Szabo talks childhood influences and the collaborative process
2017 has been a big year for Sydney’s Szabo, who quickly went from 0 to 100 with a string of hugely successful dance remixes that have dominated radio play and the iTunes charts. His rework of Daryl Braithwaite‘s ‘Horses’ is about to tick over to 1 Million Spotify plays, and he’s following up with his own take on another timeless classic, Bryan Adams‘ ‘Heaven’.
Music Insight sat down with Szabo on the eve of ‘Heaven’s release to discuss his meteoric rise to success and his hopes for the future.
Tell us a bit about the song itself. What inspired you and Jesse Bloch to rework ‘Heaven’?
I heard the DJ Sammy version and it took me back in time, as it does everybody. And then I started thinking about whether I could do it double speed and half time, because obviously the DJ Sammy one is really pumped-up, 2000’s techno.
So I started playing around with it and ended up doing three versions. It took quite a lot to get it right because I kept swapping the tempo and pushing it as far as I could. So yeah, I finally got it right on the third version.
Did you use a lot of samples, or did you create the sounds yourself?
Yeah, everything’s from scratch. I probably shouldn’t call it a remix because I didn’t use any of the original stem, just more of a remake. Basically once I get a singer involved, I sit down and I sort of rearrange it; the key is different, I’ve changed a lot of the chords. Then I track the vocals, which I didn’t change too much apart from creating a drop. I just get the vocals down and then build the track around it.
What’s it like working with Gemma Lyon?
This is actually the first release for Gemma, the vocalist. She was on the voice last year and did quite well on Kelly Rowland’s team. I’ve known Gem for a long time, she’s pretty excited. I think, with all this demand for interesting remixes there is a great opportunity for producers and DJs to break through, as well as feature artists. It’s good for everyone.
Speaking of features artists, your remix of ‘Horses’ with Teddy Cream seems to have given Daryl Braithwaite a boost. He’s been touring like crazy, probably on the back of your work.
I can’t take too much credit. That song is infamous. He’s still quite relevant, and it’s still the most requested song when I DJ.
Funnily enough, Bryan Adams is coming and his 2018 tour will be supported by Darryl.
Are you planning on doing any more work with Teddy Cream?
Not at the moment. We did those two remixes together and they’ve kind of got a different style. You know, with the kick bass and the Melbourne Bounce, it’s sort of a different direction to where I am headed. It was great to team up. I enjoy collabing with other DJs and getting exposure into different fan bases. But I think two in a row was probably enough.
Your last two tracks, ‘Lover’ and ‘Horses’, both absolutely exploded. How’d it all kick off?
MTV were super supportive, and Kyle Sandilands was really supportive of ‘Lover’ in the early days. He started playing it on morning radio and that’s what sent it off.
So when Horses came out, it went to number one on the iTunes dance charts the day after it was released.
It must feel crazy to be thrust into that level of success so quickly.
Yeah, I only started as an artist in January. To have three signed singles in the first year, and for two of them to achieve a high rotation on commercial radio, it is quite humbling.
‘Horses’ was such a risk and people were pretty negative about the idea in the beginning. But the thing is about to hit a million plays on Spotify. You can’t really argue with that.
What did you listen to a lot as a kid?
I grew up on 70’s stuff, which would explain the pop sentiment. My Father brought me up on West Coast Americana sort of stuff, a lot of singer/songwriters – people like Harry Chapin, The Beach Boys, Smokie – all those kind of singer/songwriter artists. That has always influenced me in my writing.
I definitely didn’t grow up listening to dance music. I was never a big club guy or anything. I’ve just kind of fallen into it. There’s so much energy to it, which I love.
Finally, 2018. Do you have any big tours or singles on the horizon?
Probably the most exciting thing is that I have been collaborating with Newton Faulkner. I did support for him on a 2013 national tour when I was a part of another group, and that’s when I met him. Over the last few years we became friends and when I was in London earlier this year, I showed him this track that I’d been working on called ‘Gravity’. He decided he’d do the vocals for it, so I am just finishing that off at the moment.
I’m really excited to release that and show people. He hasn’t released anything in the electronic world and his voice is incredible. He dropped a new album recently, it’s doing really well in Europe.
Also, I’ll be heading back to London in March. My management are based over there and I’ve been four or five times this year for collab work, so i think I’ll probably make the move early next year and give it a real crack.
So an actual proper/permanent stay?
Yeah, while my Hungarian passport is still good. While they’re still in the EU.
Check out Szabo and Jesse Bloch’s ‘Heaven’, which is available on iTunes and Spotity right now: