For David Guetta, getting people moving on the dance floor means working outside the club as well as in it. We meet the DJ and producer, 51, at a luxury resort in Dubai – he's in the UAE to rest, his manager tells me – and what strikes me is how radiant he looks.
Wiry and elegantly clad in a black shirt, and wearing a bronze Audemars Piguet watch, Guetta is not the picture of the tired DJ who has stumbled out of bed late that afternoon owing to a big night out. He has had his fair share of such scenarios, though, he admits, but he is now at a point in his career where he can't enjoy that lifestyle so synonymous with success and chart domination.
Just like an effective crossfade, Guetta says happiness and creativity are interlinked. "The worst thing you can do to your health is be miserable. That's going to give you cancer and you are going to die from stress and being miserable," he says, while sipping on a green tea. "I'm a very healthy person in general. I eat healthy and I don't drink alcohol."
Such clean living – which also includes daily exercise – allows Guetta to live in the moment. It is essential to his craft, he says, as he often operates on gut instinct.
A case in point is his latest single, Stay. The track is a collaboration with up-and-coming British singer Raye and offers another slice of his trademark anthemic dance pop. Guetta recalls the single being made after running into her in a Los Angeles studio. "I met her by accident," he says. "That day I was working in the studio and making that beat. She was in a different room and she came to say hi and got inspired by the music. She wrote [her lyrics] immediately. I love it when it happens like that, it is genuine. Raye is extremely talented. She can write and sing and that is very rare."
And that is perhaps part of the secret to Guetta's success. He is the consummate collaborator. Whether it's with the Black Eyed Peas (I Gotta Feeling), or Sia (Titanium), Guetta says the hits flow out of a genuine bond. But rising success comes with its own pressures. After a seemingly endless run of hits – 32 of Guetta's 44 singles have cracked the top 10 of international charts since 1990 – he admits to feeling the weight of expectation when creating last year's 27-song double album 7.
Guetta recalls how the label pressure, not to mention his own exacting standards, caused a bout of writer's block and he scrapped the existing songs to start afresh. "That constant pressure of delivering top 10 records is not really a happy place. And that is why you see a lot of crazy stories about successful artists and you don't understand why they are so miserable when they have everything," he says.
"We sometimes put ourselves in this place of having to deliver constantly and sometimes even the art itself loses something because we became successful by experimenting and coming up with new things. When you are a big artist it's hard to have that same approach to music."
Guetta realised he needed to approach the studio with a new mind-set: "Honestly, I am pretending to be a new artist in development and I love it." And it is rather apt, as all musicians are entering a new world when it comes to recording and releasing music.
In addition to being a major concert draw, Forbes magazine declared Guetta eighth in its 2018 list of the highest-earning DJs, with an income of $15 million (Dh55m). He is one of the rare DJs who made money from albums, with a total of 10 million sold, but he admits that such impressive figures could be a thing of the past. That realisation stems from the relatively lukewarm reception to 7.
"You can't go against what's happening. I am not sure how relevant the album format is today. Because of streaming, people don't consume music the same way," he says. "I used to work on an album for two years and that's not possible today because with streaming, each popular playlist that people listen to decides which songs they want to use."
The artist's future music strategy would have him change the album into a form of compilation: he would release all the singles first and package them together later. Until then, though, he will remain a ubiquitous presence at major international dance music festivals, in addition to running his regular Ibiza parties in the super-club Hi Ibiza.
And he will continue to performing in new and unexpected places. Last year, Guetta was the first major international DJ to play in the Saudi Arabian capital Riyadh as part of the Ad Diriyah E-Prix. It is something he takes pride in. "I am really proud that I have done this.
There is obviously a very big effort in Saudi to open up to music and as an artist, I play for people, and they were obviously so happy,” he says. “It was incredible to see men and women dancing and letting go of everything. I felt I was part of history.”
Which brings me to my last question on legacy. Despite the criticism from some dance music purists, does he feel satisfied that he has made pop music appeal to his fellow DJs? "It's funny you say that because [the way] I look at it is, for the pop music community, I also made dance music not a dirty word," he says. "I take more pride in that. My entire life I always wanted to bring people together, to bring cultures together and to bring different types of music together."