Why David Guetta is 'so nervous' to play his United At Home livestream
Over the past decade, French DJ and producer David Guetta has sold more than 50 million records, been streamed over 10 billion times, won two Grammys, and released hit after chart-topping hit. But despite his commercial and cultural success helping usher electronic dance music into the mainstream, he's about to do something completely new for the first time: his upcoming United At Home livestream.
Streaming Saturday, April 18, at 6 p.m. ET in support of the global fight against the coronavirus pandemic, Guetta will perform from a location in downtown Miami in the middle of apartment buildings to raise money for the World Health Organization, Feeding South Florida, Feeding America, and Fondation Hôpitaux de Paris. He's excited about the new way of performing, but instead of streaming the set from a studio or his home, Guetta knew he needed to incorporate some kind of live audience aspect. "I'm so nervous about the idea of playing from home," he tells EW with a laugh. "I mean, I can do it of course, but I haven't been a bedroom DJ since I was 14!"
Guetta recently tuned into Chris Martin's Together At Home livestream and felt inspired, but he knew his own set had to be different. "It's easier to do something like Chris Martin playing the piano and singing; this is something that he could do from home," Guetta says. "But I wouldn't DJ from home, so I need to feel like I have an audience. So even though people are not going to be in front of me, they're still going to be on the balconies. It makes me feel like I'm playing for a real audience."
He laughs while admitting that it's still "going to be strange," since he's used to played for packed festival crowds and concerts. "But I'm more comfortable with playing for people that I can see," he says. "I need that, because the energy goes two ways when you perform."
That's why Guetta helped facilitate audience participation with residents in the buildings where he'll be performing. "What's going to be exciting to see is the interaction with the people on the balconies," he says. "That's going to be fun. We gave some colored lights to one of the buildings, so that will be cool to see all the people dancing on the balconies with the lights."
Below, EW chats with Guetta about his upcoming performance, what kind of music fans can expect to hear, how life in quarantine is influencing his sound, and more.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What inspired you to do this United at Home livestream?
DAVID GUETTA: It's an obvious moment to try to show some solidarity and give back. And also I miss DJ'ing. [Laughs] It's kind of weird because there is going to be an audience, because there is like 8,000, people that are living in those towers around [where I'll be streaming from], but they're going to dance at home. This is something I've never done before, so it's exciting. We're going to be on every social media platform: my Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, Twitch, all of it. I'm just trying to get money to be donated. People can choose where they want to give, international organizations, some American organizations too. It's a moment to be a little bit less individualistic.
You've worked in many different genres throughout your career, so what are you focusing on for the livestream?
This is really electronic. But I'm going to play all my hits too, probably some exclusive remixes that I've done. It's funny because my label just called me saying, "This is starting to become big, maybe you should play some of the normal versions of your hits, because this is starting to speak to a wider and wider audience." [Laughs] Actually, after this [interview], I'm going to work on my set.
Are you planning on debuting any new music?
Yeah. That was actually the whole discussion, because I was going to play so much new music. And my label told me like even some TVs want to play it in France, "So maybe you need to also play some more classics, you know?" So yes, there is going to be a combination. I'm always trying to make people feel good. That's always the idea behind my music. And I feel this is a moment where people just want to forget for a moment and have a good time. So that's what I'm going to try to do.
What do you hope to accomplish with the livestream? Any fundraising goals you want to hit?
I didn't really think about that. I'm just hoping for the best. Anything people can give. If anyone can help, people can give whatever they want. Even if it's small, it's still good. I'm of course going to give myself, I'm doing something in my own scale, and if everyone does something, that can help a lot of people. It's also our responsibility to be a little more united right now.
How has your professional life been affected by the pandemic and being in quarantine?
In terms of business, my main income is touring, so there's going to be no touring this year. Of course, for me it's okay because I have money on the side. But I think a lot of DJs are going to suffer a lot, people that are maybe not as famous, it's going to be a very tough time because our industry will probably be the last one to come back, like concerts. Maybe sports too, if that would make sense, but anything that brings thousands of people together is obviously going to be a problem. They're going to probably open the economy slowly, and we are going to be the last one coming back. But I cannot be against this, because it's just common sense. What's also interesting is that the streaming numbers are down. Everybody was thinking, "We're going to do better on Spotify," but it's not the case because people don't drive, people don't go to the gym, [quarantine has erased] a lot of occasions to listen to music. People are more watching shows on TV, or going on Instagram, TikTok, things like this. So definitely our industry is going to be very affected. But hopefully things are going to come back to normal ASAP.
Do you envision the music industry changing in permanent ways — more livestreams, for example — as a result of this crisis, even after it ends?
I think it's going to change for a moment, but I see myself as an entertainer first. I cannot imagine not playing for a crowd, to be honest. I can do a few things like this or focus on music production right now — I'm writing a lot of songs from home every day. But on the long term? No, I want to come back to festivals and concerts and shows.
What have you been up to during this isolation to keep busy or entertained?
I'm in my own little bubble right now. I'm working a lot on production. Usually I'm always traveling, so it's always complicated. I haven't been able to work every single day on music like this for a while. I'm also trying to use this time to learn things; I'm studying stuff online, which I haven't done for a long time. And I'm doing a little bit of gym, like push-ups and abs, trying to keep in shape. Honestly, I'm not bored at all! I keep myself busy. A lot of my friends are going nuts, they're calling me like, "Oh my God, I'm dying. I'm so bored. I need to go out." And I'm like, "I'm okay, actually!" It's strange. My life is so hectic normally that it's the first time that I can wake up every day in the same bed. It's not a bad feeling.
How has this time in quarantine affected your sound?
It's really influencing me a lot, what is happening. The last year I was really into more underground type of music, I was coming back to my roots, more electronic. Right now I'm more working on big feel-good songs. As a producer, my biggest record was "I Gotta Feeling," for The Black Eyed Peas. This was in 2009, and that was like right at the end of the financial crisis. So I would love to come up with a big feel-good record like this again.
You can tune in and donate to Guetta's United At Home livestream here.
For the latest information on coronavirus (COVID-19), including how to protect yourself and what to do if you think you are sick, please visit coronavirus.gov.