Kygo delivers an uplifting soundtrack for an unsettling season.
Kygo enjoys a moment to recharge while in St. Barts.
The 28-year-old DJ/producer and pianist—born Kyrre Gørvell-Dahll—Kygo first rose to prominence in 2014 with sun-soaked remixes of Ed Sheeran and Marvin Gaye, establishing his signature tropical house sound and elevating him to the ranks of EDM’s elite. He became the fastest artist to hit 1 billion Spotify streams the following year, and has since worked with stars like Selena Gomez, U2 and Imagine Dragons while headlining festivals and packing arenas across the globe.
Kygo’s melodic touch and cross-generational appeal have earned him some singular opportunities—including performances at the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize Concert in Oslo and the 2016 Summer Olympics closing ceremony in Rio de Janeiro, as well as a main stage turn at Coachella 2018 with special guests like Ariana Grande, Jamie Foxx and Rita Ora. In 2018, Kygo and manager Myles Shear launched their Palm Tree Crew management firm and Palm Tree Records label, a joint venture with Sony Music Entertainment.
In 2020, Kygo released his third album, Golden Hour, featuring artists like Zara Larsson, Tyga and Zac Brown, as well as Whitney Houston’s first posthumous collaboration. Kygo is now one of Spotify’s top artists in the world with more than 28 million monthly listeners. We checked in with the superstar before he touches down in the Hamptons for the tropical-inspired Palm Tree Music Festival on August 29.
How did the pandemic affect your album release? Creatively, it was great to be back home in the studio and not have to travel or prepare for a show. I was in the finishing phase of the album, so I added two or three extra songs that weren’t originally supposed to be on it. Obviously, it’s awful that so many people are suffering from this virus. I’d actually planned to do a big show in New York for my release day, but we realized pretty quickly that wasn’t going to happen, so we tried to be creative with the Golden Hour Festival to do some good things for people who are struggling right now. For the ‘Lose Somebody’ music video, [OneRepublic’s] Ryan Tedder had the idea to shoot everything on green screens since I’m in Norway and he’s in L.A. I was just making a fool out of myself dancing and had no idea how it was going to turn out, but it worked when they edited it all together with the special effects. For ‘Freedom,’ we shot a music video where Zak Abel and I were just doing random things at our houses. It’s fun. … People have been saying they’re their favorite videos of mine, so maybe the high-budget video thing is almost a waste when you can just do it low-budget and make it more personal and special.
This is the first album you’ve released since Avicii’s death in 2018, and it features some of his past collaborators. What was his influence on the project? He’s always going to be an influence on my songs. He was the one who inspired me to start making music. Even though some of my songs are different from his style, I think I’ll always owe him for pushing the genre forward. I actually met Zak at the Avicii tribute show in Stockholm last year, and we ended up making a song together. So through Avicii and his music, I’ve also met so many talented musicians, and it’s been a pleasure to work with them as well.
“I’ve been to the Hamptons once before for a friend’s birthday party and had a great time!” says Kygo.
How did your ‘Higher Love’ collaboration with Whitney Houston happen? I got an email from my label that they had this Whitney Houston demo that was never properly released. I was kind of blown away by the opportunity. I wanted to let her vocal shine as much as possible… like the ad-libs at the end, there was no question they had to be in there. I locked myself in my studio for a couple of days and was like, ‘I’ve really got to nail this one; this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.’ I sent it back to her team and they loved it. I’m honored to have a song with Whitney. She did a surprise performance at New York Pride in 1999, so we premiered the song there last year for the 20th anniversary. Pat Houston came to see the show. ... It was a very cool moment.
I read that you started taking piano lessons at age 6. Do you consider yourself more of a musician than a DJ? I’m definitely more of a musician; all of my music starts with piano and melodies. I’ve been playing piano since I was young but didn’t learn to DJ until I started playing shows maybe seven years ago now.
You partnered with Keiser Clark on a capsule collection around the album release. Any other plans on the fashion front? We’re doing more collabs for Golden Hour, so that was just the first one. We did a drop with Madhappy for Palm Tree Crew, so we’ll be doing another one with them for the album. We’re going to keep doing these drops and see where it goes. It looks like the fans appreciate being able to buy—it’s not even merch—some proper-quality clothes.
“I released my album Golden Hour during the pandemic and have been working on new music since then,” says Kygo.
Any upcoming concert or tour dates for 2021-2022? Yes, I had my first show back in a year and a half back in June at Red Rocks, been playing shows at Wynn for my residency and have a few festivals coming up for the rest of the year too.
What else is on your bucket list in terms of collaborations or music you hope to make? I’ve remixed a few songs for The Weeknd and also did a remix for Ed Sheeran before; I’d love to collaborate with both of them!
Photography by: Photographed by Johannes Lovund