Picture yourself poolside at a Las Vegas nightclub—palm trees, a mojito in hand, beautiful people splashing around, grooving to the sounds of a dreamy synth, pan flutes and the pulse of steel drums. The maestro behind that pool-party vibe is Kygo, one of the biggest producer/DJs in electronic dance music right now. As the Norwegian superstar rides a worldwide wave of success, he’s setting us up for an epic summer with his first residency at Wynn Las Vegas.
Born Kyrre Gørvell-Dahll, Kygo has been credited as one of the originators of tropical house music alongside Australian DJ Thomas Jack, who actually coined the term. In seemingly record time, the 25-year-old has gone from making music in his bedroom to becoming the fastest artist in history to hit 1 billion streams on Spotify. For 10 years he studied piano. His teacher hoped he would start playing classical pieces, but he was only interested in pop artists and Coldplay. At age 16, he quit piano lessons and began composing his own songs.
Then he discovered progressive house music and mega EDM producer Avicii. He was captivated by Avicii’s melodic house sound. The melodies were simple but catchy, reminiscent of what he’d been playing on the piano. “Whenever I listened to it, I got so happy. So I thought that if I learned how to produce as [well] as Avicii, then I could make a similar style of music and make other people happy [too],” he says.
With a new dream in mind, Kygo bought a keyboard and music production software called Logic Studio, and he spent countless hours learning how to use the program to create electronic music via YouTube videos. Luckily, a lot of users had shared their knowledge online. “Without those tutorials, I don’t know if I would be here today,” he says.
Kygo went to college in Scotland to pursue a business and finance degree. While most college students juggled classes with partying, he was experimenting with beats and audio plug-ins. Starting with progressive house, he moved on to deep house, opting for a more mellow tempo that complemented his melodies and wasn’t so repetitive. After testing different sounds, he finally landed on the tropical house genre that he’s known for.
In 2014, the artist was gaining attention in the dance community for his remixes of Marvin Gaye and Ed Sheeran, which he had uploaded to Soundcloud. After posting his trop-infused version of a Passenger ballad called “Let Her Go” that year, the song took off. Jack’s manager, Myles Shear, reached out and immediately began promoting Kygo.
When Shear called to say Coldplay wanted him to remix their single “Midnight,” he thought it was a joke. “How would Coldplay know who I was at that time? That was just a crazy dream for me,” he says. When Avicii got sick and couldn’t play electronic dance music festival TomorrowWorld, Shear got Kygo booked as his replacement. Then came exclusive record deals with Ultra Music/Sony International. “Firestone,” with Australian vocalist Conrad Sewell, became a hit single on his first try. Eventually, Kygo left college.
By 2015, the artist/producer/DJ was playing Coachella, Lollapalooza and Downtown’s Life Is Beautiful festival. Cloud Nine, his debut album, was released in May 2016 to much acclaim. Tour dates preceded the record, and the performance “Carry Me” with singer-songwriter Julia Michaels at the 2016 Rio Olympics Closing Ceremony followed.
This year he’s excited about many things. Kygo Life, his sound gear and fashion line, is doing well. His recent singles, “It Ain’t Me” with Selena Gomez and “First Time” with Ellie Goulding, debuted in the same Billboard Hot 100 Chart. In June, he’ll be taking the stage at Electric Daisy Carnival for the “first time.” Nightswim, a pool party–turned–nightclub at XS and Encore Beach Club, has him DJing this Memorial Day Weekend as part of his new Wynn residency. He was nominated for a 2017 Billboard Music Award in the category of Top Dance/Electronic Album. Lindsey Stirling nabbed the award, also beating out The Chainsmokers. It’s OK. Kygo is still on cloud nine as he perfects his next album.
Photography Johannes Lovund / JL Visuals. Grooming Claude Baruk claudebaruk.com.
Location Encore Beach Club wynnsocial.com. Photography Assistant Mike Riley