Did you see Martijn Garritsen at Ultra 2013? Maybe you walked right past him, asked him for a light, or made idle chitchat with him in the line for the port-a-john. Then 16, he was just another face in the crowd.
Today, you may know the Dutch teen by his stage name, Martin Garrix. And there was no missing him at Ultra 2014. He was the ruddy-faced kid jumping around the main stage and getting rowdy with his mom.
"She never saw such a big production," Garrix says. "And for her, it was also like, 'Fuck, it's ridiculous what my son is doing.'"
Now 18, Garrix is much more than just the kid who wrote the megahit "Animals." He's been named DJ Mag's fourth hottest DJ in the world. He's been scooped up by Justin Bieber's manager Scooter Braun. And he's about to release a track with Usher.
There isn't an EDM fan on the planet who'd fail to spot his boyish face in a crowd. But he still hangs with the same few friends that he's had since the age of 8. They come with him on tour and keep him grounded. He cusses a lot, but what 18 year old doesn't?
"It was never the intention to chase a career in the music industry, that kind of happened as a surprise," he insists. Then again, he started playing guitar at 4, and not just Beatles tabs from the internet: he played flamenco.
"I had all these melodies," he says. "But they always stayed on my guitar, and if I wanted to show someone, I had to get the guitar and play it to them."
So little Garritsen did some research and downloaded FruityLoops' computer production software, allowing him to record, save, and replay his guitar melodies whenever he wanted. Then he saw Tiësto's show at the Summer Olympics in 2004.
"He played trance music, and that was such a new thing," Garrix recalls. "I liked it so much that I bought a shitty DJ set."
See also: Five Signs You Might Be a Shitty DJ
At 10 years old, he was that cute kid working as a wedding DJ for friends and family. He also eventually enrolled in Herman Brood Academie, an arts school in the Netherlands, where he could study his craft. And now, only eight years later, he's signed to dance music's biggest independent label and he's playing every major festival in the world.
"I went to the Herman Brood because I wanted to learn more about production, not because I was like, 'I'm going to make my money with music,'" he says. "But when Spinnin' Records found me and offered me a contract, we started working together, and that was the first time I was like, 'Fuck, this could be serious.'"
To outside observers, it seems like a real-life fairy tale. Kid likes music, kid makes music, kid goes to production school, kid starts working with Afrojack and Sander van Doorn before he even graduates. And Garrix is the first to admit that he's been lucky, but he's also quick to remind detractors that nothing's as easy as it looks.
"Before I was signed, I decided that I would just make one track a month and put all my time into trying to get the track to the labels instead of working new music," he says. "There were some times I'd think, Fuck, does it suck that bad? They don't even reply."
Now on the other side, he understands exactly what he did wrong.
"Spend as much time as you can in the studio trying to get better. If you make progress and people can hear the progress, that's a good thing to see."
And another piece of advice: chill with the spam.
"There's a guy who sends me at least six emails a week, and it's so annoying. If he put all the time and effort he puts into sending those emails into production, then he wouldn't have to email me. I'd find him in a year."
Practicing what he preaches, Garrix spends "shitloads" of time in the studio working on new ideas. He comes to his team at Spinnin' with 35 tracks at a time, and they help narrow the selection. He had one gig in January. But otherwise, he's been at the laptop, prepping brand-new tracks to debut at Ultra 2015.
"Miami for me last year was very interesting because I played four or five unreleased Martin Garrix tracks, and it's not really scary, but it's exciting," he says. "I'm going to premiere so much new music this year at Ultra. It's always kind of a challenge, but the nice thing about Ultra is it's so big. And also, with the live stream, everybody looks at what you're going to do."
He's planning about five live debuts for Ultra 2015, and one will be the aforementioned collaboration with Usher. (He's also just gotten the green light to announce the tune, tentatively titled "Don't Look Down," via Instagram.) Another premiere will be his latest production, "Forbidden Voices," which came out for free when Garrix hit ten million likes on Facebook. "For me, that was like, 'Holy fucking shit, that's a lot of people,'" he marvels.
The release of the latter track was accompanied by a cute career-spanning video featuring footage of Garritsen from his wee DJ Marty days, his time in school, his signing to Spinnin' Records, even his first headlining gig at Ultra Music Festival.
"It shows what we worked towards. It's a funny video," he says. "It's a thank you for everything."
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Martin Garrix. As part of Ultra Music Fesival 2015. Friday to Sunday, March 27 to 29. Bayfront Park, 301 Biscayne Blvd., Miami. Tickets are on sale now and cost $299.95 to $449.95. Ages 18 and up. Visit ultramusicfestival.com.
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