Eden has never been one to dawdle on social media. He's more likely to stare out a window than scroll through a Twitter feed. So it took a couple of days for him to realize that Lorde had posted to his Facebook wall to espouse a love for Eden's song "sex."
This was 2016, back when Eden was still finding his footing as an artist. His EP i think you think too much of me, on which "sex" appeared, was enough to send the Irish producer/singer on tour around the world, where he spent much of the last two years. He came home mid-2017 to work on the album that would become vertigo, released last week. It's a strong leap forward for the 22-year-old, 13 tracks of ambitious electronic experimentation laced with the raw emotion that has helped to fuel Eden's flourishing fan base.
Over the course of our conversation, the artist born Jonathon Ng detailed the roundabout inspirations for the album. From unintentionally profound Google translations to a Bon Iver's genius, nonsensical lyricism, read to on to discover how vertigo came into this world, and why it's only just begun for Eden.
Could you talk to me about "crash," and how that song came about?
The intro and outro I wrote years and years ago. I think I can remember singing that when I was sixteen or seventeen. I just never could think anything to put in the middle, which is really weird. Whether that was because I was trying to make a song for a band, or when I started just really focusing on production, I don't know.
Then I was living here in New York, last year. I can’t remember what exactly was happening but I was kinda stressed out, and I was just sitting up late at night playing this acoustic guitar. I keep a notepad thing on my phone where I just write down random sentences or thoughts or whatever.
Essentially I read one sentence and then it all just kinda started tumbling out, so that whole section from when the pitched-up vocals start to the end of to when it goes back to just guitar like the intro again, was just a weird kind of freestyle between me just thinking of things like rearranging random sentences that happen to be on that same section of the note.
Did you know then it would go with that other orphaned part?
I immediately knew that’s exactly what was going to happen. It was really one of my favorite writing moments ever because it was just this unfinished idea that I thought was really cool but didn’t know how to work out or get out of me for so long. It was finally completed in a completely different situation than I ever imagined it would back when I was 15, 16, or 17 whenever I started.
It felt like an important idea at the time... the last song on the album is about three years old as well.
Where was vertigo recorded?
I did most of the work between my bedroom and a studio here in New York near Times Square. I did a little bit of mixing when I was in L.A. because I was there for tour. So it’s just I kinda had a studio rented out there, so I could still work on it and finish it—and Dublin again except not my bedroom studio because I kinda became addicted to these certain types of speakers that were in that New York studio, so I found a studio that had them and just finished the mixing there.
I don’t feel the need to be the center of attention really—I don’t particularly want to, either.
What are the things that make you comfortable in a home studio?
It can require just feeling settled, so obviously home is the place that comes most naturally. Although, I did feel really settled really quickly in New York and that’s why it was such a productive time for me. But even when I’m home, but I’ve been traveling too much or kinda dipping in and out too much, I can never really feel planted enough to get working ideas. I think sometimes if you know you’re leaving in a week it’s hard to get stuck into an idea, because you’re kind of like, "I don’t want to start something I can’t finish.”
You've spent a lot of time on the road these past two years.
Towards the end of the festival run I did last year and the two tours I did the year before, I really started to understand how to handle certain situations and how to enjoy myself better and most aspects of it. I’m re-doing the show and it’s going to be another kind of fresh canvas—we get to present this album and the music in a cool way.
What did you get used to? What do your days look like?
I wake up, and I go to the venue, I need to set up the gear, need to eat, need to do meet-and-greets, or interviews. Play the show, pack up all the gear, sleep maybe. Sometimes we have to drive straight away and then I can't. I can’t just go on a walk. But it’s cool because when you’re going through it with people it makes it easier.
Would you consider yourself an introvert, generally speaking? Are you a private person?
Definitely, yeah. I’m completely okay with doing things by myself, that doesn’t bug me at all. If I want to go see a movie in the cinema and no one else wants to see it I’ll just go by myself. I know a lot of people who will just never do that and who always need to be in a group. But in terms of social media, I don’t feel any need whatsoever to post on social media and sometimes this leads to people being like, "You need to post, you haven’t posted in a month!"
It doesn’t seem to be hurting—your fan base has exploded in the last year or so.
Yeah it really has, and I guess for me I’ve always just done what I wanted to do. I see how some other artists use social media, and it’s just not for me. I don’t feel the need to be the center of attention really—I don’t particularly want to, either. For a long time I didn’t even have my face on the internet because I just wanted it to be a music thing, not about me as a person.
So what changed there?
I actually don’t know why I did it, but at one point I just updated my Twitter profile picture. I just decided to let go. I was really wanting to live a Hannah Montana life where I had the music thing and then I was just a normal kid… just take the wig off.
Did you find yourself writing in a different way than when your face was hidden? There are a lot more lyrics now than before.
I don’t know if it’s changed a whole lot, I think I’m much better at writing and much better at translating the ideas in my head into both lyrical writing and musical writing. Whereas beforehand I had this concept in my head, of the language of emotion. Essentially if all you ever listen to are breakup songs—you might not have had a breakup but you’re going to write a breakup song that’s going to make you feel better about it. It’s a weird thing—you’re almost weirdly conditioned to associate emotions with these specific words, with this specific event. No songs on this album are about heartbreak or whatever so I haven’t written any words that would make someone think that.
People are paying attention. There’s a bunch of fans already but in terms of the industry, I always felt quite outside of it.
You were talking about the notes and memos you keep on your phone. Where do those phrases come from?
I really like poetry, so whenever I’m thinking about something I’ll write it down. Or I have a thought or something I find interesting I’ll write it down. I’m not sure if they’re Google Translate tweets or just people who are obviously not native English speakers using Twitter in English, but... for example I almost put this in a lyric but I didn’t. I was tweeting something and someone replied to that, “You’re the rain and you know it so shut up,” and I was like, “That doesn't make any sense.”
Yeah, but it’s really poetic and it’s really cool. Sometimes even stuff like that can be inspiring, so I think I wrote that down in the notes as well but I haven’t used it. I didn’t really see it as an insult. I thought it was a weird motivational tweet if anything [Laughs].
Is there anyone you were reading a lot or listening to over the course of writing this album?
22, A Million, Blonde, and Sampha’s Process. I was at a stage where I hadn’t listened to 22, A Million or Blonde for months after they came out. Being on the road, I never got around to it. It was really reassuring once I listened to these albums—I was like, “Oh shit, people are still taking risks,” and I hadn’t really heard anything like that in a long time. Those inspired me to really feel confident in the chances I was taking.
I had been thinking about doing weird things, and I had concepts when I first started making vertigo. But I was too scared to work on them, and then I listened to these two things and it was like, "Well at least I don’t need to be worried about what other people think about anymore, because there are still people who’re doing what they think is really cool."
Two of the biggest names in music.
It gave me more confidence to push things myself. I think that was really important. Even lyrically on 22, A Million it all seems like a bunch of mumbo-jumbo and then on your third or fourth listen you start picking out genius phrases. I was still in a creative rut when I got home, but I didn’t feel under pressure to conform, to try and do anything other than what felt right.
Both of them felt like really spontaneous albums. I was just trying to make music that felt right, and that was the feeling I was chasing all the time. So if the second chorus didn’t have drones, or I didn’t sing over the second chorus but it felt right, or the vocals were way too echo-y and you can’t really hear what’s being said but it felt right… I’d keep it.
I wanted to ask about Scooter Braun and SBP—how did that come about and what attracted you to his operation?
In 2015 I released the End Credits EP, and at that point I hadn’t sent my music to any blogs or any labels or anyone. I didn’t really care, I was just putting it on SoundCloud and then other people would put it on YouTube. It had grown so much—some songs had hundreds of thousands of plays at that point, which I thought was sick.
One of the first people who ever emailed me from that was Michael George, one of Scooter’s partners at SBP. I got to see him and then I was like, “Scooter?” I thought Scooter was some hardcore European DJ who makes really cheesy music. So I Googled Scooter and was like, “Oh it’s not that guy.” Essentially the Skype ended with us just talking about music and influences and he explained what he does and who he’s worked with, and I explained how I’ve run things. Because it was just me at that point, and I didn't think I really want to sign with a label or management for at least 6-12 months.
And then he’s like, “Okay, let me take your number and we can just chat and keep in touch. That sounds fine.” And from the next week onward I was getting so many emails from industry people and there was a 10 or 12 week period where I was in multiple meetings with various labels every day, and I’d get unsolicited phone calls from publishers.
It was overwhelming for sure, but also really exciting. Then [George] invited me to go to L.A. to meet Scooter and the rest of the team. On that trip, I did meet other management teams while I was there. But it was while I’m literally staying in this guy's spare bed. No one else I’ve talked to I would do that with, or feel the same way about it, so I was just like, "Let’s do it," and he’s actually one of my best friends now.
Have you and Lorde stayed in touch since that fateful Facebook post?
No actually [Laughs]. That was a weird thing because I didn’t think it was real. Who uses Facebook like that? I haven’t seen anyone post on anyone’s wall. It's something your aunt might do.
I was like, "That’s so weird, that’s got to be fake." And then I clicked through to like the page and it has however millions of likes. My next guess was it was hacked or something, or just not her? But if I was hacking Lorde’s Facebook page, the last thing I would do is just post on some random artist's like, “I like your song!”
Unless you were doing the hacking.
I replied under the thing a couple of days later because I didn’t even see it at first. It was not even something I checked. But that was kind of it, I haven’t really spoken to her since. I did see her at Coachella last year and that was really cool. She’s a really great performer.
That was kind of it, the biggest thing for me was that until 2015, I hadn’t talked to anyone from the music industry. I don't know, maybe it’s an Irish thing? Because Irish press is always looking at who’s big in the U.K. ,and who’s big in the U.S. It’s a very outsider perspective. It was cool because someone that makes incredible music that I would listen to, or that I see people write about all the time, has stumbled upon my music and it made me not feel so apart from the whole music thing. People are paying attention. There’s a bunch of fans already but in terms of the industry, I always felt quite outside of it.