DJ Pierce Fulton reveals creative process, favorite shows, and how to succeed in the dance music scene
With some of the world's biggest music festivals in his back pocket including Moonrise festival in Baltimore, TomorrowLand in Belgium and Electric Zoo Festival in New York, DJ Pierce Fulton is taking the dance music scene by storm. What makes Pierce exceptional is his unwavering dedication to the craft and his unique sound.
While many compare the up-and-coming star to heavy hitters in the industry such as Zedd, Hardwell and Above & Beyond, his interesting approach to his work yields final products that cannot be mistaken as anyone's but his. The 23-year-old is proving his international success all-the-while maintaining a humble disposition and strong work ethic.
As if the musical genius hasn't already accomplished enough in his short 23 years, Pierce has also started a collaboration called Shirts and Skins with Ansolo (aka actor Ansel Elgort!). You definitely want to keep your eye on this duo, who recently released the single "Then Came You."
We were lucky enough to sit down and chat with the DJ about his crazy experiences in the industry - both on and off stage, his creative process, and even his skills (or lack thereof) on the dance floor. We can't wait to hear his new music coming out at the end of the month and to flock to his upcoming festivals!
How do you use social media to get your work out there? I'm interested to know about the way DJs strategize with social media compared to artists working with different mediums.
I first started doing this seriously right as social media became an actual platform for this stuff. I remember joining Twitter early and pretty soon after starting to make music as more of a career it was pretty interesting to see each platform grow in the way they did and how long it took. For example, Twitter took a lot more time than other things and I think that's because it's more personal. Facebook grew really quickly because at the time it was really popular. Now things have shifted like Instagram is really big and Snapchat is really big because they're more visual and content-based versus reading and going through a bunch of posts on Facebook.
It's been cool to see it grow in the way that it did but also to see which ones are the best for getting out music and content versus just like random fun stuff. Instagram is pretty tough to use and say like "oh here's a new song," but if you post a cool picture it gains traction which is good as a result because it'll bring awareness and traction to your profile. Twitter is great for getting my music out there because it's really information-based and not so much content-based so it's literally just spreading awareness. I like Facebook because you can gear certain posts towards certain regions. For example, I have a show coming up in San Antonio, Texas so instead of posting that to the grand public of my Facebook page I gear it just towards San Antonio. Because of that, it actually ends up getting way more traction from that specific area than it would as a grand view.
You're in New York right now for Electric Zoo. What are you most excited about? Have you been to E-Zoo before?
Electric Zoo was actually the first festival I ever went to when I was 17 or 18. It was the first year that it happened actually in 2009. I played there for the first time in 2012 and that was really awesome. Last year I went just for one day. It's kind of like New York's claim to fame for electronic music so being around New York for the past five years or so, it's a very hometown kind of vibe. I'm very excited to be back this year.
Talk to me about your process. What comes first when putting a song together?
In the past six months I've tried to change my process every day and approach even the same thing I did yesterday in a new way. I'd say in a grand view of the way I approach my songs, a lot of people know me for melodies but I actually start with rhythmic stuff and percussive stuff pretty much always first because it's mindless and you don't have to put as much effort into the writing process of it. It's more fun and creative. I usually try to get everything in tact rhythmically and then start building around it. Also, there's something about having a blank slate and writing a melody. It's hard to nail something and be stoked about it because you can literally just do anything it's a completely blank canvas. If you have a restriction like say a certain groove or rhythm it gears you in a certain way and will ultimately help you. It restricts you but in a good way. The restriction is really nice especially when you don't know what to write that specific day it's nice to have something that pushes you in one way.
When and how did you learn to DJ/produce music? What made you fall in love with it?
What's funny is I grew up playing guitar and I was in a bunch of bands when I was a kid and in high school. Then, I made a friend during my sophomore year of high school who was an exchange student from Venezuela. I had never heard of electronic music before because I'm from Vermont which is a really quiet state up north and there really isn't anything up there. There's like one club in Burlington but that's about three hours north of where I actually grew up. So this exchange student was a DJ from Venezuela and he showed me all these mixes and I was like "what is this stuff?" At the time I'd been producing a little bit of hip hop because I liked hip hop for a long time and tried to make some of my own stuff. But I ended up just trying out electronic. It's so weird because I think back on it and it was legitimately a hobby for quite a long time. There was never a conscious move to go to a career it sort of just happened naturally. The first time I DJ'd was the first time I used the equipment I use today.
Where do you draw inspiration for your music?
I've answered that question in so many interviews and usually come up with some answer that makes sense, but I actually have no idea. I just literally make music because that's what I know how to do.
Seeing as how your focus seems to be in the dance music scene, would you say you're a pretty talented dancer? Any go-to moves?
Well I'm actually a horrible dancer. It's really unfortunate. When I'm playing my set I can do my little thing, but if some girl is like "let's go dance" I'm like "oh jeez I'm definitely not impressing this girl at all right now." I run for my life (laughs), I'm not a very good dancer at all. I might be able to play music but dancing to it is not really my strong point.
What kind of music do you listen to?
I go through a bunch of waves of things because I've recently decided to use my time traveling for specific things. I use flight time to do things I would love to do when I'm home but don't have time because I have to work when I'm home. When I'm on a flight I usually listen to albums start to finish. In the past six months I've listened to a ton of jazz, weirdly this genre called "New York hardcore" which is this weird sub-genre of metal and punk kind of put together. I research new genres and movements with music and try to learn about them and even if I don't like it that much I try to just see what's going on with it. I also listen to a lot of really calm, almost folk-y stuff. A lot more modern, guitar and singing voice type stuff because it's just nice and relaxing and when you make electronic music all day it's nice to hear some natural things.
What has been your favorite show to date?
I always hate this question because there's so many and I always come up with one answer and then remember another one. But there actually is one that really sticks out. It was a festival called Electric Forest in Michigan. I had played earlier at one stage and then somehow became a surprise guest at the forest stage which is legitimately a stage in the middle of a thick wooded area. It's pretty crazy because there's a little space for the stage and then the crowd is in the mix of a bunch of trees. All the trees were lit up and stuff and it was during sunset so it was a pretty crazy experience.
If you could collaborate with anyone in the industry, who would it be?
I actually would love to collaborate with like a really famous artist. I'd love to pitch musical ideas and see what he comes up with artistically and sort of collaborate on that front. I always liked learning about visual art versus music like with minimalism and all that kind of stuff. To see how music would inspire maybe a painter or sculpture or something would be really cool.
At what moment did you realize that you were really making a name for yourself in the industry? How did you feel at that moment?
I still sometimes forget that I'm doing this seriously so I don't really know if there was a key moment when things were turned around. I sometimes wake up and forget this is my job, which I guess is a good thing since I'm enjoying it and having fun. I'd say there's weird moments where like I'm getting coffee and people read my credit card and they're like "Really? Pierce Fulton?" and I'm like "You know me? What the heck?" It's pretty funny. I guess that's when I realized things were starting to get serious and it wasn't just a few kids wanting to listen to my music.
So do they give you free coffee when that happens?
I wish! That'd be nice.
What can fans look forward to next? Are you working on any new music right now?
I've really taken these past six months to a year to write a ton of music and then pick the best rather than working on everything and trying to get everything in shape for release. I wanted to take a ton of stuff, pick the best, and then finish those. It's been a long process but it's been really rewarding. I have three songs coming out with Armada. The first comes out September 25 which is really soon and then two more later this year. I have some other ones mixed in between so a ton of stuff is coming out really quickly. It's going to be fun.
What advice would you give to young DJs or producers trying to make it in the industry?
I always like to say it's healthy and it's smart to recreate what you want to do. Say for example your favorite artist is Skrillex. It's very healthy to try to sound like Skrillex, but at the end of the day you have to do something different. Copy and emulate as much as you can to learn, and then move past that. That's the smartest decision. Take what you learned and put it into your own avenue.
In case you aren't already obsessed with Pierce Fulton, check out this slideshow of his HILARIOUS Instagram pics that just might win you over:
Watch Pierce's AOL Build interview:
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