For Steve Aoki and Louis Tomlinson, “Just Hold On” could be the start of a much larger career together as collaborators. Tomlinson and Aoki sat down this week to discuss their current radio success with “Just Hold On” and their past experiences and future plans together in the latest edition of the Billboard Pop Shop Podcast.
The interview, conducted by Billboard Music Editor Jason Lipshutz, touched on the writing process behind “Just Hold On” and explored the ways in which Tomlinson and Aoki work with each other and trust each other. “Just Hold On” is the first released collaboration between Aoki and Tomlinson, and it is also Louis’ solo debut after his band One Direction announced their hiatus in 2016. The duo were fresh off of their debut American television performance of “Just Hold On” on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.
While neither Tomlinson nor Aoki are new to television appearances – Louis has even previously appeared on Fallon’s show with the rest of One Direction – the duo admitted that they were nervous for the “Just Hold On” performance. When asked about the performance by Lipshutz, Steve Aoki confirmed that both he and Tomlinson felt some anxiety.
“It was scary for me. I’ve been watching The Tonight Show since I was a kid, so my nerves were going crazy… It’s also a different format and structure than a DJ set, it’s a new way to present the song. We rehearsed it for a few days, so we were well-practiced, but still nervous.”
Tomlinson and Aoki have also performed “Just Hold On” on the UK version of The X Factor. The performance was an emotional one for Louis, whose mother had passed away from leukemia just two days earlier. Their performance garnered them praise, with judge Simon Cowell telling Louis “I respect you as an artist, I respect you as a person, and your mum was so proud of you, Louis. She was so looking forward to tonight. She’s watching down on you now and you’ve done her proud. Steve, you’re a great friend to Louis.”
Since both Tomlinson and Aoki are stars in their own genres, it is difficult to imagine either of them taking charge over the collaboration. Both performers took a share in the production and creation of the song: Louis Tomlinson, who has previously written dozens of songs for One Direction, was the head writer on “Just Hold On,” and Aoki was the lead producer.
With both Louis Tomlinson and Steve Aoki so integral in the creation of “Just Hold On,” Lipshutz asked the duo how their rehearsal process worked and whether or not they gave each other notes or advice. In response, Louis praised Aoki’s professionalism and flexibility.
“I think the whole thing has been super collaborative, I think maybe more so than other collaborations. I think across the board, we really do have each other’s backs. There wouldn’t be a point in rehearsals where each of us go ‘You do this, you do that.’ But definitely, we’re always vibing and talking about where we want the performance to go.”
Interestingly enough, Tomlinson revealed during the interview that “Just Hold On” did not originate as an electronic song. When writing the track, Louis originally used a piano instrumental to help him piece the melody together. The lyrics also went through a few different conceptual iterations, but for Steve and Louis the most important thing about “Just Hold On” was that it “was something that people would be able to relate to.”
Tomlinson’s lyrics to “Just Hold On” are relatable and classic. The song contains an empowering message about persevering in the face of adversity and leaving an impact on the world.
“What do you do when a chapter ends? / Do you close the book and never read it again? / Where do you go when your story’s done? / You can be who you were, or who you’ll become / If it all goes wrong / Darling, just hold on.”
A photo posted by Louis Tomlinson (@louist91) on
Both artists are entering new territory with the track. Louis’ music with One Direction was pure pop, with some inspiration from folk and 80’s rock. “Just Hold On” is the first electronic track that Tomlinson has worked. While Aoki is already known for working with pop and rap vocalists, the DJ told Billboard that their collaboration on “Just Hold On” gave him new insight as well.
“With everything, you have to look at the picture forward instead of going into the past. With [“Just Hold On”], I didn’t want to take the arrangements that I would normally go into a track with. I wanted to make something brand new, be inspired by the now, be inspired by Louis’ lyrics, and emphasize what Louis is singing about. Also, I want this record, just as much as Louis, to connect with as many people as possible. It’s not about how this music affects the dance floor or how it affects our live shows, it’s about how it touches people and connects with people.”
Both Tomlinson and Aoki shared their admiration of the other. Louis told Billboard that he admired Steve’s work ethic and ability to throw himself into his projects, and Aoki praised Louis’ inspiration and ingenuity.
“[Louis] is so talented, he is a creative talent. When I’m around Louis and he’s doing his thing, I get the creative energy and I thrive off that… It’s been an incredible experience. Good dude right here.”
At the end of the interview, the two performers also teased some more potential new music that might be released. Louis stated that they are currently working on some unfinished songs, but their current artistic priority is “Just Hold On.” However, Tomlinson went on to say that the process “has been so easy and so fun that I’m sure we’ll work together in the future, no doubt.”
A photo posted by Louis Tomlinson (@louist91) on
Aoki agreed with Louis, stating: “our time and attention is going to “Just Hold On,” but we have a bunch of different things we’re toying with putting together. Who knows, we might come back to them or we might just start some new projects.”
Regardless, these few scattered television performances of “Just Hold On” are not the last we will see of Steve Aoki and Louis Tomlinson together. Lipshutz confirmed that the “Just Hold On” music video was coming soon, and that Louis Tomlinson will be appearing during Steve Aoki’s slot at Ultra Music Festival this March to perform the song together.
Even more has yet to be announced. Aoki teased some potential summer music festival performances, and Louis responded that “as long as it’s a festival, I am in.”
Are you excited about seeing Steve Aoki and Louis Tomlinson’s “Just Hold On” live?
[Featured Image by: Andrew Lipovsky/NBC]