Six years ago, Jonas Blue scored a major hit with his tropical house rendition of Tracy Chapman’s Fast Car, igniting a spectacular dance/pop career. His singles have been platinum-certified over 120 times, with sales reaching 60 million, and there’s also the small matter of 12 billion global streams.
Thankfully, lockdown has done nothing to stop Blue setting his sights even higher, collaborating with hotly tipped Swedish vocalist AWA on his latest single, Something Stupid. Rather like his debut release, the house banger is based on a sample - in this case, the iconic synth motif behind the Robin S global ‘90s dance hit Show Me Love.
The track sees Blue return to his dance roots while up-keeping his reputation for scouting the globe for emerging talent. We chatted to the producer/songwriter about how the Robin S. sample found its way onto the track and the production process behind it, before asking him to reveal his all-time favourite artist samples.
Are you still writing tracks on piano these days?
“All the tracks start with me on the piano and I’ll bring the other sounds in later. I’ll get together with the songwriters and collaborate with them in the studio starting from a blank page, so it’ll literally be me at the keys going round various different chord progressions until I land on something I feel is good and we’ll start writing to that.”
What lay behind your choice of AWA as vocalist for Something Stupid?
“I was just looking for someone fresh and new again, going back to my roots with artists like JP Cooper and Raye, who were also unknown at the time.
“It’s good to be able to give other artists a platform - I actually stumbled on AWA on MTV’s Ones to Watch 2021. I didn’t know anything about her but checked her page out and really loved how she sounded, so I sent her a DM on Instagram and asked if she could sing the verse and chorus. It sounded really good and we took it from there.”
Was the track already recorded and were you able to record AWA’s vocal in person?
“The song itself was written remotely with a couple of different writers. I finished all the production during the second UK lockdown and, luckily, we were able to get AWA on board, meet in person and record her final vocal in the studio before the third UK lockdown.
Do you think the positivity of the track is an antidote to everything that’s happened over the past 12 months?
“Definitely - I feel that at this moment in time people just want high energy and good vibes, especially as so many are working out at home or want to feel like they’re back on the dancefloor. That was very much the thinking behind this track, especially taking into consideration the sample we used. The track features a Robin S sample from Show Me Love, with a slight variation…
“The choice behind the vocal was a last minute thing because the song was already completed. The pianos that you hear on the final drop were essentially the breakdown chorus that was replaced by the Show Me Love sample. I was just driving round the block in my car listening to the demo and other music when I heard the track. Because I’m musically trained I sometimes think I can hear where something might work well, although that might also stem from my DJ career making mash-ups.”
So you heard the track and just envisioned the sample being a good fit?
“It was just a case of humming that Show Me Love sample underneath it and thinking it would work. We were quite close to finishing the record when I actually decided to change the chorus to put the Show Me Love sample in there. Once I did that it immediately brought that sense of nostalgia back into the track, which added a different edge to the recording.”
You’re developing a reputation for re-editing or building something new out of samples from classic tracks…
“I do it sometimes, but if I’m honest I usually don’t like to give too much publishing away. If you make the choice to use or recreate someone’s sample you just need to be aware that you’re going to be giving a lot of your record away. I’ve obviously done it twice in my career - the first time on my debut single Fast Car using the Tracy Chapman sample, and now with this one.”
Are there ways to edit the sample in a way that circumnavigates the need to pay for it?
“There are, and we have a lot of people who will check stuff at the end to make sure the sample doesn’t sound too similar to everything else. We have such amazing technologies out there like Splice and I work with various other producers who are sound designers as well, so it’s not overly necessary to sample anymore, but on this occasion it just worked and once I came up with the idea I just felt the sample had to be in there.”
Have you had people sample your own tracks?
“Yes, I have - especially in Asia where a lot of artists have tried to sample my records and we’ll pass some of those as long as they sound great. Ultimately, it’s great to have people sampling your tracks because that’s what it’s all about.”
How’s your studio shaping up and what are your plans for 2021?
“To be honest I haven’t been buying a lot of new gear lately - I did a lot of that a few years ago and feel I’ve got all the plugins and hardware synths I need to cover everything I want to do.
“This year, I guess it all depends on what happens because we’re still waiting for the green light. Gigs are slowly but surely coming back and. production-wise. I’ll be releasing another few singles this year and possibly be looking at another couple of collaborations with artists I’ve worked with before, so there’s lots of fun stuff to get ready!”
Jonas Blue on all his all-time favourite samples
1. Stardust - Music Sounds Better With You
“I just think that funky guitar sound is one the greatest samples that’s ever been used in dance music. It was such a great song from my youth that brings back so many good memories, and they used the sample in a really creative way.
“I think they used an E-mu SP-1200 sampler and Softube’s Mutronics Mutator, which you can hear in the record’s production.”
2. The Bucketheads - The Bomb
“It was their use of the Chicago sample and I love what Kenny Dope did on that. I read in an interview that he also used the SP-1200 and was just letting it run for about 20 or 30 minutes before taking the best pieces to create the track from.
“It’s one of the most legendary house tracks for sure; the mid-‘90s was a great time for DJs who were sampling to create some very iconic dance records.”
3. Alan Braxe and Fred Falke - Intro
“Again, it was their use of some of the equipment that I love, like the Alesis 3630 compressor. You can actually find an interview online with Alan Braxe showing how and why that compressor played such a vital part in what was another great record.”
4. Hvme - Goosebumps
“This was actually the first track I’d heard from Hvme, but it’s essentially a recreation of Travis Scott’s Goosebumps. This was a really great rap record that I’ve loved for a few years now.
“I had a lot of really fond moments playing this in clubs like LIV Miami where I would have played the original, so it was great to hear this come back around because it’s such a great song and I like how it was recreated and resampled in a similar way to how I made Fast Car.”
5. 99 Souls - The Girl Is Mine
“ I loved the use of the Brandy and Monica sample from the The Boy Is Mine and Beyonce’s vocal samples From Destiny’s Child’s Girl and how they both worked together. It was really creative and different to what everyone else has done in terms of doing a cover or remix, and my love for that comes from my early days when I was mashing up different R&B, garage and other dance records.”