The songwriter behind Avicii and SHM reveals the path to success

By | April 6, 2021

Michel Zitron in one of Studio’s shoots. Photo: Johanna Hanno.

It’s fun to talk about songwriting with Michel Zitron, songwriter and producer, participating in songs and productions with artists like Pauline, Jasmine Kara, Avicii and Swedish House Mafia. He is passionate about writing good songs and producing music and when we meet in his studio, it becomes a conversation about hard work, inspiration, contacts – and the importance of going to the pub.

I am impressed by what I have heard, even though Michel Zitron writes in a different genre than my own. Many of the talented songwriters and musicians I have come across have a humble and sympathetic attitude to music – and so does Michel. It’s hard work, continuous work and a little luck that counts to succeed with the feat of getting a hit. And right now Michel is happy about the success of the song Save the world with Swedish House Mafia.

– This is my first major international success. It has been number one on the iTunes list in England. My first world hit, he says proudly.

How did it all go?
– It was a lot of coincidences that just clapped. I was in Los Angeles at the same time as Vincent Pontare and Sebastian Ingrosso. Vincent and I are very close friends and have written together before. They were both in the studio in LA and laid the foundation for Save the World. When we came to Sweden, I got the beat on the song because Sebastian, who is part of the Swedish House Mafia, wanted me to continue writing with John Martin. We wrote lyrics and melody, and a month later it became Swedish House Mafia’s next single. John Martin sings on it too.

Axwell, Sebastian Ingrosso and Steve Angello in Swedish House Mafia. Photo: Carl Linstromm.

Behind almost every world hit, there seem to be several songwriters involved. How is it that?
– Nowadays it usually works that way. You use your contacts abroad when it comes to songs that you want to hit internationally. For example, you send a song idea to an artist or producer abroad and ask, what do you think about this? Well, damn good, they say, and maybe write a text to the idea and send the song back. And then you record it, and then maybe someone else gets involved.

– Then there is a lot of politics as well. The artist who is going to use the song may want to join in on a corner, then it may happen that you let the artist write the verses, for example. Often an entire team is on a hit.

Are the contacts in the music industry important for success?
– They are very important! There are a lot of people in the industry who are good but who never reach out because they may not have the right people behind them. It pains me to say that, and it sounds so heavenly “industry”, but contacts are A and O. You must have a rock hard will to reach your goal and in that way the contacts are crucial.

If you are new to the industry and wonder how to actually get these important contacts. Do you have any suggestions?
– To be honest, it’s probably best to go out to the pub. That’s how it is. I have made many of my contacts at the pub. It’s about the internet too, of course. It’s important to be there. Talk to people, and do not be afraid to be interested. If you have been around for a certain number of years, you will of course come across people with the same interest. It’s just living and being in the music and you come across people who are like-minded. Stockholm is so small, Sweden is so small.

Michel Zitron started touring with a samba group already as a child. Photo: Johanna Hanno.

What do the melodies mean to you?
– I’m a real melody fanatic. It is very important for me to have great melodies. It is probably a Swedish heritage. I like big melancholic melodies. I listen to a lot of music, but if there are no melodies, I can not think it is good.

How did you get to the point where you are today? When did you start playing music?
– For me, it has always been natural, music has been my way since kindergarten. I have always been a theater monkey and went to Vår Teater already when I was six or seven years old. One day I saw a huge drum in the hall. I went forward and started hitting it all I could. Then a long bearded Latin American came out and said angrily: What are you doing, you must not hit the drum! I got crappy. Then he told me that he had just started a samba group for children on Tuesdays and that I could come. I started touring with this giant samba group for a few years and then I started playing drums. Later I thought drums were too boring, I wanted to be in the spotlight. And so I started singing and playing my own songs instead. That’s the way it is.

– I believe in hard work. Even though I write constantly, every single song is like a little war for me, a little war with myself. I’m very critical. Some can only spit out songs, but I can not. Every song means something, even a banal pop song. Therefore, I have also deliberately stopped writing with people I do not really click with. People who are in the hitmaking business, who think it should be exactly this template, because this record company is looking for this type of songs for this and that artist. I do not think you make hits that way. I think it really works in a completely different way.

Why do you choose to write for other artists and not for yourself?
– I have some projects of my own too, and I would be lying if I said that there is not an artist’s dream in the back of my mind. But right now I do not have the same need to be seen that way. I still love to be on stage, but you lock yourself in so much when you are an artist. If I am a songwriter, I can write for a lot of different artists, I can write for artists who are not in the Radio Rix format. I can do things I like. Freedom is important to me. I have noticed that I know so many different styles, and I play many instruments, I do not want to lock myself. I can just “go nuts” here in my studio and do what I feel like.

I leave Michel’s studio where an artist has had to wait during the interview. As they resume work, I think about our conversation, and realize that the formula for success I usually preach when I coach artists has received yet another confirmation: Do what you love to one hundred percent. Get good at what you do. Collaborate with like-minded people. Set clear goals. Take it step by step – and have fun on the road. Then you are guaranteed a life that is fun to live. And success – sooner or later.


In the series:

  1. Make your first song in 6 steps

  2. 5 steps to improve your song

  3. How to write a really good lyrics, part 1

  4. How to write a really good lyrics, part 2

  5. How to find topics for your songs

  6. How to find the rhythm in the text

  7. Take the help of chance when writing songs

  8. Co-writing – how to write songs with others

  9. The trick that makes you grow as a songwriter

  10. The songwriter behind Avicii and SHM reveals the path to success (this one)


About the author of the article
Eva Hillered is a Grammy-nominated artist / songwriter / educator and author of the book Dictionary for songwriters (Prisma / Norstedts).

Updated 2020-12-11: The book is also available for purchase digitally here at Studio: