Tim Centineo has begun a new chapter in his music career, aiming to be fearlessly himself. New Jersey born and raised, his life long love for electronic music led him to an Afrojack concert in 2012. It was here that his aspirations to produce his own electronic music were born and for nearly a decade, he and his brother Rob have worked hard as a DJ/producer duo to make a name for themselves in the industry. Centineo became known to international audiences after a string of largely successful independent productions in 2016, followed by a Beatport #1 hit, “Charge”, in 2017. Dominating the mainstages and airwaves (Sirius XM’s Electric Area & BPM/Diplo’s Revolution Radio), their uplifting and euphoric style caught the attention of industry frontrunners. From the beginning, their biggest dream and goal was to catch the attention of industry titan Hardwell and have a song recorded his Revealed Recording label, a goal the brothers achieved with their 2018 single “Otherside”. Although they had been building momentum over the years and were on the cusp of achieving great success as artists, this same year brought a revelation to Rob and Tim. Feeling like they had been chasing validation, in the form of outside support and label releases, they realized they would never get to where they wanted to be by waiting for others to make things happen for them. With the realization that it is now easier than ever to become a successful independent artist, they took 2019 and 2020 off from releasing music to strategize, build their brand, develop their voice and product and to become self-sufficient. The brothers decided that going forward, Tim would be the front man for Centineo and that Rob would take a more back end approach and handle the business aspects of the project. With plans to expand the range of Centineo’s sound, Tim plans to release music in the coming months that ranges from Progressive House to Pop/R&B. He recently released “Fearless”, his first track in 2 years, that features legendary vocalist and frequent David Guetta, Afrojack and Spinnin’ Records collaborator Niles Mason. “Fearless” marks the transition for Tim from a DJ/producer to an artist (singer-songwriter and producer). He wants to connect to listeners in a more meaningful way than just as music they party to and to be seen as a real musician. Ahead of the release, Tim released a film/monologue on the meaning of fear. The film was released in order to set the scene for “Fearless”, to explain the meaning and importance of it and to give context to what the song means to him. As Tim Centineo embarks on this new chapter of his life and career, it will be exciting to hear his upcoming music and to see him transition into the kind of artist he wants to be. You can connect with Centineo via the following links:
You and your brother Rob got into music at an early age. You have said that you grew up listening to electronic music but didn’t really aspire to produce it until you went to your first EDM show in 2012. What can you tell me about the impact that show had on you and the process of learning to produce electronic music yourself?
We were both very musical. Growing up, I was always playing piano and I always liked singing and Robbie was very into guitar. And on a side note, since the start of the project, I believe 7 or 8 years ago, it was a duo and now Robbie has taken more of a back end approach. I’m kind of like the front man for it and Robbie handles the business aspects of the project. But yeah. We were both very into music. I actually was messing around on GarageBand for a while and writing raps and just goofing around in middle school and high school. We both went to a show on the same night, actually and Robbie had been to Electric Zoo a couple of years prior to this night. We both went to a show on New Years Eve-it was Afrojack at Pier 94 in New York on New Years Eve in 2012 I believe. It had just turned 2012. It was undeniable. It was the craziest thing, because it was the first time I’d ever really been to a big concert like that. I had been to shows in the past that were at a stadium and you’re sitting and don’t really get the experience of being in the crowd, like on the floor. So I went to this show and just with the energy and how crazy it was with all of the effects, something just clicked and I was like “I have to do this! This is what I want to do! This is insane.” That was kind of the night it started. I called him actually, like 20 minutes into Afrojack playing. I walked to the back of the warehouse and was like “Dude. We have to do this! This is incredible. The music is amazing and I really think we can do this.” From that moment on, we started plugging away. It’s like with anything, I guess, and not just with music or production. When you first start off, everything is so exciting and you think that the next thing you make is going to be the thing that puts you on main stages and touring the world and the excitement is necessary to get past the learning curve. But you very quickly figure out how hard it really is and you quickly figure out where you lie on the spectrum and how far you have to go. That inspiration from that night and just from diving into the scene in the beginning was the excitement and fuel needed to get over the learning curve of production.
You have called Electric Zoo Festival kind of a home away from home. What can you tell me about the importance of that festival for you, which you have said has been a place you have turned to for inspiration over the years?
Yeah. So, my brother Robbie went 8 years in a row. Or 6 or 7 years in a row. I went 2 or 3 in a row. Electric Zoo was kind of in our backyard, so it was just something we looked forward to every year. It was easy to make it there and we had such good experiences the 2-3 years we went and we felt so comfortable there. It’s also the place where we first saw one of our songs played live at a festival. We went in, I believe it was 2017, and were in the crowd watching Tritonal play and they dropped our song. It was the most epic, full-circle moment. To be at a festival that we’d been going to, that Robbie had been going to for almost a decade and to watch it all come full-circle and to see our song being played on a main stage with 30,000 to 40,000 people going nuts was insane. Electric Zoo has a special place in our hearts.
You said a few years back that one of your biggest goals was to release a song on Hardwell’s label, Revealed Recordings, which you achieved. What was it like for you to meet Hardwell and make that goal a reality?
It was insane! I was talking about this the other day, to literally sit down on the first day of deciding “Ok. I’m going to be a producer and try to learn how to do this thing” and then to have that be the goal. And 5-6 years later, day in and day out, locked away in a dungeon with no social life. That was a lot of sacrifice and hard work when no one was watching. As a producer, or anyone in the creative process or who is trying to create anything will tell you, when it’s just you and no one is clapping and you are working towards this thing and don’t know if you are on the right track but have faith and keep believing and keep pushing, it’s difficult. It’s a very difficult thing to stay focused and stay healthy, so when that happened and we got the notice that they were signing it, it was really crazy. It’s hard to articulate. You realize that this crazy little thing you’ve been working on is possible and it’s happening and you’re making progress. It was a special moment for sure.
You’ve also talked about how over the years you have experimented with your voice and learned what it can do. What has that journey been like for you in learning how to use your voice and the progress you’ve made and hope to keep making to get the sound that you want?
I always liked singing. Robbie always told me, but I didn’t believe him and thought he was just being biased, that I have a really nice voice. It was always something I had shied away from. I wasn’t confident in my ability and just felt like “Oh, you’re just saying it’s good but there are so many people who are much better.” It’s funny, but after we signed the track with Hardwell and after we accomplished this massive goal that we had set out to do, there was still something missing. I know it sounds silly and odd, but there was still something missing from the project. I think it’s actually kind of interesting, and I would say it’s an issue, but it’s just my opinion, but it’s an issue with the whole culture of being an upcoming producer and relying on these huge entities to bring you to the next level and to sign your music. You think that if that happens and all these guys are playing your music and signing your tracks that it will get you to this upper echelon, but it’s really not the truth. You realize that there are multiple levels to doing this and one of the things I realized through that process was that I needed to create more of an identity. I needed to create more of a signature sound and really push myself to develop something special. Right when the song got signed and the results came in and everything was awesome, that’s when it started to click and I realized that I really needed to expand the horizons of this thing. I needed to start singing and writing and to bridge that disconnect from being a DJ/producer to…you know, everyone says we aren’t real musicians, that as DJs we play computer music. I’ve heard it so many times. I realized that my voice was the bridge of that disconnect, so I started taking it very seriously. I took a couple of months of vocal lessons and was singing every day and making covers and studying vocalists that I liked. It’s so multi-faceted and overwhelming because it’s the actual ability to sing and then it’s your writing ability and then it’s processing goals and learning how to make them work with your production. It’s been a really long and difficult road but I would like to keep developing my voice and striving to be a better writer and put together a better package as a whole. But that’s kind of why the direction occurred and just understanding that I needed to bridge this disconnect between being an EDM DJ/producer and an artist/musician. That’s kind of where I’ve been for the last two years and why I’m really excited to start releasing again. I kind of get to show everyone the progress I’ve made and what I’m capable of.
You have talked about how it’s easier these days to be a successful independent artist and about how a record label exec had told you that record labels don’t normally want artists until they don’t need them anymore. Would you say that is your goal, to forge your own path as an independent artist and not worry so much about signing to a label?
Yeah. A major label did want to sign “Fearless”, my new track that was just released. There were some things that happened when I signed to Revealed, some things that I saw that if I wanted to get to the next level I needed to change. Like I’ve said, I needed to develop certain aspects of the company, Centineo. I needed to develop certain aspects in order to get to the level I wanted to get to. In some ways, labels help and big support helps. It’s a huge tool and is essential to an extent, but if you really want to do the things I wanted to do, I knew that I needed to do this independently for a while and really establish an identity and a company and a brand. I felt that when the project got to a certain level, then I would have more leverage and be at a point where…I’m not against signing to a label and doing that type of thing, but I just want to push myself right now and find the right tools and partnerships and pieces, in terms of marketing, PR and licensing. I want to build this company from the inside out and be as independent as possible. I am confident that by doing that, it will lead to higher caliber opportunities and if a label does come along, it will be the right fit and I won’t be relying on anyone else for my own success. It will just be another piece and a mutual partnership. But yeah, an exec from a major record label had basically checked out our whole portfolio and told us that everything sounded great and that we had the look and music and whatnot. We were on the other end of the phone about to pop a bottle of champagne and then the guy just goes “But, you know, you don’t have this, this, this, and that and we’re not going to move forward until essentially you don’t need us.” And he actually laughed as he said it. So that was a big wake up call and definitely pushed me to try to be as independent as I possibly can and to try to stand on my own two feet.
You just released your new single “Fearless” and have said that you spent a lot of time breaking down and rebuilding the track to get it to where it is today. What can you tell me about the process of writing the track and what it means to you? How did you meet and come to feature Niles Mason on the track and what was that experience like for you?
So I’m going to try my best to bottle up this ten year saga into a minute or so (laughs)! Essentially, right around the time we really dove into production and were starting to learn, just by some crazy coincidence we ended up with an unreleased, unsigned vocal from Niles Mason. This is what’s cool about the track. It’s all kind of intermingled, so I’ll do my best to articulate it well. At the time, the music that really inspired me to start and the music that was really resonating with me were tracks like “Reload” and “If I Lose Myself” and Swedish House Maffia and Alesso and all of these really emotional, euphoric and intense progressive house songs. When I had that goal the first time 10 years ago, that’s what I wanted to make. That was the music I wanted to make and I knew that I had a vocal that was the caliber to make something like that. I just unfortunately had nowhere near the chops to do so. I couldn’t produce a song around it to really give it justice and make it what I wanted. We basically stored the vocal in Dropbox for 7 years. One night, maybe 3 years ago, I was working and was in a session and I wrote this really, really cool melody that reminded me of 2012/2013 and the music that got me into it. I wrote this melody and started developing a track and was like “Oh man. This has that feeling that those tracks do.” And then it just hit me, like “Oh my god! The Niles Mason vocal!”. So I plugged it in and it was perfect and I developed the rest of the song around it. I finished the first version and sent it around to my peers, bigger producers I’m familiar with, and they told me it was cool but it wasn’t quite there yet. So I deconstructed the song and started fresh a second time and the second version was much better, but I just had this gut feeling…and I actually did this same process with “Otherside”. I kind of remade a second version of “Otherside” that ended up being the one that got signed to Revealed. So with “Fearless”, I made a first version, a second version, and then from the second version to the third version and it was just me being a crazy, OCD perfectionist and wanting to really do this song justice. The reason why it meant so much to me was that I figured out as I finished it and started putting together the release campaign…that’s the cool thing about being an artist. You take a deep breath and you dive underwater for 10 years and then you come up and it’s just like “Wow. I swam pretty far.” So for that vocal to have been given to me at a time where I was being inspired to start this journey and then to hear the subject matter and the content of the lyrics, where it was kind of saying exactly what I innately embarked on for the last ten years. When that kind of clicked in my head and I started really thinking about it, it became a really, really special track. I’ve gotten feedback that it sounds reminiscent of that time period, of the golden age of EDM from, like, 2012 to 2014/2015, which is a huge compliment. I’m sure some labels don’t want that because it sounds old, maybe. But for me, it just became such a special track and in sitting on this body of work that I have, where I’m singing and writing, to start this chapter with a song that I’m not singing on, was kind of like a big discussion with the team. It’s one of those things where sometimes you’re strategic and smart and you talk to everyone and then sometimes the universe is kind of telling you, like, “Let this one go. You’ve gotta put this out.” That’s kind of what happened. The track just kind of symbolizes the journey to this point and marks the beginning of this new chapter that I’m confident will lead to the things I want. It’s also the end of the past chapter.
What inspired your decision to release a short film ahead of the track “Fearless”?
One of the areas that I felt needed to be developed, to establish that identity…when you look at some of these bigger pop artists, like Justin Bieber, Charlie Puth and Shawn Mendes, it’s just a different scale than a DJ/producer. They’re tapping into such a larger audience and have so much more influence and I think a big disconnect is that when you hear an electronic song on Spotify from a big artist, you don’t necessarily hear the human in it. You don’t really attach the producer to that song, necessarily, until you go see them in concert and play. So I think part of the disconnect that I talked about earlier, about not being considered a real musician or about the DJs/Producers not connecting with their audience in the same way that pop artists do, I felt that in order to work towards that in combination with other things, I needed to give people insight into who I am on a much deeper level. For me, this monologue video/short film, in a much more poetic way than I just did, summarizes what I’ve been doing the last 10 years. To me, it felt so necessary and mandatory to make this kind of content. It may not be as epic as the “Fearless” video, but with every release I have and am going to putting out, there will be something like that to explain the song and why it’s important to me and where it’s coming from and just giving more insight into who I am as a person. That I’m not just a guy who makes your favorite song. So that’s really where it came from. I was trying to dig a little bit deeper into who I was reaching and connect with them on a level that was much deeper than music. With that video and some of the connections I’ve already made, the music was irrelevant. Just from the video I had some people tuning in and being like “Wow. That was amazing or I can’t wait to hear what you have to say with your music.” Then the song drops and it just kind of completes the journey and now instead of having a streamer, I have a fan who is engaged and really inspired by the content I’m putting out. That was really the goal with it.
You have a history and enjoyment of doing collaborations with other artists. Do you have any collaborations in the works that you are excited about releasing?
We do have a couple, but the primary focus is really putting out singles that I have produced, written and am singing on. The collaborations I do have are with really good friends that we started on a long time ago, with PURARI being one of them. He’s the buddy we made “Charge” with, our #1 song we made a few years ago. The songs coming out kind of range…we just released a progressive house song. The next song that’s coming out is progressive house, but it’s much more radio friendly and consumer friendly and I’m also the vocalist. That’s actually the biggest dimension in this whole interview and moving forward. The next songs that are coming are like a big debut. It’s a big moment where I’m releasing a track that I’m singing on and that I wrote and produced. It’s really the beginning of this transition from DJ/producer to artist. The collaborations are secondary right now. Right now I’m just trying to create this seamless transition from the more dancier tracks and the more EDM festival kind of stuff to more of a pop angle. Every song that’s coming out is slowly transitioning to the more pop influence and that’s really what I want to focus on. I’m trying to break that stigma by introducing this new style.
What’s next for you? What are your goals going forward, post-pandemic? Also, with live shows coming back, what will your live show look like now that your identity as an artist has changed to more than just a DJ/producer?
Yeah. It’s a very good and interesting question (laughs). I’ve just been so focused on the actual music and making sure that the right story is being told and is being done in a high quality way. I’ve just been planning the releases and strategizing and having all of these pieces in play and it’s really occupied my team and I’s time. As far as live shows, we do have something pretty cool set up in the coming months that I can’t say anything about. But, with the format in which I perform, I’m still working that out. I’m still working out the right format to do and the right way to present it. I think the only way to stay sane is to compartmentalize all of these different steps. Right now, I’m really just focusing on making sure that the music lands on as many ears as possible and makes the most impact.