool, chill and tropical house sets. I am wondering how that works on a main room when you are playing with the guys who are banging it out.
Jonas Blue: I think that in this day in age people want to hear something a little bit different. Yesterday we were playing at SLS and it was full on trance and progressive house, I came after a guy with my Blueprint sounds and the crowd really took to it. I think that maybe people hear that sound a little too much here in the US, I kind of bring a bit of that sound and the Blueprint sound as well and people love to hear something different. It really went off yesterday and people have been reacting really well in the US.
RS: Yes it has. Are you working on a follow up with Serban Ghenea?
Jonas Blue: No, Serban actually mixed “Fast Car” for the US radio. He is kind of the guy that remixes all the big records for Katy Perry and Rihanna and people like that. He mixes those records to make them really pop out on radio and he did that with “Fast Car,” so what you are hearing on radio is his mix. RS: Are you working on new music right now?
Jonas Blue: Yes, I am working on my second single at the moment and we are looking to release it early summer. It is going to be great, we just showed it to the record label last night in the hotel and they really loved it. I am happy.
RS: Is it an original or a cover?
Jonas Blue: It is an original. I think that is the problem, everyone keeps asking me what my next cover is going to be but that was just by chance that it happened with “Fast Car.” I didn’t have a plan to just do covers, it just so happened that the first one was a cover, everything from now on is definitely going to be original.
RS: How did the remix of Birdy come about?
Jonas Blue: I had actually heard “Keep Your Head Up” on the Spotify charts, it was kind of bubbling around but it wasn’t too big at the time though. When it hit the chorus I could really hear it working in a club and I asked my manager to get in touch with whoever it was. It’s weird because it usually works the other way around, people usually approach you for remixes but we approached them. I was so passionate about the song and I knew that it had something in it. My manager got in touch with the A&R and they said we could do it and I did it straight away. I have been playing it out on the US tour and the reaction has been amazing. It’s coming out on Big Beat Atlantic and I am really excited about it.
RS: What production software, digital audio workstation do you use?
Jonas Blue: At the moment I use Logic and Ableton. I think that Logic is really great for the pop and dance music side of things, you can really get creative on Logic for that. Ableton is great for DJ mixes and things like that so I use those two at the moment.
RS: You also play piano I noticed, how young did you start with your piano training?
Jonas Blue: I was a musician first and foremost before anything, I actually played flute and sax. I know my musical theory and went to school for it. When I got into producing I realized that piano was going to be the main thing. I am actually self-taught in piano and I have been doing that since I was 11 years old.
RS: I want to get to know you a little better because in searching the web I saw that you had your first tweet at the end of January and the first thing on Facebook was the end of December. Before that there was nothing about you online. Please explain.
Jonas Blue: I have been song writing and producing for a long time, since I was 11 years old and I never really branded myself. I have constantly been creative and just writing and producing. Last year when we made “Fast Car” at the end of August we realized we better actually brand it and call myself something. I came up with the stage name Jonas Blue with the help of my manager. The whole thing started from there so that is the reason why. I have actually been doing this a long time but the branding started from there.
RS: Is your favorite color blue?
Jonas Blue: No, it’s not.
RS: What is your favorite color?
Jonas Blue: It’s orange, which is quite weird.
RS: Well ,Jonas Orange wouldn’t sound right, Orangeprint doesn’t sound good either.
Jonas Blue: No, it doesn’t sound quite right.
RS: Where were you born?
Jonas Blue: I was born in London, Essex.
RS: Ok, so in the suburbs. I noticed that when you are producing you burn candles, what scents are they?
Jonas Blue: Generally vanilla or lavender.
RS: What is your favorite kind of food to eat?
Jonas Blue: I definitely should have been born Italian, anything Italian, pastas, pizza, hams, cheeses. I love it all!
RS: With all the traveling you are doing I am sure you are finding new foods and experiencing them. What is your favorite new snack or food that you have found while on the road?
Jonas Blue: We are in the Nexxt Cafe right now and the other night I tried chicken and almonds, which I had never tried before, so that was quite different. Fish tacos as well, I had never had them before so that was an experience.
RS: Who is your style or fashion icon that you look up to?
Jonas Blue: I am a big fan of a UK model called David Gandy mixed with a bit of Bieber, I love Bieber’s style. It is the worst combination but I really like the two.
RS: If you could collaborate with any DJ or producer who would it be?
Jonas Blue: Calvin Harris.
RS: And how about a singer or rapper?
Jonas Blue: Sia, she is great.
RS: When they make the movie of your life, what actor will portray you?
Jonas Blue: I would love to say a young Al Pacino.
RS: I can see that. What is the strangest question that you have ever been asked in an interview?
Jonas Blue: Oh wow, well it’s not really that strange she just caught me off guard. I was doing another interview and my friends were there and they kind of really stitched me up. I was out the night before and let’s just say she asked me what I was doing the night before live on camera, it was not good.
RS: What is “stitched you up” British slang for?
Jonas Blue: It’s like to put you in the spotlight where you have to answer right away.
RS: Why do all DJs wear black?
Jonas Blue: I am actually trying not to do that but I think that it is just the presence that it has. Black is a really dark color and it’s almost a down color. I think for a DJ it is cool but I am really trying to influence blue and other colors into my outfits.
RS: Well the blue makes sense with your brand. What were you doing for a job before you were DJing and producing?
Jonas Blue: I was actually DJing in a local bar just playing pop and house music and it was a great job. I got to see what worked for the general public and you could really tell what records worked. I was able to take that influence back into the studio and make music based on what the general public liked and I think that goes a long way.
RS: What is a track that you have heard in the past 6 months where you thought to yourself “wow I wish I would have produced that”?
Jonas Blue: Probably something from the Adele album or the Sia album. I am really into my song writing so I love all the song writers.
RS: Are you on the Flume train?
Jonas Blue: Yes, I love Flume’s sounds. I first heard about him through the Australian charts a few years ago. I love that kind of half step sounds, I think it is so creative and different.
RS: What would you like to say to all of your fans out there listening?
Jonas Blue: Thank you so much for all the support. “Fast Car” wouldn’t have been able to do what it has done without everyone listening to the record and shouting about it and sharing it online. I get messages every single day from the fans saying that the record helps them throughout the day if they have had a bad day. That means so much to me, the fans are great and please keep supporting Jonas Blue music.
Interview conducted March 2016 during Winter Music Conference.