Before you declare some other dancehall-inflected track as the Song of the Summer, get yourself to a Matoma playlist. As temperatures rise, the Trondheim, Norway-based artist is ready to provide the next evolution of tropical house. The twentysomething born Tom Lagergren has married a fuzzy, chilled-out four-on-the-floor with a love of dancehall, as well as an encyclopedic knowledge of hip-hop. It came hard-earned on a proper club DJing circuit, a route many of his festival-producer peers managed to skip.
After a sunny collab with Popcaan, “Feeling Right (Everything is Nice),” and even a offering for the Angry Birds movie soundtrack, “Wonderful Life (Mi Oh My),” Lagergren has recently released “False Alarm,” featuring The Voice UK star Becky Hill. Meanwhile, he’s also proving that the ever-evolving album-as-streaming-playlist isn’t just for the likes of Kanye West.
Since late 2015, he’s been adding to Hakuna Matoma, a playlist on SoundCloud, Spotify and beyond featuring original tracks, reworks and productions for other artists. That’s Matoma reviving, say, Akon’s career with au courant dance sounds, or lacing a Jason Derulo/Jennifer Lopez joint with tropical-pop perfection.
Naturally, Lagergren takes his rising star in understated Scandinavian stride. We caught up with him to talk about his love for Caribbean sounds, a potential album release and his future in the mainstream.
Pretty much all of your songs sound relentlessly positive and uplifting. How much of that is a conscious choice?
Well, it’s great to hear fans say things like, “Today I had a really shitty day because I lost my job, or my girlfriend broke up with me, but I went to my Cadillac and smoked a blunt and listened to Matoma, and life is good. It’s really amazing to think, Can my music really make a difference in people’s everyday struggle? That really inspires me.
How do you feel about the label “tropical house?”
I don’t think that much about it, as long as people listen to and like my music. I think the term “tropical house” is a little dated, because “tropical house” is, like, pop, basically. There’s so much music inspired by summer, and tropical sounds, with bongos and saxophones. Calvin Harris has songs like that; there’s so much hip-hop influenced by it.
On some of your more recent tracks, there’s been a lot more of a dancehall influence. What made you want to explore that more?
I have been really into music that comes from Jamaica. When I was younger I listened to hip-hop that was influenced by soul and funk and reggae, and a lot of Bob Marley. I just want to be creative and try different stuff.
For example, the “Paradise” record I made with Sean Paul. We were in the studio, and we just really connected on that type of melodic flow. So we just went with the flow and got inspired by each other. The same thing happened with the Popcaan record, “Everything Is Nice.” His original version got played on Drake’s Beats One radio show and I heard it. That day I was really sad, because I had thought I had my first single done, but there was a problem with the record label. Then I heard his original track and I got really happy because I thought maybe I could sample that chorus and put it in my own song.
What was it like to work with Sean Paul?
That was amazing. I have never seen a more hard-working man in the studio. We had a good time; we talked about family and friends and where we came from. Then we just played some music for each other, and he was such a nice guy to work with. I got so inspired we made the song in one night. He was in the booth for like six hours without going out.
That track is just one of the many that have gone on Hakuna Matoma, a streaming project that’s still evolving. Why did you decide to release your stuff in this format?
I wanted to release an album that would be easy for people to follow and listen to. It’s such a new format, but for me, in the electronic market, I’m always recording new music on the road and releasing new music. With Sean Paul, we finished the track and released it the same day. We couldn’t do that if I had a regular album.
At what point are you going to consider it done and stop adding tracks?
When I feel like it’s time to wrap it up. That could be in a few months, or maybe half a year. It depends on what I feel is the right time for the album to be finished. I think that will come naturally.
What can people look for next?
People can look out for a crazy summer. I’ve been working on a lot of new music and it’s finally evolving towards a place where I feel comfortable releasing it. I have my next single ready, and it’s crazy with touring. Life is just so incredible right now, and I’m so inspired. This is what I’ve been dreaming about my whole life, so to be living it is just crazy.