Scottish DJ/producer Calvin Harris has some impressive shoes to fill as house mixmaster for Thursday’s 2012 MTV Video Music Awards. In years past, everyone from Deadmau5 to Travis Barker, Wale and the late DJAM has rocked the spot.
But Harris’ turn will include double-duty as DJ for the 7 p.m. ET pre-show featuring a performance from Demi Lovato, as well as keeping the audience in the house and at home entertained during the main event.
But after years of grinding it out, his first headlining gig at the VMAs is the capper to a five-year climb that has taken him from bedroom dance hit savant to world-famous DJ and collaborator-to-the-stars, culminating with his production on Rihanna’s Video of the Year-nominated “We Found Love.”
Harris, 28, who is nominated for Best Electronic Dance Music Video for his tune “Feel So Close,” has come so far so fast we thought we’d take a look back how he made his way into the mix this year.
While many of his EDM peers got their start grinding it out in clubs as DJs playing to dozens, then hundreds then thousands and tens of thousands, Harris took a different path to stardom. Shortly after his 21st birthday, he released the singles “Da Bongos” and “Brighter Days” on a small dance label called Prima Facie under the name Stouffer. Those songs and other homemade solo recordings he posted on his MySpace page caught the ear of an A&R representative from EMI.
By 2006, he had a major-label deal with EMI in hand and after remixing All Saints’ hit single, “Rock Steady,” he released his first full-length, the electroclash-influenced I Created Disco. That was followed by 2009′s Ready for the Weekend, which spawned such club hits as “I’m Not Alone,” the title track and “Yeah Yeah Yeah La La La,” which was featured in a Coca-Cola ad.
In 2010, MTV put EDM fans on notice that Harris’ prowess as a producer and songwriter set him apart from some of the other dance flavor-of-the-month’s at the time.
“Dude, it’s like I’m living in a different dimension at the moment,” Harris told MTV News. “These people like Tiësto and David Guetta … I’m trying to climb that ladder that they’re at the top of right now, so saying that they like my music or even wanna chat with me is still amazing to me right now.” He didn’t have to wait for love from the EDM masters, as both men remixing songs from Weekend.
Even as he established a name for his solo efforts, Harris started getting plenty of remix work, putting his touch on singles by everyone from All Saints and the Ting Tings to Passion Pit, Katy Perry and Shakira, as well as writing and producing songs for Minogue’s 2007 comeback album and collaborating with British rapper Dizzee Rascal.
Since late 2011, he’s been on a tear, releasing music through his Fly Eye label as well as scoring a worldwide smash with Rihanna’s electrohouse single “We Found Love,” which he wrote, produced and appears on. He also launched solo hits with “Awooga” and his Kelis collabo, “Bounce.” But it was the Rihanna tune that blew him up into a household name and changed things forever.
” ‘We Found Love,’ is the most successful thing I’ve done ever,” Harris told MTV News in January of recording the song with the Barbadian beauty and hitting the road as her opening act. “It’s not strictly a song by me, obviously, it’s by Rihanna. She sings it.”
“It was great to work with her,” Harris continued. “No one could have taken it as far as she did. You can’t escape it here [in America]. I’ve heard it a lot. I’ve heard it probably more times today than I did when I was mixing it. Which is a good thing.”
Already this year he’s worked with Florence + the Machine singer Florence Welch on the tune “Sweet Nothing” and Ellie Goulding on songs for her next album, played Lollapalooza and signed on for the September 21-22 iHeartRadio Festival in Las Vegas. He’s also slated to drop his third album, 18 Months, in October, which is expected to contain the club staples “Feel So Close, “”Let’s Go” (featuring Ne-Yo) and “We’ll Be Coming Back.”
The 2012 MTV Video Music Awards will air live from Staples Center in Los Angeles on Thursday, September 6, at 8 p.m. ET/PT. Head to VMA.MTV.com or text BNA to 22444 (message and data rates may apply) to vote for Best New Artist all the way through the show! Get the latest VMA updates sent right to your inbox: Sign up for the MTV News alert.