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Exclusive Interview: Sam Feldt Talks "Runaways," Rob Thomas, and His Next '90s Remix

Sam Feldt also tells of his uphill battle as a big room house DJ
Sam Feldt Press Photo 2016

Few artists capitalized on the rise in popularity of softer styles of electronic music quite as much as Sam Feldt did. His melodic, radio-friendly brand of house music reached the airwaves at a time when music fans were abandoning the main stage in droves, and he's become one of the most sought-after commodities in dance music as a result.

With that in mind, Feldt made for a fitting inclusion to the roster for the main stage at the 2016 fall edition of CRSSD Festival in San Diego. The event boasted a lineup that catered to more mature electronic music fans, so he and Bakermat were wise to fit it into their From Amsterdam With Love Tour.

Did the Fall Edition of CRSSD Festival Mark the Decline of 2016's House and Techno Hysteria?

However, many Sam Feldt fans may be surprised to discover that his road to superstardom was speckled with quite a few failures. Before the launch of his current artist project he was a big room house DJ, and had his fair share of doors get slammed in his face.

After his set at CRSSD, Sam Feldt made some time to meet with me and divulge some of the less glamorous moments of his career. He also discussed recent and upcoming releases - like his upcoming off remix of La Bouche's "Show Me Love" featuring the singer from Cheat Codes. After seeing what he had to say, check out his new artist platform, Heartfeldt.

You delivered a great set out there, today, Sam. Tell me about how you selected the tracks for this performance.

Sam Feldt: Well, I tried to play a lot of Sam Feldt music. I started off with “Show Me Love,” one of my remixes, and I played my new single, “Runaways,” at the very end. Basically, it was a one-hour set filled with a lot of my old tracks.

I actually wanted to ask you about “Runaways.” Obviously, you’ve had time to play it out live before its official release, so how are audiences responding to it so far on your tour?

Sam Feldt: I’ve played a lot of remixes of it because the track itself is more radio oriented. There’s a remix package as well, so there are, like, seven different remixes of all different styles. Today I played the Jay Hardway remix; he’s a good friend of mine, and he made it really appropriate for bigger stages. Basically, I’ve been playing it all around the world, even in Asia. The funny thing about that track is that somehow, even though they don’t know it yet, at the second break they sing along. I think it’s a really catchy track, a feelgood track. I think it’s just a really cool song to close out the summer with.

Right now you’re on the From Amsterdam With Love tour with Bakermat. How has it been going so far?

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Sam Feldt: We’re almost halfway now, I think; we’ve done like seven or eight shows already. It’s been amazing - all the venues have been selling out or close to it, so that’s great. We did some really big venues, like 1,500-2,000-person venues and hard ticket shows, and they did really well so I’m happy about that. We’ve mixed it up with a couple really cool festivals, like CRSSD today, so overall it’s just a really cool tour.

Now that you’ve spent some time touring with Bakermat, what are some of his quirks that you might not have expected beforehand?

Sam Feldt: That’s a good one, actually. For example, Bakermat always wants to be at the venue one hour before his set and I like to come in a bit later, like 15 minutes before. Just small differences, but overall, we’ve been on tour in Mexico and China before so we already know what the other person is like. It’s a good combination. He plays a bit more melodic and deep, and I play a bit more commercial and heavy, so we work well together.

A little further back you released that remix of, “Pieces,” and to be honest, when I saw that Rob Thomas from Matchbox 20 did the original I was very skeptical - but his singing style really worked for your sound! How did you come to make his acquaintance?

Sam Feldt: To be honest, the label of Rob Thomas approached me. They said, “Do you want to do this remix,” I wasn’t really familiar with his sound, so I had to Google him. I listened to a lot of his older tracks and I was like, “This might be cool,” so I got the acapella and I just did my thing. I built the track around it, and I think it worked.

When a lot of electronic music fans think of the Netherlands, they either think of mainstagers like Tiësto and Armin Van Buuren or they think of really underground guys like Joris Voorn. There are a lot of you guys who have this in-between sound, though - to be truthful I call it “department store house” in my writing a lot. Where did this come from?

Sam Feldt: Well, for me myself, I used to play a lot of big room stuff under a different name, basically everything from hip-hop to hardstyle. Then, I said to myself, “I’m gonna do a side project and just play the music I wanna produce from my heart,” and that’s why I started Sam Feldt. 

I never really had a goal with it, and I never really expected to release any songs or play any gigs - I just did it for myself, and for my friends. I started making mixtapes and tracks that I enjoyed, and I think Sam Feldt was basically a different genre. I think that’s good, and you can call it “department store house,” you can call it “melodic house,” whatever, but it’s accessible and it still has its own sound. I think that’s important. I can release a track that’s 100BPM or 128BPM, and you’ll still recognize that it’s my track. I think that’s the power of Sam Feldt. It’s a broad project, but the main ingredients are these emotions.

I would also say that you very recently and rapidly came up; 2014 was your first Spinnin’ Records release and your career just catapulted from there. Tell me about some of the more difficult times before that that your fans might not know about.

Sam Feldt: I struggled for five or six years trying to make it and get at least one track released, and I never got a response from a label. I begged club owners to come play at their clubs for empty rooms. I’ve been through the struggle that every DJ/producer goes through, and to be honest, I didn’t start Sam Feldt with the idea of growing big - I started it because I wanted to express myself through a different project. To be honest, it actually took me two months to send my first track to Spinnin’ because I thought they were never gonna release it. They were doing Martin Garrix’s “Animals,” stuff like that. I just sent it over after my friends pushed me and pushed me, and two hours later I got an email from their A&R saying that they loved it, and they were gonna release it. It was just a surprise to me that Sam Feldt actually gained some traction.

Now that “Runaways” is out, what can you tell me about some of your upcoming releases?

Sam Feldt:I’ve got this new song coming out with the singer of Cheat Codes, and it’s gonna be an off remix of the [1995 La Bouche] track “Be My Lover.” It’s a fun little track. I’ve got another track coming out called “What About Love” that I played today; it’s a bit uptempo. Then, I’ve got another 22 tracks finished and will be releasing an album of the best ones. There’s just so much new music coming out, and I’m just waiting to get it all released.

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