Near the front door of Avicii’s rented house in the Hollywood Hills, there are 30 pairs of shoes and a dozen neatly stacked baseball caps. The living room has a PS4 hooked up to the TV. Black leather couches are full of guitars and piles of clothes. It looks like a posh hotel turned into a teenage crash pad – shared with his girlfriend, Racquel Bettencourt, a bunch of Swedish friends who have known Avicii since junior high and a mini-Pomeranian named Oliver.
Avicii (a.k.a. 24-year-old Tim Bergling) has commandeered a small room as his home studio. He sits surrounded by computer screens and six synthesizers, working on the follow-up to his hit 2013 album, True. Collaborators this time include Jon Bon Jovi, Serj Tankian of System of a Down and Chris Martin of Coldplay. There’s a song with Billie Joe Armstrong called “No Pleasing a Woman,” and a reggae duet between Wyclef Jean and Matisyahu. “I love it,” Bergling says of the song, “but I don’t know what to do with it yet.”
Bergling cues up a dozen tracks from the 70 or so he’s been working on. From the sound of them, the as-yet-untitled album (due out late this year) takes True‘s EDM-gets-rootsy vibe and broadens it further. “It’s going to be a lot more song-oriented,” Bergling declares of the album. “True was an attempt at that, getting electronic music in a song format.”
Bergling’s workday starts around 2 p.m. and ends somewhere between midnight and 5 a.m. Today he looks tired, and a bit thin; he had to cancel his appearance at the Ultra Festival in March when he was rushed to the hospital to have his appendix and gallbladder removed. “It’s hard for me to gain weight,” he says. “I drink shakes in the morning.”
On weekends, Bergling often flies out of town for gigs. He made headlines in Boston last month when 36 fans were hospitalized for dehydration and other ailments; Boston emergency services declared a “Level 2 Mass Casualty.” Bergling had no inkling what was happening. “It got blown out of proportion,” he complains. “It sucks, because it gives electronic music a bad reputation.”
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With so much going on, Bergling found a confidant in Martin. “Chris has been like a brother,” Bergling says. “He helps out with my nutritionist.” The pair have been buddies since Avicii co-produced “A Sky Full of Stars” for Coldplay. “He needs every part to be perfect. I’m not like that,” Bergling says. “Which is why I’ve got 70 songs.”
This story is from the July 31st, 2014 issue of Rolling Stone.