Dillon Francis Kept His Blinders On and Raced Toward His Dreams
Back in the early 2000s, you may have brushed past Dillon Francis on Hollywood Boulevard thinking he was just another scrappy kid with big dreams and a homemade CD. But the tables have turned. Now you might be the one hustling on Hollywood, just to cop a ticket from a scalper to see one of the biggest sensations on the EDM scene.
The secret to success? Talent, of course. But more than that: hard-won discipline. It all began with a DUI. He was dubbed “wet and reckless” by the police – the charge for an underage person who blows .08 or under, the legal blood alcohol content for someone of drinking age but still punishable for an eighteen-year-old. He was determined to make things right. He’d ride with dad to work at 6 a.m., go to the gym at 7, work out for an hour. Run to the bus stop, take the bus all the way down Wilshire, run back to the house. From this, he learned the benefits of a regular routine. He took that discipline and applied it to his work.
Back in 2010, Francis spent two months in Atlanta learning how to produce with Cory Enemy, then came back and locked himself in his parents’ back house and made music for a year. Mostly, according to Francis, “horrible music.” Finally, approximately 10,000 hours of work later (a little tip from Malcolm Gladwell), Francis came out with his first breakout song, “Masta Blasta,” which propelled him to attention.
“My old manager sent it to Diplo, and that day he got back to me: ‘Hey, dude – Diplo heard the song and he loves it.’” Before he knew it, Francis was over at Diplo’s studio. “That’s how I got my first record deal. My first release on Mad Decent was just going over there and talking to him for a bit and him meeting me.”
Soon after meeting Diplo and signing with Mad Decent records, Francis became the first moombahton (a genre that mixes reggae and house music) artist to achieve the number-one spot on the Beatport release chart. He did it – achieved what most young artists only dream of. He had catapulted, like an electron to the next orbital, to recognition. The odds were against him, but Francis says he just kept focused and told himself that it was possible. “I kind of kept my blinders on and didn’t think about the fact that the business that I was going into had a lot of people who wanted to do it as well. In my head, I was like ‘I can do this.’ And I just kept thinking that every single day.”
Francis is a true millennial renaissance man. Not only has he risen to the top of the DJ charts over the past few years; he’s also established a thriving social media following and acting career. A master of the short-form comedy video, Francis’s Snapchat skits have become an internet sensation, and his Instagram following alone has reached 1.8M, nearly tripling since 2015. In addition to the upcoming premiere of What Would Diplo Do on Viceland, which has been described as “Louie meets WorldStar HipHop crossed with This Is Spinal Tap,” Francis recently sold his own show, DJ World – a reality show spoof documenting a group of eccentric DJs living together – to Verizon’s video streaming platform go90, and Francis’s talk show, One Deeper Talks, hosted by his comedic alter-ego DJ Hanzel, features some of the biggest talent in the electronic music sphere.
Perhaps the real secret to Francis’s success is that he is doing what he loves. Growing up watching Jim Carrey in golden-era movies like The Mask and Dumb and Dumber, Francis was inspired to chase his own dreams of being a comedian. “I just wish there was more time in the day to do everything… making music and making people laugh.”
Not one to rest on his laurels, Francis is continuing to push his process and grow as an artist. Last April, he decided to amicably split with Columbia Records and go rogue. Fresh back from recording in Santo Domingo and drinking the best coffee of his life (“I mean, coca leaves are legal over there...”), he’s excited for his forthcoming moombahton album that includes work with dream collaborators from all over the world.
Basking in the shade of the trees at the Electric Forest Festival, I ask him what’s next. “I would love to collaborate with Fiona Apple. I want it to happen so badly. I don’t know where she is though. I don’t know what she’s doing. I think hopefully she’s okay somewhere and hopefully, she’ll hit me up and be like, I’m ready.” Who knows, if he thinks about it enough every day, his dream might come true. Wouldn’t be the first time.
Written by Bonnie Foster
Photographed by Saamuel Richard
Styled by Alexandra Cronan