We found ourselves in a state of euphoria just outside of Austin. Earlier this Spring, the Fayettechill team was given full access media passes so that we could dive deeper into the cultural kaleidoscopes that are camping music festivals. There is no better candidate to understand the core of music festival culture than Euphoria Music Fest. One part professional, two parts earthy and grassroots. Far from the overdeveloped, corporately directed festivals that misrepresent what it is to truly "festival," Euphoria dripped in good vibes and exuded an authentic approach from start to finish.
We found where the lost boys and girls live, gathering together in pop up communities, exchanging value not through money, but through ideas and treasure that most would mistake as trash. In the end, we had the chance to talk with one of their emerging leaders, Jackson Stell, the creative force behind the Big Wild music project. We sat down with him to understand what inspires him to create, about his connection with nature, and to learn how he has gone about blending instrumental and electronic, a progressive creation that promises to bridge the gap between music fans of all ages and backgrounds.
We're looking at a calendar chalked full of show dates and locations. Is this a new thing for you or have you done this quite a bit.
I'm a little experienced now in terms of touring. I've gone to pretty much every city we're going to from the past Odseza and Griz tours I've done, but never as a headliner. Things are a lot different this time, so I'm really excited-- new experience.
You've definitely earned it, man. We saw such a progression with that Spring 2016 mix. And then we caught your Euphoria set and it completed the picture. It seems like everything's perfectly in line for a spring tour.
Yeah man, I'm really excited. Like you said, its been a long time coming. I'm just really stoked to meet all the people who are really into my music.
Yeah, there's a lot out there that really are. Going back to your Euphoria set, what were your thoughts on that?
Man, I had really good feeling about that. First of all, the crowd was really great. And it was one of the best, if not the best time I've ever had on stage in terms of connecting with people. The stage was really cool an amphitheater with a river behind me with the 3d masked face, that was dope. All around, I was really happy about how that set went. I had a lot of fun there.
We could tell with the high jump! In terms of connecting with audience, is there a difference in an audience's energy at a camping festival versus a show in a city club?
Outdoors and clubs are completely different. When you are outdoors its more of an open space, so the performance can be a little less intimate. But also depending on the festival, sometime people are looking to throw down and have a really intense - I don't know - rave or something, and then other festivals I've performed at, they are less catered to purely raving, its a little more relaxed, and that kind of vibe is what I mix in with best.
Day time and nightime makes a difference too. I like to play when the sun is setting or at night time. It's not as hot out. And I think that's a huge factor if people are going to show up to your show. Like if the sun's blazing people aren't going to want to go as crazy as when its cooler at night.
Except that one guy that's just getting at it at that 1 p.m. show...?
[laughs] Yeah, there's always that one dude that doesn't care what time it is and that's usually because he doesn't know what time it is. He's going to get down no matter what.
We go into the wilderness, purposely as often as possible. Does the "Wild" in your name, connect to the outdoors in anyway?
Definitely! The name originated during my first trip to California, where I experienced that kind of landscape for the first time when I visited Big Sur. But it also reflects back to spending a lot of time outside growing up. I grew up in Massachusetts and my family and I would go to New Hampshire to go hiking or rafting or whatever - there's tones of outdoor stuff you can do. And that has totally had an impact on my sound and where I came up with the name.
I really enjoy having a connection to nature in my music. I think where it comes from is that I try not to use only electronic based synths sounds, I try to use a lot of more natural, acoustic instruments too, like integrated in there so it gives not just a fully electronic feel and I think that for a lot of people helps bridge the gap between electronic world and the natural world that we live in. I definitely have a strong connection to the outdoors for sure.
Speaking of which, do you have a favorite thing that you do outdoors?
I just started getting into surfing. I really enjoy it, but I'm not good by any means. So I guess I'd say right now - and it has been for a long time - one of my favorite things is just hiking. I really love hiking mountain, visiting rivers, just camping for the night somewhere. For me, its really nice to have some kind of outdoor activity I do too. I spend a lot of time behind a computer working on music. You know, it sucks to look at a computer all the time. I'd rather be outside, but at the same time, I love music too, so kinda have to bite the bullet a bit. So I try to spend my spare time outside to clear my head and get away from all the excessive technology.
Okay, last question, and it's the hardest one. You whistle throughout your songs... we were wondering, do you have a favorite bird?
[pause] Do I have a favorite bird? [laughs] Man it's interesting that you said that, cause when I played at Euphoria and went to Austin, I noticed there were a ton of birds and I thought it was really cool. I guess growing up I didn't pay too much attention to birds, but I've found recently that when I whistle in my live shows that I'm more attuned to that frequency.
I've been fascinated by a lot of bird calls lately. I can't say that I have a favorite right now but its funny that you brought that up because I'm paying more attention to it. I'm just more conscious of it.
Can we make that a question next time we talk? Maybe during a visit to the Ozarks.
Yes [laughs] sounds good.
Jackson is presently one month into crushing his first tour as a headliner. Check out the full schedule below and explore his soundcloud profile to get a taste of this one-of-a-kind, instrument blending, mountain climbing, whistling creative entity