He’s definitely one of the biggest upcoming artists of 2020, blew away 7 Million viewers during the AMF livestream and currently has not 1 but 2 collaborations with Armin van Buuren: it’s Avalan!
Hey Avalan, thanks for making the time to chat with us! How are you doing?
I’m fine, thanks for having me!
Trance fans may already be familiar with you, as you did a collaboration with Armin on his album ‘Balance’ called ‘Sucker For Love’, but most EDM fans will know you since you did the AMF 2020 anthem on their livestream. Obviously, you didn’t start producing last year & there’s a whole story before that, you’re from a super musical family isn’t it?
Yeah, that’s right. My dad has been part of the music industry with a band for over thirty years now. My mum takes care of the business aspect of the band and besides that, they organize festivals together: mostly culinary festivals. Even though the part of the entertainment sector that I’m in is very different from the one that my dad operates in, my mother also helps me out and has insight in what I’m up to. My parents are really involved in my career and they’ve supported me from a very young age, which is awesome, they totally understood that I was meant to start a career in the music industry. There was no pressure from them to finish my education or something, but they gave me a lot of freedom. You can compare becoming an artist to becoming a professional football player, only a small percentage is able to create a career for themselves which is sustainable and successful at the same time. Talent is only one factor here, it’s also based on networking, luck, being at the right place at the right time and a whole lot more.
We feel you’ve been blessed with such supportive parents, as many are uncertain about creative industries as most parents don’t have a clue how it works. How would you describe the musical direction, which you want to pursue as ‘Avalan’?
Well, I started out as a piano player and a singer and I started DJ lessons at the age of 15 at the Pioneer DJ school. DJ’s fascinated me, the way that they can make a huge crowd go crazy was inspiring me. I was like, how cool would it be to reach the point where you can combine DJ’ing with singing/playing the piano. When Kygo came about, who used his MIDI-keyboard during performances and the Chainsmokers who incorporated a drummer into their live-act at Creamfields, I knew this was what I wanted to do as well, but in my own way of course. I started out playing organic music, but I started appreciating electronic music more and more throughout the years. So, I’m aiming for a crossover between organic and electronic music. I’ve been working on my portfolio for three years now, doing a lot of writing camps and networking all over the world, and for about 1 year I’ve been working on my sound as ‘Avalan’. I’ve spent many hours in the studio perfecting my sound and actually trying to figure out what that definition of ‘my sound’ had to be like.
Makes sense! We believe there’s a lot of future in that crossover sound. You started out back in the days with Afrojack, right? It’s totally different from your current direction though, but probably nice for our readers to hear about this part of your story.
Afrojack signed me when I was 20 years old. He kind of took me by the hand in the world of the music industry and I’ve learned a lot from him and his team. I learned there how the music industry works, he showed me how he works and he supported me a lot. We actually did a collab for a soundtrack, which was very popular in Japan.
Cool, so I assume that worked in your favor for the networking, being able to say ‘’I’ve worked with Afrojack’’?
Definitely! I got to visit London, Los Angeles, Toronto and people were interested to work with me. That accelerated my growth very much, both on the level of songwriting as well as production-wise.
Nice. So, you’ve performed at the AMF live-stream at the Johan Cruyff ArenA, a rather iconic location, and Millions of people watched you play. How do you prepare mentally for such a show as you’re performing for just the ALDA crew, but in fact, people are watching worldwide?
Well, I entered the ArenA with a blank sheet, because I didn’t really know what the end product was going to look like. I took my dad with me, due to Covid-19 obviously I couldn’t bring many people, but I was really happy that my dad could be there, as we share a big musical connection. Upon entering the ArenA with a cool setting, a big piano and Ajax is actually my favorite football team as well that definitely was very special. I prepared the composition, which was rather long, about 6,5 minutes, really well, because I really didn’t want that to go wrong. I didn’t feel nervous, because the production and the whole team were so professional and relaxed. Despite the huge ArenA, I didn’t feel any pressure.
Did you watch the livestream with your family and how did you react to the response from the AMF fans all over the world?
It was truly overwhelming! I was watching with my whole family as they’re all very interested and involved in my music career. It was the celebration of a milestone for me and it kind of feels like the start of a new phase of my career. It’s my first solo record and there will be many more to come. Needless to say, my tour with Armin (Balance Tour) in the USA was incredible and the collab was awesome too, but this was ‘’MY moment’’.
Let’s discuss your collab with Armin a bit, how did you get in touch with him in the first place?
I sent 4 demos to Armada and they enjoyed it so much they forwarded it to Armin who was on the lookout for something new and ‘Sucked For Love’ was his favorite track and he instantly loved it. So, we jumped in the studio together, that was insane for me obviously. super amazing songs, as people will expect so much from you as an artist?
Okay, so you’ve got a solo record, you did a collab with Armin, doesn’t that cause a lot of pressure for your upcoming releases?
For sure! But it motivates me to work even harder in the studio than I already was doing. We released ‘Sucker For Love’ in October of 2019 and therefore I started being a lot more active on my social media channels, posting a lot of content. We went on tour in the USA in January of 2020 for 3,5 weeks. It was a super special experience. I had only visited Los Angeles and we’ve seen so much more during this tour. You’ve got to understand, it’s super intense, you’re basically living with the whole crew and the artists in a big tour bus, you’re sharing virtually everything with each other. I didn’t know many of the guys Armin had worked with. You get a huge connection with each other and it can, to great things in the future too.
A little birdy told me you’re about to release a new track very soon is that right?
Yess, I’m excited to say my second collab with Armin is about to be released! The track is called ‘Should I wait’ and there’s quite a special story behind it. I used to have a relationship for about 2 years and we broke up 4 days before the beginning of the USA tour. I was about to start something, which I had always been dreaming about, but there was the downfall of this break-up. We went our separate ways without drama, but we obviously both felt sad about it. For that reason, the fact that we were going to be on a bus-tour was so much better than switching from hotel-room to hotel-room. I was constantly surrounded by awesome people which helped me a lot. I was telling this story to Sam Martin, who collaborated with Armin for ‘Wild Wild Son’, and we were chilling in Phoenix where we had a piano in the dressing-room. Sam was like, yo why don’t we write a song right now about this concept, because this is great. So, we got started together behind the piano and we created the vibe for the song rather quickly. Sam was like: just express your feelings in the music as that’s going to be something, which many people will be able to feel connected to. I totally agreed, but it wasn’t easy as these feelings were deep and super fresh for me. It was only an hour before the Phoenix show, Armin walked in and was super positive about the track. The next day we recorded the vocals in Sam’s studio in Los Angeles and later I finished the track with Armin in the Netherlands. It’s a special emotional ballad.
Very cool! I feel this song is very relatable for a lot of people and when the vibe of a song feels right from the very beginning you don’t have to tweak it for ages and the process can go so fast. I guess that’s probably the case for many more big tracks. If you’re doubting yourself endlessly it’s difficult to get a good end-product, but congrats on your second collab man! With which artist(s) would you like to collab in the future?
I love the Chainsmokers, I’ve mentioned them before. I think Marshmello is super impressive as well, how he managed to position himself in the industry and his brand in such a short time is impressive. If I have to mention a third artist that would be Zedd. I like his tracks a lot and his personality is appealing to me as well. I don’t plan on doing vocals for all of my own tracks in the future either, so I’d love to work with cool pop-vocalists.
Let’s hope that it will be possible to perform for you in 2021 all over the world. Mental health is a huge topic in the music industry. Have you thought about some strategy to survive touring, flights, alcohol etc.?
I know my boundaries quite well and I think it’s super important to make sure your mental health is okay. I’m just a humble Dutch guy and I feel I’ve mastered the art of saying no when I can’t handle something. Despite that, I’m definitely a workaholic, but I know my boundaries and this life is everything I’ve ever dreamt of.
How are you experiencing the ‘Corona-times’ were currently living in?
It consists of two sides of the medallion for me. I mean, it’s awful what’s happening in the hospitals and the fact that so many people are stressed out about this virus and the fact that there’s not much perspective for the future at this point. Creatively these times are pretty good for me, I had to switch from face-2-face studio sessions to Zoom sessions and that transition wasn’t super difficult for me. Mentally it has been good for me too, I feel a lockdown helps you learn how to appreciate ‘the little things’ in life. It makes you more inventive and you go out in nature, which I hardly ever did before and these walks in nature are inspirational for me. I’ve learned to appreciate my life more than before Covid-19 happened.
What would be your ultimate goal in the future as for performances on big events?
Mainstage Coachella would be a big dream! Coachella is all about that crossover between organic and electronic music and I’d be super happy if I would ever be able to play there. That may take years of course, but as they say, you’ve got to dream big!
Coachella would be epic for sure, thanks very much for this interview & happy holidays and all the best for 2021!
Thanks, you too!