For Avicii it was an opportunity to relax. On 8 April, the Swedish DJ traveled to Oman, a country east of Saudi Arabia, where he visited friends of the royal family of the country after prolonged recording. But Avicii seemed too excited about his work to take a break. One day after his arrival, he held a conference call with members of his management team and talked about which guest artists he wanted to win for new music. The conversation continued via e-mail in the following days. "All of his notes were in a happy mode," says Per Sundin, the head of Universal Music Sweden, who was preparing meetings with potential collaborators. "He loved what he had created." Avicii also posed for photos with fans in a resort and went kite surfing and sailing with friends.
So it was a shock when on April 20, the DJ producer – whose house beats, strong pop melodies and Nordic good looks made him one of EDM's most bankable stars – died by suicide on a royal family estate. The suicide surprised those who were close to Avicii, who had shown positive change after completing their tour to deal with health and alcohol problems. "The lifestyle he lived was where he went, this huge party," says fellow-ass and Incubus guitarist Mike Single. "But he seemed to find the balance he wanted to achieve."
Avicii was born in 1989 as the son of a Swedish sitcom actress and a businessman Tim Bergling. As a teenager, Bergling began posting tracks he'd made in his Stockholm bedroom to leading EDM sites, giving him a sharp edge from his peers. (According to Neil Jacobson, an executive of Geffen Records, who worked with Avicii, Coldplay was Avicii's "gold standard.") After hearing a friend refer to the Buddhist term "Avici," the hellish area where dead sinners were reborn He calls him his stage name.
In 2009, Avicii released a buzzgy electro-house single called "Ryu" and made trips to Miami to shoot at EDM parties. "He looked like a kid with that baby face, and he was nervous, but he had the talent," says promoter Louis Diaz. Aviciis career began with the "Levels" of 2011, a progressive house single with an Etta James sample, which was the subject of a six-figure bidding war. He signed with Iceland and was soon paid at least $ 250,000 per concert and appearance in Ralph Lauren ads.
As the EDM phenomenon exploded around the world, Avicii's readiness to ignore the boundaries of the genre made it stand out. At the 2013 Ultra Festival in Miami he debuted a new song, "Wake Me Up," a blunt hymn of bluegrass and house music mixing. He brought a band with banjo and violin on stage – and was booed. But the song went on to sell 4 million copies and was a number one hit in 22 countries.
"I do not feel like I'm even sold out," he said Rolling Stone in 2013, discussing the setback he got from dance purists. "That's the kind of music I hear, and that's the kind of music I love." Avicii wrote "Wake Me Up" with singer Aloe Blacc and only one. "Watching him watch was like watching someone play video games," says Lone. "He was so fast, you would have thought he was playing Nintendo, except that the sound comes out and you can hear him."
Until 2014, Avicii was the third paid DJ in the world working with Madonna, Lenny Kravitz. Zac Brown – and his heroes Coldplay. He also became a brand name and sold items such as Avicii condoms at his own pop-up store in Miami. "I never dreamed of making music or touring on this level," he said at the time Rolling Stone . "It all happened quickly, I did not halve anything, it was very, very hectic, the workload was crazy from the start, I do not really feel I had time to slow down."
The pace went quickly to him. In 2012, he was hospitalized in New York for more than a week for acute pancreatitis, partly because of heavy drinking, which the DJ said he should calm his nerves in social situations. In March 2014, a year after doctors suggested removing his gallbladder (Avicii discontinued it for work), he finally underwent surgery. "He was really in pain," says Sundin. "We thought," What could it be? "He ate bad food, slept in a bus and drank something.If you do that for a while, you want to rest."
Avicii quit a series of shows and returned in 2015, releasing Stories . The album was not as successful as that of True and old friends once again saw signs of overexertion. "It almost looked like a walking corpse," says Laidback Luke, the Dutch DJ and producer who was instrumental in Avicii's early career and describes a meeting in Ibiza in 2015. "He was really surprised, he has aged over the past five years, man, I was shocked." In 2016, Avicii announced that he would not tour anymore. "The productions have been gigantic and overwhelming," says Jacobson. "He had the duality of having a gigantic sense of theatrical ambition, but at the same time being a very modest and simple guy, caught between the two, and life began to crush him."
Avicii, freed from the pressure of the street, returned to music the way he began: at home. He set up a studio at a winery in Tuscany and concentrated on a comeback. He joined the management and record labels and planned to release three EPs; the first arrived last summer. Only one sensed a change in Avicii as he worked with him on one of the some 300 songs left by the DJ: "He did not look skeletal, he looked healthy, as if he had been in the sun."
Before When he went to Oman, Avicii invited Joe Janiak – a songwriting producer known for hits on Tove Lo and Ellie Goulding – to his studio in Los Angeles. The two spent several weeks writing a lot of new songs, with Avicii playing the piano and writing lyrics. Janiak had the impression Avicii entered a new, productive phase. "One realized that he had spent a long time solving the puzzle, and he was trying to take his life in hand," says Janiak. "He seemed to be pumped, that's the shocking thing, he did not seem like a guy at the end of his days." Avicii told him he would come outside if he came back from Oman, and then left the next morning packing his suitcase for the journey.