While perusing lineups, blogs, and DJ lists, one might assume that women just merely do not exist in the dance music world. Women often get overlooked or have their musical talents dismissed or minimized as “pretty faces” in the boy’s playground of EDM. Shifting the Spotlight works to bring forth the talented women in the industry, and provide them a fair platform to discuss their music, their goals, their challenges, and what it is like to be a girl in a stereotypical man’s world. Everyone from bass monsters like Reid Speed and vocalists like Kerli have all had the chance to speak up about their experiences in the music industry from a woman’s perspective. The only way to change the gender stereotypes within EDM is to talk about it, and to hear from a woman herself what challenges and hopes she has for arising female artists. For the next installment of Shifting the Spotlight, Your EDM is proud to feature the talented and insightful Tigerlily.
After studying for a college degree while simultaneously writing music and touring, Tigerlily learned what it takes to succeed. This Australian DJ relies on self-discipline and deep-rooted values to provide a well-respected image as an artist. Enjoy her interview below to read why she thinks being a role model is crucial, how she embraces her femininity, her advice on artist branding, and about her upcoming projects!
How did you start in music? How old were you?
Music has always played a big role in my life. When I was 4 years old, my parents sent me to music school where I learned how to play the piano, sing, read and write music, etc! Although I clearly remember not wanting to go half of the time, I am so appreciative that they encouraged me to think musically from a young age. Also throughout school I always played in the bands and the orchestras, and played in various bands and small ensembles outside of school time! I suppose it was only natural for me to follow on to have a career that is based in music.
When did you start DJing?
The first time I put my hands on decks was when I was 18 years old! I remember looking at the setup and thinking ‘how on earth am I meant to learn what all of these buttons do!’ haha! I’m now 22, and have definitely got the hang of it ;)! I remember going out clubbing when I turned 18 and longing to do what the DJ did; play music, influence the crowd, and ultimately perform! I was lucky enough to be able to have a few friends that had decks and I got stuck into practicing in my bedroom for months until I felt ready enough to hit up a venue to play in!
How did it feel to be Australia’s #5 DJ, and #1 overall female DJ for the inthemix Awards in 2014?
Achieving that high placement (#5) in the ITM awards was definitely a career highlight for me. The dance music industry is super competitive especially in Australia as there are so many proactive and talented DJs in our scene so that in itself makes the number 5 placement a huge deal for me. It’s also really nice to do well for the girls; I really hope to encourage other young women to get into DJing and performing, and I believe that the publicity from ITM majorly encourages other young girls to get involved.
What has been your biggest challenge as an artist?
There have been many challenges that I’ve had to face and overcome in the past 4 years as a DJ but probably the most consistent and prominent challenge is overcoming the gender stereotypes and excuses that people make as a result of my gender. Unfortunately a lot of people (especially men) are quick to make excuses for your role and status in the DJ world… i.e. ‘she only gets booked because she is pretty’. However, when people doubt my skill and ability in certain situations like this I politely invite them to come to one of my shows and watch me mix and perform. Usually, if they do come, they change their mind!
You recently performed in the USA for the first time with Tiesto, and will be returning again in March. How did the American crowd differ from Australian fans?
I absolutely adore playing to my home crowd in Australia, but there is definitely something different and exhilarating playing to an American crowd! I think the American crowds can be a little more open minded, especially when it comes to playing some big vocal progressive tunes. However, playing in Vegas compared to playing in another city in America is completely different again. People come to Vegas to party so it’s incredible playing for the crowds there as they are fired up, excited, and ready to party!
You’re about to sign a major record deal. Can you give a little insight into this?
I am so excited about this. It’s been in the works for a long time coming, but I suppose that is because I really wanted to build a strong and understanding relationship with the label that I committed to! I think I’ve definitely found that, and have some incredible new additions to the already amazing team that I work with! I can’t wait to show everyone a whole heap of music that I’ve been working on – this year is going to be super exciting for me in terms of music, as I’ve been spending a lot of time nurturing my sound in the studio and I feel that it has developed into a sound and new content that I’m really happy with!
You just recently completed University while simultaneously touring and writing music. What did you study? What advice do you have on managing that grueling lifestyle?
I completed a Bachelor of Media and Communications majoring in Marketing and Sociology at the University of Sydney! It was definitely very tough studying and touring/writing at the same time. There were many moments where I thought I couldn’t go on, but with the support and encouragement of my family and my management I got through it and I’m so proud that I stuck it out! I think in our social climate, having a degree is really important. Not only does studying expand your mind, but it also teaches you diligence and patience which are absolutely fundamental skills for anyone. My advice for taking on such a hectic schedule is planning and time management are imperative for success. I used to write schedules and ‘to do’ lists every single day, firstly to keep track of what I had to do, but secondly to keep myself accountable and working hard in order to keep on track. It is also super important when you are taking on a hectic schedule to try as hard as you can to maintain a healthy lifestyle. When I was at uni there was no partying or drinking at my shows, being tired is one thing, but being hungover is another. For me, it was important to maintain healthy eating, exercise and regular sleep in order to keep my brain and body functioning so I could take on all the day to day tasks.
What is the “Kiss My Tigerlily” show and how did it come about?
‘KISS MY TIGERLILY’ was co created by myself, Pacha Sydney and the team from The Squared Division. It’s a live show and DJ performance that gives a little insight into my crazy mind and what my ideal fantasy world would look like. I suppose the show attempts to emulate a place where dreams become reality and where anything goes.
My manager Sam and I have been wanting to put a show like this together for a while, and teaming up with Pacha Sydney and The Squared Division provided the perfect opportunity to make this actually happen. It’s been in the works for over a year now so it’s so exciting for me to see it finally come to fruition and I’m so super excited to share it with everyone that comes and partakes in the experience!
Have you ever felt as though you had to be ‘careful’ with your image as to not be targeted as a ‘sex’ symbol?
I think that anyone (male or female) needs to be careful with their branding and the images that they post of themselves. It reflects you as a person, as an artist, and ultimately as a brand. In the music industry it is especially important to be aware of your image and how you present yourself. In particular, for me as I have quite a large fan base of younger underage boys and girls. You want to always be representing yourself in an honest, organic and appropriate way. I am conscious to not regularly post photos on my social media platforms that are sexually explicit or even sexually suggestive! You can still be pretty and sexy without stepping over the line and over doing it! However, in saying this, the whole idea of a ‘sex symbol’ is very subjective and depending on someone’s opinion and stance they could interpret images and videos very differently in comparison to another person. At the end of the day, as a female artist, I have to follow my gut instinct and present myself in a way that empowers me and a way that I feel comfortable and confident with.
There is a thin line between embracing your femininity and exploiting your sexuality. How do you manage to find and maintain that balance?
There is a very fine line between embracing your femininity and exploiting your sexuality. When it comes down to it, I maintain the balance by trusting my gut instinct while also communicating closely with my team. I also try to assess my social media platforms from a non-biased perspective. For example, if I was to go onto my instagram or facebook and see only bikini selfies there may be a problem. However, in order to maintain the balance I attempt to post a whole lot of different content to give people an idea or a little look into my personality and my life, and not just show them my looks and exterior. There are other things that I unconsciously do to maintain the balance between embracing femininity/exploiting sexuality. Simple choices like what you wear to shows and photoshoots are all part of the big picture when it comes to the balance…by making appropriate and flattering choices in how you present yourself to your audience in a live sense definitely reflects the way in which you as an artist manages that balance between femininity and sexuality.
Do you think physicality and sexuality plays into the competition of arising female artists? How can this affect the successes of talented artists? Do you think it’s the same for males?
Yes and no. When it comes down to it, as a rising female artist you are presenting a package to an audience and attempting to engage them. Physicality and sexuality may definitely help enhance (or sometimes hinder) the way in which people react to what you’re doing and I definitely do recognize that some of my followers are only there to look at photos of me and are uninterested in my sets, travel, music or life. A lot of girls seem to get frustrated at this, but to me that is fine. You’re presenting yourself to a vast audience and people are more than welcome to take what they want from it or leave it. However, in saying that, I think that physicality and sexuality are not the main driving factors that influence the success of rising artists. To be blatantly honest, there are a whole lot of attractive female DJs out there that don’t put the time and effort into their art, and that shows. The girls that are kicking butt in the scene at the moment are great DJs. They have put hours into practicing their skills and refining their performance, and so I can quite confidently say that for the girls that are rising quickly in the scene it’s not just about physicality and sexuality, more importantly its about skill, passion, hard work and the package that they are presenting to their audience.
Why do you think it is important to be a role model for younger women? What constitutes being a ‘good’ role model?
It is absolutely SO important to try and be the best role model for your fans, especially for both young men and women. Unfortunately there are so many terrible role models and influencers that young women are exposed to through media on a daily basis. I see it like this… if you are given the opportunity to be someone that is influencing young women through your work, you have to take the opportunity with both hands and run with it to make the most positive and kind impact on the world. Being a ‘good’ role model means very different things for different people, but for me, being a ‘good’ role model constitutes emulating goodness and positivity within everything you do. Whether it’s posting on social media, talking to followers at a show, or simply interacting with the check out chick while you’re doing your grocery shopping…being a role model is a 24/7 job and it’s so important to be conscious of the fact that everything you say and do can have a big impact on the lives of young people, especially young women.
While many think it can be advantageous to be a woman in the entertainment industry, it can be very difficult to be taken seriously and maintain your presence once the initial novelty wears off. What advantages and disadvantages have you experienced?
This is definitely true. The advantages that I experienced were mostly at the beginning of my career. Being a female it was potentially easier to make yourself partially known, and also to acquire some basic shows starting off. Unfortunately, a lot of time, promoters seem to take a keen interest in female Djs for whatever reason.
However, with advantages also comes disadvantages which I have experienced as I moved further into my career. Disadvantages include finding it difficult to be taken seriously (especially when you’re working in an industry that is very much a boys club), as well as the fact that people are quick to make excuses and jump to conclusions as to WHY you are successful. It can be hard for people to process that young women are kicking butt in an industry and within a platform that has been male dominated for decades.
It seems that many female DJs are seen as just that, a female first, and a DJ second. How can you avoid being pigeonholed as a girl in a male-dominated industry?
It is very difficult. A lot of people almost automatically pigeonhole females in the music industry. Simple things like being an organic brand, being honest with your audience, and working your butt off like a true trooper can help to avoid the pigeon holing. However at the end of the day, no matter what you do, people are always going to come to their own conclusions and hold opinions of you that you may not like. It’s more important to focus on yourself and your brand than worry about what people think of you and/or how they have pigeon holed you. For me these days it doesn’t even phase me, if people want to pigeon hole me into the ‘female DJ zone’ I’m fine for them to. All I focus on is spreading a positive message to everyone, and attempting to grow and develop to be the best artist and person possible.
What tips do you have on building an artist brand? Why is building a brand important for success?
I think that the most important element of building an artist brand is first and foremost being able to describe, perceive, and understand the type of artist you are, and they way in which you want to present yourself to your audience. I find that a lot of artists don’t really know who they are and/or how they want to be viewed by their fans and followers. You have to be so confident and sure of what you’re about before you can start. From there, if you have a clear picture in your mind, then branding comes easily and your followers will be able to organically associate with you which is fundamentally important for career longevity.
What piece of advice would you give aspiring female artists? And Males?
Follow your gut instinct and pursue your dreams with unwavering vigor. With every situation in life (whether it involves your career or something else), you often already know the best road to take. It’s so important to trust yourself and stick to your guns. Furthermore, following your dreams and actively seeking out ways to improve and develop yourself is important. There is no room for laziness and saying “I can’t” because having that attitude will get you nowhere. A ‘CAN DO’ attitude is so so super important!
What is your dream festival to play?
I would love to play Ultra Miami and Tomorrowland (main stage of course ;)). Cross fingers I can do both one day!
What’s the secret to keeping your hair so vibrantly blue?
I have an incredible hair team that I almost call family. I go to a salon called YM Salon in Paddington in Sydney and they are amazing. They treat my hair with such care and it is really noticeable in the quality and strength of my hair. Furthermore, I use a dye called Manic Panic which is a natural, plant based (vegan) dye which is amazing as it doesn’t add to the list of all the chemicals that I expose my body too. The quality of the dye is also awesome and it stays bright for a long time!
What are your goals for 2015?
To be happy, healthy and to maintain a balance between work, rest and play! Everyting else comes as a bonus to me.
Marry, Kill, Bang: Harry Potter, Hermione, Ron Weasley
Marry Harry, Bang Hermione, Kill Ron (sorry Ron!).
Photo Credit: My Media Sydney