EDM's Zedd finds new voice, shows growth on 'True Colors'

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly

NEW YORK (AP) — A three-year-old song on Zedd's latest album is the track that helped him land his record deal — with the help of Lady Gaga.

A demo of "Addicted to a Memory" got into the hands of Gaga, who was so impressed with the track that she called Zedd to work on her "ARTPOP" album and helped him sign with her label home, Interscope Records.

"She said she wanted me to produce her album and she called Jimmy Iovine and said, 'You have to sign this kid Zedd.' So Jimmy signed me because Gaga called him," Zedd, born Anton Zaslavski, recalled in a recent interview.

Since then, the German DJ-producer won a Grammy Award for "Clarity," which appeared on his 2012 debut album of the same name. He released his sophomore album, "True Colors," in May, and it opens with the finished version of "Addicted to a Memory."

"I think you can hear my actual development as an artist within the song," he said. "It's almost like a time lapse of my career."

Zedd, 25, has had success on the road like most contemporary DJs. On Tuesday, he announced additional dates for his True Colors Tour, which kicks off Sept. 6 in Seattle. He will play more than 30 shows at venues like Madison Square Garden in New York City and the Staples Center in Los Angeles before wrapping the tour in St. Paul, Minnesota, on Oct. 31.

"True Colors" marks a departure for Zedd, who said each track started from a piano demo.

"For the first time I had the courage to just go ahead and write a song that is almost fully acoustic ... and put it on the album as is, without making it electronic, without feeling like the world would not understand me," he said.

The album's first single, "I Want You to Know," features Selena Gomez and peaked at No. 17 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. He said he randomly met Gomez on the way to the bathroom.

"Our studios are right across the street from each other, and I just went to the bathroom and ran into her at the studio," he said. "We recorded her vocal and I loved it, and I never tried anyone else on it."

Other vocalists on the album include the groups Echosmith and X Ambassadors. Zedd's voice, though, is also on the album.

"I actually sing on almost every song on the album, I'm just not the lead vocal. But a lot of the time, you don't always get enough time with your lead vocalist, especially nowadays, everybody's touring a lot ... so I always do the backing vocals myself," he said. "I would never be the lead vocal. I don't like my voice enough to ever be the focus of a song."

"I would not be opposed to taking singing lessons and getting better at it," he added. "As of right now, I enjoy not being the center of attention."

Zedd has also produced hits for others, including Justin Bieber's "Beauty and a Beat" and Ariana Grande's "Break Free." He said he worked on "Break Free" — which became a Top 5 hit last year — more than a year before it was released.

"I heard her voice and personally I didn't even know anything about Ariana Grande back then," he said of discovering Grande at a pre-Grammy event last year before she had a breakthrough with her sophomore album. "But I loved her voice and I told my manager that whoever the singer is, I wanna work with her."