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Kygo on 'Golden Hour' Album, Whitney Houston and Black Lives Matter


How Kygo Made the Most of This Year's Unsettled Summer

By Matt Medved | September 9, 2020 | Culture People Features


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 crossgenerational 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.

Kygo is no stranger to South Florida. He’s performed at Ultra Music Festival twice and was set to make his headlining return this spring prior to the event’s cancellation due to COVID-19. Shear is also a Miami native who credits the city with influencing his career arc: “Honestly, if I didn’t live in Miami, I’m not sure I would’ve gotten into dance music. It was just such a big part of the culture growing up.” On May 29, 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. He celebrated the release with a virtual performance on Good Morning America with OneRepublic and his own Golden Hour Festival charity livestream, which included Jimmy Buffett, Alan Walker, Chelsea Cutler and more. Kygo is now one of Spotify’s top 25 artists in the world with more than 40 million monthly listeners.

How has the pandemic affected your album release?

Creatively, it’s been 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 sad that I can’t promote it, and 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.


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.

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.

What are some of your best memories in Miami?

My first Ultra in 2016 was my first live show ever, and I’d been working on it every day for many months. I did my first show on Ultra’s main stage the next year, which was something I’d been dreaming about for a long time. We had a lot of plans for Ultra this year. I’d just dropped my single “Like It Is” with Zara Larsson and Tyga, so they were going to come play it, and Sandro Cavazza and I were going to do our Avicii tribute, “Forever Yours.” It really sucked that it all got canceled, but obviously we couldn’t do anything about it. Hopefully, we can do it next time.

Any favorite spots to visit when you’re in town?

Joe’s Stone Crab. It’s a classic. I always try to go there. When it comes to clubs, I’ve been to LIV and Story many times. It’s always a good time in Miami; it never stops.

You recently donated $20,000 to the Black Lives Matter Global Network with a statement on educating yourself about the situation in America. How’s that process been?

During the weeks after George Floyd was killed, I saw so many stories from people who have experienced racism, and it’s opened my eyes to how big of a problem it is. I’m from Norway, and I’ve never experienced it before, so it was hard for me to realize. It goes back so many years in the U.S., and the whole system just needs to be rebuilt almost because the problem lies so deep.

Photography by: Johannes Lovund