[ARTIST SPOTLIGHT] Markus Schulz Talks New Album, "We Are the Light"
While many are still recovering from their Halloween hangovers, the Schulz Army has already begun counting down the days until they catch the Unicorn Slayer himself at Dreamstate LA or, as we like to call it, Trancegiving. Schulz released his new album, “We Are the Light” just a few weeks ago so suffice it to say we’re in for a treat.
West Coast EDM had the chance to catch up with Markus on the heels of his album release. Check out the below to get the inside scoop on how it all came together.
West Coast EDM: Let’s talk about your new album “We Are The Light.” It sounds like the tragic events in Vegas contributed immensely to the momentum of this album - talk to us a little about that and how you came up with the name “We Are the Light.”
Markus Schulz: Yeah you know I just needed to do something to express myself. When I did this album, it all came from the same place… but it was also different. When Nikki and I were working on “We Are the Light,” everything fell into place. The lightbulb went on in terms of what I wanted to do with this album and what I wanted to do was basically put the message out there that we are the light; we are the example that the world can look to when all this stuff is going on. We go to these festivals and we’re all in unity - it doesn’t matter where you’re from, people are holding up their flags, people are smiling and dancing, and it’s just a beautiful thing to see so I think that’s the whole message - we should be the light to inspire the rest of the world right now.
West Coast EDM: What was your vision for this album and how long did it take for it all to come together?
Markus Schulz: The last album was “Watch the World” and I wanted this to kind of be “Watch the World” part two. At the same time, however, I wanted a deeper meaning for the album; something that would glue all the songs together - a central theme. So when I finished with watch the world two… almost three years ago I just kept on working. “Upon my Shoulders” was one of the songs I had just sitting in a drawer and I felt there was still something special there. Then when I connected with Sebu, he asked if he could rewrite some of the lyrics - the original song had said “Carrying my girl up on my shoulders so she could let go,” and Sebu changed it to “Carrying you upon my shoulders.” Something so simple made such a difference to now the whole song - it just had a different feeling to it. Some of the songs over the past couple years were written at different points but they all came together so I think what I was trying to accomplish with the album and it came to fruition perfectly.
West Coast EDM: Is there a particular line or lyric that stands out for you in this album?
Markus Schulz: The line that stands out for me in the whole album is a line that is in the song “We Are the Light” with Nikki Flores and that is “What if we pray to the Earth and not religion?” And you know… it just says it all. It doesn’t matter who we are: when we are at a festival, when we are at a club, when we are at a party… when we’re together anywhere nothing matters but having a good time and enjoying life… enjoying Earth, you know. So that’s one of my favorite lines in the album. Of course, there are a lot of great lines in the album but that’s the one that when I play it, I hope the audience hears that line loud and clear - I just hope it makes people feel the way it makes me feel.
West Coast EDM: How about your favorite track from the album?
Markus Schulz: I’ll be honest, it’s impossible to pick a favorite because each one is like a child. Each came from a deep part of my soul and each one has a different meaning for me. “We Are the Light” I wrote with Nikki in LA; the song that’s the coordinates, “We Haven’t Lost Our Way” - that’s a dedication to where I was born - Eschwege, Germany. You know, everyone of the songs has a meaning or story behind it so it’s really difficult to pick a favorite one.
West Coast EDM: What factors go into who you choose to collaborate with?
Markus Schulz: I think it’s the vibe and vocal style. I feel like vocals are just another instrument and each instrument has to have a certain color. When I’m playing the piano, there are thousands of different piano sounds and I’m always looking for the right one… the right color. When a painter is painting, what shade of blue is he going to use for the sky? I look for singers who have the right tone and color in their voice… that I can vibe with. Then we try and write music that changes peoples lives.
West Coast EDM: How do you and those you collab with go about the songwriting for each track? Do you guys work on the lyrics yourself, do you work on them together, do you create the song first - how does it all work?
Markus Schulz: Yes, yes, yes, and yes. For the most part I’ll get in the studio with somebody with just a guitar and a piece of paper. We’ll just sit there, write some chords, come up with some melodic ideas, and then turn the melodic ideas into words. From there, I’ll take it into the studio and start producing. We’ve also done it with just piano and the vocals. Other times I’ve had a whole track done and we’ve said “Hey, lets hum some melodies over this track and see what happens,” or “Hey, this would sound cool if we took this melody and used these words.” It’s fun, though, it’s like no song was done the same way. But I really love getting into the studio with just a guitar and a pen and paper… there’s something special and organic about that.
West Coast EDM: Who featured on this album have you not previously collaborated with? How did you go about choosing them specifically and how did it turn out?
Markus Schulz: Sebu from Capital Cities is obviously one of the main collaborators. I did a remix for Capital Cities of their international hit, “Safe & Sound,” and I remember I would play it at all the big festivals - as soon as Sebu’s voice came in, “I can lift you up…” you just got goosebumps and the crowd went crazy - I knew I wanted something for myself like that. So I had that song “Upon My Shoulders” in the drawer on a hard drive and knew there was something special about this song. I sent it to Sebu and asked him what he thought because I wanted to get him on this album. He said, “I love this but do you mind if I change some of the lyrics?” That’s when he changed “Carrying my girl up on my shoulders so she could let go” to “Carrying you upon my shoulders” and again everything came together. Then two other collaborators - one is a song I did with Smiley from Romania, a huge star in Romania. And also Alina Eremia - I did a song with her on the album as well. They’re two pop artists in Romania and one thing I’ve always said is that if I work with a pop artist, I want to bring them into my world. I want to make something that lyrically fits my world and at the same time musically fits but really just bring in a pop artist and show people that music is music. If it has the soul, if it has the meaning, it can be beautiful - it doesn’t matter who the artist is. I was super excited when I got to work with Smiley and Alina because I think they’re super talented and they haven’t really been outside of Romania. In the country of Romania, though, Smiley is big - he’s one of the judges on The Voice. We’ve been friends for a long time and always said one of these days we had to work on a song together. Finally I said “You know what, now is one of those days - we’re going to do it now,” so it was a lot of fun working with both of them.
West Coast EDM: Any US pop artists you’d be interested in working with?
Markus Schulz: You know someone like Ariana Grande I would love to work with but I’d want to bring them to Stereo or Space Miami, stay there until 10AM or so the next day - when the afterhours are the most crazy - and then from there go straight to the studio to write based on what we just experienced. I actually did a mashup with Above & Beyond and Ariana Grande - I’ve been playing it in my sets and peoples mouths just hit the floor because those two songs just fit together perfectly. If there’s the right lyrics and the right melody, a good producer can bend it to fit any format or genre.
West Coast EDM: Most unique location you’ve played a gig?
Markus Schulz: Obviously Groove Cruise is one of the most unique ones. It’s extra special for me coming back into the port of Miami after being on the ocean for so long when the sun is coming up, it’s just an amazing vibe.
West Coast EDM: What are your hobbies outside of music and/or something very few people know about you?
Markus Schulz: I love sports. I love playing sports and I love following basketball, football, and baseball. There’s nothing that shuts my mind off from music faster than watching basketball or football. It’s funny because sometimes I’ll watch a game and then rewind the whole thing just so I can analyze the strategy behind it - I love those kinds of things.
West Coast EDM: What festival or location do you want to check off the bucket list in 2019?
Markus Schulz: Well I’ve done it once and I’d love to do it again and that’s Burning Man. We had such a good time at Burning Man - it’s such an artistic audience out there. The first time I played there I feel like I did a good job but I just feel like artistically, I can bend it a lot more.
West Coast EDM: At what age were you first drawn to the trance genre and what was it about trance specifically that attracted you?
Markus Schulz: My father was a musician and I used to love breakdancing so the music was always electronic but I always used to like the more melodic electronic hip hop music or breakdance music. I obviously love Kraftwerk and I loved Man Parrish. Those were the kinds of things I always gravitated to when I was breakdancing… they always felt so cool so that’s kind of how I evolved from the breakdance scene to the club scene to the rave scene.
West Coast EDM: What's your go to joke in an awkward moment?
Markus Schulz: So the Pope came to San Francisco. His plane was four hours early and so they said, “Pope, you’re here four hours early, there’s no crowd, what do you want to do?” He said, “You know what, I never really get a chance to see the city so take me around and show me the city before the crowd starts showing up.” So they drive him around, show him everything, and they get back and said “Hey Pope, we still got 2 more hours, anything else you want to do?” So he looks at the limo and says, “You know I’ve always wanted to drive one of these things.” So he gets in, drives around the streets of San Francisco, is running red lights because he doesn’t know how to drive too well. Finally the police see him and pull him over. An officer walks up to the window, knocks on the window, the window rolls down, and the policeman says, “Uh hold on a moment.” The officer goes back to his car, calls it in and says, “I need to speak to the police chief right now.”
Police Chief: “What’s wrong”
Officer: “I just pulled over someone I shouldn’t have pulled over.”
Police Chief: “Who’d you pull over? The Mayor?”
Officer: “No bigger than that.”
Police Chief: The Governor?”
Officer: “No, even bigger than that.”
Police Chief: The President?”
Officer: “Bigger than that!”
Police Chief: Well who’d you pull over?”
Officer: “I don’t know but the Pope is driving.”
West Coast EDM: Any parting words either about the album or the current tour?
Markus Schulz: What’s great is that my fans really understand what I’m doing musically and what I’m all about. After all these years, it’s nice not to have to answer as many questions about who I am musically - it’s like the fans really understand how complex and complicated I am.