"Does anyone know what day it is? Is it Tuesday or Wednesday? Or Sunday?" Payne asks, only half-joking about the all-too-relatable query so many of us have asked while spending all our time at home.
"These days feel like between Christmas and New Year's Eve," Alesso agrees. "You don't know which day it is and you're just waiting for something."
For fans of the British singer and the superstar DJ, the wait for their hotly anticipated collaboration, "Midnight," was the one gnawing at them. After several days of teases and snippets, the track arrived on Wednesday (April 8), marking the perfect marriage of Payne's confident vocal flow and Alesso's buoyant dance production. On it, Payne begs a partner to "stay till the morning, stay for a while." "I just wanna lay here, fall into midnight / And fall right into you," he belts, before the beat drops and Alesso's lush synths swoop in.
"The song has this really positive message of overcoming things in a relationship. It's actually funny that it fits so well with the time right now — we're all overcoming something bigger together," Payne told MTV News. "This song's about that kind of adversity in a relationship and going that step further. You never thought you were going to get as far as you did, and here you are. It's very uplifting."
Impressively, Payne and Alesso even managed to make a music video for "Midnight" while self-quarantining at home. Last month, they filmed their parts from their respective home bases: Payne on the rooftop terrace of his apartment in London, and Alesso in his recording studio in Los Angeles. It's an intimate look at the artists in their element, and the clip beautifully blends the two scenes to show how they're standing together in isolation.
"Alesso was saying to me yesterday about the way the video feels really organic because we're just doing what we do. It was nice not having a huge crew around because people are always telling you how to perform and all," Payne admitted. "We both just got to put ourselves into it, which you don't get the opportunity to do very much. I quite enjoyed it."
Making the song, both artists contended, was an equally smooth and intimate process. Rather than simply emailing his vocals in, Payne flew to Alesso's native Sweden to record the song, and Alesso said he was immediately sold after hearing the first cut.
"There's something so great when you are in the studio and it just turns out the way you want it. It's those moments that you'll remember forever. He completely took the record to another level," Alesso said of his collaborator. "Just his vocal performance... This song was perfect for him. It's a strong chord that you have to carry through the whole song and he completely nailed it."
"When I first heard the song and I heard the chorus, I was like, 'Oh my God, my throat's going to drop off.' It's so high," Payne chimed in. "I don't ever seem to pick the easy songs; that's my biggest problem in life at the moment."
Now that "Midnight" and its accompanying video are out, Alesso and Payne's next responsibility is to choose a winner for the track's official fan remix. In March, Alesso put the call out for fans to send in recordings of themselves singing a portion of the chorus, and one of them will be handpicked for a remix that will blend their vocals and Payne's.
"It's definitely going to be a tough choice," Alesso said. "You really, really see how there's so many talented people out there. I think we've already collected our favorites, but they keep coming in everyday. It's actually beautiful to see how creative people become during these times. We'll pick someone who makes it their own version and gives you a new feeling to the song."
In the meantime, both artists are focused on channeling their own creativity at home by experimenting and getting outside of their comfort zones.
"I feel like I'm working more creatively than ever before, actually," Payne said. "I've been painting and sketching, and it's been quite fun to mess around with things I wouldn't usually get the chance to. And I've got so many beats coming through for different things and trying to write melodies. It's a good way to get out of your own head for a little bit, and an outlet to put your feelings down."
"The same for me," Alesso said. "Mostly music of course, but I've also been practicing playing drums and I'm YouTubing every day. "I've never been home this much, and I noticed there's a lot of things that I wanted to explore creatively and now I have time to do that."
Until we hear all that music Alesso's making and all the artwork Payne is whipping up, see their video for "Midnight" — which made its broadcast premiere on MTV Live, mtvU, and MTV International — above.