Hometown: Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Currently living: Las Vegas, Nevada
Origin of name: Hybrid of my real name and a nickname
Weapon of choice: Coffee
Source of power: Sunlight, beaches and good times
What advice would you offer someone thinking about entering the Discovery Project competition?
Make sure you have a solid song and the proper time to promote it.
After being involved in a near-death car accident at the age of 15, I realized life is short and decided that music was the path I wanted to take. I spent almost a year in a wheelchair with not much to do other than make music, and looking back, I think this is when I formed the habit of constantly creating. I have an amazing relationship with music; many things that I’m not able to express properly come out in my music and songwriting. Music has taken me places I never even dreamed of and continues to amaze me that creating art can also be a career.
Are there any dots to connect between where/how you grew up and your musical output—from people freestyling on the street corner to a grand piano forced down your throat by your mom?
Funny you mention that. My mom is a piano teacher who taught around 40 students a week from our home when I was growing up. When she was done teaching a lesson, I’d run upstairs and play the music back on the piano. She got me started on an acoustic guitar around age 10, which led to me playing the trumpet around age 12, and drums/bass by age 14. By the time I was 16, I was producing music and performing all of the instruments. It wasn’t until around age 21 that I got into electronic music and synths. I believe that my musical output now is a combination of all of those things. I try to combine everything I’ve learned through the years to make smart decisions as a producer and give the song exactly what it needs.
What do you remember about your first DJ gig?
During college, I worked as a doorman at a bar in Chicago. The place had a DJ on Saturday nights but usually only a jukebox playing on Fridays. I thought that Fridays needed a DJ. After trying to get the gig for a few months, I finally came up with a plan to convince my boss to let me DJ for one night if we brought in 30 people for my friend’s birthday. That was the beginning of a two-year residency that launched me into DJing professionally all across the country. Shout-out Donnie at Stanley’s in Chicago for getting me started!
What do your parents think of what you are doing?
I’m lucky to have great parents. They have supported my vision of being a professional music producer from day one. It helps that they are both creative; my mom writes music, and my dad restores classic cars. They’ve always encouraged me to work hard, take risks, and follow my dreams. My dad loves one of my latest tracks, “Higher,” because he thinks it sounds like the Beach Boys.
What’s the strangest part of your job? What makes you shake your head in wonderment about being a DJ and producer?
The strangest part of my job is leaving my studio in Downtown Las Vegas around 6am. There are no windows in the studio; it makes you hyper-focus and forget what time it is. I open the door to go home and see people heading to work or taking their dogs on a morning walk. It’s a very strange feeling; I live a reverse schedule to the majority of the population.
What is your ultimate career dream?
I’ve always thought that it would be amazing if I could use music as a tool to see the world. It’s taken me quite a few places already, but there’s an even longer list of places I can’t wait to see. There are venues I dream about playing: Red Rocks in Colorado, Omnia in Las Vegas, Webster Hall in NYC, anywhere in Hawaii. I also have some pretty huge career goals in commercial music. I’d love to score a national ad campaign under my artist name, license a track for a movie trailer, and even more. I’d love to compose the entire soundtrack for a feature film sometime in the next couple of years.
Do you have a list of people you’d like to collaborate with (from musicians to lighting and visual artists) in the future? Why specifically would you like to collaborate with them?
My #1 right now is Odesza. They have the best sound out at the moment, in my opinion. It seems like everything those guys touch turns to gold. I’d also love the opportunity to work with RAC. He is one of my favorite producers because of how versatile he is while still keeping that “RAC” sound that he’s famous for. My dream mentor would be Rick Rubin. I’d love to work with him in any capacity and pick his brain about his process of working with artists. Last but not least: Calvin Harris. He’s my favorite pop producer, and he has an inspiring story.
When you look at electronic music and the surrounding culture, what worries you about the future? What do you wish would change or that you could change?
I am not worried about the future of electronic music; I believe it’s only up from here. What I would love to see is people be respectful of all genres and try to open their ears to sounds they haven’t heard before. It would be amazing to see more producers rewarded for venturing into unsafe territories to keep the scene evolving, rather than fixating on the same 128-BPM track that we’ve all heard before.
What’s the hardest professional lesson you’ve learned thus far? How did it make your life easier—or more difficult?
I’ve learned that saying no to things is OK and can actually help you out a lot in the long run. For a long time, I’d DJ every single event I possibly could for “exposure”—but that takes a toll on you. When someone approaches you to DJ their event for free (which is incredibly common these days), sometimes the best answer is no, even if a high-profile person is going to be there that could change your life with a tweet. It’s usually BS, and the time could be much better spent mastering your craft in the studio.
I’ve also learned that nothing happens overnight. I’ve had a few breaks and great gigs, but that doesn’t guarantee success forever. If you stay persistent and keep putting in the hard work, then great things are going to happen for you. Many people in your life will tell you that you can’t do it, and then they’ll turn around and ask you how you did it. You can’t let either get to your head.