By Madison Vain
May 26, 2015 at 08:36 PM EDT
Harrison Boyce

Alesso is no stranger to big crowds—he’s played prime party slots at Tomorrowland, Electric Daisy and Coachella, as well as his monthly Las Vegas residency and near constant touring around the globe. The 23-year-old Swedish DJ (born Alessandro Lindblad) broke through with big singles in 2012 — “Years” and “Calling (Lose My Mind)” — after being mentored by Swedish House Mafia’s Sebastian Ingrosso and OneRepublic’s Ryan Tedder. But thanks to his debut album, FOREVERAlesso’s time is now.

While perhaps rare in its delay, FOREVER, is worth the wait. Arriving with 14 tracks full of lush melodies, dramatic builds, and top-shelf vocal guest spots like Tove Lo, Roy English and the aforementioned Tedder, it’s a mix of club-friendly fare and pop-radio crossovers. EW caught up with the artist to discuss inspiration, building his album, and how it feels when a crowd goes nuts. 

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: When did FOREVER start coming together?

Alesso: I started a year and a half ago. At first, I didn’t know I was making an album — I just had two or three new songs that could be my next single and I was like, “Which one should I put out?” And then my manager said, “Maybe you’re making an album without knowing it.” And then I was like, “All right, let’s do it.”

Was an album something you’d always planned on doing? 

Yeah. The thing is, I didn’t know when — and it was a little bit scary because I tend to put a lot of pressure on myself when I jump on bigger projects. And I just wanted to make sure it would be a great album. So while I was making it I said, “Don’t call it ‘album’ just call it ‘project.’”

With all your touring and that you hadn’t put an album out before, was it weird to hold songs rather than test and play them live immediately?

Some tracks I played live and some not. So one track on the album is like, three years old—it was an idea that I did three years ago and then I just decided, “Okay well, I’m putting out this album, I’m just going to finalize that track.”

Are you ever surprised by which songs doing well live immediately? Dance music especially gets an instantaneous reaction. 

When you play a new song that has a lot of elements and new vocals or new melody or anything, if it’s not very easy to catch up on, you might not get the craziest reaction. It’s a new song, they’ve never heard it, I don’t know what’s going to happen or anything. But I have to say “Sweet Escape,” that song, the first time I dropped it people went nuts.

Which song are you most excited for people to hear?

The songs that aren’t really meant for the dance floor. There’s two tracks—“Destination” and “Immortality” that is just music, you know? I probably won’t play it live—it’s not music I would play at Ultra Music Festival, yet I want to produce something like that and show it to my fans, like, “This is what I also do. I love making these kind of songs as well.”

Downtempo certainly seems like a trend in dance music, though.  

It’s like with all music really—it’s a circle. Like you said, now it feels a little bit down tempo, and then within two years it will probably be up tempo again, you know? People change their mind all the time, what they want to hear. I think the most important thing for an artist, though, is to not repeat yourself all the time. I think you should evolve or get inspired and try new things. I have this certain sound for this album, and my next one is obviously going to be my touch to it, but I want to evolve and get inspired by new things and make a new album. 

What were some of the things inspiring this album?

I wanted to create different songs in the album and songs that had a certain purpose, really. Everything from “Payday” to “All This Love”—they’re so different, yet it’s me. I just wanted to create an album where you go through a journey, so it’s not like every track is the same. Because it’s Alesso. 

The Ryan Tedder collaboration, “Scars”, is a awesome blend of genres. I know you have worked together before but can you tell me about that process?

The first track we did was “Lose My Mind”—that’s where that all started, the whole relationship/friendship I have with him. And then, he was putting out his album two years ago and I remixed one of the songs because I loved it so much and that song became an original. We started talking more and more and then I had this idea and I said, “Listen, I think of you all the time when I listen to this track and I think you could do one hell of a job, as always.” He loved the idea and we started making the song together. “Scars” showed up.

Do you remember the first time you heard dance music or thought it was what you wanted to do?

I was 13 or 14. There were these social websites where you can have your profile—like Facebook, but it was before Facebook. You could have your own music on your profile and that became a thing for me to have cool music all the time. I heard a little bit about dance music, it was like electronic music, really, but it was the cheesy kind, the one that wasn’t really quality. But around that age, I got a CD from one of my friends and he was like, “I think this is what you’re looking for.” And it was exactly what I was looking for. I was like, “Yes! Finally!” I saw the names—it was like Eric Marillo, Roche Sanchez—and I started Googling. YouTube was there and I started YouTubing everything, DJs… that’s where everything started to escalate and become this major thing for me. That CD helped speed the process for me, but I was already chasing it.