The Chainsmokers on Writing a Hit Song With Chris Martin, Being Fans of Lady Gaga, and the Grammy They’re Glad They Lost

“You cannot try to write a hit” duo tells Howard about their own chart-topping music

June 6, 2017

Chart-topping twosome the Chainsmokers stopped by the Stern Show on Tuesday for their first ever interview with Howard. Several of their songs have burned up the Billboard Hot 100, including their current hit with Coldplay “Something Just Like This” which currently sits at No. 8. As one of the most listened to music acts on the scene today, it’s no wonder why the duo was nominated for three Grammys in 2017, including Best New Artist.

But Alex Pall (pictured above, left) told Howard he was relieved when the Chainsmokers lost out on that one to Chance the Rapper.

“I was so happy he won that award,” Alex said. “Chance is an incredible artist, he’s an incredible person.”

Alex also revealed he and Andrew “Drew” Taggart (pictured above, right) were still figuring out who they were as artists, so it made more sense for someone like Chance to win.

“If we had won, I would have been super grateful, but, like, when you lose to someone like Chance … you get it,” Alex continued.

Drew described how each of the categories they were nominated for that night were announced within a 15-minute window. “Maybe the most stressed out I’ve ever been,” he admitted to Howard. On top of being up for a few Grammys, the guys were also asked to present the award for Best Rock Song. They were warned ahead of time two of the nominees were not present, including the late, great David Bowie.

“Sure enough, David Bowie wins,” Drew said. They told Howard they weren’t sure what to do in that moment.

“David Bowie is, like, a huge inspiration of ours … [you’re] caught off guard. Like, do you say something on his behalf?” Alex explained. “That was the first time we ever held a Grammy … accepting it on behalf of David Bowie,” he told Howard.

It wouldn’t be long before they held a Grammy of their own, however—the Chainsmokers won Best Dance Recording for their song “Don’t Let Me Down.”

“This is the best song I’ve ever produced, hands down,” Drew said of “Don’t Let Me Down,” adding that it’s the only single that feels “finished” and that he wouldn’t change a thing about it.

Hit songs seem to come easy to the Chainsmokers, but they explained simply wanting to write something big doesn’t mean you can make it happen.

“You cannot try to write a hit,” Alex told Howard.

“You never really know when creativity is going to hit you and it’s always fleeting so you’ve really got to take advantage of it when it comes,” Drew added. For their song “Roses,” the guys say the creativity came to them quickly. “This whole song was written, recorded the vocals, and produced the whole beat in eight hours,” he told Howard. “That song was a very big turning point for us.”

Alex recalled touring in Europe and getting a good but not great response from audiences overseas when they played “Roses.” When they returned to the States, their first live performance occurred at Lollapalooza and the American crowd had a very different reaction to the song.

“I’ve never felt anything like this in my life. It was just, like, physical proof that … this song was going to be something special,” Alex remembered of the moment they performed “Roses” at the music festival.

The Chainsmokers song “Closer” reached No. 1 on the Hot 100 and Drew told Howard he still loves that song. “The lyrics are really personal to me,” he said, explaining his goal was to write “an apathetic love song.” Much of the song’s story has to do with his own experiences from when he was a student at Syracuse University.

With so much success, Howard was curious if the boys have made any extravagant purchases. “I got a dog,” Alex told him with a laugh. Material items aren’t exactly important to him, as evidenced in the current car he drives. Since he’s out on the road touring so much, Alex said he didn’t want to buy a nice vehicle for himself.

“I was like, I’m not gonna buy a car because I know that someone will, like, just lend me cars when I’m home,” Alex told Howard. “I was kind of right and I was kind of wrong.”

He wound up driving around in an old Svedka vodka promo car, complete with a shiny bronze finish and corporate logos pasted all over its exterior.

“People cannot believe it,” Alex said. “I think I’m into it.”

Alex can probably afford to buy a better car after the release of the Chainsmokers’ new album “Memories…Do Not Open” which includes their hit Coldplay collaboration.

“Chris Martin is one of the most brilliant songwriters,” Drew said of Coldplay’s lead singer. They said they met with Martin at a house in Malibu one night to see what would happen when they all put their brains together. Chris latched onto a piano chord that Drew had laid down and requested he loop that through the PA system so he could listen to it on repeat.

“He just danced around in the living room for like two and a half hours just kind of mumbling stuff to himself and he basically mumbled this entire song,” Drew continued. One of the things he mumbled was the song’s eventual title, “Something Just Like This.”

“I don’t remember seeing him write anything down for this,” Drew said of Martin’s process.

Howard recalled recording artist Sia telling him something similar about how she mutters nonsense to herself while writing new music during her 2014 visit to the Stern Show.

While they were able to come up with another great track that evening, Alex told Howard they both had to cancel date nights with their girlfriends in order to meet with Chris Martin. Before leaving, Alex asked Chris if he could record a video message for his girlfriend.

“He sits down at the piano and freestyles, like, a love song for her,” Alex said. No surprise, his girlfriend loved it. “It was just, like, the coolest thing anyone could have done.”

Before the Chainsmokers left the Stern Show studio, Howard talked to Alex about a comment he made about Lady Gaga around the release of her latest album “Joanne.” Alex had mentioned to a reporter he wasn’t a fan of one of the pop star’s new songs, but on Tuesday he explained his words were taken out of context.

“We were talking about how much we respect her as an artist,” Alex told Howard, adding both he and Drew are admirers of Gaga. They said they’ve since reached out to her and everything is great between them. Her army of fans, the Little Monsters, however, weren’t nearly as forgiving.

“I wish [she was] a less popular artist,” Alex said with a laugh about the slew of strongly worded messages he received on Twitter from fans sticking up for Gaga. “That was, like, the hazing of a lifetime.”

The Chainsmokers new album “Memories…Do Not Open” is available now. Hear it on