Popping Up is our recurring look at new artists making noise on the music landscape. Because, hey — Madonna and Britney were once unknown, too.
When Dutch artist Mr. Probz released his breakout hit “Waves” in The Netherlands last year, it made the Top 10 in his home territory. Several remixers eventually took a crack at the guitar ballad, but one in particular, Robin Schulz, turned out the breezy, hypnotic dance mix that would send the song through the roof worldwide. Not bad for a song that Probz, who started out in hip hop, had to originally teach himself the guitar to play on.
“When I have sessions, if I have, for example, a guitarist that doesn’t show up, or I have to wait for someone, I always learn,” he explains to Idolator. “I just jump in, and same thing with producing. If something takes too long or whatever, I have the tendency to make it my mission to learn how to do it myself. With the guitar, I think some of the producers that I worked with maybe got tired of me complaining about guitars not being recorded in time, and when it was my birthday, they gave me a guitar. That was basically where it started, and ‘Waves’ is the first thing I learned playing myself.”
Given the guitar aspect and Mr. Probz’s rap beginnings, it’s somewhat ironic, then, that “Waves,” in its remix form, has joined the ranks of the current crop of house tracks coming out of Europe that are changing the sound or radio in 2014. Still, it’s a great testament to the song’s melodic strength, that it translates in multiple genres.
Head below to catch our full interview with this new force on the pop scene.
REAL NAME: Dennis Stehr.
WHERE HE’S FROM: Just outside of Amsterdam.
HOW YOU KNOW HIM: Mr. Probz’s breakthrough single, “Waves,” was remixed by German producer Robin Schulz months after its initial release, and the new version topped the charts across Europe this spring. The slow-burning dance track is now shaping up to be one of the sleeper hits of the summer here in America. He also features on “Twisted,” a cut from 50 Cent’s recent album Animal Ambition. “That was something that was hanging in the air for a long time,” Mr. Probz tells Idolator. “We have mutual people that we work with, and I already heard that he was interested in some of the videos that I put out a long time ago.”
Mr. Probz — ”Waves (Robin Schulz Remix)”
HOW HE GOT HIS START: Mr. Probz explains to Idolator, ”Well, first I started with graffiti. I had to pay a fine, and I was cured right away. [Laughs] I had to make a choice because some of my friends were also doing freestyle shows at the train station. I was like, okay, let’s write something, and come back, and see what happens. You know, the feedback I got off that was motivating, and at a certain point I had to make a choice. Like, what do you see yourself doing in the future? Music was something that always stuck around. At first, I didn’t look at it as a career or anything. I just started making music, and I couldn’t picture myself doing the shows I’m doing now — standing in front of 100,000 people, and they’re all singing my song. That’s just insane.”
MR. PROBZ’S EARLY HIP HOP INFLUENCES: “Wu-Tang and Cypress Hill. I listened to a lot of Cypress Hill,” he tells us. “Black Moon. A lot of underground stuff as well. So all the sub-groups attached to Wu-Tang that never made it to the radio, but I was really into that. I really did my research. At first, if you would tell me back then that I would be at the point I am now, I would just look at you like you’re crazy. That’s impossible. But in the mean time, I discovered the guitar, and I just opened the door for different genres and let it inspire me.”
Mr. Probz — ”Hate You”
WHEN HE DECIDED TO GO FOR IT: Hardship early on brought the artist to the crossroads. “I didn’t have the brightest youth. School didn’t work for me — not that I had a problem learning, but I had a problem learning something that I wasn’t interested in,” he says. “If something interested me, then I would 100% go for it. Music was one thing that I could see myself doing, and it keeps changing. It’s never the same. It just kept on growing, and then like five or six years ago, I was like, ‘Okay, this is what I really have to do.’ And then, someone said something at the right place, at the right time, like Neo in The Matrix when Morpheus told him, like, ‘Yo, I can’t open the door. You gotta go do it yourself.’ That’s what basically happened.”
AFTER YEARS OF PUTTING OUT HIP HOP TRACKS, MR. PROBZ RELEASED AN ALBUM FOR FREE: “I worked on an album called The Treatment for three years, and then I put a promo song called ‘Waves,’ and it just took off in such a way where I was like, “I’’ve been working on this album for 3 years, and this song is just to see how people would respond to it, but it’s climbing so fast that I might as well just put out this album just to thank everybody for the support they’ve been giving me.’ I put it online for free, and you can probably still find it.”
Mr. Probz — “Waves” (original version)
THE INSPIRATION FOR “WAVES”: “In that particular situation, it just came to me,” Mr. Probz says. “I just woke up in the middle of the night, and the song was there. The person it was for also texted me, way after it was done. We didn’t talk to each other for a long time, and then I put out the song, and I got a text message. I’ve been a relationship after that, and that person didn’t feel like I was talking about her. The person that it was about knew exactly that it was for her. I recorded it in my living room.”
HOW ROBIN SCHULZ GOT INVOLVED: “We contacted him. When the original came out, it almost reached the ceiling in Holland. There were like all these remixes and bootlegs out there. At first, I didn’t know what to do with it. Of course, it felt like a compliment for people to make something that is inspired by something that you made, so for me that’s like a pay it forward type of thing. The Robin Schulz version caught our eye when a UK label hit us up asking, ‘Can we please release a house remix?’ We were talking, and we were like, ‘Okay, if we’re going to do a move like this, that version makes the most sense.’ So, we contacted Robin’s people and decided to put it out officially.:
TRAGEDY VS. SUCCESS: It hasn’t been all wine and roses for Mr. Probz. “Last year my house burned down,” he explains. “I lost everything. I had a box of papers, and a bag of clothes and my laptop, which contained the album that I was working on. Everything was destroyed, like literally everything. Everything around the laptop was melted: my clothes; my guitar; everything was gone. Two days later, I’m on a TV show, playing the song, and I walked outside, and it went number #1, and that’s when everything changed.”
HOW HE DESCRIBES THE PAST SIX MONTHS: “People ask me, ‘What’s been the peak, or what’s been the best moment,’ but I just take it in like a sponge. For me, I just look forward, and keep my eyes forward and work hard. I don’t want to look back and be like,“This was the year that this and that happened.’ I just want to look forward, and hopefully there are a lot of good things ahead of me, you know? This last year was so crazy I can’t even put it in words. All my dreams and then some came true.”
Mr. Probz is currently working on his next album. Pick up “Waves” on iTunes.
Get an eyeful of even more pop music coverage, from artist interviews to exclusive performances, on Idolator’s YouTube channel.
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