David Guetta Dishes On Getting Back In The Groove + Returning To His Roots With Latest Album, 7

David Guetta
SHIRT: Brunello Cucinelli (Neiman Marcus Bal Harbour)
WATCH: Hublot
BOOTS: Saint Laurent (Neiman Marcus Bal Harbour)
JEANS: Guetta’s own

Photo Credit: TAMZ

Photography: TAMZ

Styling: Elysze Held

Grooming: Angel Gabriel

Shot on location at The Setai, Miami Beach

When we picture David Guetta, he’s forever awash in flashing lights, his head back and eyes closed in ecstasy, his own pulsing, throbbing beats pouring over a 50,000-strong crowd of hard-bodied 20-somethings. He is a man in his element, the living embodiment of “joie de vivre.” 

But in 2014, just after releasing his sixth studio album, Listen, that changed. Along with critical reviews citing the music as “safe” and “formulaic,” the French DJ and producer realized that he was no longer having any fun making it. He was bored, searching for the excitement he first felt when he started his career 20-some years ago. It was clear that Guetta needed a break.

So, he took one. Four years, some soul-searching and an epiphany later, the world’s most recognizable DJ, responsible for hits like “Titanium,” “Hey Mama,” “Bang My Head” and “When Love Takes Over” (a single with Kelly Rowland declared the top pop-dance collaboration of all time), has finally released new music—music that he’s actually excited about—and he’s willing to share just how he got his groove back in order to make it.

“It’s very simple,” he says. “I made my new album in the same way that I made my first: I made music I would want to listen to.”

That said, he needed a degree of craftiness to create his seventh studio album, 7, an aptly titled two-part affair record, written and produced in Guetta’s home studios in Los Angeles, London and Ibiza, inspired by the spiritual concept that everything in life happens in seven-year cycles (dating back to the Bible, when God created the universe in six days and rested on the seventh). It’s also a number associated with intuition and inner wisdom—all of which quite succinctly sum up where the Frenchman is currently at in life.

The first disc contains 15 of his typical gold-plated tunes: catchy collaborations with Justin Bieber (“2U”), Sia (“Flames” and “Light Headed”) and Bebe Rexha and J Balvin (“Say My Name”) are a few highlights among a slew of ready-for-radio hits. Other established, featured artists include Black Coffee, Jason Derulo, Jess Glynne, G-Eazy, Steve Aoki, Martin Garrix, Nicki Minaj, Stefflon Don, Willy William, Anne-Marie, Madison Beer and Lil Uzi Vert as well as up-and-comers Ava Max, Brooks, Delilah Montagu, Faouzia, Mally Mall and Saweetie.

David Guetta
COAT: Balmain
JEANS: Zegna (Shops of Bal Harbour)
BOOTS: Saint Laurent (Neiman Marcus Bal Harbour)

Photo Credit: TAMZ

The second part doubles as the official Jack Back Mixtape. It is Guetta’s salvation and greatest escape. “

The 12-track disc is a departure from his traditional sound in that it’s pure, unadulterated underground house, the music that kick-started his career. It touches on genres across the board, including dance, urban, reggaeton, Latin, EDM/trap, electro house and tech house. It’s also credited to an unknown producer, which had created a certain amount of buzz leading up to the album’s September release… especially so when said producer, Jack Back, was outed as being Guetta himself. 

Bringing it back to the start, to his EDM roots, was an important turning point for Guetta. In creating an alter ego responsible for an entirely different type of sound, he had found a simple, uncomplicated solution to his creative dilemma.

“When I started, I was just having fun. But with success, you become responsible for a big machine. So many people depend on you, and sometimes it’s a lot of pressure,” he admits. “So it’s nice to have a side project like Jack Back. I don’t work with other artists; it’s just making beats. It’s not like the whole record company is depending on this. No one expects anything from it, so it can only be a good thing. Also, you can become almost a slave of your own success and start to be a little too much in the safe zone. Life is not fun, and you become less creative. That’s why I did this; it was what I was missing in my life.”

Jack Back is not only giving him renewed vision, but the alias is also bringing him full circle, to the young and hungry kid who played the nightclubs and parties of Paris in the late ’80s with fresh-faced excitement. He could make music with fresh eyes (or 22-year-old eyes, as it were) again. He doesn’t have to worry about topping the charts with Jack; it’s part of the mandate that goes along with his “I don’t care” stage of life.

David Guetta
JACKET + SHIRT: Saint Laurent
PANTS: Balenciaga (Neiman Marcus Bal Harbour)
SNEAKERS: Off-White

Photo Credit: TAMZ

Beyond that, he’s sick of stressing about being the best, since all work and no play makes Guetta (and Jack) a dull (and unhappy) man/boy. “When you get to the top of the game, it doesn’t leave you too much to hope aside from staying there,” he notes. “You go from a motivation of love to a motivation of fear, and fear is a very negative feeling. As artists, we chose this life because we wanted to be free from the system, but then you become the system, and when you’re the system, you lose your freedom again. I think that’s what explains when you hear an amazing artist whose music suddenly becomes so boring: They’re scared of losing success, so they stay in the safe zone. Or they become like Avicii [the Swedish DJ who committed suicide last year at age 28]―it becomes too much.”

Happily, neither scenario applies to Guetta: He is both fulfilled and, thanks to Jack Back, now creatively stimulated. “I think I‘ve passed the safe stage,” he maintains. “I started this album not caring about taking a risk, not worried about always being successful. Some of my records have been very successful, which is great, but it’s also possible that one record is going to fail—and that’s OK. I accept that I can fail.”

This kind of acceptance didn’t come easily or organically, but it was discovered over time while he took a break to smell the roses and listen to the music. “It was hard to get there,” he confesses. “I hadn’t made an album for four years because of that. It was really a matter of finding my sanity. I was going crazy because I was never feeling like the music was good enough, and [as a result] I didn’t put out music. But I realized it doesn’t matter. The world is not going to stop and no one is going to die because the record isn’t as successful as I hoped. It’s OK! I’m in a great place.”

He’s certainly secure enough in his career to try out an ambitious project like Jack Back, but then he’s worked incredibly hard for nearly two decades to make his dreams come true. “I’ve gotten to where I am through a little bit of talent and a lot of hard work, mostly,” he says. “I found something that I really love, and because I love it so much, being able to work harder than other people. I have a big work ethic and a big relationship ethic, too. I also don’t have a big ego, which I think is the No. 1 enemy of success. If I feel like someone can do something better than me, I’m happy to ask them to join me, to help me. I embrace talented people; I’m not a jealous person.”

He’s also secure enough to discuss his place in the DJ hierarchy. But why shouldn’t he be? His place in history is firmly established. “I don’t think there are many more DJs more successful or have had more hits than me, aside from maybe [Calvin Harris], but it’s not about this for me anymore,” he notes, adding, “I just want to be happy; I want to have fun.”

David Guetta
COAT: Balmain
JEANS: Zegna (Shops of Bal Harbour)
BOOTS: Saint Laurent (Neiman Marcus Bal Harbour)

Photo Credit: TAMZ

He admits that the need to succeed stymied his creativity, especially in recent years. He was stressed at the constant demand to turn out radio-friendly chat toppers and admits that his harshest critics were right: He inevitably took the easy way out. But no more; his batteries are recharged, and he’s rediscovered the joy of making music all over again.
“Even though I’m a DJ, I had stopped going out for a moment. I stopped being curious,” he confides, noting that taking a break to fanboy out also contributed to his reset. “When I was in Ibiza, I was going out every day listening to other DJs and having fun like a kid, like a fan. And of course, that’s inspiring.” Catching a set by South African DJ Black Coffee was particularly inspirational, so much so that the two decided to collaborate on the track “Drive.” He adds, “If you live in your little ivory tower, then at some point you lose touch with the people and the fun of what we do.”

He pauses for a moment, before musing, “I was always in a rush to succeed my entire life, but what I realized is that taking time off not only made me more creative, but it’s part of the process of being successful. We’re not working in a factory; we’re not making pizza here―we’re making music. It’s not like you apply a recipe all the time to fame. Sometimes you need to step off. It’s all about balance and freedom.”

Which is why he’ll continue to predominantly focus on his passion project this year. “I go from playing for 50,000 people and earning a ton of money as David Guetta to playing for 500 as Jack Back for a small fee,” he declares. “And it’s totally OK… because I love it!”

David Guetta
David Guetta’s 7 Album Art

Photo Credit: David Guetta’s 7 Album Art

Make no mistake though, the David Guetta known and loved by fans, the two-time Grammy winner (for remixes of his own single featuring Kelly Rowland, “When Love Takes Over,” and for his remix of Madonna’s “Revolver”) isn’t about to eschew studio time with his famous friends. Sessions with Sia (whom, of all his collaborators, he is the most impressed by, referring to her as a “genius”) and Nicki Minaj are equally beneficial when it comes to getting those creative juices flowing. And if Justin Bieber ever comes calling again, well, forget about it. That’s Christmas come early (such as was the case behind “2U” when a mutual friend shared the track with Bieber, who recorded the track in secret and sent the finished track as a happy surprise).

These days, he’s spending just as much time FaceTiming with artists as he is in the studio, but if he had his choice, he’d always prefer the latter option—especially when he’s working with will.i.am. “We have so much fun together,” he enthuses. “It’s a party, to be honest. We’re having a party in the studio, and sometimes it happens that we also make a record. It can be really crazy—dancing and jumping and screaming. The studio turns into a club. That’s when we win.” 

To date, he’s won more than most. With 21 chart-topping singles under his belt, he’s easily one of the most successful mainstream DJs ever. He’s sold over 10 million albums and 50 million singles; travels the world playing in exotic locales for devoted fans; has residencies in Las Vegas and Ibiza (his true home, where he lives four months of the year); and spends a good amount of time in Miami, where he loves staying and playing while in town for festivals like Ultra, as he’ll be doing this March.

He’s had experiences and opportunities like no other, which includes opening Euro 2016 at Stade de France in Paris; playing on the Great Wall of China; 1,300 feet under the Dead Sea in Israel; or at Rio’s Copacabana Beach for New Year’s Eve in front of 10 million people. He’s played the world’s top electronic festivals including Tomorrowland, EDC, and Electric Zoo to undulating, adoring flocks of fans. He has seen it—and done it—all. When he says, “I think I have the best job in the world—being a DJ is really an incredible life,” we truly can’t disagree.

David Guetta
SHIRT: Brunello Cucinelli (Neiman Marcus Bal Harbour)
WATCH: Hublot
BOOTS: Saint Laurent (Neiman Marcus Bal Harbour)
JEANS: Guetta’s own

Photo Credit: TAMZ

There’s one minus to #thatDJlifethough, but it’s minimal. “[Jet lag] is the only downside of my life if I’m very honest,” he reveals. “It’s very hard physically to be almost constantly jet lagged. It is not pleasant. But it’s impossible to find a life that is 100% perfect.” Which means that he can’t fully indulge in the DJ lifestyle that so many of his peers take advantage of—he physically would not be able to sustain it.

“I don’t really have another choice; I would be dead otherwise,” he notes. “I have a super-healthy life. I go to the gym—aside from when I’m jet lagged because I get sick. I listen to my body. I don’t do drugs, I don’t smoke. Is my body a temple? I don’t know—you’ll have to ask my girlfriend!”

Guetta’s stunner of a girlfriend, Miami-born Nu Talent actress Jessica Ledon, is 24 to his 51, but the age gap isn’t something he even thinks about. She’s the yin to his yang.

“She keeps me balanced,” he says. “I’m a little bit too much of a workaholic, and she keeps me calm—I’m a little bit too hyperactive.”

Plus, when you think about it, she’s actually older than the people he usually kicks it with (according to him). Just check out his social media: With over 8 million followers on Instagram and 21 million on Twitter—the highest of any DJ/producer—he’s clearly great at connecting with millennials.

David GuettaPhoto Credit: TAMZ

As such, turning 50 in 2017 had little to no impact on him. He looks at least 20 years younger, after all, and has a youthful spirit as well—as you might expect from someone who spends the majority of his life waking after noon.

“My job is so much fun, and I’m always with young people. I play for young people, I make music for young people and I work with young people. I don’t really feel my own age because when I look at the dance floor, people are 22, and they’ve been 22 my entire life; I feel like I’m 22 also,” he says with a laugh.

Life, for David Guetta, is better than good—it’s glorious. He’s literally got the world in his hands. The only thing he doesn’t have is time. “That’s the problem—when I didn’t have money, I had a lot of time, and now that I have money I don’t have any time to spend it,” he says as he prepares to end our call. “It’s difficult to find that balance. If you think about it, our time is limited on this planet. It’s the most valuable thing we have. I’m trying to make it count.”

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