Four years ago this week, Avicii changed the sound of EDM by releasing his country-tinged single ‘Hey Brother‘ as the third single from his blockbuster album True. Tim Bergling thought outside the box with iconic single, enlisting an American bluegrass singer to add a country inflection to the rousing and heartfelt lyrics. Breaking the rules paid off for Bergling, as the single reached number one worldwide and sold millions of copies. It’s remained an enduring staple of the genre, being used in a 2016 Coca-Cola advertisement per his partnership with the brand.
When he debuted the track at his Ultra Music Festival 2013, his blend of live instrumentation with the usual prerecorded synths earned a negative reaction from the fans and befuddlement from the press. Although casual fans may bemoan the single as a turning point between an arbitrarily-defined ‘Old Avicii’ and ‘New Avicii’, ‘Hey Brother‘ was prescient in its sound and genre-blending. Artists like Gryffin, whose live sets pair instruments with recorded elements, could not exist without the groundwork Bergling laid. Even now, the tropical house craze mixes horns and acoustic guitar, much like Avicii did in 2013 with his forwarding-thinking compositions.
Much like the western genre which he tapped into, Avicii was a pioneer with ‘Hey Brother‘, injecting the drop-heavy genre with a dose of creativity. Much like sonic trailblazers in other genres of music, it earned him some criticism but the global success of the single and the album demonstrated that breaking the rules is, in itself, a rule for true artistry.
Listen to ‘Hey Brother’ below for a trip down memory lane: