Jonas Blue on his Fast Car remix: ‘It was pretty much the song of my childhood’
This time last year, Jonas Blue did not exist.
Now, thanks to the breakaway success of a debut single – an infectious tropical-house cover of Tracy Chapman’s Fast Car, which has charted in more than 50 countries – the 26-year-old could soon be a household name.
He didn’t exist, because that’s not his real name. Jonas is the stage name of Guy Robin, a former pop producer and songwriter for hire, known for back-room work with acts including X Factor contestant Laura White.
Fast Car is the latest step in a shrewd musical ascent. Trained formally on the flute from the age of 8, Robin, now 26, began DJing at 11, because “when I got to high school, to be playing an instrument was really uncool".
By 13 he was sick of spinning other people’s tunes and began writing his own. Later, between solo DJ gigs, he worked behind the scenes with acts including UK rapper Harry Shotta and Dutch X Factor winner Rochelle Perts.
But with Fast Car – recorded in August, released in December, and cresting a chart high around February – Robin has found something of his own, something that almost overnight is taking him around the world as a headline DJ, with a long stint booked in Ibiza this summer. First, he stops by Aloft Abu Dhabi on Friday, May 20 to DJ for Club MTV.
Blue says a follow-up single to Fast Car is set to drop on June 3. Just don’t ask what it will sound like – speaking on the phone from his home studio in London, Robin wouldn’t even tell us the track’s name.
How much has your life changed in the past six months?
It’s been absolutely nuts – from literally writing music in the studio quietly to all of a sudden your life being turned upside down. When you’ve been working for so long it’s nice to have it work out, you’ve just got to be ready and take the opportunity.
Speaking of which, one such opportunity was a residency at Ushuaïa Ibiza.
I’ve got a crazy story – last year I was in Ushuaïa with my friends. I saw Scooter Braun, who is Justin Bieber’s manager and I’m a massive fan. He was in the VIP part with Avicii’s manager Ash [Pournouri] and [DJ] Oliver Heldens, and I just went over and started speaking. I was a little bit sure of myself – I turned around and I said: ‘I’m going to be up on that stage next year.’ And Scooter said: ‘Oh yeah, are you?’. The crazy thing is that was before I had made Fast Car. I’m glad I kind of fulfilled that.
Great story – but wait. Did you just admit to being a Justin Bieber fan?
I’m a massive Justin Bieber fan. You’ve got be able to admit that.
Any other guilty pleasures you want to confess?
I always listen to N’Sync and Backstreet Boys – the old stuff.
I’m not sure if you’re kidding.
No, I’m being totally serious. I listen to this stuff a lot. The producer who did all this stuff, Max Martin, is basically my idol. I listen to those songs not only because I like them, but to see the magic behind them. They’re my guilty pleasures.
Any chance of these tracks appearing in your Abu Dhabi set?
Definitely not – it’s just very low volume on my earphones, in private.
Do you remember the first time you heard Chapman sing Fast Car?
It was pretty much the song of my childhood, my mum’s favourite song. I remember going on long car journeys and it would always come on the radio – it just really stuck with me. Later on in life, when I became a DJ and producer, I always wanted to be able to play Fast Car within my set, the problem was it’s just way to slow.
It’s a weird pairing – your uplifting production with her lyrics. The original song is pretty bleak.
Sometimes what makes a great song is that bittersweet combination – a really heartfelt song, whether good or bad, mixed with something that gets you going. That’s why when people say to me about the video: “Where’s the car?” I’m like: “So you understand what this song is about?” I’m glad you picked up on that.
Will you ever do another cover?
Never say never, but I’m pretty much done with it. I’m a songwriter and producer, so I’m always wanting to make my own stuff, and not use anybody else’s.
• Jonas Blue performs on Froday, May 20 at Aloft Abu Dhabi. Doors 8pm, Tickets are Dh150 from platinumlist.ae