When you're one of the most recognizable DJs and producers in the world; when you've sold millions of records, had billions of downloads and 11 billion streams, bested the globe's biggest stages, and worked your way from upstart to celebrated icon, your life looks like a blockbuster movie -- from the outside.
On the inside, Tim Bergling, aka Avicii, who is naturally shy, struggled with life on the road. Even as international chart toppers “LE7ELS” and “Wake Me Up” catapulted him to brighter stardom, he became an ever more elusive character of dance music myth. His announcement that he was retiring from touring in mid-2016 sent shockwaves through the community, but the silver lining was a renewed conviction, inspired energy, and much more time to get back to what Avicii does best – create music.
“My new year's resolution is to make the best damn album of my career,” he tweeted at the start of 2017. Now, he breaks his long-held silence and shares his most personal story to date, with a triumphant sound of six incredibly compelling tracks released Aug. 11, titled AVICI.
You have to be a little bit crazy to reach the top of a mountain and jump. Friends and collaborators will tell you with a smile that Bergling is one of the maddest geniuses they know. An absolute perfectionist, Bergling goes into a trance-like state when he creates. The Avicii story begins when he won a production competition held by Pete Tong in 2008. In 2011, he transformed into a titan seemingly overnight with progressive house instant classic “LE7ELS.” The year that followed saw him become the first EDM DJ to pull off a worldwide arena tour.
Avicii shattered expectations of what dance music could be when he unveiled the dance-country swing of “Wake Me Up” at Ultra Music Festival Miami in 2013. The album True was certified gold and platinum in 13 countries, and two years later, its successor Stories continued to blend the influence of genres and push the instrumentation of the electronic music format. The year of 2015 should have been a peak for the producer, but behind the scenes, it was too much. Stress, anxiety and illness were eating him away. He had played more than 800 shows. Performing for millions, in front of a roaring ocean of hands, faces and flashes, he felt cut off from the ones he cared for most.
He explains in an upcoming documentary, “I was out for eight years, and after four years, when I came home, it didn’t feel like home anymore.”
After an eight month break from touring, in March of 2016, Bergling and friends searched for peace in a Malibu studio. He and a small team of close creatives including vocalist Sandro Cavazza, production duo Vargas and Lagola, and more were gathered by the Pacific coast, ready to conjure magic – but there was a problem. Between the sessions, working out to regain his health, and breaks to play with his new puppy, Liam, Bergling was on the phone wrestling with promoters and managers, arguing that no, he did not want to go play whatever club or whatever festival they wanted to add to his schedule. . It was enough that his much-heralded return to Ultra Miami loomed large on the horizon.
He yearned for an escape, but knowing escape was not possible, he and his friends settled on the next best thing. They embarked on a once-in-a-lifetime journey, packing their whole studio up into two buses and hitting the road for a 10-day drive that cut from the California coast across the country to Florida.
Each day, the buses stopped and unfolded their cargo in breathtaking vistas. From the Grand Canyon to Monument Valley, even a moving gondola in snowy ski country. Every natural wonder of America's twisting, spinal roads became an escape hatch for Bergling's brain. The music he and his team created was imbued with the promise and potential of an endless frontier, and each moment was shared with thousands of virtual onlookers via YouTube Livestreams. It was transformational.
With 10 days of road behind, the day of Ultra arrived. Relaxation melted into a mad dash. Bergling was determined to buff rough cuts into solid gems. He forewent sleep and pushed his collaborators to their limits, recording vocals under hotel blankets and working violently mere moments before the DJ took the Ultra stage. He found the main stage in turmoil, plagued with technical difficulties. The last thing he wanted was to climb behind those decks, but when he pushed play on “Without You” and unleashed his song of glory on tens of thousands of virgin ears, it was a blazing beginning of a new era.
Ten days later he announced his retirement, and on the night of August 28, 2016 in Ibiza, Tim Bergling, aka Avicii, played his last show..