Don’t Let Me Down,” the third platinum-selling single since 2014 by the D.J. duo the Chainsmokers, has been streamed online more than half a billion times.
The song’s title and singer may not be familiar — its easily hummable vocals are performed by Daya, a mostly unknown teenager from Pittsburgh. But it’s the beat, and therefore its producers, that are the stars.
I actually made the drop of the song first, while we were on a flight. I just grabbed a little segment of one of the sounds in a friend’s sample pack and stretched it and reversed it, put it in a different key.
Later [my partner Alex Pall and I] bought this new Fender electric guitar, and I was messing around with it in this cool [software] plug-in called Guitar Rig. I wanted to make a big, echoey guitar sound like something from Explosions in the Sky or the xx. It was a really interesting combination of this kind of indie, lonely opening that drops you on your head with this trap breakdown, combining two opposing genres.
We did a session at my apartment in New York with these amazing songwriters, Emily Warren and Scott Harris. I played them this beat and they were like, “O.K., this is money.” The three of us sat there for like four hours and came up with a bunch of melody ideas. The next day Emily sent me a sick a cappella, and I threw it on the track.
We didn’t know who was going to sing it. But Daya’s song “Hide Away” was blowing up. When I heard that, I knew that she had the range. Her voice was pretty unique and didn’t sound like other people on the radio. We met at one of our shows in Pittsburgh. She was 17, but super mature. I went in the studio with her, and they didn’t really need my help. She cut an incredible vocal.
The easiest part of making a record is the first 90 percent of the song. The last 10 percent is when you sit there and you mix it and you add percussive fills and effects and make sure every piece enters and leaves perfectly. It takes forever. We actually changed the key, because it fit Daya’s range better if it was a step higher. And the third drop has this sax part that I wrote late in the process. I typically try to do three drops in a song. That one’s pretty epic.