It’s a safe bet that if you’ve followed electronic dance music over the past decade, you’re definitely familiar with Nicky Romero. Hailing from the Netherlands, Nick Rotteveel van Gotum first burst onto the scene in 2008 and really started gaining fame in the early 2010s with his solo hits like “Toulouse” and “Symphonica” as well as collabs with the likes of Calvin Harris, David Guetta, Fedde Le Grand, NERVO, and still his biggest hit to date, the iconic “I Could Be the One” with Avicii.
Fast forward to today, and Nicky is still one of the most prominent producer/DJs on the scene. He’s continued his consistent song output on his label Protocol, he’s continued to collaborate with some of the biggest names in dance while evolving his sound from the electro/big room of back in the day to a more modern and nuanced progressive sound. You can also find Nicky performing at all of the world’s biggest festivals including Ultra and TomorrowLand.
We got the chance to sit down with Nick before his show at Academy in Los Angeles this past weekend. Nick delighted the packed house with a high energy set of new IDs and Nicky Romero classics and mashups. Nick also talked to us about a variety of topics including his crazy 2019, his newest track “Dynamite” with Mike Williams and Amba Shepherd, an exciting upcoming collab, and the valuable lessons that he’s learned over his decade plus in the dance music industry.
Hey Nicky, thanks for taking the time to chat with us. It’s been a crazy year for you, you’ve released a ton of new music, played all the big festivals. What’s been the highlight of the year for you personally and professionally?
“That’s hard to give you an answer because there’s been so many crazy and amazing things this year. Well on the music standpoint, I think I really found the sound that I want to make again. So, that’s a really good thing, and for a moment it was kind of every year I was all over the place. You know, the sound in general for EDM, everybody had their own sound back in the days, but it felt like everything kind of blended. So, I’m happy that I found something I really like to make. A few of those records you’re going to hear tonight, obviously. On a personal note, I think, especially at the beginning of this year, I felt like I really started enjoying the music that I was producing again. It just basically means, I’ve found a direction, it’s like having a compass, you follow, and you have a guide. That’s what I want to do, and that also ultimately makes me happy because I enjoy all of the performances I do. Because I’ve found my ‘Hey this is what I want to do’ sound, again. Those are the most important things for me.”
You just released your latest track “Dynamite” with Mike Williams. Tell us a little about the song and how you and Mike came to start working on it?
“It’s pretty good! It’s actually very rare, I think ,these days that people physically go into the studio together, because everyone’s busy or traveling, there’s people that do a lot of email. But, I really felt the joy of being in the studio, we both contributed like a 50-50 thing to the track. Because, it’s not a style that I would do by myself, alone, it’s also not a style that he would do. It really is like bringing to the table what you have in mind. It was funny, it was in my studio, we really felt like, ‘Hey this is a good track, this is what we want to do.’ It’s a very musical song also, it’s a little different because it’s a more classical melody, there’s a lot of half notes.”
There’s always been so much dance talent in the Netherlands and you’ve worked with a lot of people. Do you have a dream collab?
“Yeah, I do, and actually it’s coming this year, finally. It’s a track I’m doing with Armin van Buuren. He’s obviously one of the most respected Dutch DJs and one of the legends in trance also. And, I feel like he contributed such an important thing to the music industry, and I’m finally able to work on a song with him. We had ideas for a long period of time, but now we found a song that we are probably going to put out. It’s not finished 100%, but we’re looking for the right vocal. But it starts with a remix I’m doing for him, and I finished that one. I’m going to play it tonight and it’s called ‘Unlove You’ with him and Ne-Yo, so that’s how we re-connected.”
Anyone else in the pop world you’d like to work with?
“Well, there’s a lot of people that I want to work with. There’s a couple for sure that I have in mind that I want to work with. I heard Coldplay is coming back with an album, a double album, I wish I could be working with them at some point. Obviously, that’s a long shot, but I feel like you have to be able to dream, right? There’s a lot of people I find talented. I really like Post Malone too, especially his last record, he’s super-talented. There’s a couple of others.”
You also, as is well known, run your own label Protocol. Tell me how you balance running a label with touring and recording?
“Ah, you know, I don’t really see myself as an owner of a label. I started Protocol in 2012, of course, officially it’s mine, but it really is a company that we’re running together, so I don’t feel like I’m the owner, I feel like I’m a musical asset of Protocol. And, I like to say that I give everything I can to Protocol, but at this point it’s also created its own identity, so I’m just one of the artists on Protocol, and there’s a lot of great artists that contribute amazing music to our label. We got really lucky, we worked with so many different artists, just naming a few, in the very beginning we had Calvin Harris with ‘Iron.’ We had David Guetta, we had W&W, we have Deniz Koyu, Stadiumx, there’s so many amazing, talented guys on the label. It makes feel like I’m surrounded by a great, great team. It’s like a football team. I get motivated by everybody on the label, all day.”
You’ve also been putting out a web documentary, “Redefine.” Tell me about the project and what message you want to convey to the fans?
“So, ‘Redefine,’ for me was a lot about, I wanted to bring back the times of the beginning. I wanted people to experience the past, the present and the future. So it gave me an opportunity to dig into my old records and re-do a version of them. Because a lot of us have memories with songs in the past, everyone has their own ones, but I’m pretty sure we all have a few ones that overlap. I wanted to give it a go and bring all those old records back in my set, play a few of them, and also a lot of the songs I plan on releasing next year. So this way it felt like I had a good reason to play this mix, it’s like a time machine.”
What are you plans for the rest of the year and going into 2020? More music and touring?
“The rest of the year, everything is already kind of set. I have a record coming up with Deniz Koyu that I’m real excited for, I play it now with Avicii’s “Without You” vocal on top of it, that’s the one I closed TomorrowLand with. And show-wise, I don’t know, I’ll see whatever comes. I want to do a little bit longer U.S. tours. Going here for a week or two, instead of just weekends, so I can get a little more in the zone. That’s why I sleep before the show, otherwise I can’t be up all night.”
How do you stay sane and maintain a work/life balance being an International touring DJ? What do you do for fun?
“That’s the most challenging part of this job, there’s always so much to do, and there’s always a reason to be in the studio working. So, that’s the hardest task of my job is to remain balanced. Because there’s always opportunities everywhere, and it’s always a fun environment. It’s either a show or in the studio, any of that, it’s not like I have to sit in an office and do work I don’t like to do. So, sometimes it makes it hard to say no, but I have to, because the body has a limit also. So, it’s definitely hard, but I’ve finally found a signal, and I recognize when my body’s getting overworked, and then I’m just like ‘Okay, guys, I can’t, I have to stop.’ It’s what I’ve learned.”
Any words for the fans?
“I appreciate everyone that’s been with me this whole journey, and it’s been quite a journey, since 2008. A lot of ups, a few downs also, for me personally, but I’m really feeling good now. Wherever I go there’s fans with flags, t-shirts, even tattoos, and they have their own social media account and I’m very thankful for such a dedicated and loyal fanbase, it’s definitely something that moves me everyday. It’s touching, it’s really magical to find people all over the world so dedicated to what you do. I’m thankful.”
Check out this video of Nicky dropping his latest hit “Dynamite” at his show at Academy LA last weekend. There’s still a couple or more chances to catch Nicky live in 2019. Keep your eyes peeled for Nicky’s upcoming releases with Armin van Buuren and Deniz Koyu
December 6 – Las Vegas, NV – Omnia
December 14 – Chicago, IL – Prysm