Here we have an exclusive interview with a mermaid - well half-mermaid, half-DJ. The Australian electronic dance music scene has fallen in love with DJ Tigerlily, and I can confidently say the American EDM scene is soon to follow. After attending an amazing show Saturday night where she opened for Tiesto, I got to sit down and chat with Tigerlily to kick off EPIC Productions’ Females of EDM series.
Though she jokes about being a show-off and liking to be the center of attention, Dara (aka Tigerlily) was one of the most genuine, down-to-earth people I’ve ever spoken with. And witnessing her talent first-hand, hearing how she successfully juggled school with her dreams of being a DJ, and how just plain nice she is through it all – I have mad respect for her. So without further adieu…here’s our look into the life of Tigerlily.
EPIC PRODUCTIONS: First off, how was the show last night for you?
Amazing, it was probably the best show – definitely the best show all year and one of my top five shows ever. I was running late actually for my set and was a bit frazzled, but straight away the crowd was so good, the energy was amazing, everyone was so friendly. You could hear everyone screaming, singing and interacting with each other. So yeah, top five sets…of my life. I’m very happy with it!
EPIC PRODUCTIONS: Glad we were there to witness it! Is this your first time in DC?
Yes! Unfortunately we haven’t been able to leave the hotel much yet… Oh, we did go to a Walgreens though!
EPIC PRODUCTIONS: Hmm I don’t think that’s one of the monuments…
Haha no it’s definitely not. I think we’re gonna go explore today a bit and see some of the sites though.
EPIC PRODUCTIONS: So you started playing piano and other instruments when you were quite young. What first attracted you to EDM?
I think I started listening to EDM music unconsciously, not even realizing that’s what I was listening to. In Australia we have a lot of compilation CDs and I was always attracted to the more dance-style tracks on those albums, than say the more pop, Backstreet Boys – well no, I love Backstreet Boys! – type of stuff. I was always less into the R&B, hip-hop ones and just drawn to the rave, even trance-y kind of ones back in the 90s. That’s kind of what I loved. I didn’t actually realize that until recently when I was looking back through my old CDs and saw that was what I was listening to from a young age, what I loved. But I suppose what initially drew me to EDM music and DJing was that you could sort of control how people and a crowd felt through your performance and your choice of music. For me that was really cool, I’m a bit of a show-off and like to be the center of attention haha. So when my eyes first opened to DJing I was like, “I can do that…that would be really great.” I think it was just a big combination of different factors aligning at the right time as well.
EPIC PRODUCTIONS: What was it like doing University during this all? Did you ever play any shows at your school?
Yeah actually I did. I played shows a couple of times. I was in Sydney for uni studying Media and Communications, so I played there for a couple of rave parties. I actually never went to a uni party! The ones I went to were the ones I played at, so I guess that kind of sums up my uni life. It was very much in and out. I remember not too long ago I was playing three nights in a row in Melbourne, but I also had three 9 am classes back in Sydney. Because they were tutorials, what they do back home is mark your name down and if you have more than a certain number of absences you immediately fail. But because I’d already taken so much time off to go to America and tour Asia, I had to go to all of these classes. So I was literally finishing my show at 2:30-3, sleeping for an hour, and then going to the airport for a 6am flight back home to get to my 9am class…and then flying back to Melbourne that night. So that happened three days in a row, and after that I called my manager and just said “I’m sooo tired!” So after that we adjusted things cut back a bit on the shows to compensate for my uni schedule. There were a lot of shows I took on that I probably shouldn’t have…but you live and you learn!
EPIC PRODUCTIONS: Wow that’s insane! So you’re done now?
Yes! I finished back in November. I passed everything, which is great haha. I have my graduation ceremony in May sometime and I’m really hoping I’ll be in Australia when that happens. I really want to get the black hat and throw it up! I’m so excited to just wear that black cape, it would be really fun. I told my parents we were going out for champagne breakfast afterwards, they agreed so it’s gotta happen.
EPIC PRODUCTIONS: Have you seen or played at any American colleges?
No I haven’t, but I would really really love to. I hear it’s crazy. I know Tiesto did the college tour a couple years back, and just seeing footage from that – holy moly. It’s just the next level over here. [Tour Manager/Best Friend Caitlin: We’re going to Cancun for one night, so we’ll get a glimpse of Spring Break!] Yes that’ll be really good! But it’s still not a college party so I’m hoping that I can do a run over here at some point. That’s an amazing market to tap into as well as an artist, that age group – they’re willing to party and like dance music!
EPIC PRODUCTIONS: What’s your craziest memory from a show?
Oh goodness, there was this one foam party…I’d like to forget about that one! It was just downright dirty!
EPIC PRODUCTIONS: Any embarrassing moments?
Mmm no not really. I mean I’ve done embarrassing things when drunk or something, but nothing major like my top falling off on stage or anything haha. [Tour Manager Caitlin: Well you did stop the music three times at that one show…] Haha yes true. My first show ever was at the local pub down the road from my house. I’d been DJing in my bedroom for two months, and I was just like “Stuff this! I can DJ in a club, or pub…I’m gonna get a show!” So you know, I went and got a show…as you do after two months of DJing haha, which is not long considering people practice in their bedroom for years before even getting to a house party. And so I stopped the music three times because I was so nervous…but I invited like a hundred of my friends so it was fun, I mean it was a good night. I don’t really have too many crazy stories. A lot of the boys have stories where they see people doing things, or like vomiting on themselves…actually I do have a crazy story! [Tour Manager Caitlin and Tiger Lily at the exact same time: And it involves foam!] Haha that’s why me and her are best friends. I was DJing a festival called Future Music Festival in Sydney, maybe three years ago. My hair was brown, not blue… and I was playing to the foam stage as you do. As I was playing there was this guy and this girl doing it in the foam pit. There’s actually a video that went viral to prove it and you can hear the music, me playing my set in the background. If there was any way to make that foam dirtier, they definitely did it. Sooo that was one of the most disgusting things that have ever happened while I was playing a show!
EPIC PRODUCTIONS: Do you get a lot of creepy guys?
No actually, not so much creepy. They’re more either obsessed or scared of me haha. You get a lot of them who will come up and be too nervous to say anything. They’re never really creepy, they’re usually quite nice and on one knee proposing, doing that kind of thing. Which is really cute! I haven’t had too many bad experiences with people being severely creepy. Which is great so far, no serious stalkers. Just everyone is generally very well-spirited, which is nice! Ask me that in 12 months though and it might completely change haha.
EPIC PRODUCTIONS: Well, hopefully it doesn’t!
Yes hopefully not! I think the creepiest part is when it’s online people think they have this sense of I can say whatever I want online, so I get a lot of creepy messages but I don’t really look at them anymore. There’s just lots of them and it’s hard to keep tabs on replying to everyone I suppose, you know especially on Facebook. [Mom walks up mid-interview and says to TigerLily: I have to say I LOVE your hair! It’s so pretty.]
EPIC PRODUCTIONS: Speaking of your hair, what’s been your favorite hair color?
This one. Turquoise-y, blue-y whatever it is. I started off with cotton candy pink, then went to dark pink, then went to purple…had a whole lot of different combinations of pink and purple, pink and blue, pink purple and blue, a gradient. Then I went to this color, but a darker version maybe a deep green-y, probably about 18 months ago now. And I’ve just kept it ever since! And it doesn’t fade super quickly like the purple. This one’s so easy. I wouldn’t mind having natural hair though, there was a girl at the show last night who had this incredibly long gorgeous brown, blonde hair, pretty much the color that mine was. I just thought wow so pretty and natural, and she told me “Yeah I’ve never dyed it in my life.” I was like, “Oh yeah me neither, it’s naturally blue…” But yeah it’s fun. As much as I want to go back natural sometimes, it’s an amazing way for people to recognize me. Like the other night in Vegas we walked out of the lift and all these American dudes were like “Oh my God, Tigerlily!” A) I didn’t think I had any fans out here so that’s exciting in the first place, and B) the fact that just from ten meters away they were able to just be like “yep that’s her” was really cool.
EPIC PRODUCTIONS: It’s a good look! How did the unicorns and mermaids thing start?
I think it started with cats, I’d say “meow” or “purr” and put cats on my Instagram. [Tour Manager Caitlin: You sound like a crazy person, you don’t literally speak like a cat haha. I’d just like to clarify she’s not actually insane!] Haha okay okay maybe more in text messages and stuff. But anyways I think it started once I dyed my hair color, just sort of fantasy/Katy Perry/avatar/Japanese anime characters. I noticed everyone was doing the same thing – all the girl DJs were doing the same thing, all the boy DJs were doing the same thing. And I just thought, you know what I want to be fun, I want to be colorful and young, and I want people to associate positive vibes with me – just as a crazy, fun, colorful young girl. I really think that’s important. Even though I wear black 89% of the time it doesn’t translate into other parts of my life. It’s fun, it shows it’s not too serious, and it’s something that everyone can associate with, a universal thing. I’m not trying to do the cool, dark and mysterious DJ thing, which only resonates to a certain number of people. Especially with the younger market. I do have quite a few underage fans back home and will do underage shows. It’s fun and it’s something they can love and get involved in, especially the younger girls. I think people try to be too cool sometimes.
EPIC PRODUCTIONS: I used to love My Little Pony growing up!
Yeah! It’s like a young girl’s fantasy, My Little Pony, unicorns and mermaids. I got my visuals recently done yesterday, and was just like…this was my childhood fantasy. I wanted this on my walls when I was young haha.
EPIC PRODUCTIONS: What has been your favorite song to work on out of all your songs so far?
"Faith" was definitely my favorite. And it’s still my favorite to this day, I still play it! But I’ve been working on heaps of content lately. I was in LA in the studio for two weeks and we go back to LA tomorrow. Then I’ve got 5-6 days of time in the studio, which will be really really good. It’s kind of tricky, we’ve got a whole heap of songs and content. Now it’s just a matter of choosing what will go out when. I’m really excited though. Especially in LA I got to work with such great people, topliners and stuff who I don’t usually get to work with. It was a really good learning experience, as well as a fun one. So the most recent tracks are probably the ones I’ve had the most fun on.
EPIC PRODUCTIONS: So 2015, is new content your main focus?
Yes I think new music and starting to slowly work my way into other territories outside of Australia/New Zealand. I’ve put out a couple of tracks, but nothing I’ve been super happy and content with. I think in the past nine months I’ve really found my sound and what I want to be playing, as well as what I want to be writing. I think that’s really important; I didn’t want to rush it and just put out crap, which I think lots of people will do. I’m really happy with where I am and excited for everything to come out. So 2015 I think is about new content and starting to get into international markets more, which has definitely been happening with Tiesto.
EPIC PRODUCTIONS: Right! How did you originally meet Tiesto?
At Stereosonic maybe three years ago. He was playing and after the show I was wearing a t-shirt that said “Acid” and he was just like, “That’s a really crazy t-shirt.” And I was like “Yeah I know.” Haha and we started talking, we hit it off and just had a lot of things in common and a lot to talk about. So we exchanged emails, obviously told him I was a DJ, and he went and listened to some of my stuff. Then he reached out and was just like, “Hey I like your stuff. This is cool. You want to come on the road?” I was 20 at that stage, he wanted me to come over and do some shows over here, but it’s like impossible to get into clubs and play unless you’re the Martin Garrix of the world! So I held off for a bit and went and did some shows with him in Asia, which was awesome. Then when I turned 21 I came over here and started doing work with him. It was really cool, it’s really nice to have a mentor who believes in you and supports you.
EPIC PRODUCTIONS: What’s the best part of working with Tiesto?
The best thing about him is he’s so honest. Like if I play a set and it wasn’t that great, he’ll be like “You know what, wasn’t your best. Try something different next time.” And then when you do a great job he’ll tell you, “That was really incredible.” I think that’s so important because there’s so much falsity and people blowing smoke up each other’s arses in this industry, it’s really nice to have someone so experienced who can be so honest with you. It’s awesome to have someone who’ll say “this was great,” “this was not so great,” “change this” and I’ll send him all of my stuff. I’m very lucky.
EPIC PRODUCTIONS: Sounds like an awesome working relationship. What’s your favorite Tiesto song?
Ahhh I don’t know…there are too many good ones! Of his old stuff, it would probably be "Maximal Crazy" or "Adagio for Strings". But then his new stuff, I love "Red Lights" and out of his new album "Rocky" and "Footprints", are my three favorites of his new ones. You can’t choose one…it’s Tiesto! He’s done so much crazy stuff in his time. He has some really awesome new stuff coming out soon too, which he’s been playing at his shows.
EPIC PRODUCTIONS: Well my last question is to kick off our Females of EDM series. What’s been your experience in general with being a girl in the EDM industry?
Oh my goodness, you just opened a can of worms…I could talk for hours on this one! I think initially being a female in a male dominated industry is great because you get attention and recognition. It’s potentially, maybe easier to get shows at the beginning? But I think as you progress further and further into the industry you kind of realize that being a girl has its advantages, but also its disadvantages. I think it’s difficult to often convince people that what you’re doing is legitimate. If you’re a good looking girl out there smashing it, people tend to think it’s fake or to create excuses why you’re there. Which is unfortunate. At the end of the day, what’s important – and I’ve said this to other girls – is to perfect your art, and become really good at what you do. No matter what any of the haters say, you know in yourself you’ve worked your butt off to get to where you are. And present something organic and honest to the audience, because that’s what people want. They want a person or a DJ that’s really honest and organic with them. If you’re up there mixing or not producing your own stuff, there’s disjoint I suppose. It can definitely be tricky, but it’s great because you get to be part of the boy’s club. Though it’s difficult to get in the boy’s club once you’re in, you’re in the boy’s club! It’s cool, but at the same time it can definitely be a little difficult. I can really only think of two big groups that are girls, Nervo and Krewella, who are killing it in a commercial sense. They’re probably the only two massive female acts that tour internationally on the regular. It’s tricky when no one’s really paved the path for you, so we’re all kind of just testing the waters. But it’s great, I just think it’s really important for us girls to support one another because it can be a very catty industry. And at the end of the day you don’t want to be hindering your other females, you want everyone to work together. I think once the girls realize there’s enough room in the industry for everyone it can be really great and we can all be supportive of one another, which I think is really slowly starting to happen, from an Australian point of view anyway. There’s a lot of great support for the girls from the girls, which is really really nice because it never used to be like that.
EPIC PRODUCTIONS: What do you see as the difference between Australia and the U.S.?
There are way less female DJs here. I haven’t seen one play while I’ve been here! In Australia, that tour internationally every week, there’s probably like six, seven or eight of us. So it’s definitely very different, but when you do play over here since it’s not a common thing you get a really great response, like “Oh my God, that’s a girl DJing what’s going on??” Here I am! Haha.
EPIC PRODUCTIONS: Trailblazing though!
Yeah I’m excited to be here because there’s lots of work to be done in the industry. I’m sure there are a lot of girls DJing in the shitty clubs, in their bedrooms, but just kind of haven’t gone out and said “I’m going to do this, I’m going to give it a shot.” I think it’ll definitely change in the next couple of years for sure. I’m excited.
Well, needless to say, we’re excited to continue to follow Tigerlily and see what she has planned for us next. Check out her SoundCloud below and keep an eye out for her upcoming music releases. #TeamUnicorn!
AUTHOR CREDIT: RACHEL NOVOSAD