This European DJ is about to completely dominate the US market
Xenia Ghali's music knows no boundaries. The DJ, who was born and raised in Athens, has taken her dance-inducing tracks all over the world, playing packed venues in her home country, the United Kingdom and the United States. Her latest song "Under these Lights," is an infectious single set with powerful vocals that play on indie, dance, and pop genres. An intense beat just begs listeners to move with the music and become fully immersed in it, regardless of their background, proving that the track can easily transcend both European and US markets. It's this universality that's led the song to sustain a high ranking on Billboard's Top Dance Club Chart.
This isn't Ghali's first time breaking into the US soundscape. Just last year she teamed up with Wycleaf Jean to create "Get Dirty." Both singles flex Ghali's deep understanding about the different sounds from country to country, and at the rate she's going, the young DJ is poised for world musical domination.
We recently had the chance to sit down with the Producer and DJ at our NYC offices, where she spoke exclusively about her producing process, musical influences, and her extensive training. Ahead, find out about her classical training and how that shaped her songwriting and the biggest thing she's learned about music so far.
And if you want even more Xenia Ghali news, head over to AOL.com at 12 p.m. ET to see more exclusive features, including what goes on in her mind while she's performing live!
When can you first remember falling in love with music?
Thanks to my parents I was classically trained in piano and flute. Even prior to that, one of my favorite movies was "Fantasia." So I was very involved in music as a kid. I played piano and flute throughout high school and when I was 15, I picked up the guitar and drums. Shortly after that I started a high school band, since I went through a bit of a rock phase and I thought I would be a rockstar. I really didn't want to play covers, so I started songwriting. During that entire period with the band, I realized that songwriting was genuinely what I liked to do.
After high school in Greece I told my parents that I wanted to pursue music but more specifically creating music. At that point I didn't even know what production was, I just assumed it was all composing or songwriting. One of the things they encouraged me to do was study my craft. I went to the UK and pursued a degree in music composition, production, and scoring. While I was studying there I went to a lot of house music parties; it was when dubstep and drum and bass were underground scenes at the time. I was looking at the all the DJs spinning with vinyl and decided to try it out myself. I started teaching myself how to mix in my dorm room and I started getting booked at little venues around my university and then it started escalating. Then I was booked at the Ministry of Sound, which was huge.
What was it like to be classically trained before entering a field that deals a lot with technology?
The amount of musical knowledge that I have has helped me more than anything in the world. I can walk into a studio and talk to musicians in musical language. Anything that I hear in my head I know how to translate in sounds because I know what I'm hearing in terms of theory. The other thing it has helped me to do is experiment with my music. You'll hear a lot of organic sounds in my music, like piano, flutes, and guitar. My training has really enabled me to play around with these sounds consciously and not by mistake. I feel like if you don't really know the technicalities of what you're doing a lot of things happen by mistake. And you can't really bank on that being good.
Take us behind the scenes of your producing process. What happens from start to finish?
The first way I produce is by working with vocalists, because I don't sing. So working with them as a writer enables me to pitch an idea, and the two or three of us -- depending on how many singers there are -- get to expand on it. It's very much a group process. Everything starts with the song for me, and a good song is a good song, it doesn't matter the genre. After we find that out, I hear in my head what I would like to produce. Then I go and produce the song that I just made in my head. I'm also a very melody-driven person meaning I express myself primarily through melody. So other times, I'll come up with a nice riff or chord progression and build from there. Then I build the track and I'll approach a singer or writer and ask if they want to collaborate.
What's the biggest thing you've learned about music since becoming a producer and DJ?
Music repeats itself a lot, just like history. Everybody strives to be original and the person who will discover a new sound, but chances are whatever they're doing which they think is new, has one way or another been done. So studying classical music opens up your mind. Chances are even artists on Top 40 sound like someone else in the past, so you can really map out their influences. In the dance world, it's interesting because it's starting to fuse into different types of styles. You'll find a lot of DJs are messing around with genres- -- it's not just EDM or House anymore. More and more people are exploring different sounds from the past.
YouShouldKnow is a feature that showcases up-and-coming social stars. To see more of past interviews, click here. And come back at 12 pm EST for more exclusives on Xenia Ghali, including her take on live performances.
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