Swedish Sunshine

DJ/producer Avicii lets us in on the Scandinavian electronic music uprising

You can’t help but smile when listening to the inspiring tracks of Tim Bergling. Known to fans as Avicii—his name indicating the lowest level of hell in Buddhism, though no, he’s not Buddhist nor especially morbid— the starry-eyed and humble 22-year-old is first a producer, second a DJ. He’s received his first Grammy nomination for his track “Sunshine” with David Guetta, and will bring just that to Las Vegas when he spins at Marquee on Jan. 2.

Your track “Levels” has spent time at No. 1 everywhere from iTunes to Beatport to the Hype Machine. And David Guetta even dubbed it the “Tune of 2011.” How does it feel?

It’s amazing! I would have to say “Levels” is my favorite one [I’ve made] so far.

Even before you re-released the track with vocals, it was huge. Where did those new vocals come from?

It’s an old Etta James vocal [“Something’s Got a Hold on Me”]. I heard it through a Pretty Lights version so I decided it would be cool to do a bootleg of it, like a house-ier version. I just had “Levels” laying around and I tried it over it and liked it.

That seems to be something of a calling card for you, producing a track then adding the vocals a while later. How do you go about choosing what vocals belong to which track?

It’s different every time. Sometimes we work from scratch with singers or sometimes we get something pitched to us or sometimes I find an older track and want to do something with it.

Many of your songs have a very uplifting quality, not just the lyrics but the melodies. Where does that inspiration come from?

I would definitely say it comes from producers like Swedish House Mafia, Eric Prydz, that kind of Swedish sound. It’s a really big part of me.

Have they been mentors to you?

Yeah, they have. They’ve all helped me out early on and been super easy to work with. They have been really nice to me and shown me the ropes.

Swedish DJs are taking over! What’s in the water?

I think there’s so many people around you in Sweden that are actually doing well, so it helps motivate you and to not give up.

How would you describe the Swedish sound?

Just that: Energetic and uplifting, melodic.

You’ve worked with some of the most iconic names in electronic dance music: Tiësto and David Guetta. Who else would you love to work with?

I think my dream collaboration would be with Adele.

You’ve said, “I think dance music is getting more divided into harder electro stuff and then the more melodic house stuff.” Where does your music stand?

It will definitely always be the melodic side. I think it’s fun to do the harder stuff as well, but I always find some sort of melody into it. It’s been like that from the start. I just like melodies; it’s just a logical development for me.

While producing, what do you hope to evoke with your tracks?

The main thing I always think about is that I want to get people to dance. So I think, “How will this do on the dance floor?”

So when you’re not thinking about dancing and DJing, what do you listen to?

Nothing! [Laughing] I just like quiet. You get so damaged after a while. It’s like every song you’re always thinking, “Oh, can I do something with this?” I think it about everything. It’s like I can’t just sit and listen to music.

Do you have an all-time favorite song?

“California Dreamin’” by the Mamas and the Papas.