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Before the internet and social media took over the music industry, many artists got their break by passing out demos in person or mailing them to labels for the chance of being discovered. Most of the musicians you hear today, however, found success by posting their songs and videos online, either growing an organic following or getting noticed by a celebrity. Alesso went with the old-school approach and got his work in front of his idol, Swedish House Mafia’s Sebastian Ingrosso. “I met him through his father in Sweden. He used to go to this coffee shop where my girlfriend was working at the time,” Alesso says. “She gave him my CD and he listened to it the same day, which is crazy.”

Although he swears he would have continued pursuing a career as a DJ if Ingrosso had turned him down, this opportunity was a foot in the door of a very competitive industry. Ingrosso became a mentor to Alesso, or a big brother as Alesso calls him, helping the young DJ every step of the way. “He knew what to think about and what to focus on,” Alesso says. “He always let me do my own thing and he was never deciding things for me, he was just giving advice. And obviously I took most of his advice, because I trusted him and valued his opinions.”

Those first few years trying to make it in the EDM scene were tough and many nights were spent putting together songs. With Ingrosso helping him through it, Alesso had support that many up-and-comers lack. He was also coming up in a time when many DJs shared tutorials for music programs on YouTube, which artists from years past had to figure out on their own. With the right team of people behind him and modern technology on his side, Alesso was primed for success. But he soon learned from his mentor that these things will only get you so far when it comes to creating a lasting career. “I think one of the best things he said was that no one is going to care more about your career than you,” Alesso says. “Don’t expect people to go to war for you and make your dreams come true. It’s all you, all the time.”

In the start of his career, Alesso’s biggest dream was to perform at a club in Ibiza. Yet he soon found himself riding the wave of the American EDM movement, rising to the top of the pack with his 2014 single “Heroes.” The single came about in collaboration with Tove Lo, who was still relatively unknown to the music industry at the time. “She had a couple of demos that I’d heard through my label and not only did I love her voice, but her songwriting was really unique,” Alesso says. “We got connected through my label and I played her some beats. Then she came back a week later with the song ‘Heroes’ and I loved it, so we started going from there.” Alesso loved the song from the beginning, but after recording it, he doubted it would be the biggest hit on his album. Then, after playing it for his label, he realized he had a hit on his hands. “When we made the song, we just wanted to make a cool, awesome song and I was just happy to make music with [Tove Lo],” Alesso says. “But that’s good, and that’s the state of mind I try to be in to make music. Not trying to chase it all the time, because that can be exhausting when you don’t get the results you want. I just want to make music that represents what I love.”

Photo by Eddie Diaz

Photo by Eddie Diaz

Throughout his career, Alesso has learned the importance of making music he loves because people can tell when a song is made for business over passion. Although the masses may not be skilled in recognizing the technicalities of songwriting, people are exposed to millions of artists through streaming platforms, and even kids are developing a palate for good songs. “If I’m trying to get an idea of how well a song will do I play it for kids, my sister, and my mom,” Alesso says. “Because everyone’s opinion is as valuable as [that of] the biggest songwriter.”

Following the trends of today’s youth while staying true to his own interests, Alesso became inspired by 2018’s Fortnite craze. For his single “Tilted Towers,” he wanted to get involved with the video game phenomenon, and in order to get in with the gamers, he went to the most popular player of all time—Ninja. “When I made that song, it was so far from all the other stuff I’d been doing and I didn’t know how to put it out in a cool way,” Alesso says. “Then this Ninja compilation came about and we played Fortnite together. It was such a cool and fun way to put out a song.”

From working with Tove Lo and Ninja, as well as other artists like Hailee Steinfeld, Florida Georgia Line and Calvin Harris, Alesso has topped the charts by embracing collaboration. Although it’s possible for a DJ to find success with a solo single, many today work with known singers and songwriters,adding the dimension of vocals to an electronic track. By 2019, Alesso had come up with the beats for a song he knew needed an all-star vocalist, and through his label Liam Payne became involved. “In the beginning, I didn’t even know if he was going to listen to it and then he sent me the rough version,” Alesso says. “He came to Sweden and we recorded together last year, right before Christmas. Sometimes you just make music online, but I wanted to meet in person because this song was really important to me. It’s a very emotional record and he needed to mean what he’s saying.”

Alesso and Liam Payne’s “Midnight” debuted during the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak and for the single’s promotion, Alesso knew he wanted to get their fans involved. They asked fans to share their renditions of the single, and in just a few days they gained hundreds of responses. “Now that we’re isolated, we think it’s important to connect, entertain and make the best of this time,” Alesso says. “We’re all going through this situation together and we thought that maybe our fans would want to sing our songs. It was the craziest thing I’d ever seen, I didn’t know so many people would want to do it.”

While Alesso may be at home with more time to create music now than he’s had in the past 10 years, one of his favorite parts of his career is being able to travel the world. Coming from Sweden, Alesso began his career playing music in Europe, but it has since taken him on the adventure of a lifetime, including tours through the Americas, Asia and Australia. To represent his whirlwind of a music career in a tattoo, there was no other way than to incorporate travel. “I have one tattoo made by Dr. Woo that represents my music,” Alesso says. “It’s a compass, because music has taken me all around the world, and it’s definitely one of the most detailed tattoos I’ve ever seen.”

Alesso’s career began in a very unexpected way and took him further than he ever dreamed possible—from working with his favorite DJ to collaborating with top-tier creators to sharing his sound with audiences around the globe. He’s come a long way from being a rookie from Stockholm, and with all this time to create new music, we have no doubt he’ll be throwing out some serious bangers in the months to come. And while he’s made us wait “Forever” since his last album dropped in 2015, it’s only a matter of time before we see another body of work come from this electronic powerhouse.