Joel Corry opens up on success with “the biggest track of 2020”, MNEK collaboration ‘Head & Heart’
If you’re not yet familiar with the name ‘Joel Corry’, one can only assume that 2020 has been a harder year for you than most, because through the grey sludge of a seemingly never-ending pandemic, one shining beacon of hope has dazzled even brighter than Pfizer… And he’s utilising his head AND heart to make his way to the top. Bursting into primetime consciousness with monster hits like ‘Lonely’ and ‘Sorry’ (both racking up more than 200 million streams), the Londoner has risen meteorically over the space of the past 18 months, now cementing a reputation as the electronic industry’s hottest hit-maker.
But it was through COVID – and lockdown – that Joel’s star status truly started to spangle. Teaming up with soulful vocal legend MNEK on ‘Head & Heart’, the track has since followed in the footsteps of CamelPhat’s ‘Cola’ (2017), Fisher’s ‘Losing It’ (2018) and MEDUZA’s ‘Piece of Your Heart’ (2019) in securing a spot as the year’s biggest dance/commercial crossover anthem. Turn on any radio or shuffle any playlist, and there you’ll find the aural embodiment of Joel’s warm bass-lines and irresistible melodies… Not to mention the never-ending queue of producers who’ve lined up to take on official remix duties for the Brit, including Jack Back (aka David Guetta), Timmy Trumpet, and the Godfather of EDM, Tiësto.
With Corry’s sure-fire recipe in the studio guaranteeing hit after hit so far – including 6 consecutive weeks at number #1 in the Official UK singles chart – we caught up with the house mogul – who has recently secured a coveted Saturday night residency at Kiss FM – to discuss his somewhat surprising love for techno, why a second lockdown is set to squeeze every drop from his creative juices, and how Swedish House Mafia and Carl Cox changed his life forever.
This is what happened… When We Rave You met Joel Corry:
Joel, to many, your new found A-Lister status may look like a sudden breakthrough, but you’ve been working as a DJ for many years now! So how did you arrive at this point?
“Yeah that’s right! So my older brother was a DJ, and during that time, UK garage was the scene I was into! I was going into record shops every weekend with my pocket money to get white label vinyls and few of my friends were MCs so we would record mix tapes in my bedroom. Every weekend, we’d wait up for DJ EZ on Kiss FM and I’d record his set and then listen to the cassette all week at school! The amount of tapes I had in my room was mad!”
Proper ‘Bedroom DJ’ vibes then? Handing out mixtapes at school etc and trying to get your stuff heard?
“That’s exactly it, yeah! But I think in my late teens, my first trips to Ibiza was when my love for dance music, and house music as a whole really started to take off! I remember seeing Carl Cox at Space for the first time and thinking ‘WOW! This is a different world’. I started producing when I was at college, and I realised I had to release music as well as just playing other people’s music. So I actually started off in EDM because that was during the era when EDM was really having that big boom at the time! I was really into Swedish House Mafia and loving the stuff they were putting out, and then I remember warming up for Will Sparks, who was an important figure for me because he actually signed my first ever record, which was a Melbourne bounce track! I think as time goes on, your musical horizons broaden, and you start to look into tech-house, techno, the deeper side of things, and the underground scene, and that’s definitely what happened to me. But I realised that the best thing for me production wise was this commercial house tip… Then, I made ‘Sorry’ and everything changed!”
So how does the music you’re making now differ from your own personal tastes in terms of what you’d go to see yourself at a rave?
“Well if you go to one of my Joel Corry DJ sets, I play a lot of heavier stuff. If I’m playing 3 or 4 hour sets, I’ll even dive into techno, and I don’t think people always expect that. Because even with the songs I make, I always then do a VIP edit too, and those versions are always so much heavier! If you’ve seen my live sets or my streams on YouTube, a lot of the time people say it’s different from what they were expecting based on my productions, because I’m really into that deeper, darker, side!”
So talk to us about how you met MNEK, and how the collaboration came about. Did you have the track before he laid the vocals down on it? Or did he approach you with his vocal first?
“I was actually working on ‘Head & Heart’ for such a long time, I started in November 2019. But it wasn’t until March 2020 that I came into contact with MNEK. I had a different vocal on it originally, but it wasn’t quite clicking and I knew the track was really special, so I was waiting for a pre-chorus and a few missing parts. Luckily, MNEK heard the demo and he messaged me on Instagram right at the start of lockdown. I’ve been a big fan of his for so many years that I couldn’t believe it because he’s such an amazing songwriter but he came in and just sent me back this full vocal and wrote this pre-chorus and I was like, WOW, he’s absolutely nailed it! He put the final piece into this ‘Head & Heart’ puzzle that I’d been working on for so long! I knew straight away when I heard that a cappella, that we had something big on our hands. The hardest part is taking a song from 90% to 100% because those final few months took a little while to finesse all the production… Many sleepless nights… But we finally met properly on the day of the music video shoot! By that point, I think I’d already annoyed him with so many messages on Whatsapp that it felt like we knew each other anyway!”
Well it certainly seems like your formula is on point right now in the studio! So can we expect another big banger from you soon?
“Yeah well I’ve just moved into this new studio which feels great, I’ve been remixing loads of amazing artists! One for Sam Smith, one for Oliver Heldens, I’ve just remixed Katy Perry, some stuff for Clean Bandit, there’s a Jax Jones remix coming… Robin Schulz too… These names I’m saying right now, it’s just mental, so keep a look out for them! We’ve just gone into the Billboard Hot 100 in America and I got a tweet from Billboard so I was a bit like ‘Whaaaat!’”
And you’re closing in on half a BILLION Spotify streams now… How would it feel to join that ‘Billion streams club’?
“Imagine that! That would be crazy! In terms of original music, ‘Head & Heart’ was made during the first lockdown, so now we’re in a second lockdown in the UK… It bodes well man!”
As effortlessly personable in character as the soul-warming beats of his four-to-the-floor tracks, there’s no doubt that Joel Corry is THE breakthrough star of 2020. Adding to his already glimmering back-catalogue with a wealth of proven hits, the UK star is now flexing the muscles of his powerful production prowess for all the world to see, and most importantly, hear. Already confirmed on the line-up of the eagerly awaited ‘ABODE Las Vegas’ event in Autumn 2021, you can expect Corry to be providing the heat behind various festival decks next year. Because if there’s one bright spark to have ignited this turbulent 2020 like no other, it’s the man who will be once again soundtracking your summer when the muffled-bass grows louder with every stride of soft-grass underfoot in a fully vaccinated and COVID-safe world!