Otto Knows is finishing up his Next To Me tour, named after his latest single. We caught up with him just minutes before he completely destroyed his set at Highline Ballroom. He talks about stepping outside his producer role and into songwriting, the infamous “Million Voices” song that exploded around the world and what’s next for Otto.
The green room upstairs was packed with a bunch of Otto’s Swedish friends. I stole him away for a minute and we sat in the back couch. Fashion Week had just kicked off and Otto was wearing a fresh pair of Casbia sneakers. I asked him if he had been to any NYFW events, but his stay in New York was short and he was mainly focused on his music.
20something: Do you produce when you travel?
Otto Knows: I really try to but it’s kind of hard. I love to be in the studio. Everyone has their own routines, but mine is to be in my studio in Stockholm.
It’s been a while since Otto Knows put out original music. He’s been mostly behind the scenes, producing and also remixing songs. He’s taken these past few years to really find his voice musically.
Otto: I’ve been really curious about myself. It took me a while to figure out what kind of music I want to do. As you grow up, you get more mature, or sometimes (laughing), and it took me a while to figure out what I want to do and I think I’m in a place right now where I know what music I want to make.
I’m in a really cool mindset when it comes to creative. I have so many songs that I’m really excited about and there’s a lot of me in them.
Did you ever think A Million voices would have the success it did? I actually just heard it on a commercial in the cab ride over here.
Otto: Yea it’s weird. For me that song was more of an experiment. I was maybe not as good as a producer as that song was. So it took me a while from that single to figure out what my music sounds like. Even though ‘A Million Voices’ is something I’m really proud of and it’s definitely me, it came really early in sort of my artistic career or whatever you want to call it. But I’m still really happy about it and I still love to play it.
I know Sebastian Ingrosso is a mentor to you — can you talk about your relationship with him and some of your other inspirations?
Otto: We have this kind of Swedish family. There are a lot of Swedes that are doing pretty good. We know each other really well and we’re really happy for each other and try to help each other out as much as we can. I have a lot of inspiration from a lot of other Swedish bands and people singing in Swedish and stuff. It’s like rock music and different kind of melody-based music. It’s so weird to say yea my inspiration is from this song — I’m not just taking inspiration from one song — it’s so much more like weather, places, movies, music. There’s so much.
Outside of music, Otto seems like a pretty normal guy who enjoys the company of his friends, many of them here tonight to support him.
Otto: I love hanging out with my friends and playing music for them. They give me so much inspiration. They’ve been my friends since I was really young. They’re not like people I met recently — like “I love you, your music is awesome!” I really feel their honest opinion. They really give me their honest opinion. I can see on their face when they like something and when they actually think they don’t know if it’s good or not. I like to hang with them even if we don’t do anything it gives me a lot of inspiration as well. I’m a really normal guy that likes to watch sports. I play a lot of soccer in Sweden, our national sport.
Talk to me about the vision for the music video for “Next to Me”.
Otto: I’m really involved with the decision making process and the creative. We found this guy on YouTube (Kazuya Murata). He’s from Japan and I thought it would be cool to incorporate him in the video. We flew to Japan and shot the video with him. Everything worked out really well. It was natural and not something that was very big it was just really organic and something I think fits well with the song.
What’s next for you?
Otto: I’m releasing a new song actually.
What it’s called?
Otto Knows: Should I tell you?
Otto Knows: (Laughing) It’s not mastered yet, but I wrote the lyrics as well with my friend Simon. As I stand there playing songs — to actually know the meaning behind the words makes it… I felt it here (points to his chest) when I played the song for the first time. I was like, ‘Alright now I know what I want to do, I want to write also.’ That was something that changed a lot for me. It sounds natural for a regular singer/songwriter, but I was always producing. It’s like my little baby and that makes me care about it so much and I’m super happy with it. It’s so me.
20something: Are you playing anything new tonight?
20something: I’m playing my new remix for Axwell and Ingrosso’s that’s coming out very soon for ‘Something New.’ They asked me if I wanted to remix it and I said hell yeah. I don’t remix too many EDM songs, but Ingrosso works so close and I love the song and I thought I could make something good and take it in a different direction.
There was an elephant in the room (literally) so we asked him to take a picture with it before he went on.