This summer, Big Wild will be one of the most talked about names in electronic music, and we got to talk to him about what that feels like.
Jackson Stell, the DJ, engineer, producer and composer behind the name Big Wild, is making waves by bringing an unconventional approach to his music. With hip-hop beats and instrumentals initially pushing him into the production side of music in high school, combined with the outdoorsy lifestyle Stell has recently adopted in California, Big Wild’s sound is very much a testament to its own name. Stell has toured recently with Odesza and GRiZ, and has currently sold out 13 of the 23 US shows on his spring tour. We got to catch up with this emerging young voice, and find out what has led him to where he is today and where he plans on going. Keep reading and check out the audio of the interview below!
It was very much kind of me just finding whatever music I was into. I was into a lot of random things, like movie soundtracks. When I was a little kid, I used to be really into surf music and I used to be really into funk music too; it was kind of just whatever kept me really interested. And then when I got into middle school and high school, I really got into hip-hop and that’s why I started to make instrumentals and stuff from there.
Why did you choose to go down the electronic path?
That kind of happened when I got into college. Electronic music was becoming more popular and it was like a whole genre of music. I started to really appreciate and enjoy a lot of the aspects of it, and I wanted to take my hip-hop background and make it a little more experimental and interesting, and basically just try a lot of new things. With electronic music becoming bigger, I kind of grew to like it more and I decided [that was] where I wanted to go with music.
Listen to Big Wild’s track Aftergold (feat. Tove Styrke):
When did you realize your passion for music could turn into a real career?
I knew I wanted to do music for a long time. After producing for a couple of years, I started to sell instrumentals to rappers. I was running a little business and DJing, and I was really enjoying it too. I realized that this is what I wanna do. I never knew for sure if I would actually be able to make a living off of it, but I knew I would try my best to make it happen.
You toured with Odesza- can you talk a little about that experience?
Yeah! Those guys were really helpful in kind of getting things going for me in terms of live shows, opportunities for songs, and releasing [music] through Foreign Family Collective. Touring with them was a really good experience. A lot of the ideas that I have now for my live shows kind of came from learning from those guys. They were super helpful and they’re definitely super good friends of mine now. We stay in touch and talk about music all the time.
So they helped you adjust to the touring life?
Yeah, definitely. [They helped] in terms of my show and also how to go about running a tour and making sure to have a good time and explore the places you’re going to and to, you know, make the the most of it.
Check out Big Wild’s CHVRCHES “Empty Threat” remix:
A Tribe Called Quest was definitely one of my earlier hip-hop influences, and like love for hip-hop, but that kind of came later. [For me], it was local producers in the beginning who kind of influenced me. That being said, I was super into A Tribe Called Quest when I got into high school. I think [Phife Dawg] and A Tribe Called Quest’s contributions to hip-hop in general are really significant. I definitely did go back to A Tribe Called Quest and looked through their catalog [after Dawg’s passing] and that brought back a lot of memories from high school.
How do you find new music?
I explore random things on SoundCloud and see what people I’m following are liking or reposting. It’s kind of the way I find out about lesser or smaller known artists. I’ve been getting really into Spotify lately, too. I’ve always had an account, but I find [Spotify] is getting better at [allowing users to] discover new stuff. And also just word of mouth. I kind of have a really good group of friends whose musical opinion I really like. So if they recommend me any new music, I’ll check it out, and I try and reciprocate by showing them what I’m listening to. I find that actually is the most effective way to find music- through your friends whose music tastes you really vibe with.
Definitely. So who are you currently listening to?
Well I’ve been listening to them for a while, but I’ve been listening to Tame Impala and their new album Currents. But also, let’s see, I’ve been really into a lot of vocalists with interesting voices lately because I think that’s also where I’m trying to go with my production too. There’s a band called Reptar that I’m really into, a singer named Rationale in the UK, and I’ve just been listening to a lot more vocal music and figuring out how I’m going to incorporate that stuff into my own production.
So when you start making new music, how do you get over I guess the “writer’s block” so to speak when you get stuck?
That one’s tough. Sometimes I can actually get over a writer’s block if I just keep working every day on music and really just forcing myself to continue and keep pushing until I finally come up with something that really clicks with me, or I just hear something. But there [are] also times where I get out of a writer’s block just by hearing a new song or a new artist that’s made something that is totally different from whatever I’ve [recently] heard and I really like it, and then I’ll be like “Oh sh*t! Maybe that’s how I can combine, or maybe that’s how I can get over this hump, is if I use some of the ideas from this song or what that guy did with the vocals and the effects and stuff”. Just little inspirations like that really help. [Other times], it’s just taking a break for a week or two, and when you come back to it you feel really refreshed. If you keep trying to do the same thing over again, that’s when you start to get really stuck.
Are there any other artists or hobbies outside of music that influence you?
I grew up in a small town, and at the same time we’d always drive to go hiking and do a bunch of outdoor activities. When I was a kid, I wasn’t super into it, but at my age now, I reference those times just being outside. I think that really helps me, that really influences me to. I think it has really influenced my sound and the sounds I choose, too. I’ve just recently picked up surfing and I really, really suck at it, but I really enjoy it too. So it’s a good way to kind of take my mind out of the studio, and just go and relax and do something totally different. I also really like to cook, too.
Watch Big Wild's Spring Tour 2016 Video:
Are there any collaborations or projects that we can look forward to hearing from you in the future?
Yeah! There’s a new song I’ve been playing with a singer named iDA HAWK, who GRiZ actually did a couple of tracks with. I’m really stoked about how it’s coming out, and I’m kind of hoping for it to be the next single. I have a track with a singer named Nina that’s really cool too. I’m gonna be releasing stuff this summer and fall and a couple of more remixes as well that I’m really excited about.
Is there anybody that you’d to collaborate with in the future or any artists that you sort of have your eye set on?
Definitely that singer Rationale; I’ve been into his music for a super long time. Anderson Paak is definitely getting a lot more attention [now] which is very well deserved and I would love to make a track with that guy. He has such a cool sound.
He definitely does. I guess my last question would be, do you have any advice for those aspiring to make music?
Challenge yourself to make something different all the time and have your own, because that’s one of the most valuable things you can do in terms of learning how to produce, and learning to appreciate other styles, and to stick out from the crowd and have your own sound. If you make the same thing everybody else makes, it’s gonna be really tough for you. People wanna hear something that’s unique to you. You have to learn that. That’s the biggest advice I’d give to a producer.
Be sure to catch Big Wild in a city near you before he sells out!