• Felix Jaehn took the E-Class 400 4MATIC Coupé on a tour through Austin.

    Felix Jaehn: Give me a beat.

    Felix Jaehn belongs to a new generation of musicians. The German native took the E-Class 400 4MATIC Coupé on a tour through Austin.

    Fuel consumption combined: 8,4–8,1 l/100 km;
    combined CO₂ emissions: 189–183 g/km.*

    Interview: Ina Brzoska | Photos: Jens Rüssmann

The team passes the headphones around, everyone nods.

The smell of charcoal fills the saloon. Servers bring out juicy, blood-red steaks with a side of macaroni in a bath of melted cheese. Felix Jaehn leans against a wooden table. He is wearing a white sweater and neon-yellow trainers, his hair brushed up into a quiff. His team promised him a stop at Terry Black’s for lunch – Felix is a real foodie, and a trip to Austin wouldn’t be complete without a barbecue. He uses the short break to put on his headphones. It’s a song from his new album. “This song really gets stuck in your head,” he says. “It’s going to be the next summer hit. Tim, listen to this.” The team passes the headphones around. Everyone nods to the beat. Cute dimples begin to form on Felix’s cheeks.

Felix Jaehn took the E-Class 400 4MATIC Coupé on a tour through Austin.

Felix Jaehn delights in his new song – and later in the view.

Jaehn at the Hope Outdoor Gallery, where artists immortalise themselves in graffiti.

Jaehn at the Hope Outdoor Gallery, where artists immortalise themselves in graffiti.

He creates a casual atmosphere.

His music is enough to make even a cool Finn like racing car driver Valtteri Bottas dance. Which is exactly what happened the night before: Felix Jaehn DJ’d for the Mercedes-AMG Petronas team to ring out the Formula 1 weekend. Jaehn instantly creates a casual atmosphere when we meet. Hailing from Mecklenburg-West Pomerania, Germany, he is considered to be one of the originators of tropical house, a type of exotic, rhythmic electronic music. He had barely finished school by the time he’d landed number 1 hits on international charts. These days, he fills stadiums around the world.

“It’s important to have a good hook.”

Felix, is it actually possible to plan a summer hit?

Felix Jaehn: Oh, that’s hard. So much has to come together for that to happen. What does the crowd like? What new trend is time ripe for? One thing summer hits have in common though is that there’s a certain “cheesiness” to them – they’re a bit over the top, like “Cheerleader” or “Despacito”. It’s important to have a good hook.

A hook?

That’s usually the chorus. The hook is what gets stuck in your head.

So how do you find the right hook? There are millions of songs...

It’s an instinct. It’s about perceiving something in a certain way at a certain moment, which of course will have a lot to do with your mood.

Juicy entrecôtes are served. The photographer places some green beans on Felix’s plate – Jaehn doesn’t want to alienate his vegetarian fans.

Off we go: For Felix Jaehn, the tour ends with the E 400 4MATIC Coupé.

Off we go: For Felix Jaehn, the tour ends with the E 400 4MATIC Coupé. But the day isn’t over yet.

“I meet different people in the studio every day.”

Does the mystery of a catchy song come from intuition or research?

I’d say both. I travel a lot and visit songwriters in the studio. In the past few months I’ve travelled to Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Stockholm and, most recently, London. Everywhere, really. I travel to these places for writing sessions and I meet different people in the studio every day. We talk about everything that moves us and toss around ideas with the goal of creating something new, whatever that may be.

The tour continues after the barbecue. Next stop: the Hope Outdoor Gallery, not far from downtown. It offers the best view of the Austin skyline. Visitors clamber up the small hill to immortalise their names in spray paint. The Texas sun is beating, Felix Jaehn wipes the sweat from his forehead. He takes a deep breath and takes in the view of the city.

“A huge honour.”

Are musicians more free today than they used to be?

There are definitely more ways to make yourself known. Nowadays anyone can simply get started. I was self-made too when I was starting out. I made songs, uploaded them onto SoundCloud and then wrote to bloggers. I didn’t need a huge recording studio or a record label.

There are probably a lot of musicians who did the same thing and still aren’t as successful as you …

I got lucky. And you’ll eventually need a major label and a team to really put yourself out there.

Your song with Herbert Grönemeyer for the German Football Association – is that part of your success strategy?

Somebody had the idea of doing something for the national team and I was asked to go into the studio with him. It was a huge honour.

Herbert Grönemeyer is 60, you’re 23.

It was cool. We talked a lot, even on a personal level. One of the things we talked about was what it’s like to suddenly become famous. Nobody prepares you for that.

Mini doughnuts with Nutella sweeten up Felix Jaehn’s free evening.

Mini doughnuts with Nutella sweeten up Felix Jaehn’s free evening.

“At home we’re getting taller hedges.”

What did he tell you?

He said that I should stay true to myself and trust my gut. That I shouldn’t let people take advantage of me.

That’s certainly easier said than done.

Yeah, because there are so many different people who try to talk you into doing things, and they’re all experts too. But you have to learn how to say, “No, I don’t want to do that.” But there are also more ordinary things, like fan mail. I have it sent to my mum these days instead of to me. At home we’re getting taller hedges so that I can sit in my garden without some random person taking pictures of me and posting them online.

Next stop: the Rainey Street entertainment district. Here you can find bars in colourful containers, live concerts, strings of lights. Felix Jaehn stops at a pink food truck and orders some mini doughnuts with Nutella dip.

“I try to meditate.”

Because of your busy lifestyle you’re always on the go. What does an average day look like for you?

It’s not easy. I often wake up in different places at different times. I try to meditate 10 minutes every day, after I wake up, but I haven’t yet managed to get into a really good flow. You just have to stick with it, I think.

Do you want to have a family?

In a few years, definitely. But I won’t be able to live the way I do now, of course.

What will you do then?

I can see myself starting a production company. I’d send artists around the world and continue to sit in the studio and make music. I’ve always wanted a mentor who would tell me, “Come Felix, this is how we’re going to do it.” And that’s how we would then do it.