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We caught up with the young DJ and latest in line of X Factor judges to discuss a year of online gigs, an international career built on resilience, and why Taylor Swift is his greatest inspiration in the business. 

 

In our empty department store in the midst of the second corona lockdown, the evening’s stage is seen floating 15 meters above ground. On the floors sound and light technicians as well as cameramen are running around trying to get everything in place before showtime. The production crew briefs new arrivals to ensure the next four hours proceed as planned. In the middle of it all you’ll find the man of the hour, Martin Jensen the 29 year-old Danish DJ and latest artist to get a seat at the X Factor judge table. Tonight, Jensen is live performing his online concert concept ‘Me, Myself, Online’, which within the last year has seen him perform at venues such as Parken, The Forest Tower, the Niels Juel frigate, the Maldives and now in ILLUM.

The established DJ usually doesn’t get jitters but on this occasion a slight worry for the unsteady platform is present. “I did take a pill against sea sickness before I went on, just to make sure I wasn’t going to throw up suddenly,” Jensen reveals, as we catch up with him over the phone a week later. “I was a bit swamped doing a show the night after the first X Factor liveshow, but I think the result turned out great.” Opposed to an X Factor liveshow, where everything is rehearsed before showtime, Jensen’s own live streams are completely impromptu. “It’s impossible to prepare for a four hour set so everything is on the fly,” he says, “I have my SD card with music. No playlist. No preparation. None of the people doing lights or filming know what I’m playing next. That’s how we create the best shows.” 
 

“Once in a while you have to push the limits, and I feel like we’re doing that at the moment by saying: all or nothing.”

 

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When the global pandemic shut down international travels and large gatherings a year ago, it put Jensen’s touring life on a backburner. But he wasn’t one to reminisce over lost opportunities. Instead, he decided to rethink the traditional concert format coming up with his ‘Me, Myself, Online’ concept – a stint of online concerts available for the world to watch live through the service Twitch. “It quickly becomes monotonous and uninteresting performing at home in the studio. So I thought to make it more interesting, I had to have more to show.” Martin reached out to Parken – Denmark’s national stadium – to inquire about the possibility of live streaming from their venue. A surprising ‘yes’ came back on a Tuesday morning in April and Friday evening that same week Jensen went live with a five hour DJ-set from the empty gymnasium. “It’s possibly the fastest production I’ve ever pulled together, but we did it,” he remembers. And what should in fact have been a one off gig quickly turned into a reoccurring event after a couple bottles of wine. “Unexpectedly, I chose to pick up the mic to announce we’d do a concert every fortnight. At this given time I had no venues or anything. Just a manager and tour manager sounding rather surprised with the news,” he recalls with a laugh.

And so it happened that a line of ‘Me, Myself, Online’ concerts were birthed. “Once in a while you have to push the limits, and I feel like we’re doing that at the moment by saying: all or nothing,” he says. 

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“I’m very inspired by something as bizarre as Taylor Swift – given my genre. But to me, she is a completely outstanding artist.

 

And an all-or-nothing mentality seems innate to the ambitious DJ, who honed his skills at the DJ booth of the mobile disco he started aged 15. “I know there are many producers who are much more technical skilled than I am but they don’t give what it takes to reach a higher level. For me, it’s important to break through 100 percent and if I don’t succeed the first time, then I’ll try another ten,” he says.

But for the world renowned DJ a career in music wasn’t always a given. Instead, he was thought to take over the family business selling industrial machines for agriculture. “I have always enjoyed entertaining with music but I didn’t have time to produce it. I was studying to become a mechanic while running a mobile disco, and then I had my daughter at a young age, so producing wasn’t even on my mind,” he says. But in the end, Jensen had to admit the rush he felt being on scene in front of an audience there to be entertained by him was the driving force. And from there music became his chosen career path. At age 22 he landed his first record deal with the debut single Night after Night, and soon after he released the track featuring footballer Cristiano Ronaldo’s cheer of joy. The track went viral and from thereon Jensen’s music attracted attention globally.

Today his career counts successes such as All I Wanna Do, Wait and Solo Dance, as well as collaborations with stars such as James Arthur, Olivia Holt and Jason Derulo. Jensen’s music has over 2,5 billion streams and he is currently number 45 on DJ Mag’s prestigious list of the 100 best DJ’s in the world – the highest any Dane has ever been placed. But despite the title as Denmark’s greatest DJ and being a premium member of the small collective of Danish artists with international caliber, Jensen is not one to rest on the laurels. “I’ve learnt that if you do nothing to reach the extraordinary then you never will,” he says. And the DJ therefore has plenty of dreams and ideas only waiting to become reality. As of now, the DJ is working towards starting his own record label, opening a restaurant, and designing a speaker. Music-wise, Jensen dreams of one day being able to release a track with his biggest idol: Taylor Swift. “I’m very inspired by something as bizarre as Taylor Swift – given my genre. But to me, she is a completely outstanding artist. She is involved in everything she does and I like that. It’s similar to my own way of working,” he says.

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Jensen’s resilience has also seen him reach another turning point in his career as he has taken a seat at the judge’s table of this season’s X Factor. Here he’ll be helping new artists shine on the stage he has always enjoyed performing himself. But even though Jensen’s own talent is no longer the center of attention, the role as a mentor is something the DJ feels challenges his personal growth. “I didn’t expect to invest myself in the process as much as I have. Initially I had hoped to be able to keep it at a distance but – as with everything else I enrolled myself in – when I start something, I commit to it completely,” he says. That includes offering a shoulder for everything from feelings to heartaches – a post the career-minded DJ hadn’t foreseen to be as time consuming. “In hindsight I think it’s a good thing that I didn’t get the younger artists because then there would have been some psychological breakdowns during their careers. I run hard so I think it’s for the best that I got people with a bit more life experience,” Jensen admits, while expressing his hope of winning the competition this first time around. 

 

And with a year gone that completely turned Jensen’s career upside down, but ended in a ‘Me, Myself, Online’ concept, X Factor and seven new singles, the DJ is hesitant to give predictions of the future. But he does have one goal he feels comfortable sharing out loud. “I received an email stating that based solely on data such as streams, monthly listeners, sales, fan base etc. I’m the 37th biggest DJ and producer in the world. And I would like to move up the list and get into top 20,” he admits. Whether the young DJ gets to cross the finish line for that goal must be a question of talent as there is no doubt the ambition to get there is already set in stone.   

Editorial staff

Photographer: Linda Suhr / Morten Rygaard