Swedish DJ and producer, Hellberg, collaborated with UK’s international star, Leona Lewis, on a new song titled “Headlights” at the end of last year and it’s gained traction, with it now at 2 million Spotify streams. It’s also recently received an official remix by Madison Mars.
His success has been building from releasing singles under the record label Monstercat, to releasing music on Sony Music Entertainment. Jonathan Hellberg discovered electronic music at the age of 13 and has been focusing on music ever since. His biggest hit to-date is “The Girl” which features Cozi Zuehlsdorff, which currently has over 16 million Spotify streams.
This rising star managed to take some time out to talk with us and we were honoured to receive this opportunity. We chatted to Hellberg about his “Headlights” single, the music video for it, his career to-date, and his home country of Sweden.
Hey Hellberg, how are you today? What have you been up to recently?
Hey! I’m good, thank you. I just got back from London, took a quick little vacation with my girlfriend. In the studio, I’ve been working on my next single, as well as a few new remixes!
Your full name is Jonathan Hellberg, what made you decide to use your surname as your stage name?
It was actually a label exec who thought it was a good idea. My previous artist name was horrible, and when we talked on Skype he was like, “What’s your surname?” and he loved Hellberg. There’s always people asking me where I got my artist name from, and they’re shocked when I tell them that it’s actually my name haha.
Your recent release is titled “Headlights”, can you tell us more about the song?
“Headlights” is an uplifting song about independence, self-love and courage.
It features Leona Lewis, how did the collaboration come about?
It was my A&Rs at Sony who presented the idea, and I was really into it. Then when I finally heard her on the song, I was 100% certain we made the right call.
What was it like to work with her?
It was great! She’s a sweetheart, and I think we really gelled creatively. We shot the artwork at her house in LA, and it all went so well. Everyone on her team, and her fiancé Dennis, are all awesome people.
A music video was also dropped to accompany the track, can you tell us more about the video? Tell us about the concept of the visual.
Yeah, the video was such a dream come true for me. I loved acting when I was younger so to be able to get back to into it, on that big of a scale, was amazing. The concept and the meaning of the song are up for interpretation.
Obviously, the theme of the song is “Headlights”, and the video draws some clear parallels between the two, but I would love for people to come up with their own explanation. What happened before the video starts? What happened after? Where are they? These are all questions that I kind of want to leave in the open for people to use their own imagination.
Frank Borin directed the music video, what was it like working with him?
Incredible. Such a professional and a brilliant creator. He’s the best, and I loved working with him and his whole team.
Teodora Marcella plays your love-interest. What was it like acting alongside her?
Working with Teodora was awesome. Even though she’s only 19, she’s so experienced and really knows her sh*t. Again, I haven’t acted in several years so having someone there to kind of help you out in the process was super helpful.
Many fans wished Leona Lewis was in the official music video, however, she did release a vertical video of the song on her YouTube Channel, where we see clips of you two together, of the official music video itself, and her singing the song. What do you make of that video?
Yeah, I just loved that we were able to put two videos together, and the team did a great job with the vertical video. We, unfortunately, couldn’t make some logistical stuff come together that needed to work for Leona to be in the video, which we really tried to work out for several months but either way, I’m still really happy with both the vertical video and the music video!
The last time Leona Lewis collaborated with a DJ, was 2011’s “Collide”, with Avicii, who passed away too young – he too, was Swedish. How does that feel to be the next DJ that Leona Lewis has released a track with? And is there anything you would like to say about Avicii?
Avicii was one of my biggest inspirations ever. He was, for several years, the guy I looked up to the most in the music industry and I saw him live on stage four times, I’ve never seen any other artist perform that many times.
Who are your inspirations? And where did your love for electronic music come from?
I get inspired by all kinds of music and artists, and it changes every month or so. My love for electronic music I think comes a lot from simply timing. I grew up in Stockholm where my friends, myself, and a significant portion of the city, listened to EDM pretty early on in like 07/08 before it really caught on in the rest of the world. At the same time, I really loved hip-hop and RnB as well. I followed music blogs that put up the latest songs by American urban artists and fell in love with that music as well. I feel like what I try to do with my music now is to blend both those worlds, urban and EDM, into my songs.
How has your home country, Sweden, or even your home city of Stockholm, shaped your music?
Since Sweden is one of the most successful countries in the world when it comes to music, considering how small of a country we really are, it’s hard not to get influenced by all of the great and talented people around you. Again, growing up in Stockholm during the early to late-2000s, dance music was becoming a big part of the music that everyone listened to. When Swedish House Mafia came around as well as Avicii, it all just exploded, and of course, if you’re a young producer who wants the same spotlight, that’s going to affect your music, in both good and bad ways.
Okay, so we’ve been learning a bit of Swedish, so we’re going to ask the next question in Swedish… Vad älskar du om svenska? (We now know that we should’ve asked “Vad älskar du om Sverige?” – we were so close).
Haha, that was almost right. What I love about Sweden is our openness to other people, or progressiveness and our belief that education, no matter if it’s elementary school or college, should be free. If your family is struggling financially and you come from a less-advantaged neighborhood, you can still go to a fancy high school or university like the rich kids. I love that about Sweden. It’s also really nice here in the summer, but the other 8 months of the year it’s rough haha.
Looking over your career to date, your biggest milestone is your most streamed song on Spotify, “The Girl” which features Cozi Zuehlsdorff. Can you tell us more about this track?
“The Girl” was one of those songs that I didn’t really think was all that special before I started seeing everyone’s reaction once we put it out. It was pretty crazy, and I actually think it could have become even bigger than it did, just based on how everyone who heard it reacted back then. “The Girl” will always hold a special place in my heart.
What was it like to work with Cozi Zuehlsdorff?
It was awesome. She has some amazing fans and they’ve been super supportive of my career ever since we worked together, almost 4 years ago.
Not only that, you’ve also remixed various songs, our favourite is totally JoJo’s “F*** Apologies”, which featured Wiz Khalifa. Which song was your favourite remix to do and why?
My favorite remix I’ve ever done has to be my unofficial remix of “California Gurls” by Katy Perry. It’s still on Soundcloud and I just love it, it’s so fun and playful but also a jam.
What is your process when it comes to remixing tracks, and how does that differ from producing your own songs?
I feel like I can be more playful with remixes and worry a little less about the stuff you generally worry about as an artist who wants to get played on the radio and be featured in playlists etc. Remixes are a little looser, I guess.
You’ve released singles under various labels from Monstercat to Sony Music – which “Headlights” has been released on. What are these labels like? And how does it feel to release tracks under these labels?
Yeah, when you’ve worked with as many labels as I have over the last few years you realize that there is no “perfect” label. Everyone has their strengths and their weaknesses. You need to learn what fits best for you and how to manoeuvre around those weaknesses so that they don’t get in the way of your career or your music. I love the team I have over at Sony, and I’m super excited to release more music with them in 2019.
Back to your recent song, it’s been building momentum lately, with over tw million Spotify streams. What has the reaction to the song been like?
The reaction has been wonderful. Most of my fans are super supportive of it and seem to really enjoy it, as well as Leona’s fans.
Can we expect any remixes of the track in the near future?
Yes! There’s one coming out very soon by an amazing EDM producer that I’ve been a fan of for a few years now!
Talking about the future, what can we expect from you in 2019?
More music and hopefully a couple of shows here and there!
And, finally, do you have a message for your fans?
I just want to thank them, as always, for supporting me and showing me love on social media and by listening to my songs. They really are the best, and I hope to see them out in the world soon!
Thank you, Hellberg, for taking the time out for this interview. We’re looking forward to hearing new music from you and seeing what 2019 brings to you.
Hellberg’s single “Headlights” is available to download and stream right now, via Sony Music Entertainment. An official remix of the song by Madison Mars is also out now. While you’re listening to his music, check out his other popular songs, on Spotify, below.