(Original Photo By: Alex Abaunza)

“Work smarter, not harder.” By the looks of the dance music industry and seeing how it has exploded, it is safe to say that it’s getting a lot more difficult to stand out from the rest of the pack. It’s easy to hear a sound we love and want to emulate it with our own creation, but sometimes that isn’t enough to get a career off the ground. In this installment of Aspire to Inspire, Jared McFarlin, better known as Party Thieves, helps us shed a bit of light on how he has been able to make such a huge splash in the industry.

Jared’s childhood dreams were similar to a lot of ours: professional athlete. As he puts it, he played every sport known to man including hockey, football, baseball, and basketball, with aspirations of making it onto the world stage. Little did he know, that stage would be a little different than he had expected.

“Things shifted gears when I went and played football and ran track at West Point, which is an army school. A couple of knee injuries and surgeries changed what I was able to do and wanted to do as far as lifestyle and everyday activities. So I definitely had a lot of downtime and therefore, I picked up music. I was a big fan of rap and hip-hop, but I got more into EDM and trap around 2012-2013. That’s when one of my roommates showed me my first electronic song, ‘Sierra Leone’ by Mt Eden. I listened to a little bit more and then went to EDC New York in 2013, which was my first festival. I just really liked the experience. I really felt what people were feeling and I wanted to be a part of that culture.”

For a lot of people in the dance music community, it doesn’t take long to fall in love with the entire scene. The same can be said for Jared, as it was only a matter of time before he made the switch from a general admission fan to DJing and producing his own music. When two of his tracks “Chief” with ATLiens and “House Party” with Quix took off and gained artist support, he felt that his decision to chase his music dream was the right one.

Although taking a chance like this could be scary for some, Jared had already overcome a great deal of personal struggle that helped him take the bull by the horns when it came to his career.

“I definitely had some challenges my last year of college. I went through a phase of depression and even did a six-month therapy program. Therapy helped me a lot and is one of the biggest reasons that I started producing. That was in 2012-2013, which is when I got into music so it definitely stemmed off of that. That phase in my life actually has a lot to do with how I go about my music now. It’s trappy obviously, but in some songs you can hear the darkness from the experiences I’ve had.”

Jared looks at his jump into the scene happening as fast as it did as a good thing. Without many fears other than a few unknowns of the business, it was more important to him to find something that made him stand out and create something that was entirely his own. Making those discoveries and becoming comfortable on the other side of the stage was an easy change.

“I had only gone to two festivals as a fan (EDC New York 2013 and TomorrowWorld 2014) before I played my first festival. I wasn’t really a festival junkie nor did I go to a lot of shows. I think because I don’t have the experience of being a fan at shows, it sort of helps my energy level when I perform my own shows. I want to enjoy the experience with the crowd and interact with them. I want to be a part of their experience on the other side. It enables me to be excited with them and connect with them.”

With as much positivity and good vibes that the electronic dance music community seems to have, there is still always room for improvement. Jared has traveled to hundreds of places and met countless people, but one of the major problems he has come across has to do with how people treat each other outside of the shows. In his experience, Jared has found that while everything is about love and acceptance during the shows and within the community, those very same qualities seem to fall short in our every day lives. That, along with diversity issues, needs to be fixed.

“The industry is not as diverse as I personally had hoped and I think that’s where I would like to see change. I encourage people to get involved with different cultures, sounds, and people because we all have our own sound and our own story. It’s a problem in the music industry, but also a problem in our society as a whole and I think that’s just a matter of meeting new people and accepting them. I’ve lived in a few different locations and obviously traveled to hundreds of places at this point and you don’t always receive that love everywhere you go. At shows you do, but in certain areas it doesn’t always go past that. Sometimes it’s both racially-stemmed and socially-stemmed, but that is definitely the biggest change that I want to see. Just equality, really.”

Where there are certainly shortcomings in the industry, as there are in most things, the magical moments of dance music culture keep us heading in the right direction. Jared also recounted one of his most cherished memories of his career so far.

“I was at EDC Las Vegas last year because I had won the Discovery Project for the trap stage. We decided to go watch Alison Wonderland, Flosstradamus, and many other sets and stages. I was waiting in the back, kind of minding my own business when a group of people came up to me asking for pictures and such. We partied together for the rest of the sets and it was a great time. I remembered all their names, all their faces, and I had so much fun with them that night. Fast forward to Escape Halloween on October 30th after my Australia tour. After my set, I went to watch Crizzly; I love Crizzly. He’s a homie of mine and I want to support him. So I went into the crowd with two of my friends with a mask on and a Power Ranger outfit that I had worn during my set. Halfway through Crizzly, four people tapped me on the shoulder and it was the same exact group from EDC Las Vegas. It was so funny. We all partied together again and connected on social media so we can keep up with each other. It’s just moments like that that you can’t get anywhere else. That’s the culture that people on the outside don’t really understand and see.”

If there is anything that you take away from Jared’s story, it should be his perseverance. Having overcome a major obstacle as depression and using music to help him grow and recover from that part of his life is an important accomplishment to acknowledge. According to Jared, finding our own niche and method for sharing our personal sounds and stories is the key to turning what we love into a career.