Zedd kick-starts his 'next era,' reuniting with Maren Morris for new single 'Make You Say'
Over four years after the Grammy-winning EDM producer and country artist released their first hit collaboration, they're back with new track "Make You Say." Co-written by Zedd, Morris, BEAUZ, Charlie Puth, and Jacob Kasher Hindlin, the upbeat breakup anthem (out now) had been in the works for years but it wasn't until Zedd (real name Anton Zaslavski) recently reunited with Morris that he was finally able to finish the song and release it. And it happened at the perfect time too, since Zedd wants "Make You Say" to kick-start a new chapter of his career. "This is the beginning of my next era," he tells EW.
It's a surprising announcement to hear from Zedd, since he is the first to admit he doesn't usually think about his evolution as a music producer/DJ — even though he's clearly come a long way since his "The Legend of Zelda" and OWSLA days.
"The way my producer brain works is, every song is a puzzle piece in terms of doing something new but making it familiar to people to not alienate them and feel like they're listening to somebody else," he explains. "After making a certain type of song so many times, it gets tiring to do the same thing over and over again. The pandemic has made me more hungry for more dance-y music — this is part of it, and the songs that I've been working on that aren't released yet. My next album will be closer to the beginning stages of my career, and there's some collaborations with some artists that have inspired me to do what I do today. So it's going to be a very personal and meaningful album for me."
Zedd first began working on "Make You Say" in 2018 with brothers Bernie and Johan Yang from electronic duo BEAUZ. "We never finished it — we got through two drops, there was no vocal yet, and we didn't have an immediate plan to release anything, so we were in no hurry," Zedd says. "I played the track here and there live to get some real, live feedback, and then one day, I went into the studio with Charlie Puth, and I was just playing him records I was working on. We were actually going to work on something completely different but he really loved that song so we wrote a topline for it."
Puth never intended to be the vocalist on the song, so when it came time to find the official singer for "Make You Say," Morris was the next choice. "Obviously we have a history together, and her voice is phenomenal," Zedd says.
"It was shortly after Zedd and I performed at Hangout Fest a few months back that I heard the demo for 'Make You Say,' and it was amazing," Morris tells EW. "I was just like, 'I would love to take a stab at it if Charlie's not doing it.' It's so different from 'The Middle,' it's definitely more clubby. It would be stupid to pass on."
After Morris recorded a demo, Zedd was sold immediately. "The next possible day, I flew to Nashville and we recorded 'Make You Say' in the same studio that we recorded 'The Middle' at," Zedd says, laughing before he adds, "Not to be superstitious! I just thought that was fun." Morris felt "major déjà vu," adding that "it was a little spooky" recording "in the exact spot and with the same people, literally," four years later. "It would be wrong to record anywhere else at this rate," she adds with a laugh.
Zedd was even on the exact same flights in and out of Nashville that he took when making "The Middle," giving him the exact same six-hour window in the recording studio with Morris once again. But the major difference this time was that Zedd and Morris didn't have to get to know each other first in order to get comfortable enough to make music together. "I knew Maren's voice so well by then, we've performed live together, it's like a team that we've already established, and it was way more fun," Zedd says. "That's what made it so easy to write and record at the same time."
"It was more of a collaboration this time," Morris adds. During that six-hour recording session, she changed the lyrics to make it from her own perspective and helped Zedd write the bridge and ending. "Maren took the song to a whole new level," Zedd says. "I was actually thinking about cutting the song shorter until Maren and I recorded the vocal and she did all these amazing things at the end while vibing that really wrapped up the song and gave it a real reason to have a third section. Maren tied it all together."
They both love how "Make You Say" is a positive breakup song "with just a hint of pettiness," Morris says. The music video features a breakup happening three different ways, and it's part of Apple's "Made on iPad" campaign using the video animation app FlipaClip. Zedd gives all the credit to the directors of the music video for how it came out. "Honestly, I'm really, really bad with music videos — I always have been my whole career," he admits with a smile. "I'm incredibly creative when it comes to the audio of my music, but I'm so bad when it comes to screenwriting and stuff like that so I like to stay out of it as much as possible. All I knew is that the whole thing is made on iPads, and I think that's partially why the shooting process of the video was actually relatively quick and simple — well, for me, at least. Maren had to learn a whole choreography [routine]."
There was one complication, however — while they were filming the music video (below), Zedd was still changing the song in real-time. "I'm upstairs, Maren is downstairs shooting the part, and I'm just hearing it and I'm like, 'I think I could have done this better,'" Zedd remembers. "I'm asking them, 'Would now be a good time to go downstairs and tell them that I think we might want to change this part?' We were just about to have lunch break anyway so Maren only had to reshoot a little bit."
And then when Zedd was filming his scene where he's playing the piano, he had another moment of inspiration at the last possible second. "I was just jamming out and had the idea to change a chord while we were almost done with the music video," he says with a laugh. "We were literally finishing the song on set as we were shooting the music video. A lot changed while we were there shooting it, which is not at all how it's usually done."
Morris says that's just "a testament to Anton's brain," and she trusted him completely throughout the process — no matter how down-to-the-wire it got. "I love that you never rest on 'just okay,'" she tells him. "You're a perfectionist." He laughs as he agrees, adding, "I can't sleep at night, that's the bad side effect, but the good side effect is that once I'm done and I find it perfect, I can sleep really well."
Now that both the song and music video are out, Zedd is finally sleeping well — but he's also eager to perform it live with Morris ... somewhere. And Morris reveals her band has been hard at work trying to dissect all of the chords to be able to play it live, although that has proven to be difficult. "There's so many layers of the song," she says. "They were trying to learn it by the time it came out, and I was like, 'You guys, don't worry about that. We'll do it next week or something.' They were literally losing sleep over it."
At least Zedd can give them some pointers about that.
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