EDM Life: We’re here with Andy Caldwell. In this interview we’ll chat about some of the things he’s working on… his music and more.
First question! You just released a new track with Lisa Shaw as a part of your recent deal with Nettwerk Records. You and Lisa go all the way back to Om Records. How did this track come about?
Andy: The first time we worked together was on a track I did called, “Warrior”. We recorded that in 2005, almost 10 years ago, and I had her do one more track for my album, Universal Truth, around that same time, so it had been a long time. I wanted to get back together with her and work together again because I felt like we had a good, special kind of synergy. It just worked out. She was in town visiting, doing a gig, and I asked her to come by the studio. She stayed at my house for a couple of days. We just wrote this track, I refined it a bit, and I’m really pleased with the results.
EDM Life: We at EDM Life like the track, and it’s getting publicity out there from various media sources, including non EDM-centric blogs, which is great. Part of that may have to do with the video itself. You have a cool kind of black and white video shot out in the desert. Did you come up with the idea yourself, or was it mainly the director? What was that creative process?
Andy: Well, we were given a $1,000 budget from the label. They said, “Well, we can do a lyric video for $1,000.” (A lyric video is) just some image, words, and that’s fine. I said, “You know what? I bet for $1,000 I could get some friends together and we could make something cooler.” My girlfriend Esme Bianco is an actress and her really good friend Ashley is a photographer, so she has a nice little rig, camera and stuff. So we said, “You know what? Let’s just do our own.” We drove out to Olancha in the Eastern Sierra Nevadas, I found this motel online… this creepy looking place. Esme came up with a brilliant storyboard and with some input from our friend Rebekah Waites, she developed this plot about frustration in relationships, searching for love and trying to find a photograph blown away by the wind. We would just stop at random dilapidated buildings. Some of the footage was done inside the cabin that we rented. Other shots were Ashley sitting on the hood of her car and Esme was running through the desert. It looks like a pretty high-end shoot, but we did it very, very cheap, and a lot of the shots were done on an iPhone as well. Actually, the iPhone shots, I think, looked better because it has a fixed focus, so it was just a bit clearer. Then our friend Marco Curiel edited it all together brilliantly. I’m so lucky to have such talented friends!
EDM Life: What was the main camera you shot with?
Andy: It was a Canon 7d. It was a fun project and I love creating things. Any sort of DIY kind of experience, I’m totally for it, so this was right up my alley. And to see Esme and Ashley’s first directorial collaboration come to life was so special.
EDM Life: “Warrior” does have a bit more of a classic house vibe to it, which we would definitely associate with you. However, at the same time you have the Delirium remix you did, which is more of a big room track. You’ve been playing at Light Nightclub in Vegas, which is a bit more of a big room venue, so how do you manage to work both sides of that; the more classic San Francisco house vs. the bigger, commercial, EDM stuff.
Andy: I don’t know, but somehow I do manage. I guess I just love music. I love new sounds. When progressive house really started to evolve about four years ago, it appealed to me. I felt like a lot of the innovation in house music was happening on that level, so it was something that attracted me and I’ve been dipping my feet into it and seeing what I can do. It was a dream of mine to get a Grammy nomination for 13 years now and I knew that I was probably never going to get there doing deep house, so I needed to get up to speed on producing in a different style. I was fortunate enough to be able to do that. It was cool… It was sort of like a case study. I think, naturally, when I sit down and write music it’s of a really deep, spiritual and melancholy nature, so for me to go and really tap into this whole other side of myself artistically was quite an experience, you know? I’m proud of it and it was fun. Aside from that, playing at Light… it’s like… I feel like an 18-year-old kid. I just go up and down and get the kids hyped up. It’s a totally different experience than what I do with deep house.
EDM Life: Would you say you prefer one style right now, or is there a specific direction you feel like you’re going? Or, are you kind of hitting up both sides of the coin right now?
Andy: Right now, I’m kind of burned out on that whole EDM scene. When I write music [now]… I’m working on this album. It’s really deep. It’s more back to my roots. That’s what has inspired me today.
EDM Life: Is that the double album we’ve seen referenced recently?
Andy: I may trim it down to a single album.
EDM Life: When will that be completed and released?
Andy: I want to have it out by September… October at the very latest, so I need to start wrapping it up over the summer.
EDM Life: Back to ‘EDM,’ originally, the term “EDM” was all-encompassing for all genres. Now, it usually refers to the specific main-stage electro house.
Andy: Now you can only be a house guy, a tech house guy, an electro guy, a dubstep guy. Do you know what I mean?
EDM Life: Right.
Andy: You’re not really “allowed” to be working in all those genres at the same time.
EDM Life: Yeah, if you have a big room, more commercial track and then you do something a bit more deep house-ish…
Andy: … people don’t know how to react that.
EDM Life: It seems like people get a little…
Andy: … they get protective.
EDM Life: Yes. Today’s clubbers seem a little too afraid to open their horizons. It’s like… they like what they like. Sometimes they walk by a stage with different music at a big festival and be exposed to something different and they hear something they like. It’s a little unexpected, but–
Andy: … I call it the Big Mac Effect. People like McDonald’s for a reason. I’m not a fan of McDonald’s, personally, but people like to go to McDonald’s and order a Big Mac. They want to know that whatever town, whatever city, whatever country they’re in, they can go to a McDonald’s… they can order that Big Mac… and it’s always going to taste the same. It’s familiar. It’s something they can rely on. People are afraid of change and of trying something new. It crosses over into music, culture, and life. So I know it’s going to be controversial when I put out an album that features all of these different styles on it… [some] people are going to hate it. Some people are going to love it, but I really couldn’t do it any other way. I wouldn’t be true to myself as an artist, which is unfortunate for them… for the haters. If I wanted just to make one kind of music all day long… I could, but that’s kind of boring. If I wanted to do one thing all the time, I would go do something that made me a lot more money where I could really count on a paycheck. What’s the point of being an artist if you can’t experiment, evolve, and change?
EDM Life: You can make a bunch of EDM-friendly tracks to get you on the main stage somewhere, but if you’re not happy doing it then what’s the point?
Andy: You got to love what you do, and if you don’t… it’ll come through.
EDM Life: Going back to the Delirium track, first off, congratulations on getting a Grammy nomination. How would you describe the experience of finding out you were nominated, getting to attend the Grammy awards, gaining the recognition, and all of the things surrounding the nomination?
Andy: Pretty mind-blowing! There was a lot of great music that came out in 2013, and I did not expect that I would be in the mix, you know? I was actually in Vegas when I got the news. My girlfriend was online, and she was like, “Oh, hey, the Grammy nominations are announced tonight.” She was like, “Maybe you’ll get a nomination. Maybe you’ll get a mention.” I was like, “Yeah, that’s never going to happen,” because every year I submit and I’ve never been in the mix. So about an hour later, I went on Twitter and somebody had tweeted at me, “A huge congratulations to Andy Caldwell for his nomination!” I started looking, and sure enough… I got the nomination. It’s crazy! It was really surreal.
EDM Life: It must’ve been a pretty amazing feeling.
Andy: Yes, it was. It was a really great feeling.
EDM Life: What have you seen, career-wise, due to the recognition, or the kind of the “weight” that it gives you… credibility, or visibility? Is there anything you can point to and say, specifically, that it helped with your career?
Andy: Not really. I hate to say it, but a Grammy nomination in this industry (house music, EDM) doesn’t carry a lot of weight, unfortunately. I’d like to think it does, but it doesn’t.
EDM Life: That’s interesting.
Andy: I can go to someone who doesn’t know the scene at all and say, “Hey, I got a Grammy nomination,” and they’ll be like, “Wow!”… Totally impressed. They don’t really understand the nuances of the scene. A lot of kids don’t really pay attention to the Grammys, you know?
EDM Life: Right. Today you are a resident DJ at Light in Las Vegas (one of those super-clubs out there) playing about once a month, or so?
Andy: On average.
EDM Life: How would you say that is?
Andy: It’s a lot of fun. They take really good care of me and it’s a really good company to work for. I love it, so it’s pretty phenomenal. Cirque de Soleil is their partner, so they have these acrobats… trapeze artists… it’s very artful and really entertaining. Then, the club itself has the most massive wall of LEDs you’ve ever seen… transparent visuals like projection screens with a stage behind it. It’s pretty wild.
EDM Life: You background includes some classical music training. What did that entail and how would you say that influences your sets or original productions?
Andy: I was pretty young… it was piano. I was definitely not a prodigy pianist or anything. I was average at best, but I learned basics. I learned scales, how to read music, how to differentiate different tones, and do recitals… that kind of thing. So, I think it gave me a good foundation.
If you spend more time working on music, you may find out you have more talent than you realize because you work harder. I mean, I didn’t know if I had any talent when I started… I just loved it. I started as a DJ when I was 19/18. My university had an electronic music course, which I enrolled in and started learning about MIDI, and synthesizers and that whole thing. I was completely obsessed with dance music, and that’s what drove me. I never thought I’d be having a career in this. I thought I’d have a regular kind of job, married at 30 with two kids, but I ended up pursuing it totally different.
EDM Life: Did you go to school in San Francisco?
Andy: I went to school at Sonoma State University… a little state school up North.
EDM Life: You grew up in Santa Cruz. If you went to school right in the San Francisco area, we can see the influence or that you’re exposed to that kind of sound.
Andy: It’s only an hour drive from San Francisco, so we would drive down there every chance we got. Yeah, I was totally consumed. I loved, breathed, and ate nothing but dance music– a steady diet of it for five years. It was that obsession… that commitment to it that gave me the foundation I’m working off of now.
EDM Life: Are there any big festivals coming up that you can publically announce?
Andy: I don’t have anything confirmed right now, except for Burning Man which is probably the best… my favorite festival. It’s totally a unique experience.
EDM Life: Is that for a certain party or certain camp?
Andy: Probably. Last year I did Mammoth and Robot Heart. I’ll probably do those again or I could do another one.
EDM Life: Is there any big news, anything coming up that we haven’t really touched on that you want to let us know about?
Andy: I have another single coming out on June 18th. It’s a collaboration with Bass Kleph and it’s called, “Never Felt Better”. Then, I have a release coming out on Anthony Attalla’s label, Incorrect Music. We need to work out all the licensing stuff.
EDM Life: Anthony is a good guy.
Andy: Yeah, he’s really cool. He’s doing a remix… it’s going to be dope. [It’s] an underground, deep house kind of record, and then the album and another single… probably in the fall.
You can check out Andy coming up soon at Light in Las Vegas on June 28th. Presales: Andy Caldwell at Light presale ticket link
Check out Andy Caldwell’s mixes and tracks on Soundcloud: