Rich Edwards’ career is something of a fairytale: the perfect representation of what happens when you work hard and are determined to succeed regardless of what life throws at you. There have been many steps along the way where Rich could have thrown in the towel along his road to success, which you will read for yourself below, but he did not and is all the better for it.
And yes, this interview is longer than most, but it is worth taking the time to grab a cup of your favorite beverage and sit down to read if you’re serious about this industry. Rich was fantastic to talk to, and I am personally excited to watch his career continue to blossom.
Can you give me the run down on who you are and why you got started in music for those who do not know?
Who am I? I am a 28 year old, half Swedish, half British DJ/producer from Stockholm, currently living here.
I got into music at a very young age, got into the business at a very young age through my dad who used to be the tour manager. So I used to follow him on tour on all the school holidays like summer breaks and all that because we have a really long summer break in Sweden – it’s 10 weeks – so most of it was spent on tour and they usually had a big break during the summer so we combined it with wherever he was in the world, come in a week before, follow them around and then just go on holidays.
Being a kid on tour, because tour is really boring when you’re not on stage, was basically me running around with the band, playing their instruments on soundcheck and all that sort of stuff and I really fell in love with the drums. I became best friends with the drummer. And eventually, he gave me one of his old kits when he got a new one that I still have. So, to my parent’s disappointment, I kept practicing every day in the basement of where we lived for a few hours.
So that escalated into me wanting to try other things musically – I consider myself loosely classically trained in guitar. I can pick out some chords but it would take me awhile to string together a song. I wasn’t in a band because I felt it was pretty hard to play together with people since we were really bad and I have always sort of been a perfectionist. And during the time I grew up, sports became a really big part of my life. I played football, soccer and then I played ice hockey – which consumed most of my life. I went to a sports high school for ice hockey but then I got injured when I was 18-19, so that is when I started trying to find something else to do with my life because I realized I was not going to become a hockey player.
Previous to that I had found FL studio when I was in my teens and I had played around with it but I hadn’t really done anything advanced. I knew of the program but I didn’t really know how to work it. When I got injured I tried getting into the producing aspect because I’d been DJing – I bought my first turntables when I was 19 so I started getting into the whole House thing when John Dählback, Albin Myers, Justice, the House Mafia boys, and very early Avicii stuff was happening, trying to figure out how to make the tracks I was falling in love with each week on BeatMyDay and those sort of blogs back in the day.
But then the DJing thing got pretty serious. I kept practicing every day for a few hours. When I was 21 a few friends of mine got involved as nightclub promoters and started up a big new club in Sergels Torg (Stockholm) and they got me my first warm-up slot before one of the local resident DJs. That’s how I got my start.
I came in and really didn’t know what DJing at a commercial Top 40 nightclub meant – I’d only known big DJ shows and that sort of thing. Like, the House Mafia boy’s individual careers had started to pop off so they had bigger shows in Stockholm and I knew what the warm-up DJ was doing then so I thought that’s what a warm-up DJ was supposed to be. I think my slot was an hour and a half and I played my set for 30 minutes and one of the promoters started yelling at me because I wasn’t playing commercial stuff at all. I was like, ‘oh shit, what do I do now?’ I started scrambling through my CD case looking for the more commercial stuff and I only had mash-ups that I had found on the internet so I started playing those. Because I wasn’t playing a main set like the promoters wanted me to play, the DJ appreciated me a lot. I wasn’t stepping on his toes playing all of his main dance floor hits. He was the one who saved me because the week after that he called me and said he wanted me to warmup for him for the next two months. So I was like, ‘oh, shit, okay. Why?!’ He explained that I actually warmed up the crowd. He told me what I needed to change to keep them happy, but try to sneak things in all the time. So he became my mentor and got me the gigs every Saturday.
He was one of the more technical DJs I have ever seen in my life – hand speed, creativity on the fly – so I used to do my 1.5 hour set, go to the bar because I played for drinks, got my drinks, and then just stood there and watched him for four hours. That’s how I learned and then next week before any people actually got to the club because the first 20 minutes was just me and the bartender, that’s when I got in the practice, as well as at home. I got progressively better and better, technically better and better, and then he started at another club – I’m fast forwarding a year – he got a residency at another club on Friday’s so I started playing every Friday and Saturday. Then a month into that he was running late – he had another gig beforehand and got stuck in traffic – he texted me and said he was not getting there until 1 – can you play a main floor set to keep everyone happy and busy, and I said of course, because I had been watching him for a year now. I switched it up when he usually was supposed to get in and play. I did okay!
The day after, the nightclub manager called me and said he wanted me to be the resident there on Saturday. I jumped at that straight away but I was still working during the week at a regular job – I was working for AT&T at the store, I started every Saturday, I had a residency and it just grew and grew and grew.
There is a DJ competition here every year, the Cafe Opera DJ Challenge. It hasn’t been as hyped for the past 2-3 years but it is starting to pick up and grow again. I came second in that two years from the first time I had a warm-up gig. The first prize was a trip to MMW, so of course I was bummed I couldn’t go to all that, but of course placing second in that got more eyes on me from all the nightclub managers in Stockholm. I sort of built off of that to build a DJ career. I started filling up gigs every Friday and Saturday, making okay money from it, and I still had a day job. Then six months into that I found this school – SAE Institute – it was part time, two nights a week, and it was audio production classes. It fit perfectly into my schedule after work.
At this time I was ‘becoming an adult’ – getting my first apartment, that kind of thing. And I met one of my longtime friends at a bar that I hadn’t seen in a year and a half. We got to talking, told him I was starting this school, and he was too. This was going to be perfect. Everything was happening then: I was getting my apartment, I was studying music, I had my job and all that.
A week later my job announced that they were closing down the shop and we were all being fired. I was like, I can’t buy that apartment, I can’t do this, I can’t do that. I was bummed for like five hours at max and it came to me, it was a sign. I started to call around to all the nightclub promoters, ‘hey, this is my situation, I’ve been doing this for you, I am going to up my pay, and everyone agreed on it. I had built up a reputation and I did what I needed to do. I worked it out so I could DJ full time, 2 or 3 nights a week, and that would make me enough money.
So we started school and each week I decided that, yes, I am going to pursue this, I am going to give this a fair shot. Everything was becoming clearer and clearer, I was learning everything about production and recording, mixing, that sort of thing. I wasn’t really getting anywhere with music – it wasn’t up to par – but like it is with everything I just kept practicing and making tracks.
I did that for about two years and that’s when I met up with another friend, we had a project together, that I’m not really proud of, we had three tracks I think? Two tracks and a remix. So that showed me I was getting somewhere, it was becoming acceptable with labels, that sort of thing. I am really really really picky. I still haven’t made a track that I am 100% happy with – I still hear a few mistakes here and there but if it were like that I would never release anything, I would just work on stuff.
E: In line with that – what is the point you stop and say, ‘Okay, this has to be done.’ Is there someone who tells you it can be done or do you get to the point where you decide you have to be done?
It’s usually when other people don’t find things to give me feedback on – I have a group of people I send my music to. One has no real technical experience, he just knows if he likes it or not, and then I have two producer friends – one is the songwriter/producer that I went to school with and the third is Hellberg.
Usually, the pop dude comes up with feedback on melodies and that sort of thing, Hellberg is the technical melodies. When those two don’t have any more to say, that’s when it is finished and I approach labels. I usually have to make a few changes after that, but that’s when a track becomes finished – when other people don’t find faults. Then I hand it in and of course a week after the release I can hear the faults.
That’s when you do the VIP mix and fix it!
That’s a funny story. We got the vocals from my friend and Cozi for ‘Where I’ll Be Waiting’ and ‘The Girl’ – he wrote ‘Wasted Summer’ as well – at the same time. They had a writing session and he said, ‘Here’s one for you, here’s one for you.’ So we both made our versions, The Girl came out pretty quick the way Hellberg made it. I was slower on my version and decided to sit on mine for awhile to let things settle down with Cozi for a bit. Then I picked that track up six months later again, I totally forgot about it, because my friend was back home in Sweden and I was like, ‘Oh, crap. I haven’t really done anything with it.’
So I picked it up and really hated that version so I am going to do something else with this. I think I made seven totally different versions – arrangement, the sound, everything is different – and I wasn’t happy with it. Six months became a year, and I made a demo of the final version. My girlfriend and I went to LA to visit my friend and his wife and I played it to him and he said it was dope and should be the version. I was like, okay, but I have this version as well – I started experimenting with other genres because I needed a break from 128. So I played it for him and he was like, ‘Wow, I’m not sure which version I like the most.’ It took some more time before I finished everything and then we had both versions done at the same time. I hadn’t shown Monstercat the VIP mix, just the House version, and they were set to release it. And I told them I also had this version and they were like, ‘yeah, we should definitely do something with this as well.’ I spoke to my management and all of that sort of thing and that is how we came up with the timeline to release the House version first even though everyone was split down the middle on which version should come out first. So we settled on the House version first because it makes more sense to do the VIP mix to showcase what is to come in the future.
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What do you want to come to mind when we think of ‘Rich Edwards’?
That’s the second time I’ve gotten the question and I still really don’t have a great answer for it. My music represents my inner feelings that I don’t necessarily show. It’s usually very melancholic, emotional sort of thing, but outwards when you meet me, I’m more of an upbeat, laid-back kind of guy. Those two don’t really reflect each other.
I still don’t really have an answer. I just try to do what I wanna do. The whole realization that I don’t have to be stuck in one single genre. When I came to the realization that you should do other things, you should do what you feel and want to be represented as – I don’t wanna be stuck in the, ‘oh, he’s the House dude.’ It’s more like, taking the artistry to another level.
On a personal level, I’d like to be known as a part-time housewife.
Okay, this is probably my favorite question to ask people. How do you define success, whether it is in your life or career?
Success, to me, is when you get to do what you wanna do. It has nothing to do with money, that sort of thing because that is easy come, easy go. But it is when you can decide each and every day what you want to do.
In line with that, I am already successful because I get to do music every day.
What kind of influence has Stockholm and Sweden had on your music?
It is very much a part of everything I do. The lifestyle, the weather – everything is pretty impactful. As every Swedish artist has ever said, the weather is key. To have these long winters that are really dark, the sun comes up at 8 in the morning and goes down at 3 in the afternoon – 14 hours of darkness for six or seven months – it is cold and you just want to stay inside. That reflects your mood and your creativity. In my music I think that shines through pretty well – it has a darker mood, the melancholy really comes back to that, the emotional stuff.
Okay, so, you don’t have a few hundred thousand followers but you do have a really active fan base. You don’t have the rockstar mentality. Why do you think as an artist it is key to really connect with your fans and be a person?
From my point of view, I still have a very hard time as someone to idolize, in that sort of way.
I am still very much a fan of everyone else. I realize that my music affects people in the same way that someone else’s music affects me. So, how would I want that artist that I look up to respond to me? I would want them to be a nice guy. I don’t bother people that much – that’s not how I go about stuff. But if I meet someone, I’ll say, ‘Hey, I’m a big fan, I really enjoy your work,’ and that’s it. Just a simple, ‘Hey man, thanks a lot,’ that goes a long way and makes me think he must be a nice guy. I want to act towards people how I want people to act towards me. I try to respond to everyone – every time someone tags me, sends me something, asks me, I try to respond in any way possible. I think it goes a long way. I just try to be accessible.
What instance, whether it was a track or a gig you played, do you think put you on people’s radar?
The first track that put me on people’s radar was the first solo release I had on Monstercat – Sweetest Addiction. That got a bit of buzz that I wasn’t really expecting. I had done a few tracks with Hellberg – he sort of schooled me since he has a few years on me in the game, he’s been a good mentor in that sort of ‘little brother’ sort of way.
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Is he more production savvy and you’re more DJ savvy?
Yes and no. In the beginning, he was more of a producer and I was a DJ. But the school I went to went more into the technical aspects of mixing and that sort of thing. So when we met up, we were just going to meet up for a day and do a track together, but he stayed for two years and never went home…
So we just started sharing stuff and working together. They were each our own individual tracks, but we showed each other tricks and that sort of thing. We compliment each other in so many ways and elevate ourselves to the next level all the time. My demos really didn’t sound that great until I met him, it really made me up my game.
I didn’t really know too much about Hellberg when I met him – I knew he was a producer and made some tracks, but it took away the, ‘okay this is someone accomplished.’ I went in, ‘okay this is someone who makes tracks, I make tracks, let’s just hang and see what happens.’
Do you two ever toss around the idea of a duo?
We have talked about it – we have an idea but we don’t know what to do about it.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
That’s a really hard question in this day and age. The landscape of our music is changing so much, even week to week. The boundaries we thought were being pushed by Guetta, Avicii and the House Mafia boys are being shattered by The Chainsmokers, DJ Snake, Diplo, those acts. Setting five year goals today should be done but it is hard to not change those goals every month.
A few years ago I would have said, ‘Yeah, I want to play all the festivals,’ that sort of thing, and I still want to do that – I want to go out and tour, that sort of thing. But I am not sure what type of festival, what type of show I want to be doing because anything is possible now.
Where do you find new music? And what are you listening to right now?
Right now… my go to for finding new music is Spotify. I stalk the charts, Discover Weekly, Fresh EDM, that sort of stuff.
What am I listening to right now? I usually go in cycles, I listen to everything. Right now I’m really into heavy metal again. I’m really obsessed with and would fanboy out to Slipknot. Slipknot and Marilyn Manson. I’ve seen them both in concert and they’re absolutely amazing, but I’m in that sort of mood right now.
What is your best advice for producers you wish you would have learned years ago?
Take social media seriously. To this day I am still trying to figure everything out, but have some sort of consistency and brand awareness. Of course, the music has to be good, but you have to have something that sets you apart from everyone else.
So let’s talk about the reason we are doing this interview in the first place – the new track, For You. Can you give me a bit of background on that track?
I made a few demos – 10 demos maybe. I picked five of those – I work on a basis that I am going to make an EP but I always end up releasing singles. So I picked five tracks and For You is the only one being released of the bunch (for now). So I sent these five tracks out to vocalists because I thought they needed that extra touch, and it was a few weeks and I hadn’t gotten anything that blew me away.
And then out of nowhere, because I was working on the next batch basically, I got an email from this kid, Taheran (Park Avenue), saying that he wanted to work with me, heard my stuff and he really liked it, and he got me this vocal. The first time I heard it I was blown away.
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So, you’ve said you basically make an EP when you create a single. Will we ever get an EP from you?
I hope so! That’s all on me. There’s usually one out of the five tracks that I make gets released – that’s usually the hit ratio of how I work. But yeah, I wanna try doing an EP some day.
Is there something music related you haven’t done that you would like to do? I know Monstercat does a lot of video game work.
I think producing for other artists. I’ve gotten into it a bit but I it is a side project I wanna pursue a bit more. I feel like that would help me develop more musically and as a person, working together with other acts. When they’re not tracks for me I think it would be easier, and probably easier to finish.
Thank you Rich!! xx