For those of you who haven’t heard the name Elephante, now is the time to get acquainted. The 27-year old Ann Arbor native is not only an up-and-coming big room, progressive house icon, Tim Wu is also quite the enigma. Yes, he has a background in music. What else? Two degrees from Harvard. One being in Economics, which assumedly played a role in his job placement at top-tier consulting firm McKinsey after graduation. A job that he quit to pursue his passion (and talent) for music full-time.
In the wake of him dropping his debut EP I Am Elephante – a particularly excellent debut EP – I was excited to have the chance to sit down and chat with Tim before his recent Los Angeles show at Exchange.
EPIC PRODUCTIONS: How are you feeling about tonight?
Very excited - it's my first time playing Exchange, but I've been here for a bunch of shows.
EPIC PRODUCTIONS: What other places have you played in LA?
I've played at Avalon, I've played at Create and I've played at El Rey.
EPIC PRODUCTIONS: So you have an interesting backstory. You're from Ann Arbor, but live in LA now. When did you move here?
I moved here a little over five years ago, so it's been a while. I grew up in Michigan - I grew up playing piano, guitar, I was in band, I was singing, I was writing songs… In college I continued writing songs, playing in bands, and was also working in studios. After I graduated in 2011, I moved out to LA to start a consulting job with McKinsey. I was with them for about a year and a half. During that time, I was making music on the side, because that was always my passion. I was spending a lot of nights and weekends doing that. That was the point where I was really unhappy and I knew I would never forgive myself if I didn't give music a full shot. So I quit in early 2013 to pursue music full-time.
EPIC PRODUCTIONS: That's awesome. Such an inspirational story - perfect child, graduates from Harvard, works for McKinsey, but decides to pursue his dream.
My mom might have a thing or two to say to you about me being the perfect child!
EPIC PRODUCTIONS: Do you have any siblings?
I do, one older brother. He's a doctor, so... He gets the perfect child award.
EPIC PRODUCTIONS: Well we're excited to see you tonight and are super into your originals. “Age of Innocence” was your last single, and we've heard a lot about that. But then you just released your first full EP. What was it like transitioning from the release of your first major single to your first EP?
It was definitely a little scary. But I played music growing up and I've been writing songs since I was in high school, so releasing original music was always my dream and my goal. It's definitely the most artistically gratifying, but it's also scary. You don't want to release something you put your heart into, and then everyone's like, "Yeah I don't really care." So that's always the fear, of course. I had all this music I was really proud of and really excited about, so I was like let's just put it out there and see what happens. I was very lucky that people responded well to it and people are digging it. So it feels really good.
EPIC PRODUCTIONS: I think I would call that talent rather than luck! What's your favorite track from your new EP?
Oh that's a hard one...they're all special for different reasons. I think the new single Plans is probably the most emotional and is the one that makes me feel the best when I listen to it. But “Catching On” was one of my favorite songs to write with Nevve. The song “Sirens” that I'm singing on, which I'm really proud of. And of course “Closer” is the big single off of it - that opened a lot of doors for me and really gave me the confidence to go through the whole EP.
EPIC PRODUCTIONS: How do you feel about releasing Closer at the same time The Chainsmokers released Closer?
Haha, so for the record...my “Closer” came out first. No, but it's actually funny because I was telling all my DJ/Producer friends that we were releasing it, and I sent it to Alex and Drew (of The Chainsmokers) and they were like, "Oh this is great man. Our next single is actually called ‘Closer’ too." So in my head I was like f***...and then I heard it and knew it would be huge.
EPIC PRODUCTIONS: Well to be fair, your Closer is also really good.
Thank you! I mean it's not the number one song in the world, but you know. It is funny because after I finished it and before it came out, my buddy's in the group Lemaitre and they released a song called “Closer” as well. We all did it independently obviously, but it's just funny how that all works out.
So back to “Plans.” That's one of my favorites off your EP - I'm curious, how personal were those lyrics?
Well I was working with Brandyn [Burnette] on that song and he did most of the lyric writing. It's not always based on a specific situation, I think it's one of those things that's just a simple but powerful sentiment. When we were working on it and I heard that line, I just thought it was really powerful, it strikes you. It's a twist – the line is saying life is what happens when you make other plans. You could say the same thing about love. It's not just romantic love - that certainly is applicable - but it extends beyond that. For example, I've always loved music, and I wanted to do something with it, but I never intended on being an electronic music DJ. It's just weird how life takes these twists and turns and I ended up back in music. But not in a way I really would have understood. So I thought it was just a really powerful, meaningful line.
What about Goliath? Another one of my favorite songs. How did that one come about?
Yeah so Goliath was one of the first songs that got done. I worked with Jody [Brock] and a wonderful writer named Remi Nicole on that. I was doing a bunch of sessions, and Jody's from London. I heard his voice, he had a couple of demos that I thought were crazy, and he was in the States so we just got together in the studio.
Is that how you source vocalists?
Yeah, I mean sometimes their management will reach out, sometimes you're just talking to them on Twitter. Brandyn Burnette for example, we were just talking on Twitter and I was like, "You want to come over and work on something?" But yeah, so we just came together – totally started from scratch – to write this vocal. He lives in London, but it was a really fun session. We had the outline, recorded in my studio, produced the track, then he actually cut the final vocals over in London. I Skyped in and was watching him record – I think he's brilliant. I think he has a really bright future; his voice is amazing.
Do you have an overall theme for your EP, I Am The Elephante?
I think it's mostly just representative of all the different kinds of dance music that I really love. I'd made all these different kinds of songs and sounds that I'd never really released before, so it was more staking my ground - these are all the things I love and these are all the things I can do, and all the songs that are meaningful for me.
Alright fun question… Any TV shows you're watching right now?
I'm watching The Path on Hulu, I'm a big fan!
So what's next?
Going on tour for this fall and then I have a couple of special versions of songs on the EP that I'm working on. Otherwise, just touring and working on the next project!