“It’s a dream collab”: Alesso and Katy Perry Reflect On “When I’m Gone”

“It’s a dream collab”: Alesso and Katy Perry Reflect On “When I’m Gone”

“It’s a dream collab”: Alesso and Katy Perry Reflect On “When I’m Gone”

In an exclusive interview with V, the dynamic duo talks about upcoming concerts and how the single fits into their sets.

In an exclusive interview with V, the dynamic duo talks about upcoming concerts and how the single fits into their sets.

Text: Kala Herh

If you’re looking for a song to dance all your troubles away, look no further. Earlier this year, Alesso and Katy Perry teamed up for the ultimate song of the summer–and even beyond, really. Featuring Katy’s killer vocals and Alesso’s masterful producing skills, “When I’m Gone” is definitely one of those songs that will cement itself in the musical canon and stay playing on repeat. And you don’t have to take our word for it. Within the first week of its release, the song skyrocketed to No. 1 on the U.S. Dance Shazam chart and within the top five of Billboard’s Hot Dance/Electronic Songs chart. And a month later, we’re looking at over 100 million global streams. 

“It's just about having fun and dancing with your partner. It's very sexy and groovy,” Alesso shares over Zoom, to which Katy quickly follow-uped. “This one is just a solid dance song that I think will grow, and will age well.” 

Like all good bangers, this song formed from a deep longing for the dance floor. Created over quarantine, Alesso shares how he wanted to create a dance single drenched in catchy techno-pop beats, one that audiences could lose themselves in as it blasted over the loud speakers. Through empowering lyrics and high-tech beats, the song perfectly encapsulates the sometimes messy, often confusing, reality of relationships and their aftermath. And while it may seem like an unlikely partnership, the subsequent song cemented a seemingly fated union. For someone who gets hundreds of collab requests, Katy shares that her affinity for Alesso’s track was “immediate.” After the pair had finished the final recording sessions, they realized that the acronym was “WIG,” a welcome addition to an already infectious tune. “It felt like the heavens were opening up and blessing us and saying, 'This is for your fans,'” Katy laughs.  

And as if it was fate–the song primes itself perfectly for Alesso and Katy’s respective upcoming concerts. This summer, Alesso is gearing up for the “World’s Hottest Tour,” visiting stadiums across North America with Bad Bunny. And Katy, who is already two weeks into her first-ever Las Vegas residency, says the song fits perfectly into her set, weaving in between established fan favorites, “Swish Swish” and “Walking On Air.” 

“I want it to really match what the audience in Vegas wants,” she elaborates on “Katy Perry: PLAY” at the Resorts World Theatre. “They just want to lose control and have that buzz like, ‘I'm hot. You suck for dumping me,’ vibe. I don't typically do those types of songs. I'm usually more in the inspirational catalog, but every once in a while, I love playing the sexy straight-up pop star card.” And while these explosive performances, complete with rhinestone embezzled dresses and outrageous sets, sold out in a blink of an eye, she recently added dates so you can experience it for yourself.

Alesso himself is no stranger to Sin City. This Saturday, he kicks off his Tao Residency at Venetian Resort Las Vegas. This series of high-energy performances will take place at their brand new Balinese-inspired beach club (a venue he couldn’t spill too much, only teasing, “I think it’s the new big thing.”) And during his time there, he is also set to perform at Vegas classics like OMNIA and Hakkasan, which you can purchase tickets for here

For more on what the pair have been up to since the release, we caught up with them over zoom. Alesso and Katy shared each other’s strengths, creative processes and what it was like to perform on SNL. 

V MAGAZINE: Alesso, when you started creating the beat for the song, what plans did you have for it? And why did you want Katy to sing vocals on it?  

ALESSO: It's been many years since I heard a really dope dance record with a big chorus. And I made this one and it's just about having fun and dancing with your partner and it's very sexy and groovy and all this kind of stuff that I love that dance music can bring. The song started coming together and obviously, Katy was already in my mind to have on the record. I always wanted to work with her for a long time. So the opportunity came to present the song to her and luckily she liked it. She nailed it. She crushed it and I have always been a big fan of her but even more of a big fan when she does dance records because I think she has that really strong vocal strength that you need in these kinds of songs. It's hard to sing on a dance record, so you need to carry that song with your vocal to turn into something great. I'm very happy that it turned out the way it did.

V: Yeah, the resulting song is so infectious. Katy, I understand that you get sent hundreds of collab requests over the year - what made Alesso’s track stand out and want you to be a part of it? 

KATY PERRY: It was so immediate. I love making dance music and I've done a couple of different clubs with DJs like Calvin Harris and Zedd. They come every so often and it is always about the song. We made the song during COVID, I think in October of 2020. I just had my baby in August and he had sent me the song and I really wasn't ready. But I knew I was going to have a Vegas residency and I knew I would go back to work eventually–I didn't know anything because nobody knew anything during COVID. But that was the plan. I knew that the moment I went back to work, and the moment I started putting out new music, I really wanted this one to be the first. I wanted it to be celebratory and fun and sexy and really match what the audience in Vegas wanted. They just want to lose control and have that buzz like, ‘I'm hot. You suck for dumping me,’ vibe. I don't typically do those types of songs. I'm usually more in the inspirational catalog, but every once in a while, I love playing the sexy straight-up pop star card. I've been on a Britney Spears trip and listening to all those major pop hits. I love C+C Music Factory. I'm a big fan of Alesso and I was just like it's time to lean into being a pop star for a hot second.

Photo by Rony Alwin

V: And since the song has come out, you guys have performed at SNL, which was amazing. Alesso, how did it feel to perform it live for the first time?

A: It's terrifying [laughs]. I've never been to SNL. I feel super honored that Katy invited me to join her to do it. It's a big deal and I think it's a milestone for any artist to be on SNL. I was very nervous, but we rehearsed a couple of times and Katy and her team they're so professional, so everything went perfectly. It was a lot of fun and there was a great vibe there.

KP: It was a great way to debut the first performance because SNL still has a lot of cultural cachet, and every artist wants to do it when they're putting out new music. It's on the cooler end and you can still be super artistic. It was fun to bring a little mini version of what I'm doing in Vegas to SNL. We're just so happy and grateful that people like it. 

V: Alesso, you’ve worked with other artists in the past. What’s unique about working with Katy? 

KP: Yeah, tell me, Alesso. Say it [laughs]. 

A: You're really putting me on the spot here [laughs]. First of all–no, duh–she's the biggest pop star in the world. And as a music producer, she has always been on the bucket list to work with. Not only is she fun and amazing, but her voice is incredible. It was such a joy to have those files in my project and work with it, going back and forth. It's a dream collab so I'm very, very thankful it happened. 

V: Katy, what's unique about Alesso? 

A: Yeah! 

KP: Well, I tend to do my best work with Scandinavians. 

A: [laughs] That’s true! You've been in Sweden a lot more than people think.

KP: Yeah, it’s something in the water over there. I love the way that you guys talk. It’s very percussive. I think we both have the same goals in mind. We both like a good vibe and he's not hard to work with. I'm not particularly hard to work with necessarily. I've got a lot of stuff going on. He has a lot of stuff going on. So it definitely took time for us to land it at the right time and in the right place with the right music video and stuff. But I think we both had the same goal to create such an amazing vibe. We both like to have success with songs and like to play with different textures. This one is just a solid dance song that I think will grow, and will age well.

V: And how does the song fit into your set at your Las Vegas residency, “Katy Perry: Play”?

KP: It's in the trash section. It's a scene where I get thrown away and I end up in the trash and everything is larger than life trash and some of the trash comes alive. It's a real jam-packed dance section. I play "Swish Swish." I play "Walking On Air." I play "When I'm Gone" into "Walking On Air." It's like a medley and it's perfect. It's this last segment before the encore and it's right after an acoustic segment. So the show is up up up and then there's like a moment of acoustic and then it goes even higher when "When I'm Gone" comes on. So it takes it to the finish line basically.

V: How is this Las Vegas show different from other concerts and performances that you've done in the past?

KP: Las Vegas is different because you get to play with all kinds of amazing new props, tools and tech that you've never been able to do when playing on the same stage every night. It's also the biggest theater in a hotel in Las Vegas. They have their own arenas and stadiums. It's the biggest one, but it's still the smallest room I’ve played in my life, which is exciting for the fans because they feel like they're on stage. Even though it's seated, everyone in the room is on their feet at all times, which is wild. One of the top three reasons to do a residency is to experiment with all kinds of new magic tricks that you literally couldn't take on the road. I have a 20 to 30-foot toilet that I can't fit on a truck because there's not a truck that could fit it. I couldn't truck it around America.

V: It sounds like an amazing show. Alesso, I understand you also have a Las Vegas residency at TAO. Can you tell us a little more about the set there? 

A: It's my first year with the TAO group and I think the new big thing is going to be Tao Beach, which will be at the Venetian. It's a brand new beach club. I don't know how much I'm allowed to say, but it's very Balinese-inspired. The amount of money and production they're putting in there is going to be like walking into something you've never seen in Vegas. So that I think is going to be the most exciting. But then I have shows at OMNIA and Hakkasan, which I love playing. At OMNIA, the production is just crazy. It's just next level. I'm very excited about it.

V: Sounds very cool. Are there any final thoughts you guys would like to share with fans? 

KP: My final thought is that in my own personal life, I look for signs and messages from the universe to confirm that I am exactly where I'm meant to be. Symbols and signs and numbers–I love all that sh*t. And after we finished the song, we only then realized that the acronym is “WIG.” It felt like the heavens were opening up and blessing us and saying, 'This is for your fans.' So I'm very grateful for that.

UP NEXT

The Official Trailer for Olivia Rodrigo’s ‘driving home 2 u’ Film is Here
Olivia Rodrigo fans will get an inside look into the makings of her chart-topping debut album on March 25 on Disney+.