Q&A | Big Wild

by Cayla Rubin

Photo courtesy

Photo courtesy

I cannot stop smiling - so much so that my cheeks are noticeably sore. A feeling of everlasting euphoria has encapsulated my being, serotonin overwhelms my brain and anything feels possible. This is me, post seeing producer, singer / songwriter Big Wild live for the first time. Just like his unique, psychedelic sound, his stage presence is unlike any other. His seasoned voice, layered with smooth yet strong melodies creates a lush composition that makes the clouds feel closer and the sunshine feel warmer. 

After seeing him perform twice more, once at an intimate, deconstructed acoustic show at the Grammy Museum, and again at Outside Lands in San Francisco, it is intrinsically clear that Big Wild engineers an unparalleled live performance - regardless of the venue at hand. His zestful smile is contagious and radiates forth pulsating music that transcends genre. Technically defined as an EDM artist, Big Wild curates an elevated live performance through incorporating vivacious backup singers, guitars, and basses. The symbiotic combination of funk, techno, pop, dance music and psychedelic will put you in a transient state of bliss - its many components, seamlessly produced, flow together as if they were always meant to be. 

Through talking to Big Wild about his debut album Superdream as well as his latest single , a statement of work that feels like a breath of fresh air on a sullen summers day, I learned first hand how his persona parallels the liveliness of his introspective music. 

Check out the Flaunt Q&A Below. 

Did you always know you wanted to pursue music? 

I think once I first started to produce it when I was 13 or 14, it took about six months for me to realize that it’s what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. So, it was pretty early on that I realized this is what I wanted to do.

What is your creative process like and how has it changed throughout your career?

I think a lot of my creative ideas come from just hearing something that I find really interesting or unique, whether it’s in song or something I just hear everyday. That’s how it’s always been for a while in terms of production ideas and coming up with new sounds. When it comes to songs now, I think a lot of it is influenced by where I want to go with my voice, where im feeling lyrically at that moment in time. It has transitioned to a more intuitive place rather than looking for an external source of inspiration. 

You have a beautiful voice, yet Superdream is your first body of work that includes your own voice. Why did you only recently start singing in your music?

I felt like in production I was reaching a point where I was having trouble moving forward in terms of expressing myself. It’s really hard to fully express yourself without using words. Your voice is the most basic and most complete way to share who you are and what you want to convey in a song. I wanted to delve more deeply into self-expression and vocals was the natural way to do that. It came out of this creative urge to dive deeper into my music and who I am as an artist.

What do you write about?

I write about a lot of different things. But I always try to make sure whatever I’m writing about relates to something I’ve either lived through or can relate to. Whether it’s an emotion, an event, a person —all these things need to come from a genuine, authentic place. 

What is your writing process like? Is there a specific space you feel the most comfortable to write in?

I mostly write in the studio but I also make a habit of writing everyday, usually sometime in the morning. I meditate for a little bit and then write after that. I try and do a stream of conscious, write whatever comes out. Writing for a very short [amount of time], usually around six minutes, but I end up getting a lot of stuff out—just getting in the habit of constantly creating and writing. 

The song “Maker” is about your experience beating thyroid cancer and having to come face-to-face with your mortality. Do you think this experience was necessary for you to have the outlook on life you do now? 

I think maybe I would have gotten to this outlook in a different way, but I think it expedited it. It put me in a different frame of mind earlier in my life than I would have expected. That’s a good question, probably not, honestly. With really hard, really tragic events, there’s a lot of growth that can come out of them that’s just hard to happen any other way unless the people are pushed to this extreme. I think it’s safe to say maybe not. In kind of a roundabout way, I’m almost grateful for having been through that at the end of the day.

And, how would you define your current outlook on life?

I think I’m conflicted because I really appreciate where I am right now and I appreciate the people in my life. I’m definitely happy overall, but there’s a part of me that has this drive and motivation to keep doing something different or moving forward, particularly in music. I think that is always at odds with me just appreciating where I am. Because if I wanted to move forward and progress in my life there has to be a part of me that’s not happy where I am, that wants to change. So, I feel like I am constantly conflicted between these two personalities. In a way, it's this dichotomy. I think a lot of people have a similar thing going on where they might be very happy with where they are right now and they realize that they are fortunate in their situation, but at the same time there is this part of them that wants to change. I don't know if that's human nature or what.



You are a pioneer in your genre, combining various aspects of electronic music, yet still having people on stage singing and playing instruments. How did this combination come to be?

I think it comes down to, in its simplest form, the shows that I always enjoyed the most were the ones where there were people doing things live in that moment and there were just multiple people on stage playing together, interacting together. I think having a human connection in your show is really important, that's something I focus on in my show and it's actually something I see being a bigger part of the show as time progresses. I'm really predomedly singing in the show and then having a bass player, a guitar player, backup vocals - I feel like what I’m trying to do is add that human element. And it's funny you asked me if I would even categorize my music as electronic. I guess ultimately I would but that's only because of what I did prior to Superdream. If I were just to look at Superdream and what the tour is right now, I don't know if I would call it electronic music. It has a lot of other influences. I see going forward that distinction between where my show vibes may even be more blurred as I bring in these other ideas. Really, what it comes down to, is adding a human touch to something that would otherwise probably be not very human at all. 

How did your debut album Superdream come to be?

I think largely it stems from me wanting to sing and then taking a step back from that and [realizing] this is going to be a big next step in my career. The best way to make this step is to actually make a full statement. To me, an album is still the best artistic statement you can make. An EP can have some really great songs on it, but I think an album gives you a little more room to put a song that probably isn’t going to get as many plays as the hit, but it's going to shed light onto your personality or this other niche aspect of your sound. On an EP, you can't really do because each track has to be more single oriented. It was important to me to put a full body of work together around this new direction and set a precedent for people going forward that this is what I want to do, this is who I am. And, really just share more of who I am as an artist and where I am going.

Where do you see yourself going next as an artist? 

Where I want to go next is really a further continuation of Superdream. In terms of vocals and production, bringing those two together. I definitely have some ideas theme wise and lyric-wise that are going to be a little different than Superdream that I think is going to broaden my music project a little more. Superdream is definitely an overall a positive record in terms of what I sing about and it's also largely just about me. I can see the next project not necessarily being negative but maybe touching on a few darker subjects and maybe talking about some people I know too—just expanding a little bit emotionally.

In regards to electronic music, making music alone with only your computer, how do know when a song feels complete and finished?

I think that’s one of the hardest decisions to make being honest. When you're working on a computer and you can create unlimited versions of something, you can always tweak something and you can always undo something—it’s both a blessing and a curse. It makes it hard to know that cut off so to speak. For me, I get to a point when I'm making a song where I'm continuing to work on it and I realize I'm not actually improving the song or making it better in my eyes, I'm just making different versions. I feel like when I get to that point, I'm basically just making new songs and calling it a different version. It's time to pick something and just roll with it because it's really important to do that. It's also really important to have somebody from the outside, like management or a label set deadlines for you. That works for me, having a frame of time to make it happen and realizing that maybe when you finish it's not going to be the most picture perfect thing but you can always make a new song. You might have been toying with this song for years and years and get nowhere so it's better to just put it out than not put it out at all.

I know a lot of your album is inspired by California, specifically Big Sur. What does nature mean to you? Is it where you feel the most creative? 

It’s funny, when I’m in nature itself I actually don’t feel very creative. I tend to feel very relaxed and as if the busy part of my brain is taking a break. I can enjoy just being somewhere. When I come back to the studio, when I come back to wherever I’m creating, that’s when I start to feel an influence from nature. It has to do with what I’ve experienced in nature and wanting to recreate that in a music form. Like, I want to be outside, I want to be at Big Sur for example or somewhere on the beach. My brain is thinking of it and is inspired to create something musically that reminds me of it so I can go to that place. It’s almost like the disconnect of being inside helps me create something that reminds me of being outside. It’s less, “I’m going to make a song that reminds me of the mountains.” It’s more capturing the feelings I get when I’m in those places. Big Sur for example, I was amazed by the bold beauty of the cliffs running right into the water, the mountains and the ocean. It was so much that feeling of boldness, of being right on the edge of this desert landscape [and] right on the edge of this beautiful ocean. Those two completely different things, but they’re right next to each other. Capturing that in a song, things that might be contrasting each other a lot. Long story short, I try and extract something that might be outside and put it into music form.

Where are you at your happiest?

I think the happiest I’ll be, at least around music is when I’m working on something and I finally hear—and I think a lot of producers can relate to this too—this eureka moment. It happens when you make something and suddenly, you maybe did the right melody and you lined up the right instruments together and it sounds, at least to you in that moment, really, really good. I feel like in production we’re chasing that moment because it’s a high in a lot of ways. This euphoria. You put so much effort into something and it finally sounds either how you pictured it or it’s something completely different that’s a really pleasant surprise. When I find a stride in song writing is when I’m at my happiest in music. And then when I’m onstage and I play Joypunks. I get everyone to jump up and down, I see everybody smiling and it’s a very similar feeling. It’s really awesome.