In just a few years, Marshmello has become one of the most exciting, successful, and mystifying people (or should it be characters) in the music industry. He got his start as a DJ and producer of high-octane electronic songs, but since then, he’s branched out and touched more different styles than most acts will in a lifetime. In just the past two years, he’s scored hits with hard rock outfit A Day to Remember (“Rescue Me”), country singer-songwriter Kane Brown (“One Thing Right”), pop singers Halsey and Demi Lovato (“Be Kind” and “OK Not to Be OK,” respectively) and the late, great hip-hop musician Juice WRLD (“Come & Go”).
In between bouncing from genre to genre, he has toured the world and turned himself into a major star…all without ever showing his face. The helmeted EDM titan is now jumping into the sports field, as he’s slated to headline this year’s UEFA (Union of European Football Associations) Champions League final Opening Ceremony presented by Pepsi, later today. One of the first major post-pandemic performances, Marshmello’s showing is sure to be a must-see, as he always brings something different to the stage.
I spoke with Marshmello about his many, many collaborations, his upcoming as-yet-untitled album, and his prolific working relationship with Juice WRLD, which has already spawned two top 10 hits, and apparently there is much more to be heard.
Hugh McIntyre: I was happy to see that while the world was kind of crazy, you kept putting out music. All different types. It didn’t seem to slow you down in that realm at all. Is this all leading up to an album or a compilation? Are they all just kind of one-offs? What’s the plan?
Marshmello: I have an album coming out. I have an album coming out within the next few months. I’ve worked on that for the past year. Because of no touring and stuff, it’s the most diligent and specific and tedious work I’ve put into an album, which is exciting. And also, on top of that, I’m also going to have singles coming out too. Pop singles, hip-hop singles. I’ve just been making as much music as I can while being in my house this whole time. I definitely have had a lot of time to work.
McIntyre: I cover the music mostly from the charts angle. I look at that every week and I was happy to see 2020 was maybe your biggest year on the charts in America. You had two top 10 hits with Juice WRLD. Can you tell me a bit about your working relationship with him?
Marshmello: Of course. It always kind of hits me when I talk about Juice. Juice WRLD. I started out as a fan. I think it might’ve been 2018, Coachella, when he dropped his first album. And I just had it playing constantly. I was like, “I have to work with this guy.” I’m still a huge Juice WRLD fan. Yes, I make music. Take that all away, I’m listening to Juice WRLD, almost constantly. There’s actually a picture of the first time that we met. It was at an awards show, but it’s the picture that’s used a lot. We didn’t take too many photos together. But there’s one photo where he actually ran up to me from his seat at the award show, and snapped the photo. And that photo, it actually might be our only photo, public photo…that was the first time I met him.
He was freaking out. And I was like, “What the heck dude? I’m a huge fan too.” And he’s like, “We’ve got to make music.” So fast-forward … I forget how long, a few months, however long, he was out here in Los Angeles. I went to his house at like 4:00 AM, which is something at the time I wasn’t too used to. And we recorded four or five songs that night. And every time we got together, we did about three to five songs every single time.
Marshmello: That was that.
McIntyre: So we’ve heard two of them, but it sounds like there’s 10, 15-plus?
Marshmello: Definitely. He was one of those artists where I think everybody that has worked with him can say they have about 15 to 20 songs. He’s just one of those guys, you know? He would never stop. If he liked a beat, he liked a song, he would cut it. And that was that. I’m sure between all the producers that he was involved with, he would make probably 10 songs a night by himself. And so, being able to work with him and be a part of his talent is something that I’ll always hold on to.
McIntyre: I interviewed him, I think two or three weeks before he passed, and he told me, “I have a thousand unreleased songs.” So I’m curious to hear them come out. Do you have any plans, or any interest really, in sharing the rest of the songs you guys cut?
Marshmello: I would obviously love to, that would have to be something that would come from his side. I would not want to just… I would do it all for him. So if his family and everybody on his side and the people who he was close with, his engineer and his girlfriend and everybody, if they want to put out my songs, I will be right there supporting it to the fullest. I hope that day comes again, because I’m really proud of the stuff that we did together. I know he actually played it. There would be songs that I didn’t even…beats that I didn’t even know he recorded to. And he would get on live and sing to my beat. And I would be like, “Dude, you didn’t even tell me you did this.” And now it’s this like snippets on YouTube that have like a million plays. I do hope that they can all come out. But like I said, that’s up to his side.
McIntyre: You mentioned earlier that you have some pop singles coming, some hip-hop singles coming. That’s one of the things I love most about your work, one is sort of dance electronic, and then there’s a pop single, and then you’re working with a hard rock artist and a country act. It’s kind of all over the place, but it always works for whoever you are collaborating with. With so many different styles and sounds, how do you go about that process with each person?
Marshmello: Growing up, I listened to… All the genres that I make I’ve listened to intently, I’ve listened to obsessively. Each has their own phase in my life, but I pretty much go through all the genre phases every year. And they’re pretty obsessive. So when it comes to making hip-hop, or pop, or country, I know the elements because I listen to the music and I understand what I want to do. Maybe if I do it like when I did the country song, it wasn’t nail-on-the-head country music, but it had country influences. So being all over the place, I’m actually kind of thankful for.
With hip-hop I always like to make music specifically for the artists. My song with Roddy Ricch, I made two beats specifically for Roddy about two hours before our session, because I found out about two hours before that we were going to have a session in like four hours. So I was like, “Oh, okay. I want to make music specifically for this guy.” Two hours before I made a beat and I said, “Oh, I think he’d sound cool on this.” And then we made “Project Dreams.” Six hours later, the song was done.
McIntyre: Are there other genres you want to touch on you haven’t yet, or you haven’t done enough yet, or specific artists you’d really love to collaborate with?
Marshmello: The artist collaboration, there’s so many. I don’t want to just pick one out, but as far as genres, I would love to do every genre ideally, in some manner. I’m very melodically-driven, and every genre has different melodies that work. I’ve been getting into making instrumentals, kind of more indie rock, like pop/indie rock, just a lot of real instruments, real drums, all this stuff. And a lot of crossovers and seeing what I can kind of get away with sonically. I hope that down the road, I’ll be able to look at a 10 genre catalog.
McIntyre: So, I can’t see you now, and I can imagine why. I fully understand the desire to wear the helmet and be a private person separate from Marshmello, but are you the same person when you’re wearing it versus when you’re not? Are you playing a character?
Marshmello: I think I’m pretty transparent all the way through. Definitely wear my emotions on my sleeves, the same with Marshmello. So if I’m feeling super excited, super stoked, that’s… There’s obviously no facial expressions in the helmet, but I think people would be able to tell how I’m feeling just by body language.
McIntyre: Yeah, sure. There are artists who have an identity that is separate from themselves entirely, and that’s who they do.
Marshmello: I can expand more on that. The positivity that I receive from being Marshmello and also being able to put out music from Marshmello. You understand? That affects my personal life in a great way, just to be able to feel all that love, to be able to see my impact on people’s lives and having them impact my life too. It greatly affects my life. I’m thankful for that as well.
McIntyre: Tell me a bit about the Pepsi UEFA opening ceremony and your interest in this, in soccer, and how this came up?
Marshmello: Pepsi reached out to me, to us, my team, and said that they would love for me to perform at this performance. And I was just like, “Oh my gosh, this is awesome.” It’s such a big deal. I was so stoked that they thought of me. It was supposed to happen last year. And obviously that just wasn’t able to work out. So then we took another year of planning and Pepsi still kept me in mind for the performance, which I’m super, super, super thankful and grateful for. And then the time came where all the planning was done and everybody was on board, and we started to put it all together, finally.
McIntyre: I assume you had a very different show planned for last year versus this year?
Marshmello: Similar elements, but I would say the show evolved. It leveled up, actually, with that extra time to plan.
McIntyre: You had more time to plan, but it’s such a weird time. There are so many crazy restrictions. How did that factor into changing it, or as you said, leveling it up?
Marshmello: Right. I don’t want to give away too much, but it’ll be apparent what we added to the show when people watch the performance.
McIntyre: I know you probably don’t want to actually give any titles or names or anything, but what can fans look forward to the rest of the year from you?
Marshmello: Pop, hip-hop and pop/hip-hop, EDM and everything in between. Like I said, if I have any opportunity to make any kind of music, any style of music, I’m going to take that opportunity. But we already have some singles in the works, an album. We have singles planned for release, we have an album planned for release. We’re going to release a lot of music, that’s for sure. I think this will be the year that I release the most music. I’m not sure.
McIntyre: Wow. Excellent.
Marshmello: Don’t hold me to that.