“We have been keeping ourselves busy throughout the lockdown,” 2CELLOS’ Stjepan Hauser tells American Songwriter.
Taking off after finding viral success with their 2011 cover of Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal,” 2CELLOS—made up of Hauser and Luka Šulić—have been keeping themselves busy through the better part of the past decade. In addition to building up a name around the world for their ingenious covers, they became one of the more robust touring acts of the 2010s and helped reinvent what role the cello could play in pop and rock music.
“It is hugely satisfying to look back at the last 10 years,” Hauser said. “We were music college graduates in 2011, but once we uploaded ‘Smooth Criminal,’ our lives changed. We have traveled the world, met amazing people, worked with incredible artists, played to fantastic audiences and released five albums. We are proud to have remained true to our music. We always loved what we could do with the cello, and it has been so rewarding to share that with so many.”
So, as you could imagine, 2CELLOS are busy pretty much all the time… and this past year, as Hauser mentioned, has been no exception. With a new record due in September, the Croatian duo released a cover of Bon Jovi’s “Living On A Prayer” at the beginning of April—now, on May 21, they’re releasing their second single of the year, a moving rendition of Imagine Dragons’ “Demons.”
“Luka had originally chosen this track,” Hauser said. “It was one of his more recent favorites. As classically trained musicians, we’re taught to become masters of interpretation, so we always look for how to amplify the smallest detail of a song. The melody on ‘Demons’ works so nicely on the cello because it’s so emotional and powerful. We created our own intro and really built up the chorus. We tried to put our own stamp on it.”
With the ethereal intro, the dramatic dynamic arc and the dazzling power of all the layers of cello—from melodies to harmonies to chopping percussion—“Demons” offers a holistic view of why this band has gotten to be just so popular in recent years. In many ways, the duo’s output is the perfect bridge between classical music and pop music—it honors both styles while simultaneously breathing new life into them each.
“The cello is so versatile that it can soar like a vocalist, but it can also carry the rhythm and melody,” Hauser explained. “People are not always aware of all those attributes as they are probably more used to hearing a more rigid classical formula for the instrument. We want to liberate it from those constraints, so we always think of all those elements when deciding how to do our arrangements.”
In terms of how Hauser and Šulić determine which songs to cover, they have a pretty tried-and-true method. “We look for strong melodies and potential for interplay between our two instruments,” Hauser said. “We always listen for new songs that we like, such as Billie Eilish’s ‘Bad Guy,’ and think about how we can approach them. We also have a catalog of songs that we know we would like to record, so it is a combination of new inspiration and music that we have always wanted to play.”
Through this method, 2CELLOS have lined their records with meaningful covers and incredible musical moments, which they’ve made a great effort to translate to their live shows as well. See, not long after “Smooth Criminal,” the duo’s live show became a hot ticket, which led to them sharing the stage with folks like Steven Tyler, Andrea Bocelli, Red Hot Chili Peppers and many more. But perhaps their biggest helping hand was the first artist who took them on tour: Elton John. After seeing the duo’s covers online, John personally requested they join him on the road, which, for Hauser and Šulić, was the opportunity of a lifetime.
“Touring with Elton was enormous,” Hauser said. “He taught us stagecraft and how to touch individuals in the room no matter how large an audience. The energy, commitment and focus of the job were never lost on us. We take that responsibility very seriously. People have spent money and given their time to come and see us—we cannot disappoint! We always play with passion and energy. We are exhausted by the end of every show, but it is so gratifying to be able to share our passion with the audience.”
That commitment to their craft is evident in everything 2CELLOS do. From their live show to their records to the way they think about their artistry in general, Hauser and Šulić are steadfast in their pursuit to create world-class music. And now, with their new record coming up, the duo is excited to dutifully continue bringing these songs into the world.
“In many ways working on this album was a continuation of how we always approach music,” Hauser said. “We identify a strong melody, work out an arrangement and hopefully add something unique by adapting it for the cello. Because we decided on the rep that we wanted to record for this album, which is more rock and pop-based songs, we already knew we didn’t need an orchestra or vocalists. It is stripped back to the essence of what we do as 2CELLOS.”
With a tour slated to start in 2022, the duo has a lot of exciting things on the horizon, even if they keep their heads down. “We have learned not to plan too far ahead, apart from the next tour!” Hauser said. “So 2022 will be dedicated to getting back on the road and playing to people all around the world. After that, who knows?”
2CELLOS have a new album slated to drop in September 2021—their new single, “Demons” by Imagine Dragons, is out now and available everywhere. Watch the music video for it below: